4 Books that Helped me Build a Strong Relationship with my Wife

Mother’s day is right around the corner, and it got me thinking about how wonderful my wife Sarah has been as a mother, but also how well our marriage has held up over the years. I’ve known my wife for almost 18 years, and I’ve been married 14 of those years. With almost 2 decades under my belt, I figured I’d reflect on some of the nuggets of information I’ve accumulated over the years that helped us right the ship, instead of egos overshadowing cooperation and reasonableness. In short, you have to put in the work. There is no elixir, but honest sticktoitiveness in building a healthy relationships over the long term.

I’m not going to delve too deeply into past relationships because the past is the past. Those past experiences served as teaching moments to build the happy relationship I’m in today. However, a lot of the so-called “wisdom of crowds” sensibilities that folks were indirectly advising me on and how I should behave in a relationship, was completely wrong. I intentionally used the word behave. Yes, we are creatures of habit, but how do we build better habits for healthy relationships? There were these mythical rules that were being imposed and after many failed relationships, I had to re-think everything. Whether it was so-called sage advice from family, anecdotal relationship advice from “friend-gurus”, or some of the latest trend relationship work in the public square. I had to go back to basics and here is why these books were so key:

Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origin of Modern Sexuality

Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha
I don’t remember how I found this wonderful book but I do remember thinking to myself, “If I’m going to figure out how relationships are today, I got to go back tens of thousands of years to see how men and women operated without the influence of entertainment, fame, and celebrity worship”. I got to get back to the core. This book will pretty much implode a lot of the assumptions you have about men and women. If you don’t know your evolutionary past, it will be difficult to wrap your mind on how modernity has collided with our more instinctual nature. I don’t subscribe to everything that this book suggests, but it’s extremely valuable to see how the sexes evolved from a Darwinian point of view.

Real Love by Ava Muhammad
This book might have been recommended to me from a friend but it’s one of the first relationship books that my wife Sarah and I read before we got into a serious relationship. It was so insightful we would highlight parts of the book and read the quotes back to each other. The book is barely over 100 pages, but it’s packed with very valuable relationship guidelines and raises a lot of good questions about why many relationships are broken. Please keep in mind that the religious underpinnings of this book do not limit it’s reach to just people of so-called faith or POC. However, nothing could be more clearer on the premise of this book than the words directly from Ava Muhammad herself from a Q&A session she did with Collective9 last year:

Spousonimics by Paula Szuchman and Jenny Anderson

Spousonomics: Using Economics to Master Love, Marriage, and Dirty Dishes by Paula Szuchman and Jenny Anderson
I posted about this book roughly 7 years ago on my old blog and what I really love about this book, is it helps us to understand that there are contractual and business-like rules to our relationships beyond love. Of course there is love, but there is also duty. And with duty comes responsibility. And with responsibility becomes accountability. And with accountability comes a division of labor of tasks that each person owns in the relationship. The crafty way the authors align macro-economics with the DNA of successful relationships is creative. You can listen to a couple audio excerpts I pulled from the book:

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dr. Dan Ariely
Now this book is not directly related to relationships but its contribution to helping people understand why they make the choices they do—has a very real impact on how we foster healthy relationships with friends and our significant others. This book will spill over into other areas of your life including business. A really wonderful expose on the irrationality of human behavior. It’s less of an indictment on human behavior but more of helping us understand the who, what, where, and why of decision making. Below is this amazing Talks at Google session Dan Ariely did on Dating & Relationships. It’s worth every minute. Absolutely amazing.

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Dwayne Oxford

Lets clear the air from the data smog and neutralize misinformation