Wisdom about love is everywhere, not just in the self-help section.
Some of the best reading you’ll do on relationships isn’t from the self-help section. If you know how to look for kernels of wisdom in other places, you’ll find all sorts of food for thought in memoirs, novels, popular psychology books, and elsewhere. Here are three unconventional titles that will get you thinking about matters of the heart.
Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert
Do you think finding the love of your life will make you happy? Or that the relationship you already have should be making you happy? Gilbert, a Harvard psychologist, says that things aren’t quite that simple.
His engaging psychology book presents research proving that we humans are awful at judging what makes us happy. He explains that each of us has a “psychological immune system,” which keeps us at a stable level of mild happiness by remembering or interpreting events in certain ways. Ultimately our feelings of satisfaction have much more to do with our outlook than the objective facts around us.
Next time you think a certain type of love affair will send you into a state of permanent bliss, read this book. You’ll find that it’s a much better strategy to take life as it comes than to construct an imagined future you think will be the key to joy.
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
This ravishing novel, which was shortlisted for the 2015 National Book Award, follows a marriage between two deeply flawed people over the course of decades. Unlike most books about marriage, however, this one is split in half, with the first portion told from the perspective of the husband, Lotto, and the second portion from the point of view of the wife, Mathilde.
As Mathilde’s section proceeds, the reader begins to understand how much Lotto did not know or understand about his wife. In many ways, their marriage is built upon a series of lies and omissions. But the question lingers: Does that make it a bad marriage? Lotto and Mathilde clearly love each other. They have saved each other’s lives in various ways. In a talk at a Seattle bookstore, Groff stated that she considers them to have a successful marriage. But what do words like “successful,” “good,” and “bad” mean when talking about relationships of this length, depth, and complication? Food for thought.
Kralik’s simple story has a profound conclusion: Increasing the amount of thanks you express can revolutionize your life. He was down and out—struggling with a failing law firm, undergoing a second divorce, living in a cramped apartment—when he decided to write a thank-you note to someone each day of the next year. The results were remarkable: Not only did he begin to appreciate everyone and everything in his life more, but that change in attitude brought renewed success and well-being.
The lesson for relationships is obvious. Expressing thanks to those closest to you is one of the most important things you can do to promote and maintain intimacy and appreciation.