There are hundreds of books on the market that tackle the topics of love, relationships, singleness, developing a self, and intimacy. Perhaps so many, that you may be wondering where to begin if you are interested in learning more about God’s design for marriage, how to be in healthy relationships with other people, and what God says about living and loving from a place of freedom.
The following are some books that we have read and have found very helpful in our journey to know God more and honor Him in the way that we live our lives individually and in relationships with others.
1. Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No, to Take Control of Your Life by John Townsend and Henry Cloud
This is one of the best books I’ve ever read! A few years ago, it seemed my life was spinning out of control. I was completely exhausted, unable to say no, had no idea how operate from a principled place, take ownership for the things in my life, or set up appropriate boundaries with those with whom I was in relationship. In learning more about this subject, I understand more the concept of “keeping my side of the street clean” and letting those around me be responsible for their own behavior. Setting appropriate boundaries gets me out of the role of always trying to control, which has transformed my marriage, friendships, and parenting! This book tackles topics such as codependence; boundaries in marriage, friendships, and parenting; confrontations and conflict; boundaries within families, people pleasing, and living a life of freedom. It also answers the questions:
- Can I set limits and still be a loving person?
- What are legitimate boundaries?
- What if someone is upset or hurt by my boundaries?
- Why do I feel guilty or afraid when I consider setting boundaries?
- How do boundaries relate to submission?
- Aren’t boundaries selfish?
For a brief overview of boundaries, this is a great article: http://www.cloudtownsend.com/articles/scoop-on-boundaries/
2. Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas
What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?
That would mean my trials could be used to draw me closer to God, my struggles can grow my character, and my purely romantic view of marriage is incorrect.
As Katherine Anne Porter, a Pulitzer Prize winning American journalist put it, “Marriage is the merciless revealer, the great white searchlight turned on the darkest places of human nature”.
This was my first introduction to the fact that what occurs in my marriage is largely about making me more like Jesus. It was also a challenge for me to learn how to love like Christ loves. I recommend this book to single and married men or women. I would also recommend it to older teenagers as they begin to contemplate the complex and often misunderstood reason God gave us the institution of marriage.
3. The Calvary Road by Roy Hession
Originally published in 1950, this Christian classic is a powerful reminder of how followers of Christ are changed at the foot of the cross. It is not a marriage book, per se, but the author describes the radical relational changes that take place when believers surrender their lives to Christ and learn to live like Him, with humility, sacrifice and love.
4. The Seven Levels of Intimacy: The Art of Loving and the Joy of Being Loved by Matthew Kelly
I have been married for 15 years and still struggle with meaningful intimacy. Until recently, I rarely thought about the word “intimacy” or its implications on my life. Or even what it MEANT. Had you asked me, I probably would have equated the word intimacy with sex. Interestingly, sex does not equal intimacy. They are NOT synonymous. Intimacy is not just physical, nor is it just emotional. It is a mixture of all four aspects of our being: the physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual. “Intimacy is sharing the journey to become the best version of ourselves with another person. It is a mutual self-revelation that takes place gradually, cannot be rushed, and can only be realized by the commitment of time.” This book takes you through an explanation and exploration of why it is so important to know yourself. The first and most critical step to achieving intimacy with others is being comfortable with who YOU are. It goes on to define the purpose of a relationship and discusses the seven levels of intimacy.
The Seven Levels of Intimacy Are:
- Cliches (the “how are you, I’m fine” conversations)
- Hopes and Dreams
- Faults, Fears, and Failures
- Legitimate Needs
And I’ll leave you with the title of Chapter 5: The Opposite of Love is Not Hate.
Coming from someone who did not have much childhood modeling of healthy intimacy, this book has begun to change the way I interact with people and how I demonstrate and receive love.
5. Extraordinary Relationships: A New Way of Thinking About Human Interactions by Roberta Gilbert
This book has been described as “a refreshing alternative to self-help approaches”. It addresses the importance of relationships in each of our lives, and how the only way to further develop your relationship is to further develop yourself. This truth plays out in the home, workplace, families, etc. This book is a bit dense, but filled with great information about self and relationships. I have learned a great deal from reading this book that I can apply to all of my relationships, even my relationship with God.
6. The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God by Tim Keller
Keller, with contributions from his wife, writes about a balanced, Biblically-based view of marriage. He offers both God’s purpose and vision for marriage as well as practical applications for honoring Christ through this primary earthly relationship.