Ask Team Practical: Books for Brides & Wives

As you guys know, the whole APW team is in Utah this week at Alt Summit (I know. The perks of working for APW. Plus we’re all three meeting in person for the first time…ever.) So, we debated how to pick an Ask Team Practical post that was both interesting and not super inflammatory. We decided to save our upcoming posts on dancing, strippers and virginity for another week (fact). And instead Alyssa is here discussing sailing around the world, and books you should read in lieu of pre-marital counseling, if that’s not an option for you. Also, APW book club picks for February. Because we need a pick. So be nice kids, and pick a good book for all of us to read. We’re watching you from a hotel in Utah, so use your nice manners. And now Alyssa:


So, you know how you meet someone and they tell you something AMAZING about their life in a completely off-hand way, and you’re all “Shut up, you are not.”

And then they’re all, “Um, yeah.”

And then you have nothing else to say, because you’re DUMBSTRUCK that they are living the kind of wonderful, beautiful life that you can only dream of, and you go home and ponder how you can make your life amazing too.


Meet Meghan.

“I’m 27 and newly engaged to my mate Prescott–and I call him my mate because we’re co-captains on our liveaboard 35′ sailboat. We haven’t been together too long (just a couple years), but living on a 35-foot boat together with about, oh, 50 square feet of living space you get pretty close. We spent last year sailing down the Pacific Coast together from Seattle to Los Angeles (actually we spent a few weeks anchored in Aquatic Park in SF), and now after stopping for awhile to work a bit, we’re setting off again. But first, 2 months before we’re set to leave, he asked me to marry him. So, in a sickeningly romantic fashion, we’re sailing off into the sunset together for the duration of our engagement (9 months). We’re headed south through the Panama Canal and up the East Coast to New York City. We’ll hit the East by June, moor the boat, and fly home to his parents’ place for a month to have a huge homecoming/wedding party!

Well, this all sounds just beautiful–and it is in so many ways. I can’t imagine a better or more appropriate way to spend my engagement than on a crazy adventure with the man I love–watching over each other, being quiet together, witnessing spectacular wonders of the world together, unfettered by the internet, wedding magazines, or even much contact with “those who have opinions.” [THIS is what I’m talking about. GAH! She’s amazing.—Alyssa]

“It may be the best idea ever–or it could turn out to be the worst idea ever–to plan a wedding while sailing offshore. The APW side of me thinks my head will be in exactly the sane place to make prioritized decisions about what I want. The WIC bloodline (and the OBNOXIOUS women at the bridal salons) say honey, that’s not possible–you simply can’t do it like that.

But I’m not writing to you about how the heck to plan my wedding or things to cut out or worry about or what. What I would love to know from you and your readers is whether any of you intelligent, thoughtful women have read any good books that could prompt some marriage-counseling-type discussions in our cockpit. Meg, I’ve already printed out your post on marriage counseling and the questions your rabbi asked you to consider–and we’re going to have our own counseling sessions with our boat kitten as witness and mediator. Perhaps this is a bad idea (do you need a professional around for this kind of stuff???) [Editors note: Professional Kitten? – Meg] or perhaps its just right. I would love whatever resources you all have come across in the marriage counseling/ preparation category. Because regardless of the fact that finding a dress I like in small-town Mexico might be a little dicey . . . I don’t want to overlook the really important stuff.”

So, ladies? Hit it. What has helped you on your way to this crazy thing called wedded bliss?

Also, we are gearing up for our next book club, so throw in your recommendations for those too! (New to APW book club?  Check out the fun here.) And, GO!

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  • Cass

    Actually, a psychologist just recommended a book for me and my fiance: Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman. I like it because it’s all based in scientific study about relationships. But don’t let that scare you off, it’s very readable! I’m a few chapters in so far, and I’ve done a few of the exercises with my fiance. We both really like how we felt after working through them.
    You might also be able to find something like a life coach who does phone/Skype conferences. At the very least, it’s an objective 3rd party to help see where things are going right, or need some work.
    On less of a marriage-counseling note, I love the Miss Manner’s Guide to a Surprisingly Dignified Wedding.

    • Lisa

      My fiance and I have been working our way through The Hard Questions: 100 Essential Questions to Ask Before You Say I Do by Susan Piver. We’re finding a lot of good conversation starters there. Best of luck!

      • Amandover

        Yes! We’re doing both Hard Questions and Seven Principles! Both are extremely useful. We never would’ve talked about our attitudes toward money and how we use it if not for The Hard Questions. And Seven Principles gives incredibly clear warning signs of a deteriorating relationship (e.g., insulting, being sarcastic when fighting) and tools for avoiding them. Plus, it gave us permission to accept that our temperaments are not the same and don’t have to be for us to be happy together.
        I recommend it to everyone who’s (getting) married.

      • Kristen

        Ditto “The Hard Questions.” We used to have a Wednesday night ritual where we would set aside quiet time, one of us would make dinner, and we’d spend an hour doing the questions. We did this every week in the year leading up to our wedding, and it helped us bring up some topics that we might have avoided otherwise.

    • Marley

      Love, love, love the Miss Manners book!

    • I second the John Gottman recommendation. Each chapter has exercises for you and your partner to do, some separately and some together. If anything, it includes a lot of conversation starters.

    • Maureen

      I’m about to finish up my PhD in Family Science and I can totally vouch for John Gottman. While most of his studiees have been conducted on middle class white folks, which limits their generalizability, he has done a TON! of research and knows his shit. For real. He has a book more geared towards Therapists called ‘The Marriage Clinic’ which is a little heavy, so I’d go with the 7 principles. Good luck!

    • Maureen

      I’m about to finish up my PhD in Family Science and I can totally vouch for John Gottman. While most of his studiees have been conducted on middle class white folks, which limits their generalizability, he has done a TON! of research and knows his shit. For real. He has a book more geared towards Therapists called ‘The Marriage Clinic’ which is a little heavy, so I’d go with the 7 principles. Good luck!

      P.S. A lot of other books that look or seem legit are not- I’d look at who the authors are, what kind of research shaped the book and what kind of training they had. There is a lot of crap advice out there based in nothing. That said, (ovbiously) you can find helpful tidbits anywhere, so get books by Joe Schmoe if you like- just tread lightly.

      • Becca

        There is a great This American Life episode that discusses John Gottman’s work: (I am sure many of you already listen to This American Life, but if you don’t, you should start. It is amazing.)

        My husband and I listened to this episode together before we got married and discussed our reactions immediately, which can be a nice alternative to reading books separately and discussing at a later time.

        • OH yes, that podcast is GREAT! So interesting. Food for thought, eh?

