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The Exceptional Seven Percent: The Nine Secrets of the Worlds Happiest Couples Paperback – August 1, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With a mature style that is intellectually appealing, Popcak shares his inspiring conviction that marriage can be a powerfully actualizing enterprise. Drawing on the results of several marriage studies, he contends that while most marriages are "conventional" (read: average), and some are even "impoverished," a fortunate 7% are "exceptional." Having a marriage in the exceptional category, says Popcak, requires a commitment to live your life according to a "Marital Imperative," a motto of sorts that identifies the most important qualities that each partner strives to manifest in life through the marriage. This imperative then becomes the basis for all decision making, including even minor daily activities. In this way, exceptional couples exhibit greater congruence between their actions and beliefs and stand a much greater chance of faithfully exemplifying their most desired personal qualities. Like Stephen Covey and Abraham Harold Maslow, Popcak focuses on the refinement of peak performance. Offering engaging exercises and checklists to help readers clarify their aims and progress along his theoretical pathway to self-actualization, he challenges conventional couples to recognize how much better their marriage could be with a few attitude adjustments and priority clarifications. Self-improvement aficionados will find his approach a welcome and refreshing addition to the genre. Illustrations not seen by PW. (June)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Gregory K. Popcak, MSW, is a licensed psychotherapist who developed and now runs marriage preparation and marriage enrichment seminars. He also writes regular marriage and family columns for popular and professional journals, and runs a private practice. He lives outside Pittsburgh. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Citadel (August 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0806523581
  • ISBN-13: 978-0806523583
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #287,188 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dr. Gregory Popcak (POP-chak) is the Founder and Executive Director of the Pastoral Solutions Institute, an organization dedicated to helping Catholics find faith-filled solutions to tough marriage, family, and personal problems. He is an internationally recognized expert on the practical applications of St John Paul II's Theology of the Body to marriage, family, and personal issues.


Through the Pastoral Solutions Institute, he directs a group pastoral tele-counseling practice that provides over 10,000 hours/year of ongoing pastoral psychotherapy services to Catholic couples, individuals, and families around the world.


Dr. Popcak is the author of almost 20 popular books & programs integrating solid Catholic theology and counseling psychology (including; Just Married: The Catholic Guide for Surviving & Thriving in the First 5 years of Marriage, For Better...FOREVER!, Holy Sex!, Parenting with
Grace, Beyond the Birds and the Bees). His work has been translated into Spanish, Polish, Chinese, and Lithuanian among others.


Since 2001, he and his wife and co-author, Lisa Popcak, have hosted several nationally-syndicated, call-in radio advice programs including Heart, Mind and Strength (Ave Maria Radio), Fully Alive! (Sirius/XM-The Catholic Channel), and most recently, More2Life (Ave Maria Radio--Airing M-F, Noon-1pm Eastern).


Dr. Greg and his wife have also hosted two television series for EWTN (For Better...FOREVER! & God Help Me!).

In addition to hosting Faith on the Couch, a popular faith and psychology blog on, Dr. Popcak's articles appear regularly in periodicals such as Catholic Digest, Family Foundations, Tender Tidings, Columbia, and others.

Additionally, his work has been featured on FoxNews, NPR's Here and Now, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, Ladies Home Journal, and The National Enquirer.


Dr. Greg Popcak and Lisa Popcak are sought after public speakers and trainers and have been honored to address audiences across North America, as well as Australia, and Hong Kong. They are featured speakers at the 2015 World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, an event which was the occasion of Pope Francis' first Apostolic trip to the US.


In addition to his ministry work, Dr. Popcak serves on the adjunct faculty of both the undergraduate psychology and graduate theology departments at Franciscan University of Steubenville where he teaches Spirituality and the Helping Professions and Pastoral and Spiritual Direction respectively.

He also serves on the doctoral faculty of the Harold Abel School of Behavioral Health in the department of clinical social work at Capella University where he teaches Epistemology of Clinical Practice.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on March 3, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is an exceptional book that aims at an attainable goal--attainable as long as you understand what you're trying to do. You can't get what you want if you don't know exactly what you want. I wanted an exceptional marriage, but didn't understand why it wasn't happening. Had I married the "wrong" person? Were we not as compatible as I thought when we got engaged?

