At this time of the year you probably find yourself on the same mission as everyone else: trying to find that perfect Valentine’s Day gift. Well, I just have to put on my researcher’s hat and tell you something that I’m really excited about. Especially if you are married, I have found the best Valentine’s Day gift you can give.

You might wonder … Can I afford it? Oh, yes you can!

For the past three years as I was researching my new book, The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, I got Valentine’s Day nearly every day as I was constantly talking to fantastically happy couples to find out what they were doing to make them so happy. And one of those things turned out to be something subtle but very, very important.

Many of the couples didn’t start out that happy, but they became so because they not only truly believed that a happy marriage was possible — they resolutely assumed they were going to get there! These couples were fully committed to their marriage, never said the “D word” and assumed it was a matter of time until they would be happy. It was this belief that took many of these couples from “so so” unions or even really troubled ones to being among those highly happy couples I was studying.

When you think about it, this attitude makes perfect sense. I mean, are we really going to work for something if we don’t believe we’re going to get there? Just as there is no point in training for a race if you assume you’re not going to finish, these couples believed that the work they put into their marriage would payoff in the fruit of a happy marriage.

One reason we think that having a happy marriage isn’t possible is because we’ve bought in to the myth that most marriages aren’t happy. When I ask most people what percentage of marriages they believe are happy, most people respond with “about 30 percent.” But believe it or not, that is a total myth!

Instead, dozens of studies have found that the vast majority of marriages (like, 80 percent)  are happy! Not perfect, maybe, but not roommates either. Most couples enjoy being married. And those that aren’t, need to know that that type of enjoyment is the norm so they truly believe they can get there, too!

Within our culture, so many couples have bought into the lie of the elusive happy marriage that they decide to just live together, believing that marriage will only put out the spark. But all the studies show that the reverse is true: the longer a couple is married, the happier they are.

Ironically, the folks who are living together tend to be the least happy on the surveys! They simply don’t have the security of commitment – that special something that creates the happiest marriages.

If your marriage isn’t quite where you’d like it to be, the best Valentine’s Day gift you can give your spouse is an “all in” commitment and belief that you’ll get to a delightful marriage at some point. And if you already have a happy marriage, your gift is to realize that your marriage is not an anomaly! You don’t have to wait for the other shoe to drop or worry that some big problem is just around the corner.

Yes, the folks who say you have to work at marriage are right; that was clearly one of the secrets of the happiest couples I surveyed.

You can’t just wait and hope it will happen on its own, and you certainly have to avoid the trap of looking to the other person to make you happy (avoiding that trap, in fact, was another one of the “secrets”). But you have to believe that that work will get you to where you want to go.

I love the way Walt Disney put it: “When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionably.” Apparently, he had a happy marriage, too!