Best Books to Read Before Marriage: A Couples Therapist’s Guide to Premarital Counseling Books

by | Last updated Apr 26, 2024

As a couples therapist, I’m often asked about the best premarital counseling books for couples to read before marriage. I believe that reading books together before getting married is one of the most proactive and enriching ways for couples to prepare for marriage. With this in mind, I’ve curated a list of the best books for couples to read before marriage, offering a powerful way to deepen your understanding of yourself, your partner, and the dynamics of healthy relationships. These books will spark vital conversations and empower you with the knowledge and tools to navigate the complexities of married life.

DISCLAIMER: I do not receive any form of compensation from authors, publishers or retailers of the books mentioned in this article. The links to the books are not affiliate links and I do not earn commissions if you purchase a book using the links provided.

Why Read Books Before Marriage?

Think of books to help you prepare for your marriage like books you would read to prepare for any important journey in your life. Reading insightful books before getting married has the potential to you your relationship in several important ways:

  • Navigating the Unknown: Marriage often brings changes to your living situation, finances, family dynamics, and daily routines. The best premarital counseling books offer a preview of these potential adjustments, giving you and your partner a chance to discuss your expectations for marriage, and any potential concerns beforehand.
  • Gaining a Toolbox: Life will throw both joys and curveballs your way. Before marriage, couples should read books that focus on communication, conflict resolution, and building intimacy, giving you the tools to overcome challenges together, strengthening your bond with each obstacle you face in your life together.
  • Building Confidence in Your Choices: Many of the best books to read before getting married emphasize the importance of alignment on life goals, values, and big life questions, such as having children. Having those deep conversations early on empowers informed decision-making, building confidence in your path as a couple.

How to Get the Most from Premarital Counseling Books

Many couples I’ve seen in practice plan to read books to prepare for marriage, but too often those books turn into coffee table decorations. Remember, the best premarital counseling books are a trove of expert wisdom that can have significant short- and long-term benefits for your relationship. Here’s how to tap into that wisdom and make the most of your reading:

  • Read Together, Discuss Openly: Make book time quality time! Set aside regular time to read a chapter together. Afterwards, have honest conversations about the ideas presented. Was there anything surprising? What resonated with you both? What might be challenging for your relationship?
  • Real-Life Practice: Many of the books to read before marriage provide practical exercises to build intimacy and communication skills and provide prompts for important premarital discussions. These tools are invaluable – don’t skip them!
  • Share Your ‘Aha’ Moments: As you’re reading, something might trigger a new understanding of yourself or your relationship. Share these realizations with your partner! This fosters emotional safety and helps solidify the lessons you’re learning.
  • Scenario Exploration: Some books use real-life examples to illustrate relationship dynamics. Discuss how you’d approach similar situations. This proactive discussion identifies potential friction areas early on, allowing you brainstorm solutions together.

Important Note: It’s perfectly normal for anxieties or past traumas to surface when reading books before marriage. Be patient and kind with yourself and your partner. If you encounter a particularly challenging area, consider premarital counseling to work through it in a supportive, professional environment.

How to Choose Books to Read Before Marriage

Finding the right premarital counseling books can feel a bit overwhelming. Rather than grabbing the first one with a catchy title, think of this as curating a library tailored to your relationship’s unique strengths and growth areas. Here’s how to ensure the books you choose will truly benefit you both:

1. Start with an Honest Assessment

Spend some time individually thinking about:

  • Strengths: What strengths already exist in your relationship? (i.e., effortless communication, shared sense of humor, supportive families)
  • Growth Areas: Are there areas where you sense potential for improvement? (i.e., different financial styles, merging friend groups, conflict resolution skills)
  • Excitement and Concerns: What excites you most about marriage? What might make you a little nervous?

2. Discuss Your Priorities

Once you’ve both done some individual reflection, come together and compare notes. Try asking marriage counseling questions can help guide your discussion .What themes emerge? Perhaps you both worry about finances, or one of you wants to delve into intimacy while the other is focused on family dynamics. This shared understanding will guide your book choices.

