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The Secret Lives of Wives: Women Share What It Really Takes to Stay Married [Paperback]

Iris Krasnow
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 2 2012

A bestselling, groundbreaking author investigates wives who thrive, sharing their uncensored strategies for staying married.

America’s high divorce rate is well known. But little attention has been paid to the flip side: couples who creatively 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 two hundred wives whose marriages have survived for fifteen to seventy years.

In raw, candid, sometimes 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. For anyone who wants to stay married and stay sane, this is the book to read!

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"At first this book terrified me: another submission and sacrifice marriage manual for wives? Instead Iris Krasnow delivers astonishing candor, realistic compassion, and invaluable wisdom when it comes to how paradoxically infuriating and rewarding long-term marriages can be. The best book on marriage ever."
(Leslie Morgan Steiner)

“In this breathtaking book The Secret Lives of Wives, Iris Krasnow opens a window into the inner world of women whose unique courage and vision has enabled them to find relationship happiness over the long term. With wit and wisdom, she thoughtfully tells their stories and then fills the reader with brilliant ideas and concepts to apply to their own lives. This is as much of a men’s book as it was written by and for women.” 
(Dr. Bill Cloke)

“Iris Krasnow has managed to demystify the workings of long-term marriages by confirming the mysterious uniqueness of each one. The secret, she finds, lies in the way two people negotiate their own personal amalgam of companionship and sex, compromise and disappointment, lust and tenderness, trust and lies. The challenge for the rest of us is to do the same.”
(Suzanne Braun Levine)

“She whips up a spirited, enlightening cocktail of comfort, support and grace. Fulfilling and well-structured.”
(Kirkus Reviews)

“One of Ten Titles to Pick Up Now. ‘Boyfriends with boundaries,’ separate summers, and other therapeutic strategies for maintaining wedded bliss over the long haul.”
(O, The Oprah Magazine)

About the Author

Iris Krasnow is the author of the New York Times bestseller Surrendering to Marriage, as well as Surrendering to Motherhood, Surrendering to Yourself, and I Am My Mother’s Daughter. She lives in Maryland with her husband and four sons.

Customer Reviews

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Realistic Read Oct. 17 2012
By Katrina
I find that most relationship books I read focus on changing things in the relationship itself - improving communication, improving on time spent together through shared interests, etc and while all of that is important, it can be a lot of work and, from my perspective, seem to focus on changing the man, which we all know is very difficult. I found this book to be a breath of fresh air - the women talk about their problems and, instead of focusing on changing their man, the focus is on changing yourself. Although I've heard this message before, it's different to hear it from women who have been married for decades and have made it work. As a young mother, I know I rarely find time for myself while my husband still manages to have his own life. Speaking with my friends, it seems that is the common trend - the mother/wife surrenders her own life for the good of the family while the husband/father still gets to go out with his buddies. Instead of working to change this, why don't we just accept it and do the same thing? Even though I've heard the message before, I found this book to resonate with me more than other books I've read. It seemed realistic instead of striving for this ideal fairy-tale marriage that, from my experience and through speaking with other women, doesn't seem to actually exist and we are all just set up for dissapointment by spending our lives striving for it. I loved this book as it gave me permission to accept my marriage for what it is instead of trying to change it.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Secret Lives of Wives Nov. 4 2011
The Secret Lives Of Wives

This book was interesting and well written and I enjoyed it. However, I did not find in it what I had hoped to find. The majority of the women and men written about were in the professional class and highly educated. The wives whether contented or discontented could stay home and raise their childen and return to the work force not for money but for self determination. I did not find myself in this book, as I had hoped. It held no answers for the lives of myself and my friends. Read just for itself and not as a learning tool, it was good in a grass is always greener type of thing. KLS in Barrie, Ontario
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.4 out of 5 stars  62 reviews
65 of 67 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't get divorced Sept. 29 2011
By wogan - Published on
This is a book, a marriage manual of sorts by Iris Krasnow, who repeats many times that she both loves and loathes her husband. This is the theme of the writing. It should be reassuring to those who feel a successful marriage never contains these feelings. She is 56 and has been married 23 years.

There is advice from experts, and the author and most of those that are interviewed and the views that marriage is better for all concerned. It is summed up, in many instances, "that you can have an extraordinary life within the framework of an ordinary, even mediocre, marriage." At least one knows in reading this that it is definitely not based on the fairy tale of happily ever after.
Strategies and secrets to keep a marriage going are given and reiterated in the many interviews that are contained in this writing. This can be a revelation to many who read it and a help to many. Some of the interviews can be shocking and eye opening. The basic theme is do not expect your husband to make you happy - it is within yourself.

