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Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages

Research shows that five little things separate great relationships from the rest.
By Scott Williams


If research showed you there were five things you could do to turn a marriage around or to keep a marriage strong, and that they were easy and free, what would you do?

Well, here's your chance.

Shaunti Feldhahn spent years interviewing couples to find the ones who had the happiest marriages. Her purpose was to ask them their secrets, and pass them along to others. The research in her recent book, The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, is thorough and her findings are a game-changer.

She took the five most common actions of the happiest couples and compiled them in a list she calls the “Fantastic Five” (for him and for her).

Guys first. When it comes to your wife, here are the five things that make her happy.

  • Take her by the hand.
  • Leave her a voice mail message, text message, or email to tell her you love her and are thinking about her.
  • Put your arm around her, or your hand on her knee when you're sitting next to her (especially when you're in public).
  • Sincerely tell her she's beautiful.
  • Pull yourself out of a funk.

That’s it. Believe it or not, when Shaunti asked wives, between 72-82 percent said these five actions deeply pleased them. That's not just the happy wives, but all wives. Even two-thirds of the wives in struggling marriages strongly agreed these are the things that make her happy.

And now, here are the five things Shaunti found that please husbands the most:

  • Notice his effort and sincerely thanks him for it.
  • Say, "You did a great job at __________."
  • Mention in front of others something he did well.
  • Show him that you desire him sexually, and he pleases you sexually.
  • Make it clear to him that he makes you happy.

As you know, wives, men are often pretty simple and aren’t too hard to please. Just do a couple of things. Oh, if you’re thinking that #4 is the most important thing on a guy’s list, think again. It’s #5. Almost 90 percent of men said knowing that they make their wife highly happy is what makes them highly happy.

Shaunti also encourages us to understand that there are unique actions that speak specifically to your spouse. Knowing and being able to speak his or her “love language” is huge step toward understanding this. As described by Gary Chapman in his popular book, The Five Love Languages, some people love receiving gifts as a sign of love.  Others like a spouse’s undivided attention.  He may like you to do little things for him, or maybe it's your touch that does it for him.  Or maybe what your spouse needs most from you are words of encouragement.

Whatever the case, the initiative you take is almost as important as the action itself.  Husbands, what you do says to your wife that you truly care about her. That's great comfort and security for her. And wives, your words and actions say to your husband that what he’s doing makes a difference in your life.

So why don't you make your spouse happy and try them out? What do you have to lose besides a stale marriage?

© 2014 by FamilyLife.  All rights reserved.


Next Steps

1. Shaunti Feldhahn details more secrets of happy marriages on the FamilyLife Today radio program.

2. Read an excerpt from Shaunti Feldhahn's book about the "5 Biggest Little Ways to Improve Your Marriage."

3. Pick one of the “Fantastic Five” to help you build up your spouse. Next week, pick a different one and work on that.

4 I Still Do™ is a powerful, practical marriage event for you to invest in your marriage, and the best part is, you don't have to travel to attend. You and your spouse can participate from the comfort of your own home, on your schedule. Find out how.



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