The Secret Lives of Wives: What Makes The Perfect Marriage?

by Leslie Morgan Steiner

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The title of a new marriage handbook caught my eye: The Secret Lives of Wives.

At first the book terrified me. Another submission and sacrifice manual?

Instead, journalist and longtime wife Iris Krasnow delivers astonishing candor, realistic compassion, and invaluable wisdom when it comes to how paradoxically infuriating and rewarding long-term relationships can be.

It’s the only book on marriage I’ve read that didn’t make me want to throw up.

Krasnow tenders the type of honest account that will inspire some people to stay in their marriage.  The same sincerity might prompt others to leave.  After reading this book, some people will realize they should never marry.  Others will gain insight into the alchemy that makes long-term unions flourish.

The author, herself married for 23 years, interviewed more than 200 women who had been married anywhere from fifteen to seventy years.  The resulting wisdom challenges the traditional, male, religious construct that “happily ever after” requires suppression of one’s individuality.  Krasnow argues persuasively that women must do what men have done for centuries- decide for ourselves what constitutes a satisfying relationship.

The Secret Lives of Wives shares stories of how summers apart saved relationships.  How affairs were positive influences.  How boredom and frustration and loathing can be normal parts of 20 plus year unions. Krasnow gives dozens of reasons why you should stay married - and why you shouldn’t.  The point being, it’s all up to you.

“There is no gold standard of what a marriage should be and no perfect marriage toward which to aspire,” writes Krasnow. “Individual ingenuity -- not pack mentality -- fuels a long marriage.”

At a recent book signing at Washington D.C.’s famed independent bookstore, Politics and Prose, Krasnow gave a powerful reading to a crowd of men and women packed around bookshelves and display tables. During the Q&A, an attractive 50ish woman approached the microphone. She explained that she spoke from experience of not one, but two, long-term marriages.

“It took me 20 years of marriage to my high school sweetheart - and three kids - to realize I’d married someone who did not meet my needs,” she shared.  “Now I’m happily remarried to a man who loves me the way I need to be loved.  This is the only marriage advice I give my daughters.  Don’t worry what he looks like, how much money he makes, his family or his hobbies.  Just find someone who loves you the way you need to be loved.”

Eloquent, simple, unambiguous - and exhilarating - advice.

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