3. Don’t neglect the fun factor

Love and joy are core to a thriving marriage! Look for books that explore ways to keep the spark alive, nurture playfulness, or deepen your understanding of your partner’s desires. Learning about each other should be an exciting part of your journey!

4. Go On a Date to the Library

Your local library is a fantastic resource! In addition to picking from my list of the Best Books to Read Before Marriage below, take a trip to the library (you can make a date out of it!) and browse the relationship section and see which titles resonate with you. Pick a cozy corner, read a few chapters together, and have an intimate conversation about any topics on your mind about marriage and your relationship. Use this as an opportunity to discover areas you’d like to explore more deeply together through reading.

5. Don’t Limit Yourself to a Single Topic or Author

When selecting your books to read before marriage, try to blend books on communication, intimacy, finances, and even relationship and attachment styles to enrich your premarital growth and learning opportunities.

6. Remember, No Two Couples Are Alike

Every couple has a unique dynamic. Some might feel their communication skills are rock-solid but want to explore differing views on faith within marriage. Others might be deeply connected emotionally but feel apprehensive about navigating physical intimacy. The books you choose to read before getting married marriage should honor the unique needs of your relationship.

couple looks for the best books to read before getting married

List of Best Books to Read Before Getting Married

You’ve done your homework. You’ve explored the benefits of premarital counseling books, considered your relationship’s unique needs, and now you’re ready to dive in! With so many incredible options out there, it’s tempting to want to read them all. But remember, this is a journey, not a race. Below you’ll find my top recommendations for the best books to read before getting married. Take a deep breath, scroll through the list, and let your intuition guide you. Consider the titles that resonate most and speak directly to the areas you and your partner want to strengthen and celebrate.

1. Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love by Dr. Sue Johnson

This groundbreaking book delves into the heart of what makes relationships thrive – the science of secure attachment. Dr. Johnson reveals that our deepest need as individuals is to feel safe and connected to our partner. This creates a secure base from which we can navigate life’s inevitable challenges.

Many couples fall into negative patterns when they feel insecure. Hold Me Tight illuminates these “demon dialogues” and teaches you how to break free. It offers practical steps to communicate your emotional needs in ways that draw your partner closer, rather than pushing them away.

This book is essential premarital reading because it empowers you to identify your own and your partner’s attachment styles, revealing how childhood experiences shape your approach to relationships. It guides you through transformative conversations, cultivating a sense of emotional responsiveness within your partnership, laying the foundation for enduring trust.

Hold Me Tight offers a roadmap for navigating conflict with love and understanding. By learning to express your needs and truly listen to each other, you foster the resilience and heartfelt connection that allows love to deepen and thrive over a lifetime.

Best for couples who:

  • Feel emotionally distant
  • Struggle with conflict or avoid it altogether
  • Long for deeper security and trust

2. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John M. Gottman and Nan Silver

If you’re looking for a book to read before marriage that has practical advice for couples, this book is a must read. Dr. John Gottman, a worldwide leader in relationship research, distills decades of groundbreaking research into clear, actionable principles for success.

Gottman’s work reveals the specific behaviors that make or break a marriage. He teaches you how to replace criticism with appreciation, cultivate a deep friendship, and turn towards each other instead of away during difficult moments.

This book doesn’t offer quick fixes but rather a transformative understanding of how love thrives. You’ll learn to identify the “Four Horsemen” – defensiveness, contempt, stonewalling, and criticism – patterns that signal trouble in many relationships. More importantly, you’ll gain tools to replace them with communication that builds trust and deepens intimacy.

The book will show you how to create a culture of respect, how to solve problems effectively, and how build a shared sense of meaning and purpose in your relationship that will carry your love for a lifetime.

Best for couples who:

  • Want a practical, research-based approach to building a strong marriage
  • Want to understand the factors that predict long-term success in marriage
  • Are ready to learn and implement new communication skills

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

Drawing on his extensive counseling experience, Gary Chapman tackles the practical challenges couples face when transitioning from dating to the lifelong commitment of marriage. His book delves into topics like managing unrealistic expectations, navigating family dynamics, handling finances, and building deep intimacy for a fulfilling partnership.

