10 Best Books on Relationships

10 Best Books for Improving Your Relationships

Relationships are not just necessary for our survival, but play a major role in our happiness in life. When we think of being in love, which is a major source of happiness, we think of sharing that with another person. Yet, we don’t get any training or education on healthy relationship habits.  Issues of money, sex, or emotions, all important aspects of adult relationships go unaddressed. We are left to figure it out on our own.  Navigating our emotions, and the emotions of our partner with these sensitive issues is essential to relationship happiness.  That is why it is important to educate yourself on healthy relationship dynamics, and to practice them.

Some of the patterns and habits we learned during childhood helped us to get by when we were younger, but fail us in adulthood.  Habits of success in school (being right and quick with an answer) and career, might work against us in relationships. Being demanding and driven might make it difficult to slow down, listen, and be understanding of our partner.  The practice of helping to solve problems and take care of other people’s needs might cause us to neglect our own wants and desires that make us happy and fulfilled. These books are some of the best resources and help I’ve found for getting in touch with what makes healthy and happy relationship work. (Click on the link of each title to go to the Amazon page for each book)

The Five Love Languages: The secret to love that lasts by Gary Chapman.

You will cycle through different phases in your relationship when your love tank is full, and at other times when it is empty.  So will your partner.  Knowing how to get your tank filled, and your partner filling theirs will solve many of the other issues you might have. We have different ways of expressing love, and perceiving that we are loved.  This book will help you sort that out.

Non-Violent Communication: A language for life  by Marshall Rosenberg.

What we say, and more importantly what we don’t say matters.  Words send powerful messages and this book not only helps you speak more clearly for what you want and need in your relationships, it will help you hear what your partner is asking for. Read this book if you are having a difficult time being heard by your partner, or if they have difficulty sharing with you. You will ask better questions, and get better responses back.

The Mastery of Love: A practical guide to the Art of Relationship by Miguel Ruiz

We can operate by the dynamics of fear or by the force of love in relationship. Fear leads to control, disrespect, and suffering.  Love leads to personal responsibility, appreciation, and happiness.  This book will surprise you with ideas like, “your happiness in your relationship is because of your love coming out of you.” Excellent read for understanding a new paradigm of consciously aware relationships, one in which you are less dependent on your partner, but happier with them.

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are by Brene Brown

If your relationships are going to work, then they need to work emotionally and that means addressing the beliefs you have about yourself. Most of us try to make ourselves feel better emotionally the way we learned in childhood, by doing better until we can be perfect.  However in adulthood this usually causes us to feel inadequate.  We need a new model for relating value for our self. If you want to develop more self-acceptance, compassion, and gratitude you will find this book invaluable.

The Relationship Cure: A 5 step guide to strengthening your marriage, family, and friendships by John Gottman

Relationships work through emotional connections. The most basic beginning is a “bid” for that connection.  Depending on how others respond to that bid will determine what we do next.  How we respond to bids from others will determine whether they feel accepted and move closer to us, or farther away. Most of these moments happen automatically and so we don’t’ know how to change them when bids are missed.  Identifying your basic methods of connecting allows you to change your overall relationships.

MindWorks: A practical guide for changing thoughts, beliefs, and emotional reactions by Gary van Warmerdam

A guidebook for self-reflection work that helps you identify and unravel your negative thoughts and beliefs.  The beliefs are often unconscious but have major impact on our emotions, decisions, and behaviors.  When you better understand your self and how your mind works, you can make changes in your own behavior and emotions. You will then be a better partner in your relationship.

The Queen’s Code by Alison Armstrong

Men and Women are different, and they respond differently to the same circumstances or gestures. When your partner doesn’t respond to you in a way you expect or want you might interpret it as a rejection.  This then creates other problems that don’t exist.  Understanding how you are different from your partner will help you communicate with your partner in a way that helps them, and helps you. You will also respect those differences and value them instead of find them as issues of complaint or conflict.  It is written particularly to help women stop sabotaging their relationship happiness, but will be a help to anyone.

Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a lifetime of Love by Sue Johnson

The new research validates Attachment Theory. We attach and bond to people.  We did it since childbirth and it provides many signals of safety, being cared for and emotional stability. When those signals are not there from our partner alarms go off, fears activate, and controlling behaviors begin.  Being aware of these dynamics based on Attachment Theory within each of you provides a way of navigating around these drama’s. This book is focused on couples understanding the source of emotional drama causing them to withdraw from each other and create conflict.

The Four Agreements: A practical guide to personal freedom by Miguel Ruiz

A quick read, yet insightful and powerful introduction to beliefs and agreements unconsciously affecting our life.  More importantly it is a simple reference for how to change and feel better. Self Awareness is the key. Without being aware of your own behaviors, words, and emotions, you have little chance of changing them. The Four Agreements is a practical wisdom book for personal change through self awareness. Continual practice of these four simple practices will take you deeper and deeper.

