How a Handful of High-Leverage Secrets Unlocks Delight in Your Marriage
The very first e-mail I received after the release of For Women Only came from an anonymous woman. I’ll never forget her note. It was just one line:
I got a divorce five years ago, and now I know why. I read it and gasped. I knew the book revealed some surprising insights about men that most women just didn’t get. I had been continuously shocked myself during my years of research!
But her e-mail brought home the importance of this knowledge in a whole new way.
That was nearly ten years ago. Since then, my husband, Jeff, and I have researched and written For Men Only and other books. We have spoken at hundreds of conferences, seminars, churches, simulcasts, and stadium events. And during that time, literally thousands of men and women have come up to us at the book table or stopped us in a hallway. With a stunned look in their eyes, they say things like “I wish I had known this before I got married!” or “This book saved our marriage” or even “I’m going to cancel the divorce filing on Wednesday.”
I’m not making this up.
Trust me, they’re not talking about any special wisdom that Jeff or I have conjured up. They’re talking about a before-and-after experience. What they mean is “I used to be clueless about what my spouse needed, and I didn’t realize it.” What they mean is
“Knowing now what I totally missed before—about my spouse’s inner fears and needs and desires—changes everything.”
And they are right.
I started calling these breakthroughs of sudden insight “light bulb on!” moments. They land in your relationship like a bright orange marker. Before, you thought and acted one way. After, you think and act differently. You suddenly see what you didn’t before. How you do a relationship—how you feel about it, what you expect, and what you get from it—changes. Light bulb on! This book on highly happy marriages is packed with moments like that.
Without a doubt, the dream of a happy marriage is one of the most consistent longings of the human heart. Most of us deeply want to experience an abundant, delightful, lifelong companionship that we can thank God for every day. Forget the bleak statistics we’ve seen, forget the bad rap that committed, lifelong marriage gets in the media—we want to marry our best friend, then enjoy our spouse and enjoy being married. And many people do!
But I’ve also noticed that many others feel stuck in a rut and don’t know how to get out of it. Some not-yet-married couples aren’t sure they can navigate the transition to a lifetime commitment—or whether the dream of a forever marriage is even realistic.
And many married couples—especially in times of heartache—harbor secret doubts about whether a great marriage is possible for them. Some have stopped hoping for better.
Instead of highly happy, they’ve settled for sometimes happy or even mostly mediocre.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. You’d be surprised what a few sudden flashes of insight can do for a couple. Let me show you what I mean.
Why Do Some Marriages Turn…Good?
You may have noticed that many marriage books and efforts at relationship improvement try to increase a couple’s happiness by digging into key relationship problems. Essentially, they’re asking things like, “What’s the underlying reason for this particular problem?” Or, bigger picture: “Why do marriages turn bad?” Identify the reason, identify the problem—and fix it. Indeed, this is great because all of us need that sort of help sometimes. For this book, though, I aimed my research in a different
direction. I wanted to know: Why do marriages turn good? If a so-so union became delightful, I wanted to know what made the difference. Millions of couples truly enjoy each other in strong, rewarding relationships. What do they do right, and what can we learn from them that would make our relationships just as strong and rewarding?
It makes a lot of sense to study the winners. Aspiring athletes who want to improve how they throw a ball, swing a racket, or twist gracefully in the air to land at just the right angle on the ice spend hours studying those who do it best. Psychologists, changemanagement experts, and counselors have consistently found that in any endeavor of life, if we want to change, improve, or be inspired, we have to study what some call the bright spots, not just the problems. After all, if you want to be more like Jesus, you don’t spend the bulk of your time studying the Pharisees, His religious-leader opponents, in order to figure out how to not be like them. You study Jesus.
Excerpted from The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages by Shaunti Feldhahn. Copyright © 2013 by Shaunti Feldhahn. Excerpted by permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.