    • I got the Miss Manner’s Guide as a Secret Santa gift this year. I was so surprised at how funny it was! And no matter how stressful wedding planning gets, at least I don’t have a relative trying to bring their helper-monkey-in-training to the event.

    • i *love* miss manners. her guide to a surprisingly dignified wedding has been a godsend, as the wedding has brought out my previously unknown ability to lose sleep over stupid shit. so, i read miss manners and am highly amused, and reminded that the getting married is the point.

      • I hear you on the whole losing sleep over stupid shit, thing.

    • YES! I’m so excited to see 7 Principles as the first recommendation. Yes, the title sounds a bit hokey, but I’m about halfway through and then my fiance will go through and we’ll start doing the exercises, and so far I really like it. It came highly recommended by a friend of mine who had another intense relationship-tester starting about 6 months into their marriage (he started PhD research in India; she went along; they’ve been in this completely interesting, new, and trying place together for almost two years). So. Yes. Here’s another voice for 7 principles.

      … but probably not for Book Club (YAY book club!)

  • A-L

    While we were still dating (and then through the engagement period) we worked through Intellectual Foreplay which was really good. Because when we came to do our premarital counseling with the pastor, we had already discussed a lot (most?) of the questions he asked us. Which actually felt pretty cool.

    We also had bought 1001 Questions to Ask Before You Get Married and my husband looked through both and thought he preferred the format of Intellectual Foreplay, at least to start out with. But the 1001 book also got lots of recommendations.

    Anyway, good luck with your adventure!

    • We have “1001 Questions to Ask Before You Get Married” and really like it. It wasn’t overwhelming, as people below mention, for us, since there are entire sections that don’t apply & can be scanned (things like “Does your partner try to limit or control the time you spend with friends & family members?” and “Does your partner control all of the money?”).
      It does seem to be trying to be everything to everybody, but I think that’s a good thing; some people need to be told that certain behaviors are not normal and should make you re-think making a life-long commitment, and the rest of us can just ignore those parts and benefit from the rest of it.
      We both liked the format, as well, as it’s pretty clearly laid-out.

      • I will say that I still recommend 1001 Questions! I found it overwhelming but I think it was still beneficial and I think it’s a great place to start. We didn’t find that it sparked many discussions beyond just answering the questions but it did get us to talk about the expectations we have going into the marriage about kids, where we’ll live, how we’ll deal with our families, etc.

        • Mel

          Agree. After five years together, and four of those living together, we honestly thought we’d pretty much covered the sort of things these books would discuss. The question that I found hardest, that really made me cry? ‘Which aspects of your parents’ marriage would you most like to emulate, which do you want to avoid?’ HARD you guys, HARD.

  • Mallory

    Two I’ve read so far that I really liked were “For Better: the science of a good marriage” which talks about real research going on about marriages and couples and what kinds of things help them last (like how to fight fair and positive interactions) and The Five Love Languages which you could probably skim through in a few hours. It has a lot of anecdotes in it which can get annoying, but the general idea that people feel “loved” and express love by different things is really interesting and I really do think about its concepts in my daily life.

    I also really liked “I do, but I don’t” by Kamy Wicoff. It isn’t so much a marital counseling book but it helped me feel better and understand about some of my thoughts and fears about weddings.

    • I just got “The Five Love Languages” from the library and I keep trying to pick it up to read it, but the cover makes me feel like I’m going to be reading a trashy romance novel (nothing wrong with that, but not what I’m in the mood for) and I can’t get past it. But maybe soon! Maybe this weekend!

      • Liz

        my word of warning about the 5 love languages is to USE the information to better express to one another.

        i know all too many couples who read this book- or any book that highlights our “communicational differences”- and then simply use it as a shrug-your-shoulders-excuse, rather than trying to better their relationship.

        for example, “it really bothers him that i never say ‘i love you’ but he’s verbal and i’m not, so… *shrug*”

        • Sarah

          I agree. You HAVE to put it into practice.

          We read Chapman’s books during our engagement, and it helped us IMMENSELY when it came to being what each other needed. Even more than the Love Languages book, though was the Languages of Apology … THAT one saved us.

          I highly recommend them. And recommend tabbing the sections that relate to you and keeping the books in a visible place … easy to go back to when you need a reminder. =)

          • Oh, Languages of Apology–I’m on it! Thanks for the rec.

        • Mallory

          I’m still working on using the books values to improve the way I express love to my partner, but I found that reading it actually helped me notice when he was doing things to express love to me. It allows me to hesitate before I get upset that he didn’t do something for me (my love language) and recognize that he did other things to express his love in the way he communicates.

          I think it’s a lot harder to change the way you express love to your partner, but at least you can start to recognize the other’s acts as their way of expressing love to you.

          • ML

            I’m not engaged, but I read the 5 Love Languages at a make/break point in our relationship (we realized we couldn’t afford therapy anymore, so we were trying to self-therapize.. not a word..). The most valuable thing I got out of it was finally paying attention to myself.. the way I communicated my needs and the way I was measuring his love.

            And I started asking for what I wanted instead of hoping that he’d pick up on it some other way (magic?). It’s been awesome.

      • Mallory

        Haha it definitely looks like a romance novel. Just start it though and keep reading past the first two chapters or so. Honestly there was a lot I didn’t like about it (it talks a ton about traditional gender roles in a marriage) but the core idea of the book is really good. Start reading, I promise there are no raunchy sex scenes. I bet you can finish the whole book by the end of the weekend.

        • Murdock

          Our boss at the time (we work for the same company), talked about in general conversation one day when we were first dating, secretly. It took us some time to actually read it together, but man it helped me a lot. I realized that people wont’ always love you the way you want them to, they love you the way that they can. Overtime this can change, but this is a helpful piece of information. I stopped expecting things from him that he couldn’t give me and came to adore, appreciate, and love the ways he loved me. And now…..4 years later….we’ve both done a much much better job of making our love languages connect and some of them have even changed!

          Sorry that eneded being all about me…I was trying to say, read it, and it can be very helpful when put into practice.

  • Someone has to say it. “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. Read it, love it.

  • It’s not really a marriage or relationship book, but “Getting to Yes” is a great book about negotiation techniques that I originally read during my masters degree and have since applied to my personal life more times than I can count. It gave me an entirely new perspective about how to turn what used to be zero-sum game arguments into win-win situations. I’m incredibly stubborn, and it gave me a lot of insigh into how to examine problems creatively and find solutions that solve the base problem instead of giving one person the win in what’s often a band-aid solution argument.

    I’m looking forward to seeing all the other replies! And mediator kitten? Amazing!

