About a month ago now I literally Googled something like, “my husband is driving me insane” and in my search results popped up a book suggestion by Iris Krasnow called The Secret Lives of Wives: Women Share What it Really Takes to Stay Married. Before one-clicking my way through the Amazon Kindle store I watched a short interview she did with CBS on YouTube to see if Iris was legit, and when I saw her hair that looked like she’s been attempting to pull it out for the duration of her marriage, I was sold. This woman is legit. Her husband, too, drives her insane.
Please let me preface this review by saying that I have only been married for a little over a year and a half, however I have been “with” my now husband for over 8 years. We went through a honeymoon phase that I prayed would last forever, but inevitably did not. I now have a saying that I share with my husband when appropriate, “I always love you, but I don’t always like you.”
I personally found The Secret Lives of Wives to be like a good friend giving me a great big hug saying, “Don’t worry dear, we’ve all been there and if we could find the strength to do this, so can you.” In Krasnow’s book she interviews a large range of women who have found the means of making their marriage work despite heartache, struggle, loss, and failure. She makes very clear in the book that her personal view regarding divorce is that she doesn’t feel it to be absolutely appropriate unless you are in a marriage where you are being physically or mentally abused.
Krasnow begins the book on what I believe to be the most important method of keeping your marriage healthy and alive, something that I’ve always felt strong about and feel stronger about as time goes on: maintaining and valuing yourself. Her and the accounts that she gathers from friends are those that affirm that you cannot rely on your husband for your happiness. If you do so, you are setting yourself and your marriage up to fail. The stories in the book talk about taking separate vacations and re-establishing hobbies that made you happy in your childhood. She talks about empty-nesters, “Lost hobbies are filled with raw childhood energy that can be a transformative fertilizer to grow new parts of ourselves and reboot early joy. What sport of the soul did you abandon with age? Resurrecting passions of our youth can take some of the sting out of hard, but necessary, transitions.”
“I love this husband but I am a whole self without him, as he is without me. We are soul mates sometimes and enemies sometimes and lovers sometimes and probably married always.”
Krasnow also discusses the importance of friendships, and not just friendships with women, but with men. I really paid close attention to this chapter because it made me think a lot about some of the best platonic relationships I had before I got married and how they were with men. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame marriage on no longer having those friendships, but I always had this cultural awareness that it was wrong and that it would be unfaithful for me to have male friends. Krasnow writes, “Here’s a healthier idea: When the home front becomes blah and blue, hang out with your close male friends. These bonds that are passionate of mind and chaste of body can fill you up without wrecking your marriage. In fact, boyfriends with boundaries can be a huge relief for harangued husbands: With other doting males filling in the gaps, their wives expect less from them. Men and women, together in spirit and separate in body: When this just-friends connection works, it’s magic.”
Krasnow continues, “Indeed, the right male pals give you blind adoration and unconditional support, and augment your highest image of yourself. Unlike a husband, with whom you share a toothpaste-splattered sink, men you don’t live with find you fresh and extraordinary. They appreciate your views, without judgement or dissent, since what you say has no direct effect on their wallets or their daily lives. Your mortgage is yours, and his in-laws are his. In marriage, a clash of opinions can threaten each other’s territory. Extramarital males view you through gauzy spectacles. However well they think they know you, it’s still knowledge from afar; you remain a woman of mystery. They don’t see your foibles and shadows that emerge in everyday living, faults that make your partner at home aloof and cranky.”
Be warned, the accounts from women that Iris writes about aren’t all for the conservative of heart. One wife accounts her tale of multiple long-term affairs with other men to fulfil a sexual desire that her husband wasn’t interested in fulfilling. Another wife accounts her and her husbands life as long-term swingers. Where Krasnow doesn’t appear to be in full support of either accounts, she is clear that whatever it is that you need to do in your marriage to make it work, make sure it is open and honest. In both situations the husbands were fully aware. Where I don’t agree with infidelity by any means, I think what couples do and agree with behind closed doors is their own business and is not for anyone else to judge.
I recommend this read to all my lady friends (sorry gents, I will say that I don’t think this read is for you). Not only do I recommend this read to my married lady friends, but especially to my single lady friends.
Anyone have a good January book suggestion?