Top Relationship Books of 2014

It’s coming to the end of 2014 and I’ve been reflecting on some of the top books and writings that I’ve enjoyed this year. This is a list of my favorite books on relationships of all types! I hope you get some ideas. Is there a relationship orientated book that you’ve loved this year? I would love to hear about it in the comments section.


Best Book on Relationship with God: With by Skye Jethani

This book wins far and away as my favourite book of 2014. Jethani is both engaging and penetrating as he looks at the false ways you might be relating to God. He takes on the false belief systems in Christian culture and our own individual lives, you will be left seeing things in new ways. The best part is that you are left with a deep and fresh hunger for Jesus. During a season of my life that I was struggling with stress, anxiety and fear… this book was a shining light in hard times.


Best Book on Marriage: Fun Loving You by Ted Cunningham

My husband and I both loved this book. A great read for those who have been married for a few years and need to re-focus on the fun and friendship that bring so much life to your marriage. As a bonus he gives a ton of practical ideas for dates, fun get-aways, and ways to just have fun together.


Best Book on Parenting: Boundaries With Kids by Cloud and Townsend

The “Boundaries” series is a classic in Christian and counselling circles. I had never read the parenting version and it came at just the right time for me with an 8 and 9 year old. There is a ton of helpful advice and practical tips. I think you could read this book at each stage of parenting and come away with key wisdom to apply.


Best Blog Post on Dating and Engagement: “Sex & Engagement” by Ron Smith

I haven’t read any great books on this topic this year but a great article is buy a close friend and mentor, Dr. Ron Smith. Ron and his wife did our own pre-marriage counselling. He is honest, straight forward and so excited to see people find their love for a lifetime partner. This article is honest and direct about the sexual relationship of an engaged couple.


Best Beach Read: Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

If you read my husbands book list for 2014 you will see he also listed this book (along with 2 others I mention here!). I would just like to state for the record that I was the one who tipped him off to this great read. It’s the captivating story of ultra-marathon runners. You don’t need to be a runner to love it, though. It is a true-story adventure that takes you from the headquarters of Nike to a stone-age tribe in the hills of Mexico. The characters are funny and totally engaging, you will get sucked in. This is a great Christmas idea for someone that loves running, adventure or just a great read!


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Best Daily Devotional: With Daily Devotional by Skye Jethani

I recently had the privilege of meeting Skye Jethani. He was speaking out our Community Gathering at our campus in South Africa. I was chatting to him afterwards and told him that I was aiming to sign up as many as possible for his daily devotional, it is one of the best kept secrets on the internet. For $1.99/month you get a daily devotional e-mailed to you with scriptures to read and a prayer to meditate on for the week. It is short, engaging, challenging, personal and helps you focus on Jesus more than ever. This would be a wonderful gift idea for yourself or others!


Bonus: Favorite Music Albums

Mali Is… by Mali Music

Ok, little known info about me, I’m a huge Jazz, Black Gospel, R&B and Rap fan. I’m listening to one of these genres most of the time. My first CD was the Winans Brothers… not Bibi and Cici Winans, that’s black gospel for the masses. I was in to the real deal Winans. I seriously am tempted to do a whole post on my top ablums in these genres. But, it’s not the point of this blog… sigh. But, if you love any of these genres or want to love them, run, don’t walk, to your computer and buy this on Amazon or iTunes. Ok, you are sitting at your computer. So click on the link above. Do it. This guy is the real deal. Best relationship track on the album? “Heavy Love”. You will at least start chair dancing while he extols the beauty and power of love that lasts a lifetime. As he says, beautiful love is that “great-grand-mama and grand-daddy love ya’ll”.


The Undoing by Steffany Gretzinger

So now that you know my tastes, this album is out of my norm. Most worship albums I listen to involve Fred Hammond or Donnie McClurkin (if you just said, “Who?”, hang your head in shame and go take a time-out for 10 minutes). This album is minimal, contemplative and personal.  I found myself surprisingly drawn in. Steffany has an amazing voice, that is undeniable. But, it’s more than her voice that draws you in. Each song seems to be taken straight out of her personal journal in the best of ways. For those days when you need to hear the heart of Jesus more loudly, this album delivers exactly that.

