United Methodist Marriage and Family Ministries

Reading List for Helping Individuals Transform Their Marriages


Divorce Busting: A Step-by-Step Approach to Making Your Marriage Loving Again by Michele Weiner-Davis (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992). The practical problem-solving approach in this book demonstrates how behavior change, even by just one partner, can improve the dynamics of a marriage. The author’s emphasis on finding solutions rather than exploring problems is based on a simple formula: “do more of what works and less of what doesn’t” (page 17).


Dr. Stephanie's Relationship Repair for Couples: A Customer Service Approach to Minimizing Conflict and Creating Lasting Love in Your Relationships by Dr. Stephanie Welland Knarr (Omaha, NE: Heartland East Publishing, 2015). The author urges couples to develop good relationship maintenance and repair practices so that both partners know they will be heard and their dissatisfactions resolved. Making complaints may sound like a negative behavior, but doing so demonstrates commitment to the relationship and a desire to make it work. Dr. Stephanie gives clear directions for expressing a complaint in a way less likely to trigger defensiveness and for responding positively to complaints as well.


How One of You Can Bring the Two of You Together: Breakthrough Strategies to Resolve Your Conflicts and Reignite Your Love by Susan Page (NY: Broadway Books, 1997). The author’s insights and suggestions will help both those who feel stuck and frustrated with their relationships and those who, although generally happy, feel some disillusionment or lack of connection. She presents a series of “experiments” one person can use, based on eight specific principles: (1) Act on your own. (2) Do the opposite of what you have been doing. (3) Reframe a power struggle by looking for solutions that meet both persons’ needs. (4) Enlist your partner’s help. (5) Express empathy for your partner’s position. (6) Gracefully accept what you can’t change. (7) Ask for what you want. (8) Men: tune in; Women: stop coaching. Detailed analysis and examples make this approach clearly understandable.

If We’re So in Love, Why Aren’t We Happy? Using Spiritual Principles to Solve Real Problems and Restore Your Passion by Susan Page (New York: Harmony Books, 2002). The author encourages individuals and couples to treat their relationships as spiritual disciplines, practicing acceptance, compassion, restraint, and kindness. By focusing on loving each other in a spirit of good will, couples can build a true spiritual partnership. The author’s insights and “experiments” can be used by both or by just one party in the relationship.


Love and Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs by Emerson Eggerichs (Colorado Springs: Integrity Publishers, 2004). Writing from a Christian perspective and frequently quoting Scripture, the author makes a clear case for the importance of honoring the primary needs of women and men. He identifies the “crazy cycle” (she reacts to a perceived lack of love and he reacts to a perceived lack of respect) and recommends clear steps to move toward closeness and a mutually satisfying relationship.


Non-Violent Communication: A Language of Life (previously A Language of Compassion) by Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D. (Encinitas, CA: PuddleDancer Press, 1999). This clear and straight-forward text shows how to break through patterns of thinking that lead to arguments and anger and how to communicate with mutual respect and understanding. The skills (separating observation from evaluation, taking responsibility for our feelings, making requests instead of demands, and listening empathically) can enhance any relationship. A Companion Workbook available provides discussion questions and exercises for individual or group study.

Sacred Marriage: What if God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy? by Gary Thomas (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2000). The author invites readers to view marriage as a spiritual discipline through which persons can come to know God more fully and intimately. Marriage teaches us to love and to respect others, exposes our sin, and encourages us to develop perseverance, forgiveness, and the ability to embrace differences.


Surrendering to Marriage: Husbands, Wives, and Other Imperfections by Iris Krasnow (New York: Hyperion, 2001). The author cuts through the mythology and unrealistic expectations surrounding marriage to show readers that “the best we can do for our children, and for ourselves, is to make our own marriages go the distance, weathering waves of sadness, even rage, because we know that our grit and perseverance are going to pay off hugely in the end.” She shares testimony from senior citizens who express gratitude for the deep love they have fostered together over time.

Sustaining Love: Healing and Growth in the Passages of Marriage by David Augsberger (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1988). The author outlines four stages of marriage: The Dream, The Disillusionment, The Discovery, and The Depth, describing how to successfully negotiate these challenging transitions. Especially dangerous, of course, is the Disillusionment Stage, when the excitement of new love wears off and couples face who they really are and how they really relate. Not only is this stage inevitable, but it can also provide a doorway to deeper discovery and love.

The Dance of Anger: A Woman’s Guide to Changing the Patterns of Intimate Relationships by Harriet Goldhor Lerner, Ph.D. (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1997). “Close relationships are akin to circular dances, in which the behavior of each partner provokes and maintains the behavior of the other.” (p. 12) This book helps the reader clarify her feelings, learn to communicate them effectively, and interrupt negative patterns in relationships, not only with her husband, but also with children, parents, and others.


The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts by Gary Chapman (Chicago: Northfield Publishing, 2010). The author identifies five languages of love: Quality Time, Words of Affirmation, Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. By learning to speak and understand these unique languages, people can more effectively communicate love and feel more truly loved as well.


The 5 Secrets of Marriage from the Heart by Jack Rosenblum and Corinne Dugas (Mustang, OK: Tate Publishing, LLC, 2006) Through the engaging story of a couple whose marriage is in crisis, the authors explain and illustrate five keys to strengthening and/or healing a relationship. (Hear and understand me; Even if you disagree, please don’t make me wrong; Acknowledge the greatness within me; Remember to look for my loving intentions; Tell me the truth with compassion.) This easy-to-read, well-grounded book would be an excellent gift for couples or a resource for a study group.


The Surprising Way to a Stronger Marriage: How the Power of One Changes Everything by Michael and Amy Smalley (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2010). The authors describe how one spouse, strengthened by God and biblical principles, can bring about positive change and growth in a marriage. The authors emphasize the importance of taking responsibility for your own emotions and reactions, focusing on what you want to have happen, and repairing hurts by asking your spouse what he/she needs in order to heal. A Study Guide in the back of the book provides Scripture and discussion questions for each of the eighteen chapters.


Why Marriages Succeed or Fail: What You Can Learn from the Breakthrough Research to Make Your Marriage Last by John Gottman, Ph.D. with Nan Silver (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994). The author presents four strategies for breaking cycles of negativity and maintaining a lasting, healthy marriage: calming yourself so that you are not overwhelmed by flooding emotions; speaking and listening nondefensively; validating each other as well as your relationship; and overlearning these principles so that you can use these new skills under stress.


Why Mars and Venus Collide: Improving Relationships by Understanding How Men and Women Cope Differently with Stress by John Gray, Ph.D, (New York: Harper, 2008). The author expands on male/female differences, drawing on brain scan research to clarify how men and women react differently to stress and often misunderstand each other. He offers clear, concrete steps to prevent and heal misunderstandings and conflicts.

Why Talking is Not Enough: Eight Loving Actions that Will Transform Your Marriage by Susan Page (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, A. Wiley Imprint, 2006). The author encourages individuals and couples to treat their relationships as spiritual disciplines, practicing acceptance, compassion, restraint, and kindness. By focusing on loving each other, in a spirit of good will, couples can build a true spiritual partnership. The author’s insights and “experiments” can be used by both or by just one party in the relationship.

~Jane P. Ives, United Methodist Marriage and Family Ministries Consultant 10 Quaker Lane, Portland, ME 04103, 207-797-8930,

(Other relevant articles are posted at or…/intergenerational-family-ministri….)