If I could only select five books to recommend, The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman would be in that list. I read this book at least once a year. It is by far one of the best books ever written on relationships. It should be, in my humble opinion, required reading for all couples who are entering into marriage.
I first read The 5 Love Languages long before I met my husband. In fact, I wasn't even dating anyone when I read it. I'd been through some difficult relationships (putting it mildly) and had determined that I wouldn't date again until I knew what it meant to truly love and be loved. That is what prompted me to pick up this book. I wasn't prepared for the profound effect it had on me.
As a kid growing up, my Dad worked long hard hours. For much of my childhood, he worked the evening shift and sometimes doubles, so it wasn't uncommon for us to only see him on the weekends. Dad wasn't one to gush over us kids. In fact, before I read this book, I could probably count on my two hands and feet the number of times I actually recalled hearing my Dad say the words, “I love you.” This book taught me two things that revolutionized my relationship with my Dad. I'm a Words of Affirmation girl. My Dad is an Acts of Service guy. Dad didn't often say “I love you” because in his mind, he said it every time he punched the clock and provided for us. Every time he paid a bill, fixed a leaky faucet, aired a bike tire, or as a teen gave me a lift to work, my Dad was saying I love you. I didn't understand that until I read The 5 Love Languages.
After reading this book, I was able to express to my Dad how much the WORDS actually mean to me. That while I KNOW that he loves me, I NEED to hear him say it. Dad doesn't hang up the phone or walk away without uttering those words now. And not just for me, but for my siblings, too. My Mom jokes from time to time that us kids taught Dad how to love.
As I said, I typically read this book once a year. Why read it again and again when I know what it says? Because it helps me to understand those around me. When I understand the people in my life, and the way that they love and feel loved, I am able to show them I love them in a way that is meaningful to them.
Of course, the popularity of of The Five Love Languages demanded that it be formatted into several versions to target specific audiences, including The Five Love Languages of Children, The Five Love Languages of Teenagers, and The Five Love Languages Men's Edition. I've only read the original and The 5 Love Languages of Children, but I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them all.