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work:  A practical guide from the country’s foremost relationship expert by John Gottman.

John Gottman has studied the details of relationship interaction for decades and has changed how we think and understand them.  The small subtle cues of a raised eyebrow or facial movement can be an expression of disdain or criticism.  Hundreds and thousands of these expressions, spoken and unspoken, over time determine whether your relationship is happy or ends in divorce. Knowing what John Gottman knows about relationships will change yours.

A third of these books aren’t about relationships. They are about working on being happy with yourself. This might mean addressing your own critical voice, frustrations, fears, and emotions in other areas of your life. If you are frustrated with work, or get angry at other drivers, the people around you experience that and it takes a toll. Being a happier person with yourself, and your own life is one of the sure fire ways that allow others to enjoy you more, and suffer with you less. It is not always about working on “the relationship.”  Sometimes it is about working on yourself in a positive way.

How Is Everything?

Asking “How is Everything?” can be a Conversation Ender  

Have you ever noticed that when you sometimes ask, “How is everything going?” that you get a conversation- ending, “Fine.”  Reaching out to your partner for connection with that question just didn’t turn out the way you’d hoped. It didn’t feel satisfying or connected.  Often, you can even sense something unsettling is going on with them and you just got told in very few words that he doesn’t want to talk about it.  Or, at least that’s what you interpret from the meaning you make of that one word “Fine.”

What if there is more to the story, or a different story? What if he, or she, is perfectly willing to talk but the question you were using wasn’t the key to opening that door? Language and conversation is a complex process that we immersed ourselves in for years and mastered until it becomes unconsciously automatic. But if you try to learn a new language, you discover that there are nuances that change interpretations, meaning, and responses you get in certain situations. Our own language might have some of those nuances that we at times miss as well. We may not have picked up on how our partner processes the same words and phrases differently than we would.

What happens if you ask your partner (let’s assume a man), “Is everything okay?”  Men tend to be more literal.  Their mind will begin to do some automated analysis.  Their mind is quickly at work trying to evaluate literally “EVERYTHING” and give you a correct response.

In lightening quick speed the mind races through topics of: Did I take out the trash? Is she upset with me because of the trash? Have the cars had their oil changes in time and do I need to swap to snow tires yet; did the yard get cleaned up; are the dishes done; how is our financial situation; did the bills get paid; is everyone in the family healthy; are work projects on schedule so my boss is happy with my work; can we afford the vacation we want to take next summer, how are our investments doing?; are we going to be able to retire on time; and how will global warming affect us during the coming winter storms and how do I best prepare; etc.  So the mans’ mind does a quick assessment of all these things and 24 others looking for things of serious concern. In the effort to provide and protect the household  he has many things he keeps a mindful eye on. A quick evaluation over all this mental territory doesn’t give him any major concerns worth mentioning and so he can report back that, “Everything is fine.”

The literal version of the question is not about them, or how they feel, or if they are feeling stressed about something. They hear the question to be about “EVERYTHING”.  Nothing in the question directed their attention to what they were feeling. And since men don’t usually put much importance on their feelings they passed right over that item. They might feel that the stressful issue is just one of the normal issues that come and go in life and not worth mentioning. You weren’t necessarily being dismissed in your bid. They might have been really open to talking but the question seemed to be about other things.

Your intended meaning might have been a shorthand way of saying, “How are you feeling?” The actual words you used to structure the question came out slightly differently. The term “EVERYTHING” directed their attention and meaning outward to a much broader landscape.  Your intent wasn’t heard in the language you used.

In my experience men are more literal and will interpret the term “everything” to mean to “EVERYTHING”.  In that context they tend to disregard the importance of themselves in the answer. A woman might tend to be more social and in touch with her feelings. Emotions and feelings are more important and so they get factored in on such questions and oil changes don’t.

One is not more correct or less than the other.  The important take away from this is to be aware that when you ask someone, “How is everything?” that their mind might run through some different circuits and issues in answering than you had in mind.

If “Everything is Fine,” what does that mean?

When we get the reply, “everything is fine”, many of our internal interpretation circuits automatically fire as well. Our mind applies meaning to those words that may not be part of what they are communicating. The feeling of it being a “conversation ender” might be our interpretation. There is no specific information that we can continue the conversation with, no more back and forth, so we might interpret, that a door has been closed. We likely didn’t consciously choose this interpretation, but it happened in those automatic circuits of our interpretation.

We have tried to open up a channel of connection and we interpret we were pushed away.  This kind of interpretation of meaning happens without words or thoughts. Our unconscious beliefs patterned into communication do it automatically. Unconsciously they can produce a feeling of rejection, dismissal, and isolation on our part.  In fact, our partner may not be pushing us away at all.  They are just answering the question as literally as they heard it.  They didn’t hear your question as a bid for connection.

