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When I’m in a new phase of life, the first thing I turn to is a good book. When I was learning how to write, I read books on the craft of writing. When I wanted to be published, I read books about queries and contracts. When I wanted to learn more about relationships, I read every relationship book I could get my hands on. Are you the same way?

Whether you’re in a new relationship and looking for time-tested advice, or just love reading about how to approach relationships rightly to the glory of God, I present this list of the relationship books I read recently, most of which I highly recommend.

The Relationship Books I Read (and loved!)

Dating

The Ten Commandments of Dating: Time-Tested Laws for Building Successful Relationships by Ben Young

I borrowed this title from an engaged friend, and we both laughed about how she certainly wouldn’t be needing it anymore! I found it to be chock-full of common sense advice. The majority of which I already knew, having grown up with the mindset that I’d rather “date with intention” than “date around.” If you’re looking for the basics on wisely navigating the world of dating and relationships, I recommend this book as a good starting point.

Boundaries in Dating: How Healthy Choices Grow Healthy Relationships by Henry Cloud

Similarly to the first title, Boundaries touched on the basic elements of how to date wisely. In essence, avoid the mistake of dating someone who doesn’t love Christ, treat you well, respect your family, etc. With that point in mind, I can see this book being helpful to those seeking to date differently than what movies portray, even though I didn’t get a whole lot out of it since I’d grown up reading Harris and Ludy and other courtship advocates. Still, the wise principles contained therein would benefit those wrapping their head around a counter-cultural approach to relationships.

The Sacred Search: What If It’s Not About Who You Marry, But Why? by Gary Thomas

Gary Thomas is my new favorite author of relationship books. No, all nonfiction books. I’m actually reading Sacred Marriage right now, and it is just as good as this one. I highly recommend this insightful look into the deep end of dating/courtship. Illuminated with Scripture, written in a comfortable but probing style, I read The Sacred Search in two days because I just couldn’t put it down and was so fascinated by the truths I found within the pages.

Courtship

Courtship in Crisis: The Case for Traditional Dating by Thomas Umstattd

This extensive look into the culture was fascinating. The author breaks down just what courtship is and isn’t (and where the thought processes that led to the idea come from). Then he breaks down other methods of courtship or getting-to-marriage, too, including arranged marriage and traditional and modern dating. His defense is logical, thought-provoking, and made me think long and hard about the methodology used to approach this thing we call marriage. I recommend it to those looking to get a closer look at courtship culture–and perhaps return to a pre-modern, friendship-centered relationship foundation.

Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot

I may upset a few Elliot fans here, but I actually didn’t like Jim at first. It seemed to me as if he led Elisabeth on, and that upset me because I would much rather courtship be initiated by the interested gentleman when both parties are ready to pursue marriage. But the Elliot’s commitment to Christ, purity, and the good of the other–though imperfect as all are–is inspiring.

For Women, About Men

7 Things He’ll Never Tell You But You Need to Know by Kevin Leman

This is a book that I’d recommend only for older readers, but it is a welcomely light-hearted deviant from the other books I read last year. Leman is a very funny author, who cracks jokes and writes in a comical way that is nevertheless insightful. Though I sometimes disagreed with his more blatant statements (and so did some of the men in my life by whom I ran some of Leman’s points), I liked this look into the male brain.

For Women Only: What You Need to Know about the Inner Lives of Men by Shaunti Feldhahn

Similarly to Leman’s book I mention above, Feldhahn delves into the male brain, her main point being that it is different from our female ones. Truth. This book definitely approaches the book from a more serious standpoint. The topic is encased, actually, in the results of a survey taken by men and supported with more research. The research bogged down a few chapters, but I’m keeping this on my shelf to refer back to. The author doesn’t hesitate to jump into hard subjects, so I recommend only for older readers.

Marriage

You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity by Francis Chan

I remember hearing about this title from a friend; she and her boyfriend were reading through it together and recommended it to me as a big-picture sort of book. That’s exactly how I’d describe it, too. There are plenty of books with practical tips on approaching relationships; this is not one of them. Instead, the authors approach the subject of marriage as a temporary thing that serves a greater purpose. What is that greater purpose? What is marriage about anyway? What difference does a Gospel-oriented focus on love and romantic relationships make? I read this book in just a couple days completely on my phone; this book is available in its entirety in the app: You and Me Forever!

Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married by Gary Chapman

This is the most practical read on this list. Chapman covers such topics as expectations in a new and refreshing way. Instead of merely stating that most couples struggle with expectations, he presents concrete examples and encourages couples to decide ahead of time who will clean the toilets and who will balance the checkbook, plus a whole lot more. I highly recommend this book for those personalities such as my own, who want step-by-step advice. This is an excellent pre-engagement book and conversation starter.

Starting Your Marriage Right by Dennis and Barbara Rainey

If you’re looking for a sobering call away from selfishness, look no further than this classic from the Raineys. Starting Your Marriage Right is a quick and easy read, and I recommend it for engaged couples. Full of practical chapters about everything from in-laws to vacations, though, this book could easily apply to the first decade of marriage, as well. I enjoyed the conversational tone and easy reading level, but most of all I appreciated the emphasis on Scripture and a biblical worldview. Though some of the subjects were sobering (such as how marriage must change after children come and a marriage ends when death parts you), this book is practical, wise, and encouraging.

Marriage Wisdom for Him and Marriage Wisdom for Her by Matthew and Lisa Jacobson

Whether you’re newly married (as I am!) or a marriage veteran, there’s something for every spouse in Marriage Wisdom for Him and Marriage Wisdom for Her. As a newlywed, I love reading marriage books, but I especially enjoyed Matt & Lisa’s alternating perspectives, steeped in biblical truths. Marriage Wisdom for Her is a devotional I’ll recommend to my fellow wives.

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I hope you enjoy adding these titles to your to-read list and thumbing through them as much as I did. Feel free to leave a comment below with your own perspectives on these titles. I’d love to hear what you think!

(Updated May 2017)

Photography: Hannah Acheson

5 Comments

  1. Samantha R says:

    Looks like a bunch of great reads there! I am currently reading Sacred Marriage (renewing it again today because I couldn’t finish it in time) but I Really want to read the Sacred Search next. It has been recommended to me several times already so it must be good. 🙂 I think it’s so important to not get married just for the sake of getting married… it’s so much more than that…
    I may want to read Cloud’s book eventually too. I really think that having boundaries in the type of person you date/court are so important to have in place before you even enter the relationship. (i.e., if he doesn’t respect my parents and siblings, I won’t even consider him). I have other “set in stone” qualifications too. 😉

    Thank you for these reviews; I’m checking to see which ones are available at my local library.

    1. Samantha, I of course highly recommend Sacred Marriage and Sacred Search! Perhaps the coolest thing is that there’s not a lot of repetition. They are separate books that complement each other well. 🙂

      Hold to those standards! They sound like good ones! 🙂

      1. Samantha R says:

        Thanks, Rachelle!

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