Relationships are hard work or so the maxim goes. Sometimes, though, it may seem like your partner is a cypher and you don’t have the key. Luckily, a key does exist, or at least a map that will help you find the key.
Understanding your partner’s (and your own) personality can help you answer confounding questions such as:
- Why do we always argue about the same thing over and over again?
- Why does it seem like we’re speaking two completely different languages?
- Why does (s)he DO THAT?!
There are multiple frameworks for understanding personality types. Each one can help fill in the gaps in your understanding of your partner and your relationship. The following ten books are a great place to start.
Myers-Briggs is a system of sixteen personality types based on Jung’s theory of cognitive functions. You can read more about it here. Myers-Briggs is probably the most popular personality typing system in use today.
1. Just Your Type by Paul D. Tieger & Barbara Barron-Tieger
This book painstakingly details the joys and frustrations of each personality type combination. It also provides helpful advice on how to reach your partner. One of the things I love about Myers-Briggs and the Enneagram (which we’ll explore below) is that they challenge gender stereotypes. This book makes the case that behaviors and thought patterns we commonly ascribe to gender really have more to do with personality and can apply to men, women, and everyone in-between.
2. LoveTypes by Alexander Avila
This book is geared toward the dating set, as it offers advice on which types pair best with each other. I’ve always been extremely skeptical of the prevailing views on type pairing, which is one of the reasons I like this book. It completely diverges from conventional wisdom and offers insights you won’t find on the Internet.
The Enneagram of personality is based on an ancient theory that may have originated with the Sufis or Desert Fathers. It sorts people into nine core types, with many added nuances to account for more subtle personality traits. You can read more about it here.
3. Are You My Type, Am I Yours? by Renee Baron & Elizabeth Wagele
This easy-to-understand guide is perfect for beginners and features illustrative cartoons on nearly every page to break up the text. It outlines what each type likes about every other type, what frustrates them, and how to get along with people of different types. It also offers handy little charts that show which type pairings are most common.
4. Sex, Love, and Your Personality by Mona Coates, Ph.D. & Judith Searle
This book explains what each type is like in a relationship and provides numerous real-life examples from the author’s practice as a sex therapist. As fits with her background, this book provides much more insight into the sexual side of the enneagram, whereas most books focus on other aspects of a relationship. One of the things I love about this book is that it looks at each type in different levels of emotional health. A healthy person of any type will look very different from their angry, bitter, and fearful counterparts.
5. The Enneagram in Love and Work by Helen Palmer
This hefty paperback provides in-depth insight into each type in the context of romantic and working relationships. It details what it’s like to live with each type, what intimacy looks like with each type, and the kind of signals the types send when they’re happy, receptive, ambivalent, sad, and angry.
6. The Path Between Us by Suzanne Stabile
One of the hardest things about being in a relationship is understanding the motivations of the other person. Why do they do that thing they always do when life gets stressful or conflict arises? This book answers those questions, delving into the core fears, needs, and wounds that drive each type.
Other Personality Frameworks
7. Introverts in Love by Sophia Dembling
The introvert/extrovert dichotomy is the most elemental of personality typing systems. And in a culture that caters to extroverts, it can be hard for introverts to navigate the tricky waters of dating and romance. This book offers strategies to successfully meet people at parties, ease anxiety on the first date, and navigate the world of Internet dating for people who find themselves lost in social situations. You can’t build a better relationship if you’re too scared to get out there and look for one in the first place.
8. Why Him? Why Her? by Helen Fisher, Ph.D.
This book presents a biological theory of personality—four dominant personalities that correspond to four different hormones and neurotransmitters. While biological theories of mating and relationships usually trigger my sexism-detecting antennae, Fisher is quick to point out that men can have an estrogenic personality and women can be heavily influenced by their testosterone. (She also names the estrogen-dominant personality “The Philosopher King,” so…)
9. The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman
The 5 Love Languages is one of the most popular relationship books of all time, but I recommend it with one serious caveat. The author is sexist. There’s no way around it. So many of the illustrations he gives are straight out of the misogyny playbook. That said, the theory itself is not sexist. In fact, it’s one of the most useful relationship tools out there. It’s worth wading through the sludge, but if you’d rather skip the book, you can always find your love language by taking the online quiz.
10. The 5 Money Personalities by Scott & Bethany Palmer
Money is the leading cause of stress in relationships, but it seems that a relatively small percentage of relationship books dig deep into this common roadblock. This book sorts readers based on how they view and deal with money, and offers advice on how to work with your partner to solve your money troubles as a team.
Like this post? Check out:
- 10 Enlightening Books on Personality Types
- 10 Life-Changing Books for Introverts
- 16 Genre Recs Based on Your Myers-Briggs Type
- The Myers-Briggs Types of 101 Famous Authors
- The Myers-Briggs Types of 202 Fictional Characters
- 19 Enlightening Books on the Enneagram of Personality
- The Enneagram Types of 100 Famous Authors
- The Enneagram Types of 99 Fictional Characters