To accomplish that conversational connection, try asking different questions of engagement “How are you feeling?” is a more specifically directed question. With it, you are inviting your partner to put their attention on what they feel and to share about it. It is easier to focus and answer on this singular issue when a question directs our attention there. This alone won’t necessarily be enough to open up the flow of conversation. Your partner’s ability to pay attention to their emotions, their ability to articulate those feelings into words, and their comfort sharing with you, will affect what type of response you get.

You can also guide their attention with a more specific question. Consider sharing what you are feeling and what you are observing first.  This can give a context for the question you are asking and prime your partner on where to look inward. “I wanted to check in with you. It seems to me that you have something on your mind and aren’t as relaxed and present as your usual self. I was wondering how you were feeling?”

If all this seems a bit tedious or a lot of work, then you are getting the idea of what it takes to have some honest conversations with your partner. Talking comfortably about emotions is not something that most people learned to do growing up. Having honest conscious conversations about emotions, what you want, and feelings requires effort and work. We have to learn a new vocabulary and language and build new neural pathways of thinking and speaking to have those discussions. With practice they become easier and fluent, like a new language does with time.

To help better understand how your unconscious beliefs affect your interpretations and emotions, sample the four free sessions of the Self Mastery Course to find out more.

Original post by Gary van Warmerdam

Happiness Is A Way to Define Success

How do you define success?

I define success as Happiness.  It’s my emotions that inform me what success and failure are.  If I were depressed and suffering I would feel like a failure. If I am happy, I am a success.

What makes your definition a little different from the popular definition?

Most common versions of success are measured externally.  I measure mine by my internal feelings.  If business success equates to money success, many people assume that you will feel “good” and be happy with yourself.  It doesn’t work that way. Studies have shown that after a person’s basic needs are met that having more financial success doesn’t affect their sense of self or happiness. We only need to find the exceptions that disprove the rule. We are familiar with individuals successful in their careers, financially, and in other ways that can’t stand the misery of their emotions and mind they live in.  Robin Williams, Heath Ledger, Whitney Houston, and John Belushi come to mind.

Those that achieve external success, but still hold beliefs that they are unworthy and underserving live in a painful cognitive dissonance. They can feel guilty for having success they don’t believe they deserve. They can live in fear that the world will find out that they are really not that good.  They walk around living in fear that they will be found out as an imposter or fraud.  They fear the day of being found out, and secretly they hold out hope for being found out because it will release them from the deception they feel they are portraying.  The more they succeed, the louder their false beliefs cry out, “Imposter.”

The common approach in society is to achieve the right level of career accomplishments, money, or a great relationship that will result in happiness.  In this scenario the real end goal is happiness. The intermediate goal of finance, career, relationship, is just the means to the end goal of feeling happy.

If the real value is happiness, fulfillment, gratitude, and an enjoyable emotional life, then it is important to keep your attention on that goal. You can even measure success by how you feel about yourself, and the world. It doesn’t make sense to measure by the intermediate goals because we’ve already identified that they don’t get you to your destination. If you fixate on the intermediate means it is likely that you will compromise the chance for happiness.  That would be like going to the produce section of the grocery story to look for a good book to read. Yes you need some nutrition so you have the means to read a book, but the longer you spend in the grocery store the longer you will be missing out on a good book.

What are some success factors?

Factors that help me achieve happiness are the ability to quiet my mind and really pay attention to my emotions.  People generally learn to ignore, deny, or repress many of their emotions growing up and these patterns have to be overcome.  You can’t know what in your life is making you happy, or unhappy if you can’t feel those emotions.

Another factor that helps is allowing yourself to feel desire.  Being satisfied first means feeling a wanting. How can you know what your heart’s desire is if you don’t allow yourself to feel the wanting of desire?   And if you don’t know what wanting and desire are, then you won’t feel the satisfaction and fulfillment that comes with going after and living your heart’s desire.

The third factor that helps with successful happiness is to develop the skills to clean up the negative thoughts, beliefs, and emotions in your mind.  It is naïve to think that we can just decide to think happy thoughts and our lives will turn around.  My experience is that it takes some time practicing effective skills to identify and change the way our mind works.  It isn’t immediately obvious what false beliefs reside in our unconscious mind affecting our emotions and behaviors.  It is a matter of skill building and practice to identify and change these self-sabotaging beliefs, and it is worth it to make the changes and feel happiness in your life.

What do you think are the true keys to success?

