Monday, April 21, 2014

Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages

The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, Shaunti Feldhahn

This book, from the author of For Women Only (link to my review series) and For Men Only along with other books along the same lines, has now done further research on marriage and come up with this little gem. Like her other books, it is incredibly easy to read, presenting the results of research in an easily-digestible format.

Feldhahn’s research was to investigate couples who both independently described their marriages as very happy. Then through interviews and surveys she found 12 habits and traits that were common to those couples.
“[The authors] discovered again and again that contrary to popular belief, it’s usually not the biggies – in-laws, money, sex – that determine the level of day-to-day mutual happiness in a marriage. Much more often, it’s daily unspoken beliefs, assumptions, and practices that make the difference regardless of the big issues. In other words, it’s how we handle those issues that determines how much we enjoy marriage.” 
 They included things like:
  • choosing to believe the best of each other (eg. rather than they intended to hurt your feelings)
  • controlling their thought processes - stopping negative trains of thought and focussing on positive ones
  • being factual about their fantasies – not longing for things their partner can't deliver
  • choosing to spend time together
  • putting their trust in God foremost, rather than each other
  • being fully committed to each other – financially, emotionally, etc (against the world’s advice)
  • being constantly grateful for each other and find ways to communicate it
As someone who is in a ‘highly happy marriage’, I found it confirmed a number of things I already would have thought of and put words around others. I agreed with pretty much everything she said. For those who would like their marriage to be better, I think it could provide some good simple and achievable goals to work at together (ideally) or even on your own.
“Change – even in challenging marriages – most often starts with one immediate, practical, surprising choice. A choice made by just one partner. And you can make it. The day you put one surprise in secret to work in a relationship – and then another – may go unnoticed by your partner. But you have launched an insurrection against mediocrity and unhappiness.” 
It’s suitable for Christians and non-Christians alike. While supporting a Christian world-view, she doesn’t overstate it, so many unbelievers could still find much to use and apply. At the same time, because it is clear from her investigations that a faith in God and a commitment to the institution of marriage is highly beneficial for couples, it could open up conversations too.

Recommended, easy reading – treat yourselves and buy it for your wedding anniversary!


Having re-read this again in 2020, I still think this is a great book for couples looking to consider how to improve things in simple ways. It may not deal with all major problems, but will certainly help those who are a bit stuck. Many of her findings are similar to those found in Gottman, just expressed differently.

It's also my recommended book for 'non-readers' - short, to the point and easily applicable.

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