Q&A with Shaunti Feldhahn
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!
Praise for The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages
“I am thrilled with the findings, clear reporting, and explanations. Shaunti is tireless at tracking down the truths that matter to relationships—and countless men and women have benefitted as a result. I have already started using some of this new data at my conferences!”—Emerson Eggerichs, best-selling author of Love and Respect
“What an important relationship book for such a time as this! A must for every couple.”—Dr. Tim Clinton, president of the American Association of Christian Counselors
“In just the first few chapters of this amazing resource, I found Shaunti’s research and insights incredibly helpful. This is a book I’ll be using personally and recommending to many friends.”—Lysa TerKeurst, New York Times best-selling author and president of Proverbs 31 Ministries
“One of my favorite things about this book is how practical these secrets are. These are things anybody can do to make their marriage even more satisfying!”—Holly Furtick
“Regardless of the state of your marriage, Shaunti reveals how small changes in awareness and actions can truly change everything. She offers transferable actions that any couple can replicate to experience marital fulfillment.”—Kerry Shook, founding pastor of Woodlands Church, Houston, Texas, and co-author of the bestseller One Month to Live
“Shaunti is one of those rare communicators who really gets marriage and all the give-and-take that’s required. You’re holding months’ worth of marital counseling in your hands!”—Shannon Ethridge, best-selling author of the Every Woman’s Battle series
“The entire time I was reading this book I kept stopping and saying to my wife, ‘Oh, wow! Listen to this!’ The great truth within these pages is that little things do indeed mean a lot.”—Jeff and Gregg Foxworthy
“Shaunti is one of the best researchers in the field today, and I’m always encouraged and surprised by her findings and how practical they are. I will be recommending this book to the women I minister to.”—Jennifer Rothschild, author of Lessons I Learned in the Dark
“What an important and desperately needed book! Shaunti debunks so many of the marriage myths that we have taken as gospel and shares the real secrets to happily ever after.”—Kathi Lipp, author of The Husband Project and Praying God’s Word for Your Husband
“Shaunti has done the research, dissected the results, and delivered to us the proven recipes for success. Even after thirty years of marriage, I learned so much! This is a book every married person should read!”—Jill Savage, CEO of Hearts at Home and author of No More Perfect Moms
“Every married person and every person who wants to be married needs to read this book. It’s a fun and surprising journey that can totally transform your marriage—I promise.”—Valorie Burton, author of Happy Women Live Better
“This book takes the mystery out of happy marriages by boiling it down to some key attitudes and actions that can make all the difference between a mediocre marriage and a magnificent one.”—Leslie Vernick, licensed counselor, relationship coach, speaker, and best-selling author of The Emotionally Destructive Marriage
“The message is timely, the research is fascinating, and the takeaways are life-impacting. Do your marriage a favor and read this book!”—Crystal Paine, founder of MoneySavingMom.com and author of Say Goodbye to Survival Mode
“This is one of the most encouraging and motivating marriage books I have ever read.”—Jim Burns, president of HomeWord and author of Creating an Intimate Marriage and Closer
“After working my way through these pages and pondering these gems of wisdom, I couldn’t help but wonder how many marriages might have been saved had they understood these simple, attainable truths.”—Susie Larson, national radio host, speaker, and author of Your Beautiful Purpose
“When you take the time to tune into the little things in each other, then together you’ll succeed at a great marriage!”—Dr. Gary and Barbara Rosberg, America’s Family Coaches and authors of 6 Secrets to a Lasting Love
“Shaunti wields the researcher’s clipboard, the analyst’s data, and the counselor’s insight to bring the excellent newsflash that great marriages are the culmination of definable, repetitive micromovements that add up to deep relationship satisfaction.”—Anita Renfroe, comedian and author
“Shaunti knows how to mine scientific research and data for the relationship gold that can change marriages and change lives.”—Susan Merrill, author of The Passionate Mom, blogger, and director of iMOM.com
—Mark Merrill, author of All Pro Dad, blogger, and president of Family First