It is absolutely exciting how radically for the better your married life can change when you systematically follow the principles in this book. It did in my case. And as I changed, so did my wife toward me.

So, what's the secret? Nothing less than living up to the commitment you happened to proclaim publicly on your wedding day--"to love and to cherish in good times and in bad...till death do us part." Is that unconditional or what?

Tall trees can't grow tall in shifting sands. An exceptional marriage is absolutely rooted in the solid ground of unconditional commitment.

Lofty language, but it all boils down to this: so many marriages fail when the participants get caught up in thinking "I'd be nice to her if only she were nice towards me," or "I'd do for her what she wants if only she would act towards me in such a way as to deserve it."

Children! Children! Hey, I used to hear those voices in my own head. I started to grow up when I found the courage to embrace the pain of admitting to myself that maybe I really wasn't the man or husband I wanted to be.

The authors of this book made it plainly obvious to me what I was doing wrong. I wasn't really secure in the person I had become at this point in my life, less than my own ideal. Heck, I had forgotten what that ideal was.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Russael on December 7, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Sometimes you come across a book that is like clear music, and that clears up an area of your life that had been foggy forever. That is what this book was like for me. I came out of a failed marriage, and I wanted to understand why I had failed. I read various books. Then I came across this one. It's not the best title, perhaps, since other titles in the same area scream out their message louder. But it made such sense. Popcak speaks among other things of a marital imperative, which both husband and wife commit to, helping each other achieve lifetime goals, so that infidelity becomes far less likely, since another man or woman is not committed to helping you achieve your lifetime goals. Marriage becomes a place where you develop more and more competence. I could go on and on. My only reservation is that it sounded like an awful lot of work, but that could reflect my personal situation right now. I thought to myself, this is how to do marriage and make it work and make it wonderful. Also, I don't think it's just for the exceptional seven percent. And of course in this day and age one would have to say it's not only for marriages. No matter where you are in your relationship or relationship skills, this book might be the revelation you are looking for.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Craig K. Galer on January 4, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the best marriage book I've seen. It resonates strongly with my wife's and my experience in our 29-year (as of this writing) first marriage, and also showed us some very constructive ways to improve what we already count as a very good marriage.

Popcak's central theme is The Marital Imperative - sort-of a marital "mission statement" of shared spiritual goals and values - as a Guiding Principle for both spouses to refer themselves and each other to. Or, as Popcak glibly puts it, "What kind of person do you want to be when you grow up?" So that, if I am behaving in a way inconsistent with my own stated goals and values, my wife can 'call me up' to what I've already said is my own vision for the kind of person I want to be. (And it is amazing, isn't it, how we so easily manage to 'make exceptions' to The Kind of Person I Want to Be, when it comes to our spouse? Or our children?)

Popcak very clearly shows how 'Conventional' marriages fall short of what it takes to become Exceptional; how such common tactics as 'Scorekeeping' (a scrupulous focus on 'fairness' and a relentless drive to 'The 50-50 Marriage') and 'Marital Chicken' (a game to see which spouse can make the other one 'blink first' in an argument) have corrosive effects on marriage.

Popcak outlines nine Secrets of Exceptional Marriages - the Marital Imperative, Fidelity (not simply sexual fidelity, but rather fidelity to one's own spiritual values and ideals), Loving, Service, Rapport (a more-comprehensive kind of 'communication'), Negotiation (resolving differences), Gratitude, Joy, and Sexuality.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Abraham D. Alsop on October 1, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Many books on marriage are designed to teach the basics of communication skills (love languages) to those desperate couples who are on the verge of divorce or abuse, helping them to rebuild their love. This book, however, is for the rest of us, who are in a good position already, who are deeply in love, and maybe even think we don't need help as it's all working just fine. Popcak calls us to a higher ideal, tells us to not settle for being just fine, but to try to be exceptional. Have that type of marriage that fulfills your life's dreams and works for the good of your children and society. The Exceptional Seven Percent does not hide the fact that it will take sacrifice and letting go of old ways of thinking, but it will be well worth it. With surveys and questions along the way, this book makes it easy to chart your progress as you advance through the stages towards being one of the world's happiest couples. Yes, it really is possible, if you're willing to work at it.
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