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For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a reader. I read for fun and I read to learn. Naturally, because I’m married, I’ve read a number of books about marriage. Below are 10 of the best Christian marriage books I’ve read – along with a summary and statement of why each book is worthwhile.
While I have presented this list in a somewhat random order, I conclude with recommendations on the order to read the books.
Before I get into why I think they’re so good, let me offer some thoughts.
First, many of these books have been in print for decades. Any book that has survived multiple printings and revisions obviously has something worthwhile to say.
Also, some of these books were assigned reading during marriage counseling. That doesn’t mean they aren’t worthwhile if your marriage isn’t at the ‘we need counseling’ stage! If the book is on this list, it’s worth reading at any point in marriage.
Finally, I have almost stopped reading books about marriage so there are no newer books on this list. You may be wondering, why? Basically, it came down to this: I was reading all the marriage books, but my husband wasn’t. I was the one pursuing a healthy relationship, not him, and I wasn’t willing to carry that alone anymore (this was several years ago).
But since that time, I’ve not returned to reading marriage books for the simple reason that every marriage is different and has different needs. Each of these books helped me or taught me at some point. But none of them contained a magic bullet formula for improving our marriage.
At some point, I need to quit reading about what I already knew. I needed to quit comparing our marriage to all those highlighted in the various books I read. This mental game was destructive to me, my husband, and our relationship. And the easiest way for me to stop the game was to quit reading the books. So I did.
Does that mean that you need to quit reading books on marriage? No. And I say no because I don’t know you, I don’t know your marriage, your husband, your problems, your hurts, or anything else. You may need to read one of these books (or one not listed here) to find the hope and help you need. Or you may need to just stop as I did.
No one can make that decision except you.
Just remember why you are reading these books. Your goal, I assume, is to help your marriage. With that goal in mind, take a critical look at how reading books about marriage in the past has helped or hurt your marriage. Be honest and then decide.
One more thought: if you’ve been married less than 5 years, you would probably benefit from reading at least some books about marriage. Again, I don’t know that for sure – but most of us enter marriage with some wrong ideas that need to be corrected. Books can do that – and if you can benefit in that way, go for it. Just always keep this question in mind, “Is what I’m reading helping or hurting our marriage?”
Now, on to the books!
The Act of Marriage
The first book I ever read about marriage was highly recommended by my pastor while we were going through pre-marital counseling. The Act of Marriage by Tim and Beverly LaHaye was first published in 1976. It’s subtitle, The Beauty of Sexual Love, lets you know exactly what the book is about!
The Act of Marriage focuses on sexual love in the context of Christian marriage. The husband-and-wife authors assume nothing, so all basic information is included. But more importantly, the book emphasizes the role that a healthy sex life plays in a healthy marriage – not only physically, but also emotionally, mentally, and even spiritually.
The bottom line: this is a great book for those just starting their marriages.
Intended for Pleasure
Intended for Pleasure by Ed Wheat, M.D., like The Act of Marriage, is focused on the husband-wife sexual relationship. It was also first published in 1976 and was also authored by a husband-and-wife team. I did not read it until we were in counseling for the first time.
Because the husband-author is a medical doctor, this book seemed to me to be more thorough. I also found it more readable – but that could be because of the differences in my life when I read the two books. Both books are full of good information and directed to Christians who want to honor the Lord in their marriages.
The bottom line: if I had to choose between the two books, I’d go with Intended for Pleasure.
How to Save Your Marriage Alone
In addition to Intended for Pleasure, Dr. Wheat wrote How to Save Your Marriage Alone. This is a short (64 pages) and powerful book filled with actions and choices not just theory. This book also was assigned by our marriage counselor. And I reread it many, many times.
I learned a lot from this book, but I do have a small issue with the title. The truth is that no book can provide a guarantee. A husband or wife could follow all the advice Dr. Wheat provides and still not be able to save his or her marriage. This is because we are all sinners married to sinners.
That truth, however, should never cause despair because Christian husbands and wives, like all believers, have the power of God and the power of prayer. Again, no guarantees, but certainly a higher probability of success. And, crucially, a source of strength during the battle for your marriage, no matter the outcome.
The bottom line: If your marriage is struggling, get this book. It’s really short and full of great advice.
The Measure of a Man & The Measure of a Woman
The Measure of a Man: Twenty Attributes of a Godly Man and The Measure of a Woman: What Really Makes a Woman Beautiful were both written by Gene A. Getz, with his wife Elaine A. Getz joining him on The Measure of a Woman.
I honestly don’t remember how we ran across these two books, but my husband read the man’s version and I read the woman’s version, and then we discussed them. We both learned a lot about each other during this process.