There is little of the idea that friendship makes for a successful and happy marriage. There seems to be almost no evidence of husbands that help cook and clean... what a saint this rare find must be. It is an idea and solution that is not really brought up. It does seem at times that it rests all upon the woman's shoulders; but that is the concept that is reiterated time and time again that your happiness lies within yourself. It's a good solid idea and this is a book that shows the difference between self-exploration and self-absorption. The warnings are here - of women who now regret and utter that phrase,"if I knew then what I know now".

In total this can be a revelation and a teaching tool for yourself or others who are married or are even aiming in that direction. No matter what, it will make you think and have more of a feeling of what a marriage is and what it takes to keep one going through the years.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Sad more than anything March 9 2012
By Patti - Published on
As a happily married woman of 35 years, I will agree with Ms. Krasnow about a husband not being totally responsible for one's happiness. However, this book seems more like an excuse for her to justify the lack of emotional intimacy in her own marriage. We keep being reminded of how sexy and handsome her husband is but what is more telling is how he acts, or more precisely, how he doesn't act. I thought the saddest part of the book was Chuck telling Iris to go tell the guy next door about her news that she was going to Vietnam. He didn't want to be disturbed from watching hockey on TV to share in her excitement. She reveals that she's married to a man who basically "wants to be left alone." I'm glad she's made a good life for herself. Ms. Krasnow, you deserve better. If I didn't know better this book would scare me off marriage completely.
24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Some timely advice, and bottom line: ditch the Hollywood and fairy tale fantasies! Oct. 21 2011
By Susan Schenck - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book kept my attention and I read it cover to cover, uninterrupted by other books. I love how the author integrated testimonials of women throughout the entire book. These include marriages in which the woman found male platonic relationships to fill in what the husband couldn't provide; one woman in a sexless marriage who found a lover (and her husband turned a blind eye); an arranged marriage that turned into love--but without all the expectations of romance; an interracial marriage in which the woman was cut off from her father (who never even met his grandchildren!); an elderly woman who makes out with her college boyfriend but never has sex with him; and many, many more. I love how the author doesn't pass moral judgment on these alternative lifestyles.

Throughout the book, we get glimpses into the author's own marriage and its ups and downs. Spoiler alert: Her husband even takes a trip to Israel, which she thinks is a business journey, and surprises her by converting to her religion of Judaism!

There is even a chapter on how women cope with the empty nest syndrome, one on what makes marriage last, and one on elderly women, many of who rediscover sex through vibrators!

I found the advice in this book very inspiring. Bottom line: don't rely on your husband for all your inspiration, excitement, or even finances. It underscores the idea that you have to have your own life and not have the Hollywood expectations of enduring romance, or fairy tale expectations of a prince rescuing you from a dreary life.

In our day of divorce this book brings a timely message: don't leave your man just because he's imperfect (with the exception of abuse) thinking the grass will be greener with a new man, unbruised by a relationship history. She explains that the "seven year itch" is really eight years, and if you can just stick it out, you will have the rewards that come with a long term marriage.

Susan Schenck, author of Beyond Broccoli, Creating a Biologically Balanced Diet When a Vegetarian Diet Doesn't Work
The Live Food Factor: The Comprehensive Guide to the Ultimate Diet for Body, Mind, Spirit & Planet
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gives you hope Oct. 21 2011
By anna manning - Published on
This is a very funny, very true and so real book and you are sure to recognize yourself, and parts of your marriage, in one or more of these actual tales from the front lines. ladies, if you, too, are sort of slogging along in your long marriage, you are comforted (so are lots of other people) and inspired (one of the recurring themes in Krasnow's stories is that those who stick it out come out the other side truly contented and even happy). I recommend this for any wife out there -- or even a husband or two -- who wants to make their love last. It was also much fun to read -- and fast.
69 of 90 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A marriage or a charade? Oct. 11 2011
By booklover - Published on
The description mentions "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." But "till death do us part" is not the only vow you make. You also swear to forsake all others, in good times and bad, and to "honor" them all your days. It doesn't mention picking and choosing the parts you'd like to keep.

While some advice is not bad -- not expecting someone else to fulfill you, finding outside interests -- this book glorifies and glamorizes extremely selfish and destructive behavior -- the selfish cheaters and liars who, rather than "save the marriage" by cheating, merely keep the charade of a marriage going, presumably for their own financial benefit. Borderline cheating is also not okay, as it violates the part about honoring your spouse, and is conducted with secrecy. If you do anything that you wouldn't want your spouse knowing about, there's a good chance it is wrong. The suggestion of potentially destroying your spouse and your family for 'thrills', to 'find yourself' etc etc is bordering on sociopathic.

This is terrible advice, and this book is full of it. Here's better advice: Stop being selfish and egotistical, learn to both give and receive love, don't be afraid of true intimacy, and make sacrifices for the good of your family. If you aren't ready for that, you are better of single.

And many of the stories read like people who want to have both the comfort and financial stability of marriage to some sucker, and the thrills and ego-boosts of singlehood. This is called having your cake and eating it. Or, being a terrible human being.
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