“Love and marriage go together like horse and carriage” sang Sinatra in the 50s, but today’s millennials and Gen Z would scoff at the notion. Families come in all colors, shapes and sizes, and so does love.
After a year of lockdowns, being put through — still being put through? — what has been an incredibly testing time for people in love living under the same roof, we might find ourselves in need of a little guidance or inspiration or even support.
There’s no manual for the modern marriage, long-term relationship, or even hookup, which means women are figuring most of this stuff out on our own. But there are always books. Books to commiserate, to teach, to give us company in our challenges. We’ve put together a little list.
by Thich Nhat Han
Vietnamese Zen master, activist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Thich Nhat Hanh’s lifelong effort has been to make Buddhist teachings relevant to life and actionable in nature. In Fidelity he shows us how to apply Buddhist principles such as loving-kindness, deep listening and mindfulness to make our relationships a nourishing home for our hearts and solve conflicts. Although filled with plenty of insight and immediately practical advice, the book can also serve as an interesting entry into mindfulness and Buddhist philosophy. Compassionate and accessible, this is not a read for a quick-fix, but it is a refreshing new framework with which we can look at ourselves in relation to our significant others and the world.
by Alain de Botton
Alain de Botton is a British philosopher whose claim to fame is drawing answers to life’s big questions from the worlds of philosophy and psychoanalysis. He’s also the founder of The School of Life, which runs classes on things like “How to Identify Your Career Potential” and “How to Make Love Last”. “The Course of Love” is commiseration in a book. It narrates the life of a British couple Rabih and Kirsten as they date, fall in love, and marry. It follows them around as they buy dinnerware, have children and even go to marriage counselling. At every step, de Botton offers you a view into why things happen as they do. While it may not solve your marriage or relationship issues, the novel can change the way you look at love and togetherness and help you better understand the tribulations of monogamy.
by Shel Silverstein
Who among us have not hoped to fix a “broken” partner? Who hasn’t sought to complete themselves through their better halves? It tells the story of a lovable character named The Missing Piece, who is out looking for “someone to come and take it somewhere”. Its journey is an allegory for our own search for love: first we try to find ourselves in other people, and then we realize the futility of it. First published in 1976, The Missing Piece Meets the Big O is a deceptively quick-and-easy read, but one that offers a lasting lesson: seek first to be whole by yourself.
edited and translated by Ulrich Baer
Rainer Maria Rilke had many loves and a failed marriage. However his insights on love and relationships was canny and eye-opening, making this collection of poems and other writings a companion through love, loneliness and heartbreak alike. When young people fell in love, he felt, they must not forget that they are “…apprentices in love—they must learn love and that requires quiet, patience, and concentration!” Although he viewed love as a tough thing, he also urges his readers to strive for a deeper, soulful and passionate love — through realizing and guarding one’s own wholeness. Though he lived in the 19th and 20th century, the wisdom of Rilke’s work on love has been ahead of his time. It is worthwhile to have a collection of his writings on love by your bedside as you go on your own journey through love.
by Nandini Krishnan
Arranged marriage is still a thing—and it is still a life-choice many Indian women make. But it isn’t easy. Indian arranged marriages have their own quirks and drama, and while going through the uncertainty of having a partner chosen for you; the trials of wedding planning; running a house and managing a career, sometimes all you need is just a friend. That friend is “Hitched: The Modern Woman and Arranged Marriage,” a collection of anecdotes and advice (for instance, on how to get your spouse to throw you a surprise party) from Indian women of different religions who are living, surviving and thriving in arranged marriages with Indian men. Humorous and authentic, the voices in this collection are sure to be a blast—especially if you’ve been through it.
Sex is complex. For some, the riotous desire of premarital times ends on the first night. For others, it changes character, or fades completely over the years. Many people see monogamy as the problem, avoiding commitment or just seeing a dull bedroom life as the inevitable trade-off for a stable, permanent relationship. This problem is the crux of the discussion of “Mating in Captivity,” an exciting exploration of domestic lovemaking. “A sense of physical and emotional safety is basic to healthy pleasure and connection,” writes Perel. “Yet without an element of uncertainty there is no longing, no anticipation, no frisson.” How do we introduce this uncertainty? There are no easy answers, just several anecdotes. A word of caution: Perel’s solutions can be quite unconventional. In one case she recounts, she advised the woman in the relationship to have erotic correspondence with men other than her adulterous husband.
by Emily Nagoski
Sexual wellness and the health of a relationship are closely intertwined. Unfortunately, an uninspiring sex life isn’t a problem you can pin down and “solvel,” and neither can it be wished away with scented candles and staycations in fancy hotels. Come as you are puts the steering wheel back in your hands (although you will learn, sex is not actually a drive). It’s the book you’ll wish you read before you got into your first sexual relationship. Filled with back-to-basics discussions of anatomy, statistics, to semantic analyses of words like “desire” and “arousal,” Emily Nagoski’s book is essential reading for any woman who hasn’t had the benefit of having open sexual discussions with her parents, or even her partner. It’s a starting point to understanding our bodies through the compassionate voice of a sex educator who’s been studying sexuality for decades.
Check out India’s Love Project on Instagram