    • Stephanie

      Here here! I’ve read Getting to Yes and I found it incredibly helpful in both my personal and professional life. It’s also a great read when it comes to dealing with vendors, family, friends who you might have conflict with in the wedding planning process. The book is all about common interests rather than winning and losing.

      Good call Meaghan!

  • Kelly Z

    The Conscious Bride: Women Unveil Their True Feelings About Getting Hitched

    Loved it. It’s a mix of real anecdotes and the psychology/emotions of getting married. I’ve bought it for 2 other brides so far, it’s my go-to “you just got engaged” gift.

    • The Conscious Bride was one of the best books I read pre-wedding. I also really loved Altared: Bridezillas, Bewilderment, Big Love, Breakups, and What Women Really Think About Contemporary Weddings edited by Colleen Curran. It is a collection of essays by women ruminating on all aspects of wedding and relationships. It helped me wrap my mind around getting married. It gave me a lot of food for thought.

    • Katelyn

      I’m working on the Conscious Bride now. It can be a little “touchy-feely” so a fair warning if your guy isn’t into that. My beau would never take the “life/death cycle” stuff seriously, but I’m finding it enlightening.

      • Amandover

        I was really surprised that my Mister got a lot out of it. Granted, he was stuck somewhere for hours with literally nothing else to read, but he continues to make (only half-joking) references to mourning our unmarried relationships.
        Yes, definitely a tad new-age-y, but I think it’s worth wading through even if you can’t deal with mythic archetypes, etc.

    • I REALLY disliked The Conscious Bride.

      I read the reviews and thought I’d be well up for it but once I started reading I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was over-romanticised rubbish.

      Sorry. Don’t want to be argumentative. I know she’s a sponsor.

      • jen

        I read both The Concious Bride and Emotionally Engaged: A Bride’s Guide to Surviving the “Happiest” Time of Her Life ( . I felt like both books had the same message, but Emotionally Engaged was easier for me to relate to/stomach.

      • The Conscious Bride is definitely not for everyone. I really liked it for its discussion of all aspects of transitions and rites of passage. There were certain aspects that I didn’t get as much out of it so I ignored them.

  • Kelly Z
  • Amy Jo

    It’s probably already been mentioned (I didn’t read the previous comments), but The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman is a must for all relationships. I have read it a few times (as has my husband) and I’m sure we will go back to it every time we need a refresher course!

  • Dianne

    Add me to the bandwagon for “The Five Love Languages” – it has helped me in so many areas outside of marriage as well. It really helped open my eyes to the fact that a.) everyone (family, spouse, co-workers, employees, friends) needs to feel appreciate in the way that resonates with them personally; and b.) the way that I feeled loved/appreciated isn’t necessarily the way they do so I can’t presume to treat them the way that works for me (and then wonder how it’s possible they aren’t jumping for joy!).

  • The Motion of the Ocean: 1 Small Boat, 2 Average Lovers, and a Woman’s Search for the Meaning of Wife by Janna Cawrse Esarey. Actually, Meghan was the one that gave this to me, so I know she’s already read it, but it’s still worth mentioning. It’s a great read… maybe even a book club possibility?

    Here’s part of Amazon’s summary: “Join Janna and Graeme’s 17,000-mile journey and their quest to resolve the uncertainties so many couples face: How do you know if you’ve really found the One? How do you balance duty to others while preserving space for yourself? And, when the waters get rough, do you jump ship, or do you learn to navigate the world…together?”

    ps. Meghan- am I one of “those who have opinions”?? I choose to believe that I am not. :)

    • Amy

      My amazing bridesmaid bought this for me as a wedding present, and I read it on our honeymoon. It was really great — like getting to talk with a friend who’s going through the exact same “ohmigod what did we just do? forever is, well… forever” issues that I was that week. And brought up good issues for the hubs and I to discuss, but in a way that was not threatening to either of us. Just more of a “hey, what would we do if…”

      • Yes, exactly. Since most of us (Meghan and a few other excluded) aren’t in that whole alone-on-a-boat situation, it’s a little less threatening. But still a great discussion of what relationships are all about!

  • Liz

    For Him Only and For Her Only by the Feldhans.

    get past the sexist-sounding titles, and these books are some worthwhile stuff.

    my cautions with these books is:

    1) they’re meant to be generalizations. it’s the kind of thing where they polled a room full of men and came back with the results. but they reiterate over and over “this isn’t ALWAYS the case, but, from our research…” i’m not one for books that are all, “men are ALWAYS like this” and these books could be read that way- but i think they try hard not to be.

    2) remove the gender classification and they’re still good reads about the differences that typically exist in couples. we both read both books, left post-it-note comments in them, then swapped. and there was more than one time where i related to the “male” perspective and vice versa. we were still able to learn from it.

    • Jo

      I love how you approached the reading – I’m going to suggest the post it note approach!

    • B

      I’d definitely second these books – The Boy and I read them and got a lot out of them. For us the For Men Only book was probably the most helpful – he felt that some of my strange tendencies finally had explanations and I felt much more understood and appreciated.

      I would also second the warnings about the books but if you read them non-critically and just pay attention to the parts that apply to you and your partner you can get a lot out of them. The men’s book is also very guy friendly (The Boy doesn’t like to read so really appreciated the inclusion of a cheat sheet …so they at least get SOME information if they’re unwilling to read the lot!). He did get through it all though with no nagging :P

  • We worked through this book, in addition to meeting with our minister (my uncle) for a premarital counseling one-day intensive:

    Enjoy your adventure!!

  • Liz A

    While I don’t have a book suggestion (the ones above seem fantastic), I will say that meeting with a third party, non-judgmental, intelligent, professional counselor was the best thing we did in wedding planning. Why not see if you can find someone (an APW-recommended?) to schedule a meeting with either in NYC or somewhere else you dock once you hit the east coast? That way, if there are hot button issues that you can’t get through on your own without wanting to jump off the boat, you can put them on hold and leave it to the professionals. I found it was helpful to keep us really civil and really on point on the few things we couldn’t ever sort out on our own.

    AND, the thing my husband took from the counseling sessions was that now we know what it’s like and if we ever hit a rough patch down the road, going to talk it out with someone won’t seem so scary.

    • Kate

      That’s good to hear. I’m totally all about counseling as a longtime APW reader and have been researching counselors. I think my fiance is a little bemused–like, we communicate great, what do we need counseling for? Hopefully it will be a good experience.

      • Liz A

        For us, it was awesome. Even if you do communicate well, it makes some things less awkward. Like saying to your fiance in your living room, Why do you want to marry me and why did you fall in love with me? can seem a little silly and self-indulgent, but when a counselor initiates that conversation, it’s sweet and productive.

