For Christmas, 15 years ago, my mom gave me a dating book.
It was my first dating book.
I hadn’t had many boyfriends and I think she was worried I was doing something wrong. The book spurred my own concerns about my skills in romantic endeavors and I have been reading about it nonstop ever since.
I believe a long-term, committed and happy relationship is possible. Perhaps, if people spent as much time wanting to improve their relationships as their finances or career there would be a lot more happy couples? So while I may not be as skilled in other areas, I am an unofficial, self-taught love expert according to these books.
1) We: Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love by Robert A. Johnson
This book changed my life and even inspired an entire post. Johnson describes how romantic love becomes the way in which we attempt to live out our spiritual life through another. Unconsciously, we want our partner to be perfect and when we discover they are human with flaws—we are disappointed. This projection of our divinity onto others often leaves us feeling alienated and lonely in relationships, as well as without one. To be loving and not “in love” with the excitement and illusions is transformative.
2) Undefended Love by Marlena Lyons
This book reminds us that the process of opening and loving another is inherently risky. When we stop fearing hurt and instead surrender and stop protecting ourselves from others, true l is possible. I keep this book on my nightstand to remind myself to be open to love. It speaks to the vulnerability of loving another and all the fears and coping mechanisms that it brings up.
3) Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How it Can Help You Find-and Keep-Love by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller
This book is a quick, focused read on attachment theory. Attachment is our style and psychological patterns of the way we related, often based on our childhood experiences. There are many charts and clear explanations of how each style impacts our ability to be in relationship. It also details how we create situations to heal these, often unconscious, childhood wounds. Understanding your patterns and partner’s patterns of desiring closeness or needing freedom in a relationship becomes a key component in a lasting relationship.
4) Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationships by John Welwood
Welwood points to the wound around romantic love and uses a psychological approach for gaining more access to love pointing out that receiving love is much scarier than giving it. This makes sense given the relating style where one partner becomes the pursuer while the other runs away. That pattern makes it difficult for either person to receive love. Reading this shortly after reading Attached and helped me solve several attachment dynamics I was currently entangled in (romantic and otherwise).
5) Love: What Life is All About by Leo Buscaglia
A crush I had in college gave me this book for my birthday. I made him write a note to me in the beginning and it reads: “Dear Becky, this is for you.” A best-seller for more than 20 years beginning in the 1970s it suggests we are here to love and are continuously learning to love and open our hearts more fully to each other. Love, becomes the most precious act we give to one another.
6) The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman
While this book has major Christian overtones, it offers many great insights about the ways we give and receive love. When reading it I learned the guy I was in a relationship with values acts of service expressions of love, while my mom showed love through gift giving. When dating someone, this book can help you look for cues to notice their love language and also ask for what you may need in order to feel loved.
7) How to be an Adult in Relationships: The Five Keys to Mindful Loving by David Richo
Once I showed this book to a guy I was dating and he made fun of me. Then several years, forgetting I showed it to him, he gave it to me as a gift! Richo uses a Buddhist perspective and psychological lens to explain our five main needs in a relationship: Attention, Acceptance, Affection, Appreciation, and Allowing. These five main needs build lasting intimacy and guide us through the phases of romantic partnership.
8) Slow Sex by Nicole Daedone
When I read this on the bus, it is a great conversation starter. It explores and stresses the importance of emotional intimacy in physical intimacy. So often, we rush through sex to get to the good stuff (i.e. climax) and miss out on actual connection, which is what we ultimately want. A great read from the founder of OneTaste and offers a sensuality and Tantric practice for increasing pleasure and intimacy.
9) Inner Bonding by Margaret Paul
You may be surprised by the simple message of self-love. The idea used to feel so abstract. Paul teaches six steps for loving yourself and healing shame, loneliness, addictions, and insecurity. The steps range from feeling and connecting to your inner child to taking loving action and listening to higher guidance.
10) The Chemistry of Connection by Susan Kuchinskas
There are studies focusing on the cuddle/bonding hormone oxytocin and its effect on romantic relationships. The cycles of partnership, from lust to romance to love, coincide with the major hormones testosterone, dopa-mine, and oxytocin. Understanding these phases allows us to be in the flow as a relationship evolves over time into a calmer, compassionate bonding; a kind that lasts.
While I’m still learning and growing when it comes to love, the books I read and these books above, certainly gave me an extra confidence in my ability to love.