What Are The Best Pre-Marital Counseling Books?

Medically reviewed by April Justice
Updated November 14, 2023by Regain Editorial Team
“There are a wide variety of pre-marital counseling resources out there. Try to focus on the concerns you have and find the resources specializing in those concerns. Doing this is a wonderful and wise step for your marriage and if you want further guidance, enlisting the help of a professional can be very helpful.” - Ryan Smith, LPC, NCC

Despite American divorce statistics and concerns about the length of marriages, many marriages last longer than the wedding event. So why do many couples spend much more time, money, and effort preparing for the wedding than for marriage? According to The Knot magazine, the average US engagement time is 14.5 months. For many couples, these months are spent preparing for a few hours of celebration.  

However, one part of some couples'' marriage planning routine is pre-marital counseling, which focuses on the long-term results of marriage. A few studies have found that pre-marital counseling reduces the divorce rate in married couples by up to 50%. However, despite the benefit of pre-marital counseling, many couples may not have the time or money to afford it. In these cases, reading pre-marital counseling books can offer value. 

Each of the below books is a popular pre-marital counseling book recommended by counselors and therapists worldwide.

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Wondering How to Prepare For Marriage?

Getting Ready For Marriage: A Practical Road Map For Your Journey Together By Jim Burns And Doug Fields

Author Jim Burns is president of the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University. Doug Field is the executive director of the same organization. In Getting Ready for Marriage, the authors take engaged couples on a proactive journey that tackles significant issues in marriage, like communication, finances, spirituality, and intimacy. 

This marriage counseling book is subtitled "A Practical Roadmap for Your Journey Together." It aims to give you and your future spouse concrete guidance through potential obstacles ahead. Read it together, or use it with the accompanying video package. 

Why It's Recommended

This book is recommended for its practicality, flexibility, and comprehensive approach. The book and optional workbook don't just tell you what might go wrong or how to fix it. The chapters contain exercises that can be completed individually or as a couple, as well as starting points and guides for potentially difficult (but valuable) conversations. Getting Ready for Marriage can also fit into whatever approach you and your future spouse want. You can read the book together or choose additional resources, including videos and an app.

Who Can Benefit From This Book 

The option for a comprehensive approach makes Getting Ready for Marriage: A Practical Roadmap for your Journey Together a choice for couples who want a whole pre-marital counseling experience but lack the time or finances to make it happen. If that's not you, however, you can use the book by itself without the workbooks or videos. 

Note that this book does take a monogamous and heterosexual point of view and may not be beneficial for those in relationships outside of that view. However, there are books below that may benefit you. 

The Five Love Languages: The Secret To Love That Lasts By Gary Chapman

Gary Chapman's book on the five love languages pioneered relationship therapy and led the way to the modern "five love languages test." It explores the idea of showing and receiving love in five ways, including: 

  • Physical touch
  • Words of affirmation
  • Quality time
  • Acts of service
  • Gift giving

The Five Love Languages book teaches couples how to show each other love and improve communication in marriage. Gary helps spouses discover each other's preferred love languages and what they can mean about all relationships in life. For many, communication issues may arise when one partner feels the other does not understand how they show love. Changing how you speak to your partner and how you care for them may benefit you both in the long term, which is one of Gary Chapman's principle ideas behind his book.  

Why It's Recommended 

This book gains a recommendation for its focus on relational intimacy. Unlike other books on this list, The Five Love Languages is not aimed directly at common conflicts or roadblocks in long-term relationships. Instead, this book aims to help couples build an attachment that withstands challenges. 

Who Can Benefit From This Book 

All couples of any sexuality, gender, age, or background can benefit from learning about their love languages. However, note that Gary Chapman had Christian beliefs which may come through in his works. Depending on your spiritual beliefs, this factor may be an advantage or disadvantage. 

As a pre-marriage preparation option, the book may be recommended for couples who are highly compatible in functional areas like finances or children but want to invest more heavily in the emotional intimacy of their relationship. The Five Love Languages could also be helpful for couples who want to build a life together but have frequent conflicts around misunderstandings or unintentional hurt feelings.

Things I Wish I'd Known Before We Got Married By Gary Chapman

Things I Wish I'd Known Before I Got Married by Gary Chapman is another popular book by this relationship expert. In this book, Gary Chapman states that planning for the marriage can be as crucial as planning for the wedding. Areas that might be considered include household chores, parenting decisions, finances, and living arrangements. 

In this book, Chapman points out that many divorces happen in the first seven years of marriage. Maintaining a happy and healthy relationship can take work, and Gary outlines how to continue to commit to your partner in the unique ways you love them. 

Why It's Recommended 

This book covers a significant amount of topics related to the first few years of marriage. When couples are excited about a wedding, they might not think they will argue or have conflicts in the future. Gary Chapman outlines common conflicts that can arise and helps couples prepare for them, even if they do not occur. As if you were in a couples therapy session, Gary Chapman explains how to maintain communication in marriage. 

