What to Read during Divorce: A Divorce Coach’s Book Recommendations
No two divorces are exactly alike, so it’s no surprise that there’s no one-size-fits-all guide to help you navigate the legal process and all the emotional components. Divorce coaches are one solution for people who need help navigating the murky waters of life before, during, and after divorce. Books are another helpful resource. So, we asked one of our certified divorce coaches what books she recommends to her clients. Here is her shortlist.
If you’re dealing with a narcissist personality type:
Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving A Relationship with a Narcissist, by Ramani S. Durvasula Ph.D
Whether your spouse has been formally diagnosed as a narcissist or just has some of the classic personality traits, this book is a goldmine for navigating the relationship. It offers a quiz to determine if your partner is a narcissist, explains the most common traits of a narcissist and how they show up in relationships, and provides helpful guidance for how to leave the relationship or adjust your approach to the relationship if you choose to stay.
In addition, this book provides a great sense of validation, support, and relief for people who are married to someone with narcissistic tendencies. Contrary to what a narcissist might tell you: You are not “crazy,” and this is not “all in your head.”
If you’re feeling trapped by how you “should” live your life:
Untamed, by Glennon Doyle
This was the first book I read when I started thinking about getting a divorce, and it catapulted me forward to my destiny. Just, wow. Glennon has a beautiful way of acknowledging the difficult thoughts and emotions we all experience, exploring where they come from, examining how they have impacted her life choices, and deciding how to show up differently.
Whether you have struggled with substance abuse, an eating disorder, mental health, a crisis of faith, infidelity, divorce, remarriage, parenting, family relationships, or you’ve just been on a general quest for “something more” in life – this book is for you. She’s also hilarious, which makes tackling these challenging topics a bit lighter and more enjoyable.
Bonus: Check out her podcast, We Can Do Hard Things.
If you want to build awareness around how you show up in relationships:
Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find - and Keep - Love, by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller
Have you ever observed another couple and wondered, “How are they so effortlessly happy?” or “I bet they don’t argue like we do,” or “If we love each other so much, why is this so damn hard?” If so, you’re definitely not alone, and learning about adult attachment may be a game-changer.
What is adult attachment? Each of us has a certain “attachment style,” which dictates how we receive and respond to intimacy in romantic relationships. It’s formed and impacted by many factors, including your upbringing as a child and your life experiences.
Attached walks you through the history and science behind it all, helps you identify which type of style you and your partner are, and provides guidance for navigating relationships from this angle. After I read this book, I was able to better understand how and why my decade-long relationship with my former spouse transpired in the way it did.
If you’re interested in a male’s perspective of divorce:
Of all the books on this list, this one had the most parallels to my own experience with marriage and divorce. It was as if Matthew Fray was a fly on the wall of my life and reported what happened. There were so many moments of validation and connection for me in reading this book, and I bet I’m not the only reader who felt that way.
Whether you’re contemplating divorce, trying to save your marriage, or post-divorce, this book will provide value for you. The main focus is learning how to actually be a partner in a committed relationship, and what causes marriages to gradually fall apart over time. More likely than not, these lessons were not taught to you when you were growing up, which explains why so many marriages end in divorce, despite our best intentions in entering them (myself included). And Matthew Fray has a witty, humorous tone throughout, which lightens the heaviness.
If you’re preoccupied with controlling your spouse’s behavior:
A “codependent” – as defined by Melody Beattie – is someone who allows the behavior of another person to affect them, and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior. While this issue is prevalent in relationships involving addiction and substance abuse, the information in this book can also be generally applied to all types of relationships, whether with your spouse, children, family, etc.
The longevity of the book (it was released in 1986!) shows that Beattie’s personal life experience and lessons learned, as well as her insights, tools, and exercises, have stood the test of time and continue to serve her readers today.
As Elizabeth Gilbert once said: “You are afraid of surrender because you don’t want to lose control. But you never had control; all you had was anxiety.” This book helps you unpack all of this and provides specific steps to help you move forward from a place of acceptance and peace.
Recommended blog by Kara Francis: Managing Feelings Of Regret After Your Divorce
If you’re struggling to set and enforce boundaries:
Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself, by Nedra Glover Tawwab
Have you ever had an internal, unspoken expectation for how you wanted someone to act toward you, and then you felt very resentful and angry when that person didn’t read your mind and act the way you wanted them to? Yeah, me too.
"Boundaries" may seem like a popular buzzword these days, but there’s a reason for it. The negative feelings that we experience when people repeatedly violate our unspoken boundaries only fester and build over time, which leads to more stress, which drains our energy, which makes everyday life that much more difficult.
Nedra Tawwab does an amazing job at explaining what a boundary is (Hint: It’s NOT about controlling the other person’s behavior. For that issue, check out Codependent No More, above), signs that you need to set boundaries, how to set and enforce a boundary, and much more. Whether you need to set boundaries with your spouse, family, friends, or coworkers, this book will help you do it effectively.
If you’ve experienced infidelity on either side of the marriage:
The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity, by Esther Perel
Infidelity and affairs tend to be taboo topics, and they are usually only discussed in gossip circles and celebrity tabloids. But there is so much depth and complexity when it comes to these issues.
Esther Perel examines infidelity in detail from all angles and from a place of curiosity … What constitutes infidelity? Why does it happen? Why does it hurt so deeply? And is it possible to continue a relationship after it occurs? She also weaves in accounts and examples from her real-life patients along the way, which are fascinating and remind us that, when it comes to relationships, we’re really not so different from each other after all.
Regardless of which side of infidelity you find yourself on, this book will get you thinking about what infidelity means to you and how you want to approach it in your own relationship.
If you’re struggling with fear, worry, and self-doubt about your finances:
You Are A Badass At Making Money, by Jen Sincero
Money and finances: Similar to infidelity, this topic can be uncomfortable to discuss. However, whether we like it or not, money impacts our lives each and every day, and there are so many limiting beliefs and fears about it, especially in the context of divorce. So, if the need for money isn’t going away (psst – it’s not), then why not address your money mindset so you can at least move forward confidently?
Jen Sincero offers her personal struggles with money and how she overcame them, empowering money mantras, and thought-provoking journal prompts that are designed to help you unpack your fears and tap into your desires around money. Her tools and exercises are a beautiful blend of practicality and a touch of “woo-woo” (like trusting the Universe). And she does it all with a touch of sarcasm and humor. (Noticing a trend here with the humor? Come on, we need it during these challenging life transitions!)
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