Healthy relationships: a reading list

Heart of Winter by Michael Fenton. Public domain via Unsplash.

It’s not just the poets who have a thing or two to say about love. Psychology, sociology, social work, philosophy, and religion have all weighed in on the role of romantic love in our lives. Below are the latest and greatest looks at the science, philosophy, and practices behind healthy relationships. Because nothing says romance like mutual respect and a shared path towards empowerment and self-actualization.


Positive Psychology of Love edited by M. Hojjat and Duncan Cramer.

Positive psychology is — like the name implies — the study of what makes life worth living. Hojjat and Cramer’s Positive Psychology of Love looks at the latest research on close relationships from positive psychology, to explore how we can have more fulfilling intimate relationships and how these relationships can lead to our own personal growth, health, and happiness.


The Marriage Paradox: Why Emerging Adults Love Marriage Yet Push it Aside by Brian J. Willoughby and Spencer L. James.

Marriage is dead, long live marriage. The Marriage Paradox is the result of a three-year, mixed method study of what young adults really think about marriage today. Interspersed with real stories from emerging adults, this book shows the role social influence, gender expectations, and changing approaches to dating play in the pursuit of happy healthy relationships.


After Marriage: Rethinking Marital Relationships edited by Elizabeth Brake.

Ask ten different philosophers what marriage means and you’ll get ten different radical ideas about the classic institution (all in just nine essays, no less). Is marriage bad for children? Is it time to decriminalize polygamy? Can friendship become the dominant model of healthy relationships? What would a temporary marriage look like? After Marriage is a collection of essays on the future of marriage from liberal and feminist viewpoints.


Yes, I Can(Si, Yo Puedo): An Empowerment Program for Immigrant Latina Women in Group Settings by Catherine Marrs Fuchsel.

There are aspects of healthy relationships that are culturally specific, and then there are aspects that are universal. The intrinsic link between individual empowerment and healthy relationships is central to all relationship counseling. Yes, I Can (Si, Yo Puedo) presents an educational program for working with immigrant latina women on developing healthy relationships, escaping domestic violence, and improving self-esteem.


Religion and Intimate Partner Violence: Understanding the Challenges and Proposing Solutions by Nancy Nason-Clark, Barbara Fisher-Townsend, Catherine Holtmann, and Stephen McMullin.

Grounded in data and enriched with narratives of abused women, abusive men, and those who walk alongside them, Religion and Intimate Partner Violence examines how lived religion both helps and hinders the journey towards justice, accountability, healing, and wholeness for women and men caught in the web of abuse.


Traumatic Divorce and Separation: The Impact of Domestic Violence and Substance Abuse in Custody and Divorce by Lisa Fischel-Wolovick.

The importance of healthy, supportive relationships extends beyond the interpersonal realm. Building judicial and social structures that protects women and children who have suffered trauma — either through violence or substance abuse — is essential for their long term health and wellbeing. Traumatic Divorce and Separation draws from social work, psychology, law, and criminal justice to present new ways to support individuals through divorce.


Where Millenials Will take Us: A New Generation Wrestles with the Gender Structure by Barbara J. Risman.

Are today’s young adults gender rebels or returning to tradition? In Where the Millennials Will Take Us, Barbara J. Risman reveals the diverse strategies youth use to negotiate the ongoing gender revolution. Using her theory of gender as a social structure, Risman analyzes life history interviews with a diverse set of Millennials to probe how they understand gender and how they might change it.


Cheap Sex: The Transformation of Men, Marriage, and Monogamy by Mark Regnerus.

Sex is cheap. Mark Regnerus takes readers on an extended tour inside the American mating market, and highlights key patterns that characterize young adults’ experience today, including the timing of first sex in relationships, overlapping partners, frustrating returns on their relational investments, and a failure to link future goals like marriage with how they navigate their current relationships.


Soul Mates: Religion, Sex, Love, and Marriage among African Americans and Latinos by W. Bradford Wilcox and Nicholas Wolfinger.

Soul Mates shines a much-needed spotlight on the lives of strong and happy minority couples and the influence church has on sex, childbearing, and marriage. The authors argue that churches serving black and Latino communities promote a code of decency encompassing hard work, temperance, and personal responsibility that is born out in successful relationships. Drawing on a wide range of sources, Wilcox and Wolfinger provide a compelling look at faith and family life among blacks and Latinos.


Mixed Messages: Norms and Social Control around Teen Sex and Pregnancy by Stefanie Mollborn.

The first step to sharing healthy, respected, mutually beneficial relationships is understanding what that looks like — and the mixed messages American teenagers receive about sex and sexuality can make that challenging. By showing that the norms existing today around teen sex are ineffective, failing to regulate sexual behavior, and instead punishing teens that violate them, Mollborn calls for a more thoughtful and consistent dialogue between teens and adults, emphasizing messages that will lead to more positive health outcomes.


Sarah Butcher is Assistant Marketing Manager at Oxford University Press.