Along with talking about the basics, like children, responsibilities, finances, and location, this book will walk you through a few considerations, including the following: 

  • Love may not feel like enough to continue a marriage after time has passed. Many couples have to choose to remain committed to the success of the marriage. 
  • After a while, expressions of love may feel like a chore for many partners. Reigniting a spark can be beneficial at this point. 
  • The habits you see in your partner's parents may be habits that they start to mimic over time. 
  • Apologizing can be challenging but may be more effective than continuing to hold your ground on an issue you don't care much about. 
  • Discussing sex and intimacy early on can help couples connect if intimacy ever lessens. 

Who Can Benefit From This Book 

You might benefit from this book if you intend to have a traditional long-term monogamous marriage where you live with your spouse and want to know what to expect. You may not benefit from this book if you're looking for a more modern guide to marriage. 

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The 80/80 Marriage: A New Model For A Happier, Stronger Relationship By Nate Klemp, Ph.D. And Kaley Klemp 

Although traditional marriage books can benefit many couples, some are looking for a more modern guide to marriage. The 80/80 Marriage was written with this concept in mind and is available to LGBTQ+ couples. The book's authors took inspiration from their own marriage in writing about the balance of marital duties, sacrifices, and commitment. Nate and his spouse found that they often argued about "fairness" and tried to keep their marriage 50/50, but doing so was not beneficial. 

The 80/80 Marriage takes a viewpoint beyond the limit of fairness. It asks both partners to commit to radical generosity, mutual success, and contributing more than half of what they have without focusing on fairness. It aims to help couples grow their love and appreciation for each other by showcasing how resentment and expectations can harm a marriage. 

Why It's Recommended 

This book can benefit many couples because it isn't limited to a specific viewpoint, religion, or relationship style. The authors believe any couple can transform their marriage by adopting generosity as a lifestyle, not a "duty." The author of the book interviews over 100 modern couples from all backgrounds to learn more about what works in relationships. You may benefit from this one if you're looking for a comprehensive guide. 

Who Can Benefit From This Book 

Any couple can benefit from The 80/80 Marriage. However, it may focus more on monogamous live-in marriages than those that live separately. It discusses gender quality, love, and communication. Any couples struggling to communicate about the division of chores, parenting, or labor at home can benefit from reading this book. 

Polysecure: Attachment, Trauma, And Consensual Non-Monogamy By Jessica Fern

Polysecure is a book by Jessica Fern with forewords from authors Eve Rickert and Nora Samaran. It takes on popular psychological ideas from attachment theory to explain how non-monogamous couples can cultivate a secure attachment in marriage, long-term relationships, and partnerships. Although not specifically a pre-marital counseling book, this book focuses on many topics that new polyamorous couples may benefit from before marriage. It discusses consent, adverse events, and emotional experiences and how those can impact partners struggling with jealousy, fear, or avoidance. 

Why It's Recommended 

This book is a modern take on marriage and is available to multiple types of couples. It takes an active approach to help partners accept responsibility for their feelings, behaviors, and reactions in relationships. It also outlines terminology in non-monogamous relationships and how to navigate a non-monogamous life, in whichever way you choose to do so, with consent and trauma-informed communication. 

Who Can Benefit From This Book 

This book may be most suited to those deciding to open their relationship, enter a non-monogamous marriage, or commit to more than one individual. It can also benefit couples struggling with insecure or mismatched attachment styles who want to work toward a secure attachment for their marriage or relationship. 

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Wondering How to Prepare For Marriage?

How To Use These Books

Once you choose a pre-marital self-help book, set clear goals and expectations about what you want to learn and achieve in your marriage preparation and into your first year of marriage. Having clear goals while reading a pre-marital counseling book can help you focus on the areas that most resonate with you. 

You can buy two copies of the book or set an hour each day to reach a chapter with your partner and take notes. If you've picked a book with videos or interactive materials, you can also use those. Marriage workbooks are also available on popular bookseller websites, so you can try those if you're looking to answer more questions instead of just reading. 

Low-Cost Pre-Marital Counseling

Although books can be valuable tools before marriage, pre-marital counseling can be a professional and effective way to gain personalized advice. With a therapist, you can practice the skills you learn in real-time, receive homework, and talk about your most pressing concerns as they occur. However, many couples may worry about the cost of therapy. In these cases, online counseling can be a low-cost alternative. 

Online counseling occurs with real couples therapists who are licensed, vetted, and experienced. Through platforms like Regain, you can sign up for a common account and attend weekly therapy sessions with a pre-marital counselor for $60 to $90 per week, billed every four weeks. You can also partake in unlimited complimentary messaging with your therapist anytime. 

Studies have also shown the effectiveness of online therapy. One study found it was more cost-effective for most individuals, and another found that couples preferred internet-based methods for their flexibility and comfort level

Takeaway

Many books, workbooks, workshops, and advice columns are dedicated to pre-marital advice. Starting with the above options can help you find guidance as you navigate pre-marital and married life. You can also contact a therapist online or in person for further guidance and personalized support.

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