How to Have a Highly Happy Marriage

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ATLANTA -- Do you believe you can be really happy in your marriage? It turns out most couples who are share much in common, and the traits that make them happy can be pretty easy to learn.

That's the word from best-selling author Shaunti Feldhahn in her new book, The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages.

The Atlanta resident and Harvard-trained researcher has gathered comprehensive data and research about really satisfied husbands and wives. What she found is that these couples share a few key attitudes and actions.

She reveals these traits, and shows how you can put them to work making your own marriage "highly happy" because they're just not that complex.

Believe the Best

The first in Feldhahn's list of importance: believe the best of your spouse - no matter what happens. Choosing to believe they care for you turns almost any situation positive.

Feldhahn's husband and sometimes co-author learned this from his own experience.

"I knew that I could trust her," Jeff Feldhahn said as he sat next to his wife for this CBN News interview. "I knew that she had my best interests, I knew that she loved me. And so I would believe the best."

Shaunti Feldhahn said when they hit a snag, "The happiest couples go, 'Okay, they couldn't have meant it. They love me and let's move on.' It makes a huge difference when you assume the best."

Going 'All-In'

Her research includes what's made the 27-year union of Kim and Sabrina Moore work so well.

Feldhahn told CBN News that this Georgia couple personifies another of those traits that bring long-term joy: they went "all in."

There's no escape route or any thought of the "d" word...divorce...in their marriage.  They don't keep secret cash accounts in case the relationship crumbles.

Kim described to CBN News the result of not going all in.

"Death - because it creates a wedge," he said. "God has designed for marriage to be complete intimacy. And you can't have intimacy if you have hidden pockets of things you're holding and hiding from each other."

Sabrina credited the "all in" decision both made as a major reason their marriage just keeps getting better over the decades.

"We're happier now than we've ever been," she declared.

The Little Things

Another trait the happiest couples share is that they don't forget the little things that actually make a big difference - like wives thanking their husband and letting him know they really appreciate his efforts.

"Saying that to a guy is his equivalent of saying 'I love you,'" Feldhahn said.

Husbands also need to take their wife's hand, leave her thoughtful messages, and not be afraid of public displays of affection, like putting an arm around her.

"All those things convey that 'I'm choosing you all over again,'" Jeff Feldhahn stated.

And husbands need to learn how to quickly get out of a bad mood.  

Jeff learned how important that was when he realized how insecure his dark moods could make Shaunti about the health of their relationship. They would put a cloud over his whole household.

Just as Christians learn to command their souls to rejoice in harsh circumstances, Jeff has learned to command his heart to pull out of dark moods.

Shaunti told CBN News that has made her feel so much more secure when spats or negative things come up.

"When he makes the effort to pull himself out of the funk and to not be grumpy, not be morose, it's like, 'Whew, this isn't going to go in this really bad direction," Shaunti said.

No to Unrealistic Expectations

Another action of the highly happy: they refuse to hold any unrealistic expectations about their mate. That's because if your spouse can't realistically meet your expectations, then you can't ever really be happy with them.

Sabrina Moore admitted she had this problem coming into her marriage with Kim.

"There were expectations from her toward me that I had no idea were there," Kim said. "So there was resentment that began to build up because she was saying, 'He should know this,' and I didn't."

"There would be this wedge and this wall between us that he couldn't comprehend," Sabrina said of those early days.  "And I couldn't comprehend that he couldn't comprehend."

Kim said of marriage, "Your expectations have to change coming into this thing."

These attitudes and actions are just a few of those highlighted in Feldhahn's new book. She pointed out the research in it proves without a doubt the homes that practice them will be joy-filled.

And struggling couples can use them to turn their marriages around.

The Divorce Myth

The Feldhahns wanted to point out one other truth: the 50 percent divorce rate is a myth. About 80 percent of couples thrive and survive, not a measly half.

Shaunti said knowing that can make a real difference when you hit the hard patches that every marriage inevitably faces.

"If you know most marriages do make it, most marriages are happy, it's a completely different feeling: like 'you know what? Statistically, we're going to be just fine,'" Shaunti explained. "We can get through this because most people do.'"

So the facts show the reality is you have no reason to be fatalistic about your marriage. Every couple has it in their power to make their partnership one that can truly be called "highly happy."

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Paul  Strand

Paul Strand

CBN News Washington Sr. Correspondent

As senior correspondent in CBN's Washington, D.C., bureau, Paul Strand has covered a variety of political and social issues, with an emphasis on defense, justice, and Congress.  Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulStrandCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/PaulStrandCBN.