The 5 Books That Have Most Benefited My Marriage

The 5 Books That Have Most Benefited My Marriage

Getting married has got to be the most beautiful, most challenging, and most insane thing I have ever done. In this blog post, I dive into my favorite marriage books, covering topics like fairness, spiritual warfare, unconditional love, love languages, and the relationship between love and respect. These books would be helpful for any who is married or would like to be married someday. Marriage is one of the most profoundly wild, beautiful, and difficult things a person can enter. You can’t learn everything you need to know about marriage from books. But it is a good start.

The 80/80 Marriage book image

The 80/80 Marriage

Fairness in your marriage can feel like a noble pursuit. Many couples reject the notion of an 80/20 marriage, one in which one partner (often the wife) carries the majority of the physical, mental, and emotional labor in your family. In this day and age, many couples pursue the 50/50 marriage model. A 50/50 model sounds like a great idea, but it can feel impossible to actually achieve that perfect balance. It feels impossible because it is impossible.

The problem with absolute fairness is that it requires that partners be dedicated to keeping score in order to preserve perfect balance. And what will inevitably happen when we are keeping score? Marriage becomes a competition. We have a winner and a loser. This does not a strong partnership make.

Authors Nate and Kaley Klemp propose another marriage model, one that may cause some logicicians to bristle. The Klemps are well aware that the math doesn’t add up here; they are dedicated to the idea just the same. The 80/80 marriage model is one where both partners approach the marriage with radical generosity, both aiming to give 80% to the marriage. This book explains what radical generosity and shared success looks like in roles, priorities, boundaries, power, and sex, as well as the essential habits of an 80/80 marriage.

Love and War book image

Love and War

There is a reason that your marriage sometimes feels like a battle. And that is because it is. As John and Stasi Eldredge explain in their book, Love and War: You are living in a great love story, set in the midst of a terrible war. You have an enemy, but it is not your spouse.

John and Stasi Eldredge’s books always resonate with me. I love the way that they use the power of story to make sense of pain, desire, and purpose. This book weaves together a lot of the same story imagery used in their many other books, like Wild at Heart and Captivating, into an epic picture of marriage: what we are fighting against and what we are fighting for. Covering topics like adventure, prayer, and spiritual warfare, the Eldredges explain how couples can grow “by fighting for each other, instead of against each other.” If you only read one book in this series on marriage, read this one.

The Love Dare book image

The Love Dare

The Love Dare is a 40-day challenge for husbands and wives to understand and practice unconditional love and is the focus of this month’s Project Marriage. This book by Alex Kendrick is one part marriage book, one part journal, and was a major plot device in the Christina film, Fireproof (great concept, not a great movie). Each day’s reading is a small portion on a topic regarding unconditional love, including one dare to love your spouse that day. Upon completion of the day’s dare, the book includes journal prompts and space to write down your thoughts and experience putting that dare into action. This daily practice of intentionality was challenging, eye-opening, and rewarding. I recommend this book for any marriage. Look out for an entire post dedicated to my experience with this book, coming this week.

The 5 Love Languages book image

The 5 Love Languages

I cannot believe it took me so long to read this book. I have been familiar with the 5 love languages, and I have even been aware of my own primary love language for quite some time. Even if you’ve heard a pastor or counselor talk about the 5 love languages, or you’ve taken a quiz online to try to discover your primary love language, trust me, you need to read the book in its entirety. There is so much gold in this book that you’ll miss out on if you only read the cliff notes version: particularly, how to discover the primary love language of a person you are married to.

In short, there are 5 different love languages and everyone has a primary language they speak. The 5 love languages are: words of affirmation, acts of service, physical affection, receiving gifts, and quality time. For many of us, we often try to speak the language of love to our spouse that we most wish they would speak to us. And so it can be terribly confusing when you are attempting to genuinely love a person, and those attempts are not being received. You are not speaking their language. In order to thrive in a marriage or any lasting relationship, it is vital to learn your partner’s love language. Anyone can enjoy being loved in all five languages, but there are generally 1-2 primary types of love a person really needs in order to feel loved and valued in a relationship.

Even though I already knew my love language before reading this book, this book gave me a better understanding of how that primary language affects the way I communicate with my husband and the root of some of the frustrations in my relationship. It also gave me great insight into how his primary love language operates, and gave me a lot of great ideas for how to love him more deeply in a way that he will understand. My husband Peet and I are total opposites when it comes to love languages: his primary love languages is quality time, my least important love language. My primary love language is receiving gifts, the language he cares about the least. Learning to love one another through our primary languages has not been easy— I am grateful that we have forever together to figure it out. This book is a must-read for everyone, married or not.

Love and Respect book image

Love and Respect

Men need both love and respect. Women need both love and respect. But when author Dr. Emerson Eggerichs examined the data over emotional needs and marital quality, this is what emerged: overwhelmingly, wives want to feel more loved in their marriages, and men want to feel more respected. So, what is at the root of these particular desires?

We talk a lot more about love in marriage than we talk about respect. The concept of unconditional love, particularly in the Christian world, is commonplace. We struggle however, particularly in American culture, with the idea of unconditional respect. We think respect should be earned, and the idea that respect should be given out willy nilly is uncomfortable to us.

According to Eggerichs, unconditional love and unconditional respect work together to motivate the other. Her respect motivates his love. His love motivates her respect. And the opposite is true as well— It can feel nearly impossible to respect someone when you aren’t feeling loved by them- when you feel someone is disrespecting you, it does not tend to motivate a lot of feelings of love. But that is the point- you do not have to feel like loving or respecting your spouse every moment in order to choose to commit to unconditional love and respect. This is one of those books I’ll read again and again.

Thank you for reading about my 5 favorite books on building a strong marriage. Check out my recent blog post on my fall-time favorite novel about married people. Be on the lookout for a new blog post coming soon, all about my experience completing the 40 Day challenge to love your spouse using the book The Love Dare. To stay up to date on all of my reviews, join my email newsletter below.

Newsletter Sign-up

Get book reviews delivered right to your inbox.


On Beauty and Motherhood

I put on makeup every day for 30 days. I didn’t wear makeup every day before I had my daughter, so I surely didn’t prioritize it after she was born. One day in January, I realized that I liked how I felt when I wore makeup, so I thought I would conduct a little experiment. I wanted to see how it would make me feel to wear it every day for 30 days. Depending on the results, I may consider making a concerted effort to wear it daily.

My Top 10 Reads from 2023

I read some pretty phenomenal books in 2023— some of which will go on my list of all-time favorites. My top ten is dominated by nonfiction, yet funnily enough, novels hold the top two spots on my list. Five of the ten are memoirs, revealing a particular preference I have for that genre right now. In general, my reading ratios are 1 novel: 1 memoir: 1 additional nonfiction. I want to read more fiction this year.

Project Emily Advent: Day 25

My maternal grandfather, Papa, was a great and wild soul. He was particularly close with my sister, Bailey. He loved all of his grandchildren, and made a particular effort to show up in each of our lives. But Bailey was Papa's best girl. He was totally smitten with her. He was a friendly and warm person, but he could be bristly at times, and Bailey seemed to be the only person undeterred by his bad moods. She was every bit his equal in fortitude and stature of personhood.

Disclosure (Let’s be honest)
This website contains posts with affiliate links, meaning that I receive a small commission if you purchase a book I’ve linked— at no extra cost to you. I’ll always be upfront with you when a post is sponsored or a book is gifted. All books I recommend are books I actually read and enjoyed.
No joke.