The 10 Best Relationship Books of 2021, According to an Expert

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Relationship skills and social skills are referred to as “skills” for a reason—they require learning, practice, and refinement. Limited engagement is leaving many of us feeling out of practice with these skills, and disconnection is leading to emotions filled with fear, stress, anxiety, and depression.

Relationships require knowledge of oneself in addition to knowledge of other people. With enough reflection, introspection, and focus on your own emotions, you can begin to strengthen romantic relationships, family relationships, friendships, and even work relationships. “A healthy relationship allows the ability to balance being a strong individual with deep intimacy,” says psychotherapist and relationship expert Dr. Jamie Brodarick.

Here are the best relationship books on the market, according to a licensed mental health counselor.

Our Top Picks
Offers ways to reconnect with your partner after the emotional toll and stress created by different life circumstances.
Includes how-to guides, writing prompts, and exercise challenges for readers to practice.
Best for Daily Practice:
Listen, Learn, Love at Amazon
Author Susie Miller uses the simple disciplines of listening and learning to increase the ability to love.
Beneficial for those in sales or customer service who frequently handle complaints and are required to make new connections.
Best Problem-Solving:
I Hear You at Amazon
Helps readers better understand the valuable practice of listening and validation to improve all kinds of relationships.
Best Deep-Dive:
Eight Dates at Amazon
Dives into the deep issues that often plague marriage and long-term partner relationships.
Best for Personality Types:
The Enneagram for Relationships at Amazon
A great option for romantic relationships, parent/child relationships, and close friendships.
Best for Busy Couples:
The 80/80 Marriage at Amazon
Addresses modern challenges to help you establish a traditional-style connection.
Best for Setting Boundaries:
Boundaries at Amazon
Teaches readers how to use loving and empathetic phrases to communicate honestly and directly with others.
Best for Work Relationships:
Radical Candor at Amazon
Focuses on how to be an effective boss and leader without losing your humanity and personal side.

Best for Marriage: The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country's Foremost Relationship Expert

Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work
Pros
  • Research-backed

  • Written by expert

  • Easy to follow

Cons
  • Long read

  • Requires multi-person involvement

  • Does not replace therapy

With over 50 years of research under his belt, author Dr. John Gottman is the most accredited researcher of relationships in modern-day history. His studies include long-term marriages and relationships, and his book simplifies seven relationship principles you can easily apply to your life.

Dr. Gottman describes the reasoning behind failed marriage therapy strategies and how to avoid them. He also dives into daily connection rituals that prevent couples from drifting apart. Most divorces occur when couples recognize problems too far into their relationship—Dr. Gottman offers advice to reconnect with your spouse, taking into consideration the challenges of modern-day life.

Best for Communication: 4 Essential Keys to Effective Communication in Love, Life, Work--Anywhere!

4 Essential Keys to Communication
Pros
  • Good for a variety of communication issues

  • Good for all relationships

  • Ideal for busy people

Cons
  • Only skims deep issues

  • Introduction material only

In this day and age, we could all use a refresher in terms of basic communication skills. This award-winning book—filled with how-to guides, writing prompts, and exercise challenges—is a great place to start. Written with all kinds of relationships in mind, including family, dating, friendships, and even work relationships, it's designed to help you improve empathy, listening skills, and communication skills.

The book merges a guide with a workbook that makes it ideal for couples, classes, or book clubs. It also has a lot of useful tips and relationship strategies that are easy to follow.

Best for Daily Practice: Listen, Learn, Love: How to Dramatically Improve Your Relationships in 30 Days or Less

Listen Learn Love
Pros
  • Simple concepts

  • Easy to read and humorous

  • 30-day progress tracker

Cons
  • Only skims deep issues

  • Broad subjects

  • Introduction material only

Written as a 30-day challenge with a focus on understanding individuals, author Susie Miller uses the simple disciplines of listening and learning to increase the ability to love. People may lean on the idea of compatibility to get them through relationship challenges, but Miller says that there is a lot of learning required to maintain a connection with kids, spouses, parents, and friends.

Focusing on empathy, she teaches relationship concepts that are designed to help us love those closest to us more deeply.

Best for Socializing: How to Become a People Magnet

How to Become a People Magnet
Pros
  • Multiple strategies included

  • Short in length

  • Good for social anxiety

Cons
  • Only skims deep issues

  • Requires practice

  • Geared toward work relationships

Social anxiety is a prevalent issue in our modern-day world among all age groups. The condition leaves some feeling unable to have even the most basic of conversations with others. This book, written by award-winning author Marc Reklau, provides 62 simple strategies to help you improve your social skills in everything from first impressions to deeper relationships.

With a variety of strategies available, you can choose the ones that are best suited for your needs. This book is also beneficial for those working in sales or customer service—industries that frequently handle complaints or require making connections.

Best Problem-Solving: I Hear You: The Surprisingly Simple Skill Behind Extraordinary Relationships

I Hear You
Pros
  • Research-backed techniques

  • Good for everyday relationships

  • Ideal for busy people 

Cons
  • Only skims deep issues

In this bestselling book, author Michael Sorensen condenses relationship problem-solving skills into a compact, three-hour read. It reads more like a conversation to help users understand the value of listening and validation in relationships.

While arguments tend to arise when relationship issues occur, Sorensen aims to help people strengthen and deepen their problem-solving skills instead. Written from the field of experiential and positive psychology, this conflict-resolution discipline is well-supported by scientific research.

