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Notes on The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages by Shaunti Feldhahn

surprising secrets of happy marriage

A few weeks ago we celebrated our 25th anniversary.  Through health and sickness, riches and poverty, joy and heartbreak, God has been with us, and we have learned much about marriage.

But even for us there are still helpful and encouraging ideas in Shaunti Feldhahn’s book The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages:  The Little Things that Make a Big Difference.  In fact, I think this book will be on my Top Ten Books of 2014 list.

What’s unique about Shaunti’s approach is that she studied many very happy couples to see what they had in common.  The results are both surprising and obvious, and are oh-so-worthwhile for every married couple.  I’m sharing some of my notes to encourage you to buy the book and study it for yourself.

The happiest couples…

  • choose to believe that their spouse cares for them (and almost 100% of people, even in struggling marriages, do care for their spouse).
  • learn how to help their mate feel loved and cared for.
  • believe that their spouse never means to hurt them.   This is pretty well a prerequisite to a happy marriage.
  • learn the difference between resolving their anger and resolving their issues.
  • keep score of what the other person is giving, and respond with generosity and gratitude.
  • cultivate positive feelings toward their spouse by controlling negative thoughts and by adjusting their actions.
  • have realistic expectations of their spouse.
  • reconnect after hurt feelings and conflict, reaffirming their relationship even if still disagreeing on issues.
  • accept each other’s apologies.
  • prioritize hanging out together and act like best friends despite travel, busyness, and frustration.
  • have friends who support their marriage rather than tear it down.
  • are kind to each other and try not to hurt each other.
  • put God at the center of their marriage and look to him, not the spouse, for fulfillment.
  • worship together.
  • commit completely to their spouse, emotionally and financially, without holding back.
  • understand that commitment causes love and passion.
  • give their spouse credit for relationship success and communicate that gratitude.

In The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages Shaunti Feldhahn explains each of these ideas and more, giving inspiration, practical tips, and illuminating stories.  This list is only the tip of the iceberg.

Each of the habits in this long list can be transformative for a marriage, but Shaunti found that if couples try to implement them all at once they become overwhelmed and give up.  She recommends working on one habit at a time.

What if your spouse is not interested in these ideas?  Shaunti writes, “Even if just one spouse commits to applying these simple but powerful habits, most marriages end up being transformed.”

Since marriage is the foundation of successful families, including successful homeschooling families, I highly recommend this book.   In fact—and I do not know if I have ever ended a review like this before—I urge you to read this book.  You will be glad you did.

The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages would also be an excellent book to recommend for your church and public library, to strengthen the marriages of the people around you.

For advice on developing new habits, check out my review of The Power of Habit and of 21 Days to a More Disciplined Life. 

Other excellent marriage books I have reviewed include My Beloved and My Friend, Pure Love, and Married Mom, Solo Parent.  However, this one is the most practical and the easiest to implement.

This is yet another book in the in the 2014 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge and is also linked to Saturday Reviews, Works for Me Wednesdays, Booknificent Thursdays, and Raising Homemakers.

Disclosure: A download of this book was provided by Multnomah Books for the purpose of this review.


  1. This looks great! Thanks for drawing it to my attention.

    1. Annie Kate says:

      You’re welcome, and enjoy!

  2. Hi Annie! Thanks for the recommendation. I just added it to my amazing wishlist. 🙂 I read Shaunti’s book For Women Only and really appreciated it. I bet I’d like this one too.

    Visiting from WFMW, btw! Nice to meet you!

    1. Annie Kate says:

      This was the first book of hers I read, but I’ve already started her new one that debunks marriage myths. I like her; she has a unique and very practical approach.

  3. That is a really powerful list! I look forward to checking out this book! Thanks for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday! Always love having you there!

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