I think it’s important to emphasize that I did not then and to this day have never read The Measure of a Man. It is not my job to fix my husband, nor his to fix me. And if I read that book or others like it, the probable result would be discouragement, disappointment, anger, manipulation, and the creation of more and more problems. Wives, don’t do it!
The bottom line: These books were both easy to read and very practical. I highly encourage all married couples – or engaged couples to read them. As long as each sticks to the appropriate book, man or woman, not both.
His Needs, Her Needs
His Needs, Her Needs by Willard F. Harley, Jr. has been in print for more than 4 decades and has sold more than 2 million copies! That’s quite an endorsement. The best thing about this book, and there are a lot of good things, is that it gives each marriage partner insight into the opposite sex. Honestly, what women need is so different from what men need that we’d be fools to just rely on our own ideas to love our husbands.
And while the same is true for our husbands, don’t – I repeat – do not use the ‘her needs’ part of this book to ‘grade’ your husband! He can read the book also or you can read it together and talk it over.
But you can also go it alone and use what you learn to not only love your husband better but also to pray that God will work in his heart. Part of those prayers should focus on your needs – both letting God meet those needs and praying that God will grow your husband to the point where he will begin meeting your needs.
The bottom line: this isn’t a tit-for-tat or ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.’ This is a tool for you to love your husband with wisdom. Period. Regardless of what your husband does or does not do.
The Power of a Praying Wife
I first picked up The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian when we started having serious problems for the second time. My prayers for my husband had been hit-or-miss and this book helped to change that.
There was a time when I would literally pray the prayers in the book every day – just reading and praying what was written. Because I didn’t have the emotional and spiritual strength to pray with wisdom without that guidance. And also, because a lot of the time I didn’t want to pray for him, to be honest. Of course, God in His grace met me in my praying and worked on my heart at least as much as on my husband’s heart!
The bottom line: if you’re clueless about what to pray for your husband and why, this is a great resource. There are plenty of other resources that can guide you in this area as well, including this freebie, which is part of the 20 Ways to Pray Journal. The key is praying faithfully – not what you use to get there.
The 5 Love Languages
I’m sure you’ve heard of The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman, so I won’t spend much time on it. You may even know your love language and – more importantly – your husband’s love language. But the book goes into detail about what each of those love languages mean.
Even more importantly, the book provides suggestions for meeting each different need and examples of how ‘talking’ in your spouse’s love language can strengthen and improve your marriage – no matter how good or bad it currently is.
The bottom line: Get this book. Read it. Bribe your husband to read it with you if necessary. Discuss it and listen to each other.
If Only He Knew and For Better or For Best, by Gary Smalley
If Only He Knew and For Better or For Best, both by Gary Smalley, are a pair of books that have been in print for more than 4 decades – which gives you an idea of how useful and informative they are. They have sold a combined total of almost 2 million copies! Both books were revised and updated in 2012, and I’m thinking that’s a good enough reason for us to reread them.
If Only He Knew is for husbands – so ladies, hands off. Reading this will most likely not result in anything good. But it could easily lead to judgmentalism and anger toward your husband. He may need to read it, but not you. Of course, he could always talk to you about what he’s reading, but that’s different.
For Better of For Best is the one for wives. The subtitle is perfect: A Valuable Guide to Knowing, Understanding, and Loving Your Husband. What wife wouldn’t want to know, understand, and love her husband better?
Need more motivation? Here’s the title of the first chapter: Lasting Relationships Don’t Just Happen. That is so very true! If you want not just a lasting marriage, but a long-lasting intimate relationship, this book can help. Not by reading it, but by living it.
The bottom line: I found this pair of books to be a great companion to His Needs, Her Needs. It would be so hard to choose one over the other. I think both are valuable, but I’d probably read His Needs, Her Needs first. I’d choose it because I think it lends itself more to reading as a couple and discussing, it has sold more copies, and is, I think, more practical.
Lies Women Believe
Fair warning: I love this author. I heard Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth speak way back in the 1980s and learned so much. She has written numerous books and although I haven’t read them all (yet!), I plan to. But Lies Women Believe is by far my favorite of the ones I have read.
Lies Women Believe is not exactly a marriage book. Instead, it is a book for women who desire to live their lives based on the truths of God’s Word instead of the lies of the devil that are so prevalent in the world. This book includes a chapter on marriage, but the truth is that the best way to be a great wife is to live by God’s truth in every area of life.
The nine chapters cover lies we believe about God, ourselves, sin, priorities, marriage, children, emotions, and circumstances. My copy of the book has so much highlighting that it looks almost printed on bright yellow paper!
Each chapter ends with two key sections. First, each lie is restated along with a couple of verses of truth for disarming the lie. Second, each chapter ends with a ‘make it personal’ reflection.
