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The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages: The Little Things That Make a Big Difference Hardcover – December 31, 2013

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Editorial Reviews Review

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 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
—Mark Merrill, author of All Pro Dad, blogger, and president of Family First

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Multnomah Books (December 31, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1601421214
  • ISBN-13: 978-1601421210
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 7.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #21,074 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Author and Speaker: SHAUNTI FELDHAHN

Contact for Speaking Engagements: Naomi Duncan at or 615-300-4837

Shaunti received her graduate degree from Harvard University and was an analyst on Wall Street before unexpectedly becoming a social researcher and best-selling author.

Today, she applies her analytical skills to investigating eye-opening, life-changing truths about relationships, both at home and in the workplace. Her groundbreaking research-based books, such as For Women Only, have sold more than 2 million copies in 22 languages and are widely read in homes, counseling centers and corporations worldwide.

Where the "Only" series revealed the often-unseen needs of men and women, her multi-year research project, published in The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, investigates the process of what makes great relationships.

On May 6th her newest book The Good News About Marriage will be released. This research centers around the good news about marriage, debunking the grim facts we've heard for so long about marriage and divorce: Half of all marriages end in divorce. The divorce rate inside the church is the same as outside. And, most marriages are just holding on. But what if these "facts" are actually myths? In The Good News About Marriage, Shaunti Feldhahn presents groundbreaking research that reveals the shocking, incredibly inspiring truth:

* The actual divorce rate has never gotten close to 50 percent.
* Those who attend church regularly have a significantly lower divorce rate than those who don't.
* Most marriages are happy.
* Simple changes make a big difference in most marriage problems.
* Most remarriages succeed.

Shaunti's findings have been featured in media as diverse as The Today Show and Focus on the Family, The New York Times and MomLife Today. Shaunti, Jeff and their two children live in Atlanta and enjoy every minute of living life at warp speed.

Customer Reviews

This book was practical and provided easy tips.
Greig and Lisa Glover
This is a great book to read to learn how to make your good marriage even better.
DL Kamstra
I would recommend this book to all married couples.
Rita L Woolery

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By W. Zienert on January 29, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I recommend this book to everyone who is married and those who would like to become married; it's that good!

I've been married 49 years to the same woman. Like all marriages, we've had our ups and downs. Even after all that time and experience, this book taught me things that I can easily do to make my marriage for both my wife and me.

Having an engineering background, I wanted to "test" some of the things I learned to see if they really applied to my wife. After a few weeks, my wife expressed that she was thankful to know that I really loved her in spite of her mistakes. I had tried during all my marriage to get the message through to her that I love her regardless of what she does; I believe that applying what I learned from this book is responsible for that breakthrough.

While the author writes from a Christian perspective, all people can get valuable tips to make their marriages better. The "tips" are not gimmicks to be used to get a response. They are reminders to do things that mean little to you (which is why you don't do them regularly), but mean a lot to your spouse.

You can't make a better investment in buying this book and making the investment of your time to understand and apply what you have come to understand. Take the plunge and reap the returns on your investments!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By M. F. Kaiser on January 11, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Rather than one author's opinions, this book is based on interviews with real couples who have been married a long time and have happy marriages. It is well organized and well presented. Not everything will be a surprise to everyone and some of the little things go together can produce big results. This is a book that many couples can benefit from. It would also be excellent for Sunday school classes or book clubs. I would love to see it come out as a DVD teaching similar to what Shaunti has done with some of her other books.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Nancy Van Zile on February 25, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is dynamite. I am a licensed psychologist. I have been in the field for approximately 40 years. i wish everybody on the planet would read this book and do what it suggests. I saw it on display at the library and just picked it up on a whim.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By James R. V. Matichuk on May 11, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
When I received my copy of Shaunti Feldhahn's The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, my wife and I had this conversation:

Me (showing her the book): I'm reviewing this and you can read it when I'm done. If you ever want a Highly Happy Marriage™ this book tells you how.

Her: I already have a Highly Happy Marriage™!

Me: I mean if you want another one.


This is the first time I have read anything from Feldhahn. I picked up For Women Only once and was going to read it just to see how much of it was clichéd gender-essentialist tripe. I didn't read it, but I can tell my own prejudices of Feldhahn's work were absolutely overdrawn. Highly Happy Marriages rests firmly on social research. Feldhahn conducted a study of one thousand couples in order to examine not only the pitfalls of unhappy marriages but to discover the characteristics of couples who describe their marriage as a 'highly happy one.' Speaking of highly happy couples, check out the cover. This couple exudes happiness and married-ness, don't they? I assume this is one of those really, really happy couples that Feldhahn spoke with.

Highly happy couples are faithful in doing little things for one another, believe the best of their spouses, go to bed mad (rather than going on an anger-sleep strike), 'keep score' of the good things their spouses do for them, manage their emotions and focus on the positive, have realistic fantasies, use sign language (or other signals) which tell the other person that 'we are okay,' hang out together, speak with consideration to each other, have God at the center of their relationship, hold nothing back, and believe they 'hit the jackpot.
Read more ›
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By banderson35 on March 6, 2014
Format: Hardcover
"The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages" by Shaunti Feldhahn is a book that attempts to give tips and advice about enhancing your marriage with your spouse. As with any book that attempts to offer relationship advice, some of it is great and some of it I wouldn't necessarily agree with.

For example, this book offers up the idea of "keeping score", just not in the traditional sense. This book proposes that you should keep score of how much your partner is doing or giving, in order to give back to them even more. I found this thought to be a little bit flawed - If you have to keep track of what your partner is doing to support his family, in order to establish how much of yourself to give back, I think it puts too much focus on the wrong things. So this was one of the "I don't think I'd try this" sections of this book.

The book, does, however, offer some good advice for happy marriages, such as looking higher, being plugged into a faith community, sharing key values, and trusting God for the outcome. I think this book offers some healthy and realistic advice that can be poured into marriage, but as I mentioned earlier, I think you have to look at it from a perspective of what will work for your particular situation, rather than an all inclusive marital fix.

Overall I'd give this book a 3/5 - some good advice and observations, but not all of it is what I consider to be healthy and productive. Just like any other self-help book, I would take away from it what works for me, and leave the rest.
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