        The process kind of reinforced what we do well. We left some times high fiving, like Yeah! We’re awesome! Let’s get married!

        So yeah, my rec is to at least check in once on the in-person counselor business.

        • Liz

          yeah! my husband and i had worked on our communication independently long before premarital counseling. but there was something about knowing we would be able to bring an issue in communication up with an objective third party that really forced things to the surface.

          i can’t count how many conversations were started with, “oh we are SO talking to mari (our counselor) about this….”

          • Caroline

            We’re more in the “pre-engaged” stage (hah, how absurd is that label. It’s more like the “we aren’t fully financial adults yet, and don’t want to rock the familial boat by announcing a long engagement at the moment”), and it wasn’t specifically pre-marital counseling (actually, it was rather different) but the counseling we’ve done has been amazing!!
            It’s amazing how working with a counselor can take a conversation that at home would be “I can’t take that you never do the dishes or take out the trash or sweep ever!!!! It’s driving me crazy!!” “Well I hate that you never get off the computer!!!!!” or else just let fester
            “I know I need to help out more but it really grosses me out when the sink is full of dishes.” “Ok, J, C, how about trying to put the dishes on the side of the sink, and alternating days, would that work?” “yeah”. “I am lonely when you are on the computer a lot. I miss you and feel left out.” “hey, me too!” “let’s have no computer days”.

            and a lot of self work that is helpful for both of us, and overall, it’s been SO amazing. But I’d also like to find a book/counselor to help with the conversations we haven’t had. We’ve talked a lot about many of them, but I know there are a lot more that would be good to have.

            Anyways, I heartily recommend counseling (even like 3-6 sessions. We’ve been 5 times, and are planning on going a couple more times as things come up, but not weekly. it’s too expensive. even 3 sessions helped, so if you can only sort of afford it, find a good counselor and do a few). Plus now we know what it’s like, have done counseling and know that it helps, and have a counselor we like, so if/when we hit a rough patch, it won’t be hard to go, one of us can just tell the other, hey, let’s go see our counselor.

  • Shacking up: The Smart Girl’s Guide to Living in Sin
    This is more for pre-engagement or pre-moving in together, but I found it worthwhile. It just makes you think about your relationship as a partnership and how to compromise and communicate. For example, you only get to be right half the time, so choose your battles and let the rest go! Its a quick and easy read.

    • Vmed

      Thanks for this recommendation- I’ve been looking for something not too…marriage heavy? to give to my friend who’s shacking up with her fella, to help her think about roles and negotiation in a shared living situation that is not strictly just-roommates. You know.

      This sounds perfect, tone-wise, I’ll check it out.

      • Morgan

        I liked it, though it’s message about not committing to anything like a house until he put a ring on it got more than a little repetitive. Like, okay, we know you got burned, but not all circumstances are the same. (True story – read the book, bought the house with the boy anyway, split up and used the proceeds to buy my new house with my now husband. Sometimes buying a house can just count as a financial investment.) But tangent aside, I really liked it, and credit it for helping me make smarter choices. Also, it’s a fun easy read.

  • So far I’ve read One Perfect Day and Committed, which aren’t what you’re asking for exactly but both were helpful and led to some good discussions. I skipped the 5 love languages one, but they have an online quiz which we both took and then talked about. I’m about to start the Gottman book and it seems good so far. We worked on the 1001 questions book and it was helpful but it got overwhelming.

    Good luck! I really wanted to do counseling but we live in Texas and all my attempts to find something secular have failed. I just want to talk about making our relationship work, not how Jesus is the third person in our marriage…so the books have been my solution too.

    • Rizubunny

      I second Committed…some of the things she talks about (specifically, the “windows and doors” conversation about keeping your relationship strong and cheating and stuff) are really good conversation starters.

      • You’re amazing, Risubunny! I read an excerpt regarding just this passage you quoted somewhere a while ago. I could never remember the title of the book (cause it’s so difficult to remember, right?) So thank you, thank you for getting specific with the windows and door reference!

        • Wait, now I’m realizing that Gilbert references someone else’s work in there, right, with the windows and doors stuff. Anyone know the name of the person she quoted? Or am I remembering all wrong?

    • Dawn

      I’m not sure if this will be helpful but the government actually funds quite a few secular couples counseling programs and I know there are tons of them in Texas (I’m the evaluator for a grantee not in Texas but at the grantee conferences there are always a lot of representatives from TX) though all of the grantees have different target populations so some might target Latinos while other deal with incarcerated fathers but I know a lot of them just offer services to couples either as premarriage counseling or as couples in crisis counseling. If you go to the Administration of Children and Families website ( you might be able to find an organization. And no talk of Jesus :) The programs all have to be completely secular (though some are conducted by church organizations but the programs they use have to be completely secular).

      Your other option is you work in a business/corporate type job is to see if you have an Employee Assistance Program that covers counseling and get it that way (I know we get five free sessions).

      • Wow, thanks so much for sharing this! I’ve been casually searching for a secular counseling situation in LA, but got totally overwhelmed by google–this is such a cool resource!

        • Erin

          Have you found anything yet?! I’m in LA also looking for good secular counseling. Note to Meg/Alyssa – there has got to be a Team Practical solution to this. It seems like SO MANY women I know and likely on this site who are looking for secular pre-marriage counseling. Not books, but an actual listing of classes or counselors who do this work. All I ever find on google are “fixing your marriage,” never “preparing for marriage.” (Preventative medicine!)
          One blogger I asked recommended the Making Marriage Work class at American Jewish University ( which though obviously based in Judaism, apparently doesn’t hit you over the head with religion. There are two classes with a Rabbi that you can choose not to take. We’re looking into that now, but would prefer something secular.

          • Nope, not yet–and I totally agree with you, it’s pretty freaking hard to find something non-religious. Plus I’m struggling a little with the fact that my fiance is HIGHLY unlikely to show up if he thinks he’ll be expected to be seen sharing feelings in front of a group. So there’s that.

            What frustrates me most is that there is little I can find that isn’t all about crisis; you have icy cold feet, you secretly hate your relationship, etc. I just want a tuneup, to make sure that we’re on solid footing before making such a big transition.

          • Zan

            I wrote a post about this for APW — but the team is busy (woohoo for growing APW and being busy!!) so I dunno when/if it’ll run. But in the meantime: we did Marriage Success Training, is the website, and I liked it. It was really hard finding a secular option but we stumbled on this and found it really useful. They currently don’t offer classes in LA but maybe if you got enough folks together they’d do it? If not the website has good resources too (articles, book titles).

