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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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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!
“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!”
“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
Top Customer Reviews
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!
The truth is many of the findings were not surprising. Most married couples know what they need to do. The challenge is having the motivation to do it. Feldhahn identifies “secrets” like giving your spouse the benefit of the doubt, making intentional decisions to not keep any record of wrongs but rather rights, being intentional about connecting and others.
I give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars! I definitely recommend this book to all married couples. It serves as a good reminder of basic relationship commitments that lead to a healthy and happy marriage. While I found it helpful, I also found it to lack the ability to capture my attention.
Thoughts Worth Repeating
• “If we want to change, improve or be inspired, we have to study the bright spots, not just the problems.” (p. 5)
• “A handful of simply day-to-day actions increase the likelihood that our spouse feels that we care deeply about them, instead of feeling that we don’t.” (p. 23)
• “A woman’s saying ‘Thank You’ to her man is the emotional equivalent of his saying ‘I love you’ to her.” (p. 30)
• “The internal assumption of the highly happy spouses was ‘He must not have known how that would make me feel, or he wouldn’t have done it.’” (p. 45)
• “Once you are willing to look for the truth rather than being blinded by your hurt feelings, you start to see that you were right to assume the positive.” (p.Read more ›
This book is called The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages and I went into reading the book thinking about the use of happy. Why does she use happy? Well as you read through the book you realize that what she is really looking at is joy because happiness is just fleeting.
One of the biggest reveals for me was what she said should be a prerequisite for a happy marriage. You must believe the best about your spouse even in those heated arguments or when you see your spouse doing the same hurtful thing. You do it because you believe and know they are the one that absolutely cares for you. This belief in your spouse is transformative! “By expecting the best, you bring out the best” (page 59). This is similar to the advice that FamilyLife gives, “Your spouse is not your enemy!”
Another surprise was when she was sharing about friendships and reported a finding shared by Tim Keller, “Studies showed that the strongest predictor of friendships was not shared values, similar personalities, or a common cultural background. It was proximity. It turns out you are most likely to be friends with people you see all the time” (Page 143). And so the surprising secret is: Highly happy couples aren’t just spending time together because they are happy; a big part of the reason they’re so happy is that they are spending time together! (Page 145). Did you catch the emphasis?Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It literally tells you to disobey the Bible....go to sleep upset sometimes? You can keep this book. Its trash.Published 6 days ago by Amazon Customer
I recommend this to all married couples, all those looking to marry, and to anyone who wants to see how to be happier in a relationship.Published 1 month ago by D. Gill
Great Book! Really enjoy Shaunti Feldhahn's writing and this book doesn't disappoint! Lot's of encouraging advice for married couples.Published 3 months ago by JanetM
The book was ok. I did not like the surveys. Just interviewing people maybe better.
I like this book better. Read more
This book was great! It was full of insightful tidbits that could make any marriage even better. I learned so much. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Tasha Medellin