Rather than focusing on romantic notions, this book emphasizes open communication and understanding each other’s emotional needs. It provides valuable insights and tools to address potential conflict areas proactively, creating a strong foundation for a lasting marriage.

The conversational style and thought-provoking questions at the end of each chapter encourage honest dialogue between partners. Things I Wish I’d Known is an excellent resource for premarital couples seeking to build a strong and fulfilling marriage, prepared to weather life’s inevitable storms together.

Best for couples who:

  • Want a realistic perspective on marriage
  • Are seeking to address areas of friction before marriage
  • Desire to create a strong foundation for communication

4. Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find – and Keep – Love by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller

Attached is a must-read for couples contemplating marriage. It unravels the science behind how early childhood experiences shape our adult relationships. The authors clearly explain attachment styles and their impact on how we seek intimacy, handle conflict, and express our needs. This awareness is vital for pre-marriage couples as it sheds light on potential sources of misunderstanding.

The book doesn’t just offer theory; it’s packed with relatable scenarios that illustrate how attachment styles play out in real life. This makes the concepts easy to grasp. Importantly, Attached  doesn’t leave you hanging – it offers guidance on how to shift towards a secure attachment, leading to stronger communication and greater resilience in your partnership.

Best for couples who:

  • Want to understand the psychology of attachment theory and how it influences their relationship.
  • Desire tools to build a more emotionally secure and fulfilling marriage.
  • Are motivated to work towards healthier relationship habits.

5. The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman

Have you ever felt like you and your partner simply aren’t speaking the same language when it comes to expressing love? The 5 Love Languages book offers a remarkably simple solution to this common relationship puzzle. Chapman identifies five primary ways people express and receive love: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch.

The book’s core message is that everyone has a primary love language. Miscommunication often arises when partners don’t understand each other’s preferred way of feeling loved. Chapman provides clear descriptions of each language along with practical tips on discovering your partner’s (and your own!) preference.

This book’s strength lies in its relatable examples and ease of application. By identifying your partner’s love language, you can tailor your expressions of love and affection in a way they truly appreciate.

Best for couples who:

  • Experience a sense of disconnect despite good intentions.
  • Desire a simple yet effective framework to express love.
  • Want to better understand each other and improve communication.

6. Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life by Emily Nagoski

Emily Nagoski’s Come As You Are is an essential read for couples seeking a more fulfilling and connected sex life. This book offers a groundbreaking exploration of female sexuality, but its insights are transformative for both partners. It empowers couples to dismantle harmful societal expectations and embrace a sex life built on mutual pleasure, understanding, and deep connection. The book answers burning questions about sex and sexuality that couples should talk about before getting married.

Nagoski debunks common sexual myths and replaces them with a science-backed understanding of female desire. By understanding the physiological and psychological factors that influence arousal, couples can let go of performance-based sex and embrace a model based on pleasure and shared intimacy.

The book explores how responsive desire builds within a caring relationship and provides tools for open and honest communication. Her practical exercises help couples address potential anxieties and create a safe environment for exploring and celebrating each other’s desires.

Best for couples who:

  • Want a deeper understanding of female sexuality and how it impacts their relationship.
  • Seek to create a more pleasurable and fulfilling shared sexual experience.
  • Desire to move beyond performance-driven sex towards connection and intimacy.

7. Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence by Esther Perel

The reason this is one of the best books to read before marriage is because it challenges the notion that passion dies in long-term relationships. Esther Perel, a world-renowned couples therapist (and host of the podcast Where Should We Begin?), argues that the tension between the domestic and the erotic is a central paradox within committed relationships. We crave both stability and the thrill of the unknown.

This book isn’t a prescriptive how-to guide; rather, it’s a thought-provoking exploration of this tension. Through anecdotes and case studies, the book talks about the ways couples stifle their erotic spark while seeking security. Perel challenges traditional notions of monogamy, suggesting that a touch of mystery and the pursuit of individual passions can actually fan the flames of desire in a partnership.