            I’ve not read any of the books they recommend but they are a lot of the same ones being mentioned here.

          • Alyssa

            I’m sure Meg will think about this, (totally not my gig, I’m the advice monkey!) but I also know that is a incredibly hard list to create and maintain. There are so many different types out there, some not so ethical, and APW never promotes something that isn’t proven to be good and helpful.

            But definitely check out the Sheryl Paul e-course post and the “Pre-Martial Counseling and why I think you should do it” post here on APW. Loads of discussion there already and possibly helpful.

            And y’all, I really think the Facebook page of APW could help, cause you can get recommendations from fellow readers if start a discussion. Or use Twitter if you hate Facebook, tweet me and I’ll re-tweet it to the readers that follow me.

          • englyn

            Wouldn’t a skype-using counsellor be a great APW sponsor? And wouldn’t that be a great way for a counsellor to begin their own business? Just sayin’…

          • Melanie

            I know I’m late int he game, here–and it’s likely (hopefully) that someone has already brought this up…but John Gottman (who wrote 7 Principles, etc, and is featured on the above TAL episode) has an institute in Seattle, and trains people to hold marriage and relationship workshops all over North America:


  • Abby C.

    My FH and I are currently working through
    The 10 Conversations You Must Have Before You Get Married.

    It’s set up almost like a counselor would set up. The first chapter discusses healthy ways to have a discussion and cautions against destructive arguing patterns. Each chapter following is a common issue in marriage and walks you through discussing both people’s stances on it, including some sample scenarios for “What if?” examples and questions you should ask each other. Each chapter builds on the one before it. FH and I are trading off back and forth to each read a chapter, then discuss it when we’ve both finished it.

    • yeah, I was just about to mention that one! We did exactly the same system basically, except we bought two copies so we could each read at the same time, and then we’d have a conversation at the end of each chapter. we really liked it! I haven’t looked at the 1001 book mentioned above, but that does seem overwhelming. I liked how this one is 10 manageable conversations that cover the big issues, with all the questions and other conversation prompts within each section.

    • I love this book! We have worked our way through a chapter or two each time we take a trip and so far its been great!

  • I swear, this is the first time that an APW post has been inside my head. This morning I was just thinking about sending you ladies an email about the book that I’m reading. It’s weird.

    I just picked up This Is Not the Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness. I started reading it before I realized that the author is the same author who wrote Those Aren’t Fighting Words, Dear in the NYTimes. And THEN I realized that I first read about that article here. (Well, I think it was here. Although I can’t remember if it was a post or in the comments or what. So I could be lying. Or just plain wrong. But I don’t think that I am.)

    Anyhoo. I think that I might be a good book club read, although I’m way too early in to know fo shizzle. But maybe someone else here has read it and can weigh in?

  • Dan Savage’s The Commitment was a really good read. So good that after reading it for the APW book club, I read it aloud to my husband. It sparked a lot of really great conversations that I don’t think we would have had otherwise.
    Dr. John Gottman’s is super excellent. I’d highly recommend it.
    Also, I can’t recommend for sure yet, but I just started reading The Meaning of Wife by Anne Kingston. So far, it’s been great, and I think it’s going to be well worth reading.

    • Anne Kingston’s Meaning of Wife saved my sanity during wedding planning. I had some serious wife-related crises before we got married, and reading that book together helped us work through them. I cannot recommend that book highly enough. In fact, my copy is being loaned to a recently-engaged friend.

    • I read the meaning of wife too, it got to be a little ridiculous at times with some over-generalizations, but still is certainly thought-provoking (even if your thoughts go along the lines of “huh, nope, I disagree”)

  • The Bitch in the House is not necessarily a marriage book, but it’s about a lot of women’s identities and how they’ve changed with marriage. I’ve reread it at least five times and lend it out all the time (and make sure to get it back!). It gives you a lot to think about in a way that I think is really important before getting married… Good luck!

    (Also, it would be an awesome APW book club book, FYI.)

    I did a google search for UU Premarital Counseling and came up with some really good PDF resources with fun exercises in them. Not sure where they are now, but worth looking up! I say UU because they cover a lot of things and it’s much more Your-Relationship-Based than it is Religion-Based. Good luck!

    • The Bitch In the House is currently #3 on my to-read list. ;)

    • ….I just book-swapped Bitch in the House (and it’s follow-up, Bastard on the Couch) to one of our fellow Boston APWers. :D

      • I didn’t know there was a follow-up! Sweet.

    • Marchelle

      I’m DEFINITELY up for the The Bitch in the House as a bookclub book.

      • YES. This book totally changed how I thought about marriage. In fact if I hadn’t read it, I’m not sure I’d be getting married. Also a fantastic way to propel you to think about why you make the assumptions you do about what relationships, marriage etc means – what stories have you been exposed to, and which ones haven’t you been exposed to? (The book exposes you to a wide variety.) Definitely would be a GREAT book club book!

      • I’d also be happy to read The Bitch in the House as a book club read. Or The Meaning of Wife.

  • Noemi

    10 Conversations You Must Have Before You Get Married by Dr. Guy Grenier.

    I love this book, and though my fiancee is physically far away, and we would both rather go through these conversations face to face, we have already talked about some of these over the phone. So many things I didn’t think about and am so glad that this book has. Also, it has 15 rules of good conversation. My favorite? No absolutes (never, always, etc.) I absolutely recommend this book.

    • i second this recommendation! my soon-to-be-fiance (i’m planning a proposal!) and i are currently working our way through this book. the author really covers all the bases, and i especially like the way he examines cultural and societal assumptions and reminds his readers that it’s ok if those assumptions don’t hold true for them, but they have to be aware of that and communicate with their partners about it! the 15 rules of good communication are helpful too, though that brings me to recommendation #2…

      nonviolent communication: a language of life, by marshall rosenberg. this book teaches compassionate communication skills, which you’ll find useful not only with your partner but also with anyone you sometimes have difficulty communicating with (for me, that’s my family). this is in my opinion a pretty important life skill, marriage notwithstanding.

      this is my first comment at APW! i’m really glad i found it–the awesome posts and comments have already made me feel a bit more sane about the whole wedding thing, and i’m not even technically engaged yet. thanks!

  • I don’t know about any books. But I do know that I want a boat kitten.

    Also, Megan, you sound like you’ve got a great head on your shoulders.

  • Just have to say…I’m photographing Meghan and Prescott’s wedding and I’m super excited…and completely envious of what they’re doing right now!

    • YAY!!! I’m so excited about this! APW community wins again! :)

    • See, you can plan your wedding from a boat! They already have a photographer!

      Why didn’t I think of this? Also, must acquire professional kitten, stat.