I discovered that most of my emotions didn’t come from external things anyways.  Most of my emotions were generated because how my mind interpreted what external things meant.  If a woman broke up with me I could interpret that as a great rejection. I could use it to believe that I was a worthless loser. Or, I could interpret it as a blessing.  It was a gift to find out that she didn’t want to be with me because then I didn’t spend any more time trying to be with someone who didn’t want to be with me. The external event, in this case, the break up, was the same.  However, depending on the interpretation my mind made I would experience very different emotions.  These interpretations were generated by my core beliefs.  When I became aware and inventoried these beliefs I found that many had to change in order for me to be happy with the world, myself, and other people.  It was foolish to try to make all those external things change, it was never going to happen.  But I could change my beliefs and interpretations about things and thereby be happy.  For me having awareness and changing my core beliefs was the key to happiness.

How did you come to this conclusion?

I came to this conclusion through my own experience of misery.  I was in a relationship with an extraordinary person and had a successful career, or so it seemed from the outside. Inside I was miserable and unfulfilled. I decided that I couldn’t stand the misery anymore and that I wanted to be happy no matter what.  I knew that I could have a great career and perfect partner, but if I wasn’t happy with myself on the inside none of it would work.  I needed to make sure that I was happy on the inside and so I made that a priority.  When I changed my core beliefs I experienced being happy in the world even when things didn’t go my way.  It was particularly then that I knew the real meaning of success.

For practical steps to identify and change your core beliefs, try the free sessions of the Self Mastery course.

Emotional Trauma and Memory

Ridding ourselves of the emotional memory and the stories of past trauma. The body stores emotional memory.  The mind recalls and replays those emotional memories in our subconscious.   The emotions are projected into our body, and our conscious mind often then justifies the cause of those emotions as something going on in the present moment.  The present moment event may be a trigger, but not the cause.  Those emotional reactions wouldn’t happen unless the trauma memory were there.

Self Mastery Review

Periodically I get appreciative emails from people telling how the Self Mastery course has helped change their life. I don’t usually post them, but here is one of them. Your individual results will vary.

Hi Gary

First, let me express my gratitude to you for sharing your leanings.

10 months ago I found your lessons.  I had been diagnosed with depression 8 years before and been on medication the whole time. I also was told I had anxiety since about 10 years of age too.

I am happy to say, they have both disappeared and my experience of each day is mostly absent from any personal drama.

I don’t experience a rampant mind anymore and am able to employ one of the tools when annoying thoughts do come.

I wasn’t able to get past the building my new dream lesson in the Advanced Series yet and am going back to try again. While I perceive most of my experience now as neutral, I can see I need to get past neutral.

If you can offer any further help, I would appreciate it. I think I need to inventory selfishness, as you said, but struggled with that too. Mind you, I was able to write over 300 notes during the deconstruction phase. I excelled at that.

I would not have believed that it was possible to undo 59 years of nervous behaviour, but I have. Thanks.

It is difficult to describe in words the dramatic change I have and now experience.

I would like to share a 2 parts of my journey that have had a significant impact for me.

 I started your course about Oct 2014 and had been on antidepressants for 8 years. I woke up every morning with my highest priority to make sure I took the tablets. I only missed one day in 8 years. I had also suffered with anxiety since I was young (about 10 I think).

After a couple of months of doing your course I woke up one morning and couldn’t figure out why I was taking tablets, so I stopped and haven’t taken one since (this was about 8 months ago).

It was not because I convinced myself that I didn’t need them. I just couldn’t see the reason why I should be taking them. For 8 years I always had a reason, either I believed they were treating the symptoms of my depression & anxiety or I knew the impacts of the discontinuance of them.


This epiphany occurred about a month ago.

Apart from numerous epiphanies over the duration of the course, there is one stand out change for me I wanted to share.

While anxiety is no longer an occurrence for me, there were times when I felt anxious. I noticed what my mind does when this occurred.

I felt anxious and my first thoughts were ‘why’, ‘what is causing this’? and I immediately and instantly hunted and could attribute any number of reasons why, then I started thinking though each scenario with the intent of solving or resolving the issues. This negative thinking doesn’t stop and in the mean time other life situations were occurring (now perceived as negative) and they get added into the existing ones. Oh no! I was now experiencing anxiety, as I know it, perpetual, obsessive and dominating all my thoughts.  Once I realised how I did this, I was able to stop the hunting process and not embark on the campaign to find the reasons or causes. Instantly the anxiousness abated.

It became obvious that I was doing this to myself by thinking. I was feeding my initial anxious feeling by having more thoughts about it and growing it into a healthy, happy anxiety baby. Now, I don’t seem get those anxious feelings, not that I notice anyway. These types of ‘moments of clarity’ just seem to keep coming.

PS after listening to your audios so much your voice is almost as familiar in my head as my own. lol

With my gratitude


Your individual experience with results will vary.  I will emphasize that Max wrote over three hundred pages.  Granted, he did that over a year so it only turns out to be about one page a day.  But in my experience with clients it is that kind of regular practice that produces these kinds of results. You can sign into the Self Mastery course and start with the free exercises.


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