The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages: The Little Things That Make a Big Difference

The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages: The Little Things That Make a Big Difference

by Shaunti Feldhahn


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781601421210
Publisher: The Crown Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/31/2013
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 201,104
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 6.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Shaunti Feldhahn is the best-selling author of For Women Only and other books with sales of more than two million copies in 22 languages. With a master’s degree from Harvard, Shaunti uses her analytical skills to uncover life-changing surprises about our most important relationships. Her research has been featured on The Today Show, Focus on the Family radio, in Cosmopolitan magazine, and in the New York Times. She and her husband, Jeff, have two children and live in Atlanta.

Read an Excerpt

How a Handful of High-Leverage Secrets Unlocks Delight in Your Marriage

The very first e-mail I received after the release of For Women Only came from an anonymous woman. I’ll never forget her note. It was just one line:

I got a divorce five years ago, and now I know why. I read it and gasped. I knew the book revealed some surprising insights about men that most women just didn’t get. I had been continuously shocked myself during my years of research!

But her e-mail brought home the importance of this knowledge in a whole new way.

That was nearly ten years ago. Since then, my husband, Jeff, and I have researched and written For Men Only and other books. We have spoken at hundreds of conferences, seminars, churches, simulcasts, and stadium events. And during that time, literally thousands of men and women have come up to us at the book table or stopped us in a hallway. With a stunned look in their eyes, they say things like “I wish I had known this before I got married!” or “This book saved our marriage” or even “I’m going to cancel the divorce filing on Wednesday.”

I’m not making this up.

Trust me, they’re not talking about any special wisdom that Jeff or I have conjured up. They’re talking about a before-and-after experience. What they mean is “I used to be clueless about what my spouse needed, and I didn’t realize it.” What they mean is
“Knowing now what I totally missed before—about my spouse’s inner fears and needs and desires—changes everything.”

And they are right.

I started calling these breakthroughs of sudden insight “light bulb on!” moments. They land in your relationship like a bright orange marker. Before, you thought and acted one way. After, you think and act differently. You suddenly see what you didn’t before. How you do a relationship—how you feel about it, what you expect, and what you get from it—changes. Light bulb on! This book on highly happy marriages is packed with moments like that.

Without a doubt, the dream of a happy marriage is one of the most consistent longings of the human heart. Most of us deeply want to experience an abundant, delightful, lifelong companionship that we can thank God for every day. Forget the bleak statistics we’ve seen, forget the bad rap that committed, lifelong marriage gets in the media—we want to marry our best friend, then enjoy our spouse and enjoy being married. And many people do!

But I’ve also noticed that many others feel stuck in a rut and don’t know how to get out of it. Some not-yet-married couples aren’t sure they can navigate the transition to a lifetime commitment—or whether the dream of a forever marriage is even realistic.

And many married couples—especially in times of heartache—harbor secret doubts about whether a great marriage is possible for them. Some have stopped hoping for better.

Instead of highly happy, they’ve settled for sometimes happy or even mostly mediocre.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. You’d be surprised what a few sudden flashes of insight can do for a couple. Let me show you what I mean.

Why Do Some Marriages Turn…Good?

You may have noticed that many marriage books and efforts at relationship improvement try to increase a couple’s happiness by digging into key relationship problems. Essentially, they’re asking things like, “What’s the underlying reason for this particular problem?” Or, bigger picture: “Why do marriages turn bad?” Identify the reason, identify the problem—and fix it. Indeed, this is great because all of us need that sort of help sometimes. For this book, though, I aimed my research in a different direction. I wanted to know: Why do marriages turn good? If a so-so union became delightful, I wanted to know what made the difference. Millions of couples truly enjoy each other in strong, rewarding relationships. What do they do right, and what can we learn from them that would make our relationships just as strong and rewarding?