  • Other Katelyn

    I can’t wait for my boyfriend to jump into Natalie Angiers’ “Woman: An Intimate Geography” – it’s science! She’s a Pulitzer Prize winner! And tackles gender stereotypes in a way that I’ve found extraordinarily helpful over the years. The boyfriend is a very logical thinker, a programmer, and much more conservative than I am (with interesting triggers about how men are portrayed in the media and advertisements), so while we’ve been working our way through Gottman and other relationship and marriage books, we keep bumping into the basics. It’ll be an ongoing conversation throughout our life together, I’m sure, but I know bringing some legit research science about gender into the mix will give us both some food for thought. Maybe it’ll be helpful for you and yours, too :)

  • The companion book to the marriage preparation we’re doing is The Marriage Book by Nicky and Sila Lee.

    We really like it, and appreciate the pointers of conversations and the time frames to put on them. The marriage preparation that goes with this has brought us so much closer, which I wasn’t expecting. Be warned, though, that although some reviewers say that they’d give it to anybody, regardless of Christian faith, if you’re not Christian you might find some of the references jarring.

    But this is a long term project, not one where we expect to do a bit and then it’s all done until the end. We intend to keep going with marriage books and reflection.

  • I’m reading “One Perfect Day,” (someone else mentioned this, and yes, it’s not really advice, but very interesting about the WIC), and “Emotionally Engaged,” which I think was recommended here as well. Really enjoying “Emotionally Engaged” and would highly recommend it!
    And I just ordered some more books based on these comments. Thanks, APW friends.

  • Reanna

    My fiance is studying to be a marriage and family therapist, and I have done a lot of reading in the last year and a half to keep up, so I’m pretty excited about this question! I read the books described below and I have also read a bunch of his coursework aloud to him (journal articles and research papers). It’s been an amazing learning curve.

    The Short List:
    If you want to read what the pros are reading, read John Gottman, as already mentioned (he’s got dozens of books, each of which focus on different aspects of his research) and also read Sue Johnson. Her popularizer book is Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love. Her system of couples therapy holds up really well in the research, and this book presents her ideas about couples and attachment theory. She and Gottman will snipe at each other a bit in journal articles, but I think their work is pretty complimentary from a non-clinical perspective. And make sure to do the exercises! You don’t really own it until you put it into practice.

    If you want to get obsessed and run your own mini-masters degree in relationships and communication, check out:

    A General Theory of Love, by Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini, and Richard Lannon. It’s about the science of emotions, especially love and attachment, and includes a model for how therapy works in the brain. One of the predictions: Your brain becomes like the brains of the people you love.

    Conscious Loving: The Journey to Co-Commitment: A Way to Be Fully Together Without Giving Up Yourself, by Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks. This is not research based but it’s really great. One of my favourite parts is when they describe the idea that if you’re really facing your relationship head on it may be very, very hard in the beginning, but it will get easier. The beginning of my relationship was tough and that really goes against the Hollywood model of what falling in love looks like, so I had doubts and it was great to hear that that might be okay, and that there was a theory that reasonably supported the idea that things would get easier.

    Non-Violent Communication: A Language of Life, by Marshall Rosenburg. This is a great system for thinking and speaking clearly about what you need, and for interpreting others’ sometimes less clear ways of speaking about their own needs.

    Truth in Dating: Finding Love by Getting Real by Susan Campbell and Gay Hendricks
    This is a softer take on a booked called Radical Honesty written by a gestalt therapist named Brad Blanton. The distinctions that Radical Honesty makes about what counts as honesty, and what you can achieve by being honest, are really worth getting and being able to employ, even if you decide not to become “radically honest” at all times.

    Passionate Marriage by Dr. David Schnarch. Schnarch explores the opposite side of attachment theory, in a way. His is all about partners learning to “hold onto themselves” and self-sooth and says that problems are caused by emotional fusing and the only way to maintain passion in the long term is through differentiation. Again, not research-based but has a pretty solid theoretical basis and lots of examples from his clinical practice. Thought provoking.

    It’s worth knowing if you do go for counselling that most of the people who offer couples counselling out there were trained as psychologists, therapists or social workers, and never did a single course in couples counselling. Look for someone who specializes in couples and has been trained in working with them! There’s a lot to know that’s really different from practicing therapy with individuals.

    • Murdock

      Thank you for saying a passionate marriage! YES! It was recommended to be my a sex therapist friend and I’m only part of the way into it, but I would recommend this as well. If money, children and sex are the big things “we” fight over….I don’t think enough people talk about sex and what they really want out of it, their expectations around it, and they need.

      • Yes! Passionate Marriage! I read this book twice – when I was *single* !it is about marriage and sex, but it’s also about growing into a fully adult human and how marriage can be a tool to do this. This book is, like, world peace man! It is one of the most dog-eared books I own.

        I was so impressed by this book, I researched a bit more about ‘Family Systems Therapy’ (differentiation, over/underfunctioning in couples, etc.) which really resonates with me. Another person who bases is her work of this psychological ‘school’ is Harriet Lerner of ‘The Dance’ fame (Dance of Anger, Dance of Intimacy, Dance of Fear, etc.) I love her books. They are not specifically positioned as ‘Marriage’ books, but they’re helpful none the less. Also, she has a fantabulous jewfro – *Love* her.

  • Zan

    Dunno about recommendations for counseling and such but I am putting out my vote for “The Dirty Life” by Kristin Kimball. I dunno if people will think it is “marriage-y” enough but Kristin did have a totally APW-ethic wedding (which she talks about in her book) and as if marriage isn’t enough of a life-change to turn your world upside down try leaving New York City to marry a farmer. Though I’m kind of biased because I’m leaving New York City to marry a cowboy (who proposed on Sunday so I’m no longer pre-engaged! which is wonderful and terrifying and terrifying and wonderful and…)

    But I think the book is really a good discussion of what it’s like to change your life completely and how the people we love figure into that.

    Did any of that make sense people?

    • Congratulations on the engagement.

      • Zan

        Aw thanks!! :)

    • Amandover

      Congratulations on your engagement!
      I’m putting that book on my list because I work for a farmer who met his wife at his NYC market. They have 2 beautiful daughters and started their own farm, so city folk can do it and be happy! Mazel tov!

      • Murdock

        Congrats on your engagement! I hope your cowboy is located somewhere awesome!

    • Alice

      Hey Paris friend! Congrats on the proposal!!! I’d love to hear about the NYC -> farm decision! And share the wonderful and terrifying feeling…

    • Congrats! That reminds me of a blog called the Pioneer Woman – you should check her out if you haven’t seen her stuff before.

