What’s In My Therapy Library- Sexuality and Relationship Education
Esther Perel says that to improve sex education in the US, we need to expand our definition of what it is. She asserts that we should be looking at it as “Sexuality and Relationship Education” which I believe in wholeheartedly. And it’s not just because it came out of Esther Perel’s mouth. I promise.
Sexuality and relationship are deeply intertwined, and yet we rarely act like it. We see that in abstinence-only education, in our lawmaker’s choices, and in the shame surrounding desire that becomes evident in my office every day. Similarly, the people we are in relationship with, whether our caretakers or romantic partners, often have such difficulty discussing sexuality that it can become a problem rather than a healthy outlet or method of expression.
So, today I’m going to offer my own kind of sexuality and relationship education in the form of another book list. This stuff is not taboo. In fact, it’s incredibly important if we want to be free from the stifling forces of shame. If we want control of our bodies and freedom of expression between the sheets. And plus, it’s super fun to read about.
**Affiliate Disclaimer- I may receive a small commission from either Amazon or Bookshop.org if you make a purchase from this page. This is at no extra cost to you, and I would only recommend books that I have personally read and truly endorse!
Related: Master List of Book Posts
Books About Sexuality and Relationship
Today, September 4th, is World Sexual Health Day, so it’s the perfect day to post this list. When you’re finished checking this out, head over to Instagram and scroll through the #WorldSexualHealthDay, #WSHD and #WSHD2019 hashtags. I bet you learn something cool!
by Esther Perel
This one is about “unlocking your erotic intelligence.” In other words, Perel helps you access the playfulness, desire, and lust of a new relationship, even if you’ve been married a long time. And you’re never bored by dry, scientific facts. She uses case studies from her own work and her usual captivating, poetic tone to keep the reader hooked from the very first page.
I find myself recommending this book to couples who are trying to find the “spark” again. This might apply to couples who have been married a long time. Perhaps their kids are leaving the nest and it’s time to focus on their romantic connection again rather than their parental connection.
Or maybe you and your partner have just begun living together, and the magic is waning. You’ve now washed his dirty underwear, or started peeing while the other is in the shower. You’re just sort of paying bills together and talking about produce expiration dates. It’s hard to keep magic alive under those conditions. Esther can help you fix it.
by Gary Chapman
I hope you’re starting to see how these books can be about sexuality AND relationship. If not, I think this next one will tip you over the edge. The Five Love Languages is a classic couples therapy book, but the concepts have also been proven to work between partners in platonic relationships such as friends, parents and children, or even co-workers. The idea of appealing to a person’s specific understanding of love and appreciation can deepen any relationship.
Chapman outlines five different ways that people understand love. They are:
- words of affirmation
- giving and receiving gifts
- quality time
- acts of service
- physical touch
You can take a quiz in the book to figure out which ones you’re highest in (there may be more than one). For example, I am words of affirmation and physical touch. I haven’t asked Jeff to take the quiz, but my guess is that he’s high in acts of service and lower in words of affirmation. We have to work harder to remember to speak each other’s languages from time to time.
For example– sometimes if I’m struggling with something, I may look for words of affirmation from Jeff. I want him to tell me he loves me, that I’m doing a great job, etc. But more often, I get “I can just make that phone call for you,” or “I can teach you how to do it.” I love and appreciate that he’s trying to help, but those are acts of service— his language. On the flip side, it’s not in my nature to remember to do something for him to show my love. I tell him all the time, and I have to actively remember that’s not always enough. So if I stay over his place when he has work in the morning, I try to do some of his dishes before I go. Or even just leave a sweet note somewhere in his apartment that he has to find.