To go even deeper, a companion workbook is available. This study guide is for use by either individuals or groups. It is divided into nine weeks – one week for each chapter – and covers the chapter in five days plus a summary section.
While I love this book, I’ll be honest in saying it isn’t an easy book. Not because it’s difficult to read. But because it’s difficult to face how many lies I’ve unwittingly swallowed. And because the battle against those lies never ends. It’s so much easier to go along with the lies the world loves. But to be a godly woman and a godly wife, you – and I – must reject those lies and embrace the truth found only in God’s Word.
The bottom line: no matter what your relationship status, if you’re a Christian woman you need to read this book and begin the process of unwinding your thoughts from the lies we believe and replacing them with God’s truth.
I’ve saved the best for last! The Bible, of course, of course, of course, has to be included on any list of ‘best books for marriage.’
I also deliberately placed it right after Lies Women Believe, because it is only by reading, studying, and living Bible truth that we can begin to shed the lies that strangle us and our marriages.
I understand that it can be confusing to know where to begin with learning what the Bible teaches about marriage. So here are a few suggestions:
- Do a biographical study on Sarah, Abraham’s wife. She is held up as an example for wives by Peter in 1 Peter 3. Study her life to learn why.
- Study what the book of Proverbs says about wives. And no, I’m not just talking about Proverbs 31. But when you do get to that chapter, try to focus only on what you can learn about how she relates to her husband. Yes, there’s a lot more, but start with that.
- Do a study on Paul’s teaching passages about marriage. That would include, at a minimum, 1 Corinthians 7, Ephesians 5, Colossians 3, 1 Timothy 2, and Titus 2.
- If all that sounds overwhelming, start by reading Proverbs 14:1 every day. And praying for godly wisdom (James 1:5) as described in James 3. But this is a starting place. Plan deeper study and commit to doing it after 2 weeks of this ‘on-ramp’ into studying.
Which Book Should You Read First?
Everyone has different concerns in their marriage. So there is no ‘one size fits all’ list of what to read. With that said, I’m still going to make some suggestions.
- Read the Bible every day. It doesn’t have to be just about marriage or being a wife. But do read it daily.
- Next read Lies Women Believe. Because having a great marriage starts with you focusing on being the godly woman God has called you to be. You might want to also read The Measure of a Woman for more insight into being who God created you to be.
- When you turn your reading attention to marriage, start with His Needs, Her Needs. It will give you a great starting place for understanding your husband better (and him you, if you read it together).
- The 5 Love Languages – read and discuss together – could go in the #3 spot instead. But I put it here because I think it helps to have the basic information in His Needs, Her Needs, as you learn about and implement love languages.
- The Power of a Praying Wife – because nothing good happens apart from prayer.
- If Only He Knew and For Better or For Best – read individually and discuss if possible. This pair of books will build on everything before it.
The remaining books I’ve recommended are for addressing more specific needs. If you and your husband are struggling with sexual fulfillment, read either The Act of Marriage or Intended for Pleasure. Again, read the book together and discuss.
If your marriage is struggling badly, read How to Save Your Marriage Alone. But don’t neglect His Needs, Her Needs, The Power of a Praying Wife, and The 5 Love Languages. If you’re in the midst of a battle for your marriage, you need all the wisdom and ammunition possible. So don’t just focus on the battle or the rescue. Instead, focus also on what led to this point and how to correct those problems as much as you can on your own.
If your husband has already moved out, filed for divorce, or you are facing a similar crisis my suggestion is that you not read any marriage books. Focus on reading the Bible, learning to pray with power (and not just for your husband and marriage), and becoming the godly woman you want to be.
The sad truth is that we live in a sin-filled world. And even Christians face heartbreak. Not every Christian marriage that faces a crisis will result in a redemption story. I wish with all my heart that I could say otherwise.
If you are one of those precious women whose heart is broken by events beyond your control, events that you never imagined would become a part of your story, know this: you are very loved. Your Father feels your pain. He will provide you with comfort, protection, love, and hope when all you can see is pain and darkness. He is your fortress, your refuge, your shield of protection (Psalm 91).
During times of crisis in our marriage, I wore out Psalm 37 and Psalm 91. I read them and prayed them over and over and over. And God was always faithful.
Yes, our marriage did result in a redemption story. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t struggle. Or that I never wondered how to pay the bills, or whether our children would be OK, or how I could ever forgive and move forward.
One of the greatest things about living in this moment in history is that you have access to so much wisdom from so many sources just by reading a book! Take advantage of that wonderful blessing by choosing a book to begin reading – with or without your husband – today. And let that wisdom change your heart, mind, behavior, and marriage by not only reading, but acting on what you learn.