      • Zan

        Meghan that is hilarious — when I first met my cowboy someone forwarded me that blog and we all laughed about the similarities. Then Kristin Kimball wrote her book and it just got spooky — just one example: she and I lived mere blocks from one another in the East Village. Anyway, not to derail the thread but thanks for all the congrats ladies, it brought a smile to my face. And Alice, my Paris Friend,– omg yes!

      • Be forwared, ladies, before you hit Megan’s link–I found that blog a year ago and stayed up till 3 in the morning reading her SUPER compelling and well-written love story. Totally worth it. ;)

        • Morgan

          Her love story is just about to come out in hard cover – Black Heels to Tractor Wheels. About how much her life changed when she got married. Could be a fun book club book later this year…

    • Anna

      I’d be into reading this for book club. My dad’s friend is actually making a movie about these guys–I’ve never met them but they live up by my family. Small world.

  • I would have recommended all of the books previously recommended, so I just want to say congrats and yay! We have read a bunch of these books together and are doing pre-marital counseling in a few weeks, and I’m excited.

    The best thing I’ve done about the wedding so far is be really selective about which questions I answer and what I get opinions on. Our home is this little island of safety and we have the basics down and ignore the rest. I get self conscious about it sometimes but it is true to us, and I cling to that.

  • We worked a good number of the questions in Before You Say “I Do” by Todd Outcalt. After looking at several question guide type books for engaged couples (and feeling annoyed that they didn’t have “good” questions), this was the one I liked best. There are a lot of questions in there, and we found the book to provoke some interesting conversations over the months we used it. Some of the questions we skipped because we already knew the answers, but then there were lots of other good questions about subjects we had not thoroughly covered.

    • We worked through this book while we were dating, BEFORE we decided to get married (but after we were seriously talking about the possibility). We also did “pre-engagement” counseling. Both really helped me work through things and get to the place where I felt ready to go to the next stage of engagement and marriage.

  • Ariel

    It’s not strictly about premarital issues, but I think that the single most helpful thing in my relationship with my fiance thus far has been using nonviolent communication, which you can read all about in:

    Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, by Marshall Rosenberg

    We took a workshop with him, and applying what we learned has really changed our lives in amazing ways.

    Also, can I put a word in for having a mediator kitten?
    One of our cats goes back and forth between my partner and I when we argue, and either gets us to calm down by snuggling or does something so ridiculously cute that both of us laugh, which really breaks the tension. He’s totally the best mediator we could ask for, because he gets us back into holding a loving space with each other without having to say anything at all.

  • Katy

    It’s already been said …
    Gottman’s 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work.

  • Not a book! But…

    Before we got engaged, I thought about / wanted us to go through a 1001 Questions to Ask Before You Get Married type thing, but I thought the odds of us making it through even close to the whole thing together before getting distracted and giving up were … not great. What I realised we needed was a sort of quick and dirty checklist to make sure that all the things we assumed we were on the same page about, we were actually on the same page about.

    So, what we DID do, which really helped us, and took not much time at all, was go through Maggie Mason’s questions to ask before you get engaged. I know she reprinted on MightyGirl but I couldn’t find it again there, but it is also here (where it was originally published):

    I LOVED it. It’s really funny, thought provoking, and there were things on there I realised we really needed to be in line about. And things I was just incredibly relieved to realise we were in line about but wouldn’t have felt comfortable asking about just off the bat. We both read it separately and wrote our comments and thoughts down, then discussed. (A lot.) It was also really helpful as a prompt to start working through some of the things we did that drive each other nuts and how not to do them.

    Side note: Alyssa, my bachelorette is today! Somewhat nervous, but it should be really fun. (I hope.) I very much look forward to chiming in next Friday with a post-bachelorette perspective!

  • Question: Are there any good books on interracial marriages out there?

  • AlaskaLiz

    My Fiance and I just started reading Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. It does have a lot of bible verses and is somewhat centered around God. My Fiance was a bit reserved to read a book for pre-marriage counseling, but he loves this book and I do to! It brought up a lot of good discussions and really made things in our brains click! His main points are how a man needs respect and a women needs love and it can just be a vicious cycle if one is lacking. GREAT READ!

  • Wench

    Not quite on the point but are you really going to post about strippers? Really really? I’m a burlesque stripper on the side so you’ve intruiged me. I’m guessing it’ll be in the context of stag/bachelor party strippers but am looking forward to the apw viewpoint!
    And thanks everyone for the fab book suggestions

    • liz

      alyssa casually mentioned the stripper post on twitter and was IMMEDIATELY flooded with women chomping at the bit for it to go live. i think we’re all anxious to read about APW strippers, ha.

      • Wench

        I cannot wait

  • Simone

    I love me some John Gottman and have read Seven Principles, but it was hard to get my husband-elect pinned down enough to read the entire thing. However, there are counselors all over the country who specialize in his work, so we’re going to a pre-marriage counseling with a doctor who specializes in Gottman’s work. There is a link on his website: There are also weekends in Seattle that you can do a pre-marriage crash course. I have heard good things.

    • I’ve had a really hard time getting my husband pinned down to read it, so I’ve started reading it aloud to him. Of course, he still has to be willing to listen, and be open to it. So far it’s worked though.

      • m

        same here!

    • Reanna



  • mere…

    Living in a town away from all my best friends and my boyfriend, I normally go through about 5 books a month. My coworkers are always shocked when I bring in a new book…apparently people don’t read anymore. But, recently set my hardbacks down and have been watching a lot of tv on dvd – Dexter makes me swoon a little. This post and all the comments made me miss my books though – pretty sure I just added 25 “need to read as soon as possible” list. Thanks for all the suggestions!

  • Jo

    Don’t have time to read comments (it’s Friday night, people!), but I have two “must reads” and one “should read if you’re spiritual.”
    1. Committed by Diane Rehm. Yes, the NPR Diane Rehm. She and her husband co wrote a book about their 40ish year marriage, tackling subjects from faithfulness to fighting to food. It taught me that a successful marriage is NOT a perfect marriage, and got me (and the hubs) thinking about a lot of things you just can’t predict but might want to talk about before you get several decades in.
    2. A Conscious Bride. You already heard about it. I didn’t know it was popular, but my bff and MOH gave it to me when I got engaged, and it saved my sanity. Turns out, engagements make you and the people around you crazy(er). Helps to have a guide to navigating those bumpy waters.

    and 3. If the Buddha Married. My mom read a passage from this at our wedding ceremony. We are reading it jointly now. It is great for an interfaith, Buddhist friendly couple (us!).

    Happy Reading (and I can’t wait to come back here and see what else good stuff y’all have mentioned!).