And this is SUPER common in relationships, by the way. It’s honestly rare that two people would match up perfectly. So Chapman is teaching us all how to speak each other’s languages and deepen our connections. I highly, highly recommend this series.
by Esther Perel
Oh yes, another one by the queen of couples therapy. The State of Affairs is all about– you guessed it– infidelity. Perel takes that gorgeous prose of hers and applies it to the ultimate betrayal in all of romance. I recommend this book to every. couple. who walks into my office due to an affair. It validates the partner who strayed without validating the affair itself. It lifts some pain off the betrayed partner by letting them know the affair was likely not about them and acknowledges the role of technology and other aspects of this endlessly complicated world we live in. In true Esther Perel nature, it tastefully acknowledges eroticism.
Even if you don’t read this book, I love it so much that I want to share this nugget with you. Perel states that an affair, even if you choose the route of forgiveness, is the end of a marriage. Your relationship with this person will not “go back to normal.” Therapy and lots of hard work will help you create a new normal– a new marriage between the same people.
By Emma Koenig
This book will not be for everyone. It is a collection of essays on the female orgasm. That said, I think it’s an invaluable resource for women who are afraid to ask men for what they want in bed. I think it’s awesome for men who want to make sure they’re pleasing their sexual partners. Truly, I think it’s great for anyone out there who considers themselves a feminist. Or even just wants to satisfy the woman in their life.
This book began as a Tumblr blog. Emma Koenig was frustrated by a sexual experience in which the guy thought she’d orgasmed and she hadn’t. She knew other women out there must have had this experience before, so she gave them this space to talk openly about it. Not surprisingly, it gained over a MILLION page views in ONE MONTH. Moan is a collection of the best essays the website received.
by John Gottman and Nan Silver
John and his wife Julie Gottman are very famous couples therapists in the US. Their research-based theory for therapy, The Gottman Method, is widely accepted among MFTs and we are all constantly clamoring to get into their trainings. I myself have participated in the Level 1 training, and I use it all the time in my couples work. I love that it’s very actionable and straightforward. It’s accessible to a good majority of people. John must’ve thought that too, because he basically wrote down the Level 1 training in plain language and called it The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work.
I’m almost bitter to have spent $350 for Level 1 Certification when I could have spent $12.99 on this book. It’s seriously that good. The Gottmans have come up with an almost foolproof way of predicting whether a couple will get divorced based on their interactions (The Four Horsemen of the Relationship Apocalypse) and this book essentially has the reversals and the protective armor against all of them. To intrigue you further, here are the seven principles. You’ll have to get the book (or get a master’s degree in some sort of therapy and then spend hundreds on the training) to learn what they each mean.
- Enhance your “love maps” for your partner
- Nurture fondness and admiration for each other
- “Turn toward” instead of away
- Letting your partner influence you. This is harder than it sounds
- Solve the “solvable problems”
- Let the “unsolvable problems” make you stronger rather than drive a wedge between you
- Create “shared meaning”
Sexuality and Relationship Education Wishlist
As with all the other book list posts, the following books are on my Amazon wishlist, but I have not read them yet! If you have read them, I would love to read your review in the comments section. Again, each title is a link so it’s super easy for you to go ahead and purchase whichever ones you like. Let me know how they are!
Sex After Divorce compiled by Chastity Chandler
I connected with Dr. LaQuista Erinna in a Facebook group I’m in for NJ and NY therapists. We followed each other on Instagram and I saw she had contributed to this awesome book about what it’s like to start having sex again after you’ve been divorced. Her chapter is entitled “When I Use My Tongue, You Know It’s Real,” which is clearly intriguing enough for me to put it at the top of my list.
Tongue Tied by Stella Harris
A Dirty Word by Steph Auteri
Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski, PhD
101 Nights of Great Sex by Laura Corn
Conscious Uncoupling by Katherine Woodward Thomas
Infidelity: Why Men and Women Cheat by Kenneth Paul Rosenberg
She Comes First by Ian Kerner
Orgasms by Lou Paget
The Normal Bar by Chrisanna Northrup, Pepper Schwartz, and James Witte
The Ethical Slut by Janet Hardy and Dossie Easton
Eight Dates by John and Julie Gottman
The Relationship Cure by John Gottman
Hold Me Tight by Sue Johnson
Love Sense by Sue Johnson