It makes a lot of sense to study the winners. Aspiring athletes who want to improve how they throw a ball, swing a racket, or twist gracefully in the air to land at just the right angle on the ice spend hours studying those who do it best. Psychologists, changemanagement experts, and counselors have consistently found that in any endeavor of life, if we want to change, improve, or be inspired, we have to study what some call the bright spots, not just the problems. After all, if you want to be more like Jesus, you don’t spend the bulk of your time studying the Pharisees, His religious-leader opponents, in order to figure out how to not be like them. You study Jesus.


Q&A with Shaunti Feldhahn

Author of The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages: The Little Things That Make a Big Difference

Q. This is your first big marriage-related research study since your break-out books For Women Only in 2004 and For Men Only in 2006; you've been researching completely different topics since then. Why did you go back to studying marriage, and happy marriages in particular?

As a culture, I feel like we've been so focused on problems in marriage that people are unnecessarily discouraged. We dig only into the problems, so we can figure out how to fix them. That's certainly important, but we don't want to always be fixing problems! We want to have a vision to aim for, a role model to study on how to do it right. We want to know how the best marriages do it, and how we can do it too!

Q. But can the average couple relate to and learn from these super-happy marriages? Don't some couples just have everything going for them?

I was wondering about that, too, when I started this project. I wondered if the people in the happiest marriages were all just happy-temperament, low-conflict rich people or something. But instead, I found people of every conceivable life path and socio-economic background, including many couples who came from the most shocking disadvantages or couples who had nearly divorced and had ended up with an absolutely delightful marriage. Those were the people I got the greatest gold from!

Q. Can you give an example?

Sure. I can remember sitting in the living room of a couple who ran a little restaurant; it was a hard business and they didn't have much money, but they had such a great relationship. And they had overcome such difficult family backgrounds. He grew up in a terribly poor community with a single mom and five siblings all by different fathers, and she lived in something like 10 houses growing up because her parents each divorced two or three times. Let me tell you, when you see a couple who overcame all of that and has a wonderful marriage, you listen to what they have to say.

Q. You interviewed and surveyed more than 1,000 couples and must have been flooded with great advice, but this is a fairly small book. How did you decide what 'gold' to concentrate on?

I had three rules. First, I decided to focus almost entirely on the process of relationships, rather than on the needs of men and women, which is a lot of what I was studying for my other books (For Women Only and For Men Only). Second, I tried to get past the advice these couples gave (although that was helpful), and dig out what they actually did in real life, day to day. Because sometimes what they actually did was different than what they said to do! And third, I decided to leave out anything that I thought wouldn't be a surprise. It was so hard to cut some chapters. In the end, I wanted to focus on the things people may not know are important, rather than what they know is important but have probably already heard before.

Q. Has this helped your own marriage?

Yes! Jeff and I already had a good relationship, but like everyone else we had things that could improve. We just didn't always know what to do differently! Jeff and I actually conducted a lot of the interviews together early on and almost naturally started trying to copy various things these couples did. I was so shocked to find that such small little changes could have such a big impact!

