Practical Ideas and Statistics to Make Better Marriages

The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages: The Little Things That Make a Big DifferenceThe Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages: The Little Things That Make a Big Difference by Shaunti Feldhahn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is another helpful book from Shaunti Feldhahn. I like almost everything about it: intentional focus on the “bright spots” / successful marriages rather than trying to solve particular problems, statistics, frank presentation of discoveries instead of rhetorical argumentation, and an emphasis on practicality rather than a simple ideal.

Reading this book, you come away with ideas for how to improve your marriage, starting today. (I even took notes!) Mrs. Feldhahn rightly points out that your efforts must be small and deliberate: start with one or two actions and work on them until they become habits; once they are, you can add more.

A common theme in the book–I would argue that, of all the “secrets,” this is the linchpin–is the intentional belief that your spouse actually wants what is best for you, or actually cares about you. Assuming the best (rather than the worst) is crucial to achieving all other aspects of a happy marriage. Even better, this book presents some compelling numbers as to why that belief is well-founded.

The book has a couple of shortcomings. Like many of Mrs. Feldhahn’s works, it is basically a research paper writ large; on the one hand, you get a lot of useful and practical information, but on the other, you get some repetition and poor flow between chapters. Another downside of working with “big data” is that there’s so much of it that it will never fit in one book–so it ends up feeling like Mrs. Feldhahn is trying to sell her website and her other books just because there is more data available.

But the book is easy to read and shorter than it looks (I got through it in about four hours while taking notes and a break for dinner). This is due, in part, to the presence of a subheader or blockquote (in which the text itself is quoted for emphasis) on almost every page. It is also presented for one or both spouses equally, so it lacks some of the “accusatory tone” attributed to For Men Only and For Women Only.

Definitely worth the read for married couples, especially if you feel like your marriage is “just fine” or “mostly good,” but you don’t know how to take it to that next level.

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