Author note: This is one of a series giving a sneak peek into what I discovered about what makes happy marriages so happy! After years of nationally-representative research with more than 1,000 couples, I reveal the twelve most important little habits in The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages: The Little Things That Make a Big Difference. See www.surprisingsecrets.com for more!
To have a happy marriage, look for ways to give your spouse most of the credit for your relationship success – and you will live in regular, conscious gratitude as a result.
Here’s a thought to consider: if we gave our spouses more credit for their role in the good things in our marriages…would they probably start contributing even more?
The reason I ask that is because the highly happy couples I interviewed and surveyed had a very different answer from even those who were in generally good marriages. On the survey, I asked something like, “who is most responsible for the happiness of your marriage – you or your spouse?” Among those in good marriages, the person answering the question was more likely to say “well, if I have to choose… our happiness is due to me.” Among those in great marriages, nearly eight in ten of those surveyed didn’t hesitate: they said “it’s because of my spouse.”
One of the greatest secrets of the highly happy spouses is that they know they’re not perfect and they’re thrilled to have someone by their side who loves them anyway! They are highly attuned to (as one person put it) the “amazingness” of their spouse. They live in a constant state of gratitude and awe that they are married to this wonderful person.
One husband’s sweet words concerning his wife summed up this attitude perfectly. He said, “I had no idea that marriage could be this good or how amazing she would be as a wife. I sure hit the jackpot with her. And I had no idea of the size of the jackpot when I pulled the lever.”
But in all other marriages – the generally happy ones and the so-so ones – the spouses were more likely to give themselves credit for the work that went into their marriage.
It turns out that one key the happy couples are so happy is because of their perception of what their spouse contributes and not an actual checklist! That perception leads to gratitude. And that gratitude leads to expressing gratitude and affirmation. And that affirmation leads to our spouse wanting to become the person we already see them to be.
We have to be willing to open our eyes to the “awesomeness” of our spouses. It turns out that seeing the best in them will bring out the best in them.
From Chapter 13 of The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, by Shaunti Feldhahn.