What makes a happy marriage? It's an age-old question that all married couples are forced to grapple with, especially when wedded bliss evaporates.
Feldhahn, who is in the midst of a multi-year research project about matrimony, has spent years collecting qualitative and quantitative information about what makes -- and breaks -- couples.
"A lot of what makes the happiest marriage is very, very simple stuff," she told TheBlaze.
Through her work, Feldhahn noticed numerous patterns that kept popping up among the happy couples she interacted with -- actions and activities that contributed to their elation.
"In our culture ... you're slated to view it as if you need to have a PhD in psychology to have a happy marriage and it's all this complicated stuff -- and it's really not," she said.
Feldhahn went on to share the five specific secrets that lead to wedded bliss -- characteristics she noticed among the happiest of couples she spoke with.
1) Believing the Best in One Another: Among the most content of couples, Feldhahn found that a decision to believe the best in one another's intentions -- even when one spouse is emotionally hurt by another -- is practically a prerequisite to a happy marriage.
"Happy couples would think, 'That hurt but I know he loves me,'" Feldhahn said, rather than assuming that the husband or wife intentionally sought to inflict emotional pain.
2) Changing Attitudes: Feldhahn also said that couples who have the ability to snap themselves out of their frustrations with one another will also generally be happier. Changing their attitudes when they're upset is key.
"These couple have completely learned to change their feelings. We think when we're upset ... our feelings are what they are," she said. "Well, what these happy couples have done is, they've learned the trick. Most of the time there's this action that they do where they talk themselves out of being mad -- of having these negative feelings."
3) The Little Things: Sometimes, the little things really do matter. Feldhahn said that she observed another pattern among the happiest of couples she's surveyed and interviewed. Whether conscious or not, the couples figured out "a few little things" that make a big difference.
For example, a husband would report grabbing his wife's hand while walking across a parking lot. Or he would put his arm around his wife, say "I love you" randomly -- or place his hand on her knee while driving in the car. These touch points really resonated with women.
"These little things have this big impact on a day to day basis on making any man or any woman feel cared for," she said.
[sharequote align="center"]"[Happy couples] don't necessarily follow the advice to not go to bed mad."[/sharequote]
4) Reconnecting Well After Conflict: How couples handle conflict is also key.
"They don't necessarily follow the advice to not go to bed mad," she said, noting that it's all about how the anger is dealt with before bed and what happens the next day.
Feldhahn also argued that men need more processing time than women, which means that talking contentious issues out before bed isn't always the best option.
She continued, "The problem is, when you've got two tired, stressed, emotional people ... you're putting yourself in a position where someone's going to say something hurtful or agree to something -- and it doesn't solve the problem [before bed]."
5) Be All In: In a culture that is characterized by talk of divorce and the failure of many marriages, some couples fear what could become of their unions and, as a result, they become guarded. But Feldhahn said that being "all in" is a key element in good marriages. The happiest couples reported being fully invested in their relationships.
"They risked getting their hearts hurt in order to commit to their marriage," she said. "They never said the 'd' word [divorce] -- and they fully committed, fully trusted -- even at the risk of themselves. And what happened is they got back the marriage they were longing for."
[sharequote align="center"]"They risked getting their hearts hurt in order to commit to their marriage."[/sharequote]
Feldhahn said that the couples that protected themselves and put up guards "introduced death into their marriages."
The researcher has interviewed more than 1,000 couples, spending approximately $400,000 on data collection over the past 11 years.
"This nation needs a lot more hope about the institution of marriage," Feldhahn told TheBlaze.
And its hope she's trying to give through her research. Read more about "The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages."
Featured image via Shutterstock.com.
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