Making It Hot
Love Worth Making: How to Have Ridiculously Great Sex in a Long-Lasting Relationship
By Stephen Snyder, M.D.
Snyder's a pretty frank guy, but his book is not exactly the Kama Sutra. A couples therapist and psychiatrist, he focuses on the emotional side of intimacy rather than technique; much of physical pleasure, he emphasizes, depends on having the right mind-set. He uses composites of many different patients to illustrate common roadblocks to good sex (when one partner wants it and the other doesn’t, for instance) and possible solutions.
Best advice: Dessert isn’t the most important part of the meal. “In my experience, the couples that have the best sex are the ones who don’t set orgasm as a goal. They just enjoy it — if and when it comes.” Why? “Eros,” he writes, “doesn’t like goals.”
Keeping It Upbeat
Happy Together: Using the Science of Positive Psychology to Build Love That Lasts
By Suzann Pileggi Pawelski and James O. Pawelski
This husband-and-wife team are positive psych experts who are, naturally, wildly upbeat about how fantastic your relationship can be. Trying new things together and maintaining your own strong sense of self are some of the “healthy habits” that they consider part of your “relationship gym” (because “relationships need work, just like muscles”).
Best advice: Try “mindful savoring” — actively, consciously valuing your partner and expressing appreciation for the things you find yummy about them.
Weathering the Hard Times
The Rough Patch: Marriage and the Art of Living Together
By Daphne de Marneffe
Nobody said marriage was going to be easy (nobody smart anyway), but this thoughtful couples therapist says she often sees “a hitting-the-wall unhappiness in the middle slice of life.” She gives a chapter to describing key challenges — health issues, empty-nest tensions, affairs, financial worries — and ways to tackle them.
Best advice: Real self-awareness — “making the effort to look within, and to struggle with your own demons” — is the first step toward a more fulfilling relationship.
Stay or Go: Dr. Ruth’s Rules for Real Relationships
By Dr. Ruth K. Westheimer
The world’s most famous sex therapist says a relationship can’t survive on passion alone. Ever practical, Dr. Ruth wants to help you figure out whether you have enough of the whole package — love, lust, trust — to make the union worth saving. First, consider the “flavor” of your partnership: "Dark Toxic" (get out now), "Rocky Road" (you’ve got some serious problems) or "Merely Troubled" (not the most tasty-sounding, but the most hopeful).
Best advice: “Put an egg timer filled with sand on your desk to remind you not to let your relationship suck the life out of you one grain at a time.”