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Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages: The Little Things That Make a Big Difference 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
DiscipleMom_Laura More than 1 year ago
Shaunti Feldhahn’s latest 2014 release, The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages: The Little Things That Make a Big Difference highlights “simple, learnable habits that are common to highly happy couples.”  She focused on finding things other couples can replicate as they work toward bettering their marriages. I appreciate that Feldhahn included a former chief of survey design for the U.S. Census Bureau in building her surveys.  And, she used the services of Decision Analysis, a top company for reliable online surveys.  Because of that, her statistics and analysis are credible and reliable. I think readers will find some of the habits shocking, like “go to bed mad.”  Other habits include:  believe the best, know that little is big, boss your feelings, keep score, use sign language, and have actual fantasies.  Some are not what you think.  All of them are simple (not necessarily easy) and doable, though, as Feldhahn shows through statistics and stories from couples she interviewed. The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages includes a variety of strategies and ideas that sound promising.  But with so many great ideas and habits, where do you even start?  Feldhahn addresses that in her introduction, and I agree with her:  “Pick one idea first, and try it for a week or two or five.  Then when that action becomes a habit, start on another.” Feldhahn also provides practical help in the final chapter, “Putting the Secrets to Work” where she gives “Ten Anyone-Can-Do-Them Tips” for applying the secrets of highly happy marriages.  That may be a great place to start when thinking about what habits to develop first. With that in mind, some of the following will prove helpful for couples looking to put into place some new habits: • The Fast Fives for Him and for Her in chapter 2 • Tips for changing how you feel in chapter 6 • Ideas for overcoming challenges to together time in chapter 9 • A picture of what “looking higher” looks like in chapter 11 • Ways to get “all in” in chapter 12 The only regret I have about this book is the cover design.  It looks rather feminine with pink and green, and I sincerely hope that won’t keep men from picking up this book as they’ll benefit from it just as much as women will. I highly recommend this book to any couple wanting to increase marital happiness.  These research-based habits of highly successful marriages are practical, helpful and doable.  You can start as soon as you pick up the book and start to read.  So, whether your marriage is good and you’re looking for great, or whether your marriage is less-than-good looking for good—this book has some interesting and anyone-can-do habits that will help you get where you want to go. Note:  I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.  However, the opinions expressed are my own.
Kassie17 More than 1 year ago
If you are married, or engaged, or dating someone that might be the one and secretly reading all the marriage books that you can lay your hands on... this post is for you I've never been one for reading all of those marriage books, even though I have read some, and I think that they hold a lot of good information.  But after a while, books telling you what to fix about your marriage become  tedious and boring, and I lose interest about a quarter of the way through.  When picking a book to review, I saw "the surprising secrets of highly happy marriages" by Shaunti Feldhahn and just kept scrolling down the page. When I didn't see another book that interested  me, I decided to click on it and see what it was all about. It intrigued me, I must admit, when the back of the book talked about highly happy couples 'going to bed mad, keeping score, and not telling it like it is".  In this very unique and well written book, Feldhahn takes the boring, mundane marriage book and turns it into into something new and exciting... And all she did was focus on the positive  things that couples were doing instead of focusing on the negative things that we are doing! AMAZING!  While reading this book, I didn't feel like I was a failure at marriage, but while reading stories  of what has worked for other couples, it inspired me to try harder at my marriage, and to try new things.  Bottom line: read this book. If you are single, dating, engaged, or have been married for 25 years. Read it!
staceb More than 1 year ago
I received a copy to review.  All opinions are mine. A few months back, I came across another marriage resource called, "The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, the little things that make a difference," by Shaunti Feldhahn.  She is the best selling author of For Women Only which I have, but have never read.  Tsk tsk, I know.  At any rate, I knew this would be a great read. Inside, you will discover that there are little things that people to do in a marriage that can make your marriage quite successful.  Most folks overlook these small actions, but not the Highly Happy Yes! couples. Yes! couples are a group of couples that Shaunti surveyed about the marriage and they both  answered yes to the same questions meaning, they were both very happy and believed that there spouse would never do anything intentionally to hurt them.  I must mention that there were many couples interviewed, but not all of them felt the same way as the other souse.  Those couples were not considered Highly Happy because they differed and were not really on one accord. Contents include: 1. The truth about Highly Happy and You Highly Happy Couples: 2. Know little is big 3. Believe the best 4. Go to bed mad. 5. Keep score. 6. Boss their feelings around 7. Have factual fantasies 8. Use sign language 9. Hang out 10. Don't tell it like it is. 11. Look Higher 12. Get in over their heads 13. Think they hit the jackpot 14. Putting the secrets to work. My thoughts: I have dog-eared just about every page in the book, no kidding.  I think the most important message that I get from it is to always be positive.  Believe the best in your spouse.  Do things for your spouse out of love, not expecting anything in return.  And so on.  I felt that the info shared in this book was quite helpful to me.  This teaches how you can make simple, small, changes that will have a huge impact on your union.