What does it take to stay married to one person, under one roof, for the rest of your life?
I was so interested in that question that I wrote a book attempting to answer it. Over the course of my research, I interviewed 200 women who had been married 15 years or more — sometimes many, many more — about how they sustain their relationship. Though these wives came from diverse backgrounds and described themselves in varying stages of marital joy or distress, the strategies they shared for going the matrimonial distance were strikingly similar:
-Have close women friends and men friends with whom to vent (and drink).
-Have a strong sense of self beyond your marriage. Longterm bliss is possible if each partner is blissful apart from the other.
Through their raw, real reflections, the women I spoke to helped me better navigate my own 23-year-old marriage, and I’m proud of the book that emerged from my interviews with them, ‘The Secret Lives Of Wives.’
But I also appreciate what good company the book joins. I am continually inspired by the works of other authors who attempt to unravel the mystery of what love really is, and how to make it last.
America’s high divorce rate is well known. But little attention has been paid to the flip side: couples who creatively (sometimes clandestinely) manage to build marriages that are lasting longer than we ever thought possible. What’s the secret? To find out, bestselling journalist Iris Krasnow interviewed more than 200 wives whose marriages have survived for 15 to 70 years. They are a diverse cast, yet they share one common and significant trait: They have made bold, sometimes secretive and shocking choices on how to keep their marital vows, “till death do us part,” as Krasnow says, “without killing someone first.”
In raw, candid, titillating stories, Krasnow’s cast of wise women give voice to the truth about marriage and the importance of maintaining a strong sense of self apart from the relationship. Some spend summers separately from their partners. Some make time for wine with the girls. One septuagenarian has a recurring date with an old flame from high school. In every case, the marriage operates on many tracks, giving both spouses license to pursue the question “Who am I apart from my marriage?” Krasnow’s goal is to give women permission to create their own marriages at any age. Marital bliss is possible, she says, if each partner is blissful apart from the other.
A fascinating window on the many faces of modern relationships, The Secret Lives of Wives brims with inspiring and daring examples of women who have it both ways: a committed marriage and personal adventures in uncharted territory. For anyone who wants to stay married and stay sane, this is the book to read!
Here is some new advice for staying married: Learn to keep secrets from your spouse, take separate vacations, lower your expectations, get a platonic boyfriend, and make out with your ex! At least that is the new advice being shared in the latest book on how to live happily-ever-after by Iris Krasnow in her new book “The Secrets Lives of Wives: Women Share What It Really Takes to Stay Married”.
Why didn’t she interview me? After all – I have been married for 30 years, and in many ways I have certainly “been creative” in my solution as Krasnow recommends. Okay – I didn’t make out with my Ex, but when one meets their husband at 17 – there isn’t an Ex! But you have to admit that what I shared in my memoir “Shameless: How I Ditched The Diet, Got Naked, Found True Pleasure and Somehow Got Home in Time To Cook Dinner” is pretty original. I read nothing like that in Krasnow’s book.
It’s just that I found that keeping too many secrets from my husband didn’t work for me. My “secret life” (what I was doing) didn’t make me feel dirty – but keeping the secret made me feel deceitful and untrustworthy. I don’t recommend it – and I gave that up.
I think that what Krasnow’s advice is really about is to let air into your marriage. And to do that – you need some space. Just think of fire – if you crowd a flame too much there is no oxygen and the flame goes out. I just don’t think that lying is what you need to do to create that. There are healthier ways to fan the flames and create space.
I do like it when she says that “Unconventional is good,” and that “There is no gold standard to which couples should aspire. Everyone will rewrite their own marriage rules according to their needs – financial and emotional – and their expectations.”
That is right on. For me, a woman with very little sexual experience outside of my marriage – I found self expression, healing, and oxygen by working with hands on sexual practitioners and attending Tantra workshops. I didn’t want to sleep with the handyman – but I did take separate vacations from my husband as he had no interest in dancing naked in a circle with other workshop attendees. I did.
I do believe that it is the freedom within agreed among boundaries that has allowed my husband and I to stay happily married and beat the odds.
Everyone says to me – how does your husband allow you to take the trips you take or do sessions with hands on practitioners? And here is my answer which is very similar to the advice that Krasnow offers in her new book.
If you want marriage to work – you have to have tremendous trust and respect of each other. I believe that you need to talk about boundaries – and honor them. But most importantly, outside of the obvious things such as friendship, emotional and sexual intimacy – if you want to stay married you need to be committed to staying married and staying flexible. A closed mind is your fast pass to divorce court.
People who have long marriages simply don’t get divorced! They hunker down – and ride out the tough times. They are committed to being committed. And in that commitment, if they are gong to be happy, they have learned to change and be flexible around what governs their relationship. No one stays the same – and to expect your partner to not want new things as time goes by is simply an expectation for pain and failure. Instead of thinking about a marriage as a lock down – think of it as your home base.
I agree with Krasnow that in order for women to thrive in marriage – that they need a sense of purpose, passion and self-esteem outside of their relationship. In my coaching practice, I counsel women and support them to have an affair with themselves!
In so many ways – I am really saying the same thing as Krasnow- I just have different advice on how to get there. But one thing is clear – if you don’t carve out time to do what really turns you on outside of your marriage – one day I do believe that you will leave your marriage.
You can purchase the books here
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