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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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Product Description


"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) 3.3 out of 5 stars  71 reviews
66 of 68 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.
22 of 23 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.
25 of 28 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
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Bleak Jan. 9 2013
By Iddh - Published on
I found this book to be depressingly bleak. The author writes from the perspective of a person who believes that marriage should be endured because, essentially, it's better than divorce. There was little sense of the joy of a long-term marriage from the author, although a good number of the women interviewed did talk about that; those many interviews are the reason I gave this 2 stars instead of 1. If I'd had to read only the author talking about marriage (it seems like every statement about her husband reads, "I love my husband. That is, when I don't loathe him"), I would never have finished the book. The argument she makes in and of itself is not a bad one--that you can't expect your husband and your marriage to be your only source of happiness--but her view of marriage seemed to me very, very bleak. As if marriage should be something we all endure instead of a place where we all thrive. Clearly, a number of reviewers disagree with me. If you think you might like to read this book, I would suggest reading the first chapter or two. If you don't like what she has to say at that point, don't read any farther. The rest is more of the same, and the interviews, while interesting, just aren't worth the feeling of despondency that settles over you as you read it.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I Couldn't Finish It Jan. 18 2012
By Karie Hoskins - Published on
I don't like to review books that I haven't finished - I think I've only done it...three times? But I just can't read this book anymore. It's incredibly depressing and is making me feel bad about my very happy 21 year marriage. Halfway through, I am putting it down.

I understand that the author is trying to point out that even the most successful marriages are tough - incredibly difficult at times. I also know that nearly everyone in a long term relationship has at least toyed with the idea of getting out. BUT - I did not expect to see so many powerfully negative words (loathe, hate, despair, rage, etc.) in this book. It makes me wonder what I am doing wrong that I have been happily married for the most part for as long as I have.

Author Iris Krasnow spent two years interviewing dozens of women about their long marriages, and speaks from the experience of hers. When she does, I started to find her an unreliable narrator of sorts. Not meaning I don't believe her - her experience is her own. Meaning that I found it unsettling to read a book on successful marriages when told through the lens of a marriage in which she is slightly jealous of Al & Tipper Gore's divorce when she hears of it, and who when she asks her husband if he thinks they will leave each other after forty years, he answers, "Haven't we already been married for forty years?" and she thinks, "Indeed, it seems like four hundred years."

And some of the women she interviews have the ability (and money) to spend summers or long periods of time away from their spouses in order to stay happily married - a choice few others have or possibly want. I agree that participants in a marriage need to have their own lives and identities in order to be happy and feel better about being part of a couple, but little of what I read would be probable for most people.

There was also a pervasive feeling that many women stayed married just because it would be too much trouble to not be married anymore, or to start over with someone new. As one woman says, "Too many adulterous relationships are started when there's a geographical separation. Although in our marriage we were apart for long stretches of time, we both had a very strong sense of loyalty and commitment, and - most important - I just didn't have the time or energy to get involved in something like that."

When I read that, the second half of that sentence completely negated the first part. It is most important that she didn't have the time or energy to have an affair?

That kind of summarizes my feelings about this book. These are long marriages, true, but not ones I would care to emulate or, turns out, read about - though I do wish the wives all the happiness in the world and I am glad it works for them.
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