Mating in Captivity won’t hand you easy solutions, but it will ignite crucial conversations and inspire couples to find a balance between the security they crave and the erotic spark that keeps a relationship alive. Despite somewhat oversimplifying the universal nature of desire within relationships, I think the book offers a valuable core message for couples getting married: long-term intimacy requires intentional effort and a willingness to redefine intimacy.

Best for couples who:

  • Feel the familiar spark starting to fade in their relationship.
  • Question whether monogamy and long-term passion can coexist.
  • Are willing to challenge traditional views on relationships.

8. Boundaries in Marriage: Understanding the Choices That Make or Break Loving Relationships by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend

Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend’s Boundaries in Marriage offers wisdom essential for all couples, and especially valuable for those preparing for marriage. The focus isn’t on eliminating challenges, but on establishing healthy boundaries – respecting yourself, your partner, and the relationship as a whole. The book addresses common pain points like in-laws, finances, and differing values, providing practical tools to navigate them.

Couples should read Boundaries in Marriage together before marriage for several compelling reasons. Firstly, it fosters proactive problem-solving, empowering you to identify potential areas of conflict and find solutions together, reducing the likelihood of future resentment. Secondly, the book emphasizes the importance of preserving individuality within the partnership, allowing you to maintain your passions and interests while supporting one another. Finally, Boundaries in Marriage encourages open communication, helping you uncover and address those unspoken assumptions about marriage, aligning relationship expectations for a smoother path forward.

Best for couples who:

9. How We Love: Discover Your Love Style, Expand Your Capacity to Love by Milan & Kay Yerkovich

How We Love focuses on the concept of “love styles,” which are patterns of how we love, based on our childhood experiences. The authors propose that understanding these styles can help individuals and couples navigate the complexities of their relationships more effectively.

The book identifies five primary love styles: the Avoider, the Pleaser, the Vacillator, the Controller, and the Victim. These styles are shaped by one’s upbringing and directly affect how an individual behaves in their romantic relationships. The aim of How We Love is to help readers uncover their own love style, understand their partner’s style, and work towards developing a more secure, intimate relationship. It’s particularly focused on healing and improving marriage relationships.

How We Love delves into the nuances of learned love styles from one’s family of origin and their impact on marital relationships. Attached, on the other hand, applies attachment theory to explain how individuals engage in romantic relationships, offering a broad perspective that is applicable to various stages of a relationship, not just marriage. Each book provides unique tools and insights for improving relationships through self-awareness and understanding of partner dynamics.

Best for couples who:

  • Desire greater self-awareness and want to understand their relationship patterns.
  • Are open to exploring how childhood experiences impact their present.

10. Smart Couples Finish Rich by David Bach

Smart Couples Finish Rich provides a valuable roadmap for engaged couples seeking to align their financial goals and build a solid foundation for the future. This book goes beyond typical budgeting advice, offering practical steps and a positive mindset shift around money management.

Bach’s emphasis on teamwork makes this book stand out. He understands that open financial communication is essential for long-term success and provides tools to tackle money conversations with honesty and respect. Smart Couples Finish Rich helps you identify shared goals, create plans for achieving them, and navigate unexpected financial challenges together.

If you want to create a financially secure future as a couple, this book is an excellent to read together before getting married. It provides the tools and mindset to foster healthy financial habits, setting the stage for a life where dreams are achievable and money worries are minimized.

Best for couples who:

  • Want to create a shared vision for their financial future.
  • Are willing to tackle money conversations head-on.
  • Seek practical tools for budgeting, saving, and investing.
  • Desire to make financially smart decisions as a team.

Final Words

Choosing to read these books together signifies a profound commitment to your relationship. The process of shared discovery, discussing chapters, and applying the insights strengthens your emotional bond and sets the stage for open communication that will serve you for years to come. By investing your time and energy into learning from these expert authors, you are laying a strong foundation for navigating the joys and challenges of your shared future.

Remember, these books are not a one-time fix but a springboard for lifelong growth. The willingness to tackle complex topics and have honest conversations demonstrates your dedication to building a resilient marriage. If you find yourselves desiring deeper exploration or personalized guidance, don’t hesitate to seek support from a couples therapist or premarital counselor

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