A secret to a happy marriage: look for how you hit the jackpot! Excerpted from 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.
Call it living in a state of wonder. Or call it the power of conscious gratitude. Whatever you call it, it is one of the sources of energy that turns a good marriage into a great one. Talk to consistently happy spouses for very long and you’ll hear things like this bubbling out:
· “I can’t believe he chose me.”
· “I keep wondering when she’s going to figure out that I’m not as amazing as she thinks I am.”
· “I’m convinced that if weren’t for him, I would still be single.”
· “How did I luck out like this?”
· “Yeah, buddy, I sure outkicked my coverage.”
Over and over, in the interviews with highly happy couples I heard these casual remarks about something that really wasn’t casual at all: a deeply felt gratitude. The feeling was much more fundamental than your everyday positive mental attitude. These folks lived in a state of awe that their spouses were in their lives—that they had chosen them in the first place!—and with the daily awareness that a huge part of their happiness was due to these wonderful people to whom they were joined.
Even when these couples were dealing with real problems—money, kids, sex, and a host of other things that can drain a marriage—each partner still believed that they personally hit the jackpot. I would state this powerful little secret like this: Highly happy couples give their spouses most of the credit for their relationship success—and they live in regular, conscious gratitude as a result.
The Roman philosopher Cicero wrote, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” The marital experience of highly happy couples seemed to bear this out. Their conscious gratitude for their mates seemed to have the effect of tempering other concerns and making them much happier in their marriages.
After all, with such an amazing person, does it really matter if he isn’t that neat? Does it really matter that much if she always runs late? Or, yes, this was a bad year financially, but she is amazing the way she has stood beside me. He has been so sweet the way he has reassured me we would get through this.
And in being so aware of their partners’ “amazingness” (I love that word!), these folks certainly did not take each other for granted nor overlook the great things that were right before their eyes. In the end, they expected fewer problems—and found fewer! Putting it another way, their perception became reality. What each saw in the other became what each experienced.
We don’t have to wait until we lose what we love to realize its value. We can start today to change the weather in our marriages by intentionally minding our “gratitudes”—and letting our spouses know how blessed we feel because of them.