Best Deep-Dive: Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love

Eight Dates
Pros
  • Written by experts

  • Addresses difficult topics

  • Research-backed

Cons
  • Does not replace therapy

  • Requires consistent practice

  • Time commitment

As Dr. John Gottman's research partner and wife, Julie Schwartz Gottman Ph.D. co-writes the author's most recent work. The couple dives into common marriage issues such as money, trust, sex, family, and spirituality while helping partners improve their ability to talk about sensitive issues.

Allowing couples to feel more connected, Gottman hopes these skills will aid in the avoidance and management of future conflicts. This is a great book for anyone in couples therapy or those wanting to dive deeper into their personal relationship connections.

What Experts Say

“A good relationship book should focus on increasing empathy and good listening skills rather than identifying faults in others. The goal is to be authentically yourself while still having the ability to let other people into your life. It is vitally important to learn how to see things from another person’s perspective and to have that in return from your partner." — Dr. Jamie Brodarick, Marriage & Family Therapist, PhD, LMFT

Best for Personality Types: The Enneagram for Relationships: Transform Your Connections with Friends, Family, Colleagues, and in Love

The Enneagram for Relationships
Pros
  • Effective techniques  

  • Popular subject 

  • Encourages self-knowledge

Cons
  • Time commitment

  • Does not replace therapy

The Enneagram is one of the fastest-growing personality assessments and concepts in the world right now, and rightfully so. There are nine different personality types with up to 27 subtypes to help you understand yourself—aiding in connection with those closest to you.

Through further understanding of yourself, you can be more empathetic and accommodating to those you love. Instead of focusing strictly on the nine personality types, this book focuses on how to use that understanding to strengthen relationships.

Best for Busy Couples: The 80/80 Marriage: A New Model for a Happier, Stronger Relationship

The 80/80 Marriage
Pros
  • Addresses modern issues  

  • Research-backed techniques 

  •  Made for busy people

Cons
  • Both spouses need to commit

  • Requires a lot of effort

  • Does not replace therapy

Even the busiest of people strive for deep romantic relationships, but the problem is that a thorough connection requires time and attention. The 80/80 Marriage is written for career-driven and busy individuals who want to make the most out of their marriage.

Using data from more than 100 couples, the book focuses on how to create radical generosity and partnerships where both individuals thrive. The book also addresses modern challenges that come with a desire to establish old-fashioned connections.

Best for Setting Boundaries: Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No To Take Control of Your Life

Boundaries
Pros
  • Written by expert

  • Easy to follow

  • Effective techniques

Cons
  • Long read

  • Includes religious perspective

  • Requires consistent practice

Bestselling author, speaker, and psychotherapist Dr. Henry Cloud teaches the importance of boundaries in all relationships, but especially within families. While most people see boundaries as a wall built between people, boundaries are actually the gateway to connection.

Boundaries keep us safe and help us understand the needs of others, but people tend to avoid them in fear of being confrontational. This book teaches readers how to use loving and empathetic phrases to communicate honestly and directly with others—making it especially helpful for those with a people-pleasing personality.  

Best for Work Relationships: Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity

Radical Candor
Pros
  • Addresses work relationships

  • Good balance of empathy and assertiveness

Cons
  • Focuses on work only

  • Longer read

  • Female-focused content

As people return to the office for work, many are finding their people-managing skills a bit rusty. Without the ability to end a zoom call with the click of a button, complicated personalities are more difficult to avoid.

Author Kim Scott explains how to be an effective boss and leader without losing your sense of humanity. Used by companies and businesses all over the globe, this book is endorsed by successful businesswomen such as Sheryl Sandberg.

Final Verdict

For marriage and long-term romantic relationships, “Eight Dates” by Dr. John Gottman (view at Amazon) dives deep into issues that couples often face. It's designed to help couples focus on communication to resolve problems that often turn into larger conflicts.

If you're trying to take an empathetic approach to relationships, “The Enneagram for Relationships” (view at Amazon) is a good choice. Designed to help you understand your own personality to relate to others, the book dives into individuality in couples, families, and friendships.

And if you're returning to the office in the near future, “Radical Candor” (view at Amazon) is a great managerial tool to help leaders and bosses confront (and deal with) various personality types and challenges.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is a healthy relationship?

    In a healthy relationship, each person should feel comfortable being their authentic selves while bringing out the best in the other person. It's a perfect combination of freedom and safety. Relationships take work, time, and personal growth, but dedication to a relationship can result in a deep level of connection and understanding.

  • What is a toxic relationship?

    A toxic relationship involves installing fear in another person in order to elicit control. Full of guilt, irrational rules, and fear, toxic relationships often result in an emotional rollercoaster rather than stability and safety. Mental, physical, and emotional abuse are also common in toxic relationships—a result of one person investing more into a relationship than the other.

  • Is fighting healthy in a relationship?

    Disagreements and heated moments are common in any relationship. While it's healthy to work out differences and misunderstandings, it's not healthy to resort to attacks on one's character, name-calling, or threats. Healthy fighting should focus on conflict resolution and finding a solution to the issue at hand.

  • Is jealousy healthy in a relationship?

    Jealousy is a normal human emotion, occurring when one individual feels insecure. With that said, consistent jealousy is a red flag in relationships. If you're constantly jealous, it can be a sign of deep insecurities or trust issues stemming from childhood, partnership trust, or an irrational need for control. Finding the reason behind jealousy is important and it may require therapy or assistance from a professional.

Why Trust Verywell Mind?

As a Licensed Mental Health Counselor with over 15 years of experience working with clients to improve mental and emotional health, Mary K Tatum understands the importance of finding quality resources and techniques that work for each person. Not everyone will have the same kind of healing journey, therefore, having lots of options to choose from is vitally important in creating a lifestyle that combats mental illness and promotes health and wellbeing.  

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Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Institute of Mental Health. Social Anxiety Disorder.