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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?
A. 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?
A. 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?
A. 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?
A. 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?
A. 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!
I've read many marriage books, some better than others. I'd say that this one falls right in the middle. It does offer up some very helpful advice - much of it pretty generic. Read morePublished 1 day ago by Marie S.
My wife really loved it and I liked what she read to me and that I read. Much will not be a surprise if you're read much in this literature. good wedding present. Read morePublished 7 days ago by Nicola Gibson
Good solid research, stories and advice. A book short enough for a couple to work through together.Published 13 days ago by Steve D.
Good book that shares the statistics of people that embrace their marrages.Published 15 days ago by Scott Ewen
Ms. Feldhahn has done some excellent research on marriages and what makes them work. As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I was affirmed in many of my observations of couples over... Read morePublished 23 days ago by Lyndee
Well written with some surprising things I didn't know though I've been married 37 years! Very informative and interesting. Read morePublished 24 days ago by deedee
The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages was a great read! The tips given are fairly simple, and they make sense why they would work. Read morePublished 26 days ago by Shirley A. McConnon
A couple of years ago, I read For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn and I loved the insights it gave me into my husband. Read morePublished 29 days ago by Kristen