Here is some new advice for staying married: Learn to keep secrets from your spouse, take separate vacations, lower your expectations, get a platonic boyfriend, and make out with your ex! At least that is the new advice being shared in the latest book on how to live happily-ever-after by Iris Krasnow, The Secrets Lives of Wives: Women Share What It Really Takes to Stay Married.
Why didn’t she interview me? After all, I have been married for 30 years, and in many ways I have certainly “been creative” in my solution as Krasnow recommends. Okay, I didn’t make out with my ex, but when one meets their husband at 17, there isn’t an ex! But you have to admit that what I shared in my memoir Shameless: How I Ditched The Diet, Got Naked, Found True Pleasure and Somehow Got Home in Time To Cook Dinner is pretty original. I read nothing like that in Krasnow’s book.
It’s just that I found that keeping too many secrets from my husband didn’t work for me. My “secret life” (what I was doing) didn’t make me feel dirty, but keeping the secret made me feel deceitful and untrustworthy. I don’t recommend it – and I gave that up.
I think that what Krasnow’s advice is really about is to let air into your marriage. And to do that you need some space. Just think of fire – if you crowd a flame too much, there is no oxygen and the flame goes out. I just don’t think that lying is what you need to do to create that. There are healthier ways to fan the flames and create space.
I do like it when she says that “Unconventional is good,” and that “There is no gold standard to which couples should aspire. Everyone will rewrite their own marriage rules according to their needs – financial and emotional – and their expectations.”
That is right on. For me, a woman with very little sexual experience outside of my marriage, I found self expression, healing, and oxygen by working with hands-on sexual practitioners and attending Tantra workshops. I didn’t want to sleep with the handyman, but I did take separate vacations from my husband as he had no interest in dancing naked in a circle with other workshop attendees. I did.
I do believe that it is the freedom within agreed upon boundaries that has allowed my husband and I to stay happily married and beat the odds.
Everyone says to me, “How does your husband allow you to take the trips you take or do sessions with hands-on practitioners?” And here is my answer, which is very similar to the advice that Krasnow offers in her new book:
If you want marriage to work, you have to have tremendous trust and respect for each other. I believe that you need to talk about boundaries – and honor them. But most importantly, outside of the obvious things such as friendship, emotional and sexual intimacy, if you want to stay married you need to be committed to staying married and staying flexible. A closed mind is your fast pass to divorce court.
People who have long marriages simply don’t get divorced! They hunker down and ride out the tough times. They are committed to being committed. And in that commitment, if they are gong to be happy, they have learned to change and be flexible around what governs their relationship. No one stays the same, and to expect your partner to not want new things as time goes by is simply an expectation for pain and failure. Instead of thinking about a marriage as a lock down, think of it as your home base.
I agree with Krasnow that in order for women to thrive in marriage, they need a sense of purpose, passion and self-esteem outside of their relationship. In my coaching practice, I counsel women and support them to have an affair with themselves!
In so many ways I am really saying the same thing as Krasnow, I just have different advice on how to get there. But one thing is clear, if you don’t carve out time to do what really turns you on outside of your marriage, one day I do believe that you will leave your marriage.
I would love to hear your thoughts.