4 Types of Date Nights

These days, date night is considered an essential component of a healthy marriage. I personally love any excuse to spend time with my husband. We’ve practiced it in various forms over the years but not always consistently. Marriage author, Ted Cunningham, suggests practicing a “daily delay, a weekly withdrawal, and an annual abandon”. These are three connecting points that build friendship and intimacy into a marriage.

The “daily delay” is simply finding a point in each day to connect, catch up and share how the day is going. The “weekly withdrawal” is what most of us call, date night. The “annual abandon” is scheduling a yearly trip of two or more nights… just the two of you.

types_date_nightsI love this grid and want to look at it with my husband to see how we are doing on each of these connecting points. When thinking about date night, there are many obstacles to having a weekly, deeper, connecting point. Many people have obstacles such as young children (all the more reason it is needed!), lack of finances, or simply not feeling that the date makes a meaningful impact on their marriage.

If you are stuck in a dinner and a movie rut then here are 4 types of date nights that can make dates more meaningful and fun.

Stay At Home:

Having a date doesn’t have to be expensive nor involve going out! Sometimes, for us, the thought of getting all dressed up, going to a noisy restaurant, navigating traffic just doesn’t seem romantic or relaxing. Stay at home dates can be relaxing, cheap and meaningful.

We often would feed our kids early, put on an audio book and put them in bed early. Then, we would cook a nice meal for just the two of us and eat in the quiet (!) house. Set the table nicely, light a candle, play some music in the background, open a nice bottle of something. The bonus of this is the bedroom is right down the hall for a great way to end the evening!

Taking Turns:

Why not take turns planning the date? Each week a different spouse gets a turn to plan something fun or nice. This way, you get the creativity of each person. I highly suggest to put a ban on movies for dates. I personally think movies are great for mindless relaxation but terrible for an evening of connection.

Often, date night gets relegated to last minute planning and doesn’t feel special or well planned. This way, each person know they are on for the week and take a few extra moments to put some thought in it. The other person gets to just relax and show up!

I know couples that do this and it is motivating to add a special twist for the week you plan! This works well, especially, for couples who are a bit competitive and love to out-do each other.

Digging Deeper:

This is one of my favourites. Periodically you can use this time to invest in your marriage. The idea is to get some sort of input which you use as a launching point for deeper discussion, growth and intimacy. Perhaps you sign up for a marriage course at your local church. You could read a marriage book, together. Use what you have read as a point of conversation each week. Most marriage books have guided questions at the end of each chapter.

One year we took an 8-week period where we did weekly stay at home dates. The kids were in bed early, we had a nice dinner together at home and then we watched a video series together. A friend had given us the “Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage” series. We watched one episode a week and then discussed it for a few minutes afterwards. It was funny and a great little marriage tune-up.

Adventure Dating:

Boredom is weight on a marriage. If you think back to your “falling in love” years, part of the allure is the newness and adventure of your relationship at that time. You are always doing or discovering something new together. That’s one reason I enjoy watching new love… they are constantly out exploring new parts of our city, finding new things to do, new live music venues to enjoy, new bookstores no one knows about. Young love is full of newness and adventure! Be purposeful to add some of this to your marriage.

I know some couples that go to dance classes together. I’ve heard of others that have taken a cooking course on their weekly dates. One couple tries to eat a different type of ethnic food all the time. It’s small but a fun little exploration that they do together through the years. We have a hobby of always finding new speciality coffee shops. We are always on the hunt for a good coffee roaster we have never been to before. Perhaps you go for a walk or hike in a new place. Or is there a part of your city you have never explored? What could you learn, do or discover together this week?

Read More: Cheap Date Night Ideas

Dates don’t have to be expensive or cost at all. The traditional date often brings three expensive items: babysitting, restaurant food, movie tickets. Dump the traditional date. Here are 10 ideas on making a date as cheap as possible.