I can’t say enough about this book, the Secret Lives of Wives by Iris Krasnow. At first I just didn’t want to get into it. I mean, reading a book about how women made their marriages work, long-term, should be good, right? But, I was hesitant to read yet another relationship book that basically says two things: learn to compromise and communicate. (It all boils down to that, doesn’t it?) I am done with unoriginal, bumper-sticker, B-O-R-I-N-G advice.
Also, her perspective was clearly going to come from being married early – not a late bloomer bride like me. She talks of building a tribe together and how that is the bedrock that a couple stands on. As someone who married for the first time after age 40, however, Husband and I had long and established histories, where we pitched our marital tent on a mountain that was built with the help of and experiences from other partners and love interests. So, would this advice apply? (Spoiler alert – it does.)
But, I started reading anyway. Just in case it was good. I hate missing anything good.
First, know that the book is extremely well-written. That’s probably how I kept turning the page, actually. I appreciate fine writing. Hell, I kept reading Snow Flower and the Secret Fan for this very reason even after all those icky foot binding scenes that made me want to punch their mothers. But, I digress. . .
In the Secret Lives of Wives, Krasnow masterfully weaves her own marital story in and around the other women’s stories and ensuing advice and ideas to try on. Yet, she avoids the usual (and annoying) comparisons of herself to the others. But, rather just tells you what she thinks in an honest and forthright fashion about herself, her husband and the stories of the other wives’ relationships. (And there are some DOOZIES in this book. You’ll feel better about your own marriage after these. And, you will learn from them. Trust me.)
She talks about the “eggshell-thin line that separates bliss from despair in marriage.” She writes, “I know what it means to say ‘I love you’ at breakfast and mutter ‘I can’t stand you’ at dinner.”
Oh, yeah, sister.
She opens reminding us that “what draws a couple together is a spiritual mystery that only the two of them can understand. Yet, what keeps a husband and wife together is not so mysterious.”
The wives stories that she shares “racy and real, convince me that the only absolute truth about marriage is that no one knows what’s going on in an intimate relationship except the two people in it.”
Yet, there are things to learn from them. There are patterns and behaviors. She then goes on to describe them.
The only idea I just couldn’t buy was this notion of spending long periods of time apart. Yes, this is one of the “lessons” that Krasnow believes long-term wives have learned that actually help the marriage. She does it herself, spending summers apart from her Husband. But, just as she couldn’t get into the sexual partner-sharing that one of the wives she interviewed is really into (EE-GADS), I just can’t get into this time-apart idea. I don’t trust it. That may be a failing on my part – to not trust that Husband and I would stay well connected if we took separate summer vacations (and Krasnow was talking about weeks and months, not just a few days!). But, you should read about it anyway even if I’m not ready for separate summer vacations.
I won’t give away much more. It’s an entertaining read, unlike many relationship and how-to books. But, I will tell you this: In the end, it all comes down to just staying in it. Yes, just staying married means just not going for a divorce. So many of the women told horrible tales of infidelity, boredom, selfishness, and years moments of falling out of love with their spouse. But, the main difference is, they waited it out. They didn’t run to a divorce attorney. They simply waited and worked at it more until it turned around. That was it. That is how you stay married. You don’t divorce.
As Nike says, Just Do It.