Krasnow’s Newest Book is

a Marriage Survival Guide

By Leah Lancione 

Annapolis-based author Iris Krasnow tackled the complicated issue of marriage in her New York Times best-seller Surrendering to Marriage: Husbands, Wives and Other Imperfections and does so again in her newest book, The Secret Lives of Wives: Women Share What It Really Takes To Stay Married. This time, Krasnow has interviewed more than 200 women at a “gearshift” in their marriages. The book goes beyond a mere probe of relationships or psychological/sociological rhetoric, offering candid and riveting accounts by real women determined togo the distance in their marriage.  

These wives are at the midlife stage when the kids have or are or are soon-to-be moving out, their professional ambitions have been reached and home life has settled into a more rhythmic, even predictable, pace. Krasnow admits she is at this stage and always writes from her heart. She confesses “many of us are going to be married, 50, 60 and even 70 years—and we need all the help we can get.” 

          The women in The Secret Lives of Wives give heartfelt and truthful descriptions of their journeys in marriage and what they do to make it work, and in doing so, Krasnow has created this virtual survival guide. As she intertwines her own personal narratives along with the reflections by these other women, she is forthright in declaring that there is no perfect marriage or a gold standard by which everything should be compared. Rather, the intimate portraits present wives’ shrewd—and sometimes scandalous—tactics for reaching the “finish line” with their husbands. Each person’s story is different, each marriage has its strengths and weaknesses and each wife employs her own tools to keep the “stitches of the family tapestry” woven tight. And yet, Krasnow detects beneath the unique histories some common and useful strategies. 

The three resounding survival strategies that emerge for wives include:

1. Have a life outside of marriage and the home.

2. Take separate vacations from your husband.

3. Rediscover and engage in hobbies and passions that once provided fulfillment and fun. 

At one poignant part of the book, Krasnow discusses getting back into horseback riding and how it makes her realize she’s “too young to be old.” 

In encouraging wives to be more “authentic and bold and to have more fun,” Krasnow writes about escaping the grind or a tepid state of marriage by taking separate vacations (even separate summers). The age-old adage “absence makes the heart grow fonder” is proven by wives’ acknowledgement of returning from vacation feeling more mentally, spiritually and physically charged. Not to mention, many wives confess that the time apart reignites passion and enhances intimacy in a relationship. 

This book is not, however, just another self-help manual for wives wanting to rekindle the old flames of passion in their marriage. Instead, the wives who look within themselves for happiness, instead of relying on their husbands, prove to have a better sense of self. These liberated women are not bound by their marriage commitment even though they have chosen to honor it to the end. The women instead invest in the freedom to become whoever they want to be. They travel on their own or with girlfriends. They pursue the passions of their youth—be it painting, swimming, writing, sailing or horseback riding, etc. They are still inspired by their careers or embark upon new ones. Yet they still find solace in their time-tested, comfortable marriage. Krasnow herself confesses in the book, “I’ll take the slow burn of a long love instead of the bonfire of euphoria that rises quickly in spectacular flames but ends in choking smoke. Staying married allows me to relax in a crazy world.” 

One of the women interviewed, a Maryland filmmaker, presents this sage advice: “None of us knows how long our life will be, so you have to dig in, dig into your passions, and dig into your life partners.” Quite simply put, work with what you’ve got. Ultimately, The Secret Lives of Wives shows women that it’s OK, even beneficial to marriage, to find and do what makes you happy. In essence, Krasnow has given wives “permission to rewrite the rules of their own marriage.” 

The wives interviewed have chosen to explore what feeds their souls apart from marriage, but they still uphold the vow “‘til death do us part.” Krasnow also praises the steadfastness of Depression Era mothers and grandmothers who didn’t evaluate their own level of happiness and stayed strong and committed through the worst of times. She admits in a rousing passage, “They weathered the Great Depression, which took courage and tenacity, and they didn’t back down from hardships in life or in relationships. Marriage is messy, and they knew you had to get in there and fight for the relationship’s survival.” 

Krasnow acknowledges that a secret to surviving marriage is realizing that there are going to be many “potholes” and obstacles along the way that you just have to push through. “You have to move forward knowing that there will be light for the next morning.” The women from her hometown of Oak Park, Ill., enabled her to expose more shared marriage survival qualities. These wives communicate well, fight fair, believe in the permanence of marriage and are more in love now than ever. 

Throughout The Secret Lives of Wives: Women Share What It Really Takes To Stay Married, one account after another provides frank and illuminating details of women who have rediscovered themselves and found ways to make their lives more interesting while also working on their marriage. Ultimately, these wives recognize that their marriages are a shared history of love, children, times of trial and happy memories … and the hope of more to come. So, as Krasnow states so eloquently in the book: “Let’s keep the expansive quilt of our lives intact, an elaborate and personalized history woven through joy and pain and perseverance.”

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