  • ooooOOOOoooo strippers and virginity posts! I can’t wait :)

  • We started reading “How to Win Friends and Influence People” during our engagement (really should finish it one of these days, among other books we’re reading together). It was a great book to talk about just relationships in general, our individual relating styles, communication styles, all of that. It’s a book about life, but with the right perspective it is a perfect book about the intimate relationship of marriage.

  • I have a HUGE list going–thanks for all the great titles. The library is going to flag my account for taking out too many marriage-y books. I hope it pisses rain tomorrow so I don’t have an ounce of guilt about hot chocolate, jammies and a book!

    • Never, EVER feel guilty about hot chocolate, jammies and a book.


    • I’m thinking I just found my plan for the evening – hot chocolate, jammies, and a book. Now, which book to grab today. :)

  • Rachel

    I LOVED A More Perfect Union as I planned my wedding. I read it twice and have loaned it out to two engaged friends since then.

  • Anna

    I wanted to put in a book club vote–Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha.
    Again, not a marriage book, per se.

    Ryan has been on Dan Savage’s podcast a couple of times, and has some very interesting knowledge/research about human’s capacity for monogamy. I am in a monogamous relationship, and hope to continue that way, but there are some very convincing arguments that this isn’t our natural state. I think this book could spark some interesting discussion, and also help APW wives and husbands have the hard talks before they find themselves on the threshold of temptation, if you will.

    Last but not least, I just wanna read this book and it seems like the sort of thing I’m going to want to talk about, and you ladies are the smart and clever folks I’d like to talk about it with. The Minneapolis book club discussed this as an option when we read Committed, and everyone here was kind of into the idea. So there’s my two cents.

    • I read this book!

      It’s awesome, but not sure if would be everyone’s thing here. It’s a little fringe for a large group of people. But if you’re interested in the topics it is a worthwhile read. Just learning about how people carry on relationships in other parts of the world is fascinating in itself. Totally worth it. Some parts the author is a little biased and preachy, but there is some great information to glean anyway.

  • Emma

    The books I would have mentioned have been mentioned, great work all! However, I would very much like to know if the counselor kitten is for hire, as we are currently seeking both a pre-marital counselor and wedding officiant and our dog is already biased, as my fiance feeds him. =:^D

  • Amy

    here is an oldie but goodie from the nytimes circa 2006:

  • Amy

    thought i’d copy and paste instead since nytimes requires a login:

    Relationship experts report that too many couples fail to ask each other critical questions before marrying. Here are a few key ones that couples should consider asking:

    1) Have we discussed whether or not to have children, and if the answer is yes, who is going to be the primary care giver?

    2) Do we have a clear idea of each other’s financial obligations and goals, and do our ideas about spending and saving mesh?

    3) Have we discussed our expectations for how the household will be maintained, and are we in agreement on who will manage the chores?

    4) Have we fully disclosed our health histories, both physical and mental?

    5) Is my partner affectionate to the degree that I expect?

    6) Can we comfortably and openly discuss our sexual needs, preferences and fears?

    7) Will there be a television in the bedroom?

    8) Do we truly listen to each other and fairly consider one another’s ideas and complaints?

    9) Have we reached a clear understanding of each other’s spiritual beliefs and needs, and have we discussed when and how our children will be exposed to religious/moral education?

    10) Do we like and respect each other’s friends?

    11) Do we value and respect each other’s parents, and is either of us concerned about whether the parents will interfere with the relationship?

    12) What does my family do that annoys you?

    13) Are there some things that you and I are NOT prepared to give up in the marriage?

    14) If one of us were to be offered a career opportunity in a location far from the other’s family, are we prepared to move?

    15) Does each of us feel fully confident in the other’s commitment to the marriage and believe that the bond can survive whatever challenges we may face?

  • Caroline

    I second the gottman book, but I don’t think this one has been mentioned yet:

    What Shamu Taught me about Life Love and Marriage:

    Great for living together especially, and working with each other on the little everyday grievances we have with each other in a really concrete way. Its not a comprehensive counselling book, but I have probably used it more than most broader books I have read.

  • Laura

    After loving the “Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman (which I read a long time ago- actually to help me get along with my sister better) my fiance and I decided to pick up his book “Things I wish I’d Known Before We Got Married”. Not into it yet but looking forward to it.

    Our pastor has us reading “His Needs, Her Needs” by Willard Harley. It’s tough because parts feel archaic, but I’m not going to reject what seems to be proven principles. And PS- It’s not a religious perspective at all. Just good counseling.

    My mom and dad are taking the “Love and Respect” seminar and SWEAR by it (35 years into their marriage). I think I may pick up a copy of it too. You can also download the video seminar through iTunes.

  • Beth

    My boyfriend and I have been together for two years and are seriously considering getting married. The first of these years we spent together in the US and the second we spent separated due to career needs (I’m a Southerner currently based in Western PA; he is German and lives in Leizpig, Germany). There are a lot of extra complications that go into an intercultural marriage (what are the real life consequences of being a permanent expatriate, what are the gender expectations, what language do you raise your kids in, etc) and we’ve spent much of the past year exploring them. The book that was extremely helpful for us in bringing up issues unique to intercultural marriage is: Intercultural Marriage: Promises and Pitfalls by Dugan Romano.
    Reading it really made me feel much more secure in our relationship and like we are ready to make a formal commitment to get married (as soon as we make a final decision of which country to live in).
    Here’s a link for the book:

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  • Kristin Larmer

    We wanted to do counseling too, but a) we couldn’t afford it and b) we aren’t very religious and all the (affordable) pre-marital counseling in our area was all religion based and we are not religious in the least. We started reading “Saving Your Second Marriage Before It Starts” by Les and Leslie Parrott (my partner is divorced and I called off a previous engagement, so we felt the whole “second” marriage tag worked for both of us.) They also do a book “Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts” and they have workbooks you can do to further open discussion and communication. It has been fantastic for us and I hope someone else can benefit from it too!

  • Mary Jo

    If we ever want to do fiction for an APW book club, I’d suggest Husband and Wife by Leah Stewart. It’s a really sensitive story of what children and infidelity do to a marriage, well-written and with some hilarious parts.

    Full disclosure: Leah was my thesis advisor in grad school and she’s a great human being!

  • eliza

    As a therapist and partner, the absolute #1 book I would recommend is Sue Johnson’s Hold Me Tight. Readable and practical. Gottman’s books–recommended many times above–are also useful. He also has a fairly lengthy survey/questionaire couples can do together to look at areas where they are stronger and more vulnerable. Not sure if this is available to the general populace or not, some therapists use it with clients.

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