The Secret Lives of Some Wives

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.

Marriage Beyond Monogamy
Can Sexual Desire Be Reclaimed in a “Good Enough” Marriage?
Tips for Surviving Monogamy


Elena T.
Elena Poensgen4 years ago

Thank you :)

Danuta Watola
Danuta W5 years ago

Interesting article

Adelaide Brooks
Adelaide B5 years ago

I am fairly open minded except in one thing. "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." This strikes a chord with me because it is true. In order to have a life long marriage you need to stay married cause it's a commitment. Which is also why I don't believe in forever. I've seen so many women who stay in abusive relationships because they made a commitment in front of God to stay together. Putting up with infidelities, injuries, or having to suppress their wants and needs in life, but hey they've been married for so long. Some will say that it's been worth it, specially when the man is too old to get it up or to hit them, but they are so bitter it makes me wonder really a marriage is worth giving up your dreams, hopes, needs, self respect, happiness etc. Not for me. The way I see it, it's not until death due us part, it's until you cross that line and we're through.
On the other hand, the idea of a home base in a mutually benefiting relationship is very comforting. So long as boundaries are set, I think even open marriages or even long distance marriages can work.

Kynthia R.
Kynthia Rosgeal5 years ago

I dunno about this. I have no secrets from my partner, I am a housewife and I am awfully happy. No secret rendezvous, no separate vacations (She works, when we vacation it is my time to be with her and enjoy her attention and shower her with mine).

Not the path I choose. Thanks but no.

Heather Marvin
Heather Marvin5 years ago

If you don't intend to be faithful to your husband (if you aren't already married) then don't get married. The wedding ring has no end and it is a symbol of faithfulness, and commitment to ones spouse. I do agree with the part though that says, 'they need a sense of purpose, passion and self esteem' it says outside the marriage but that needn't be either, though it could be so long as it wasn't dangerous to the marriage. Both parties need to have self respect and purpose, passion for something that is important to them.With some couples it is something they do together. Maybe they support a charity together or whatever. Or maybe they do things individually. One may be an artist, the other likes to make model planes etc. Whatever it is, it is good for those involved. And when they do get together they can share their passion with the other person, if they are interested. A good marriage will have a good chance to withstand time if their is respect, love, patience, perserverance etc. but none of us is perfect and so there are no perfect marriages.

Joseph Rumble
Joe Rumble5 years ago

Every article Pamela writes is the same selfish promotion of her book, its a desperate cry for attention from a lonely woman who left her family to have sex with strange men. Nothing new there Pam, happens everyday to men who marry self centered angry women.

Nancy Black
Nancy Black5 years ago

I don't have a secret life from my husband, and I don't believe he has one from me. We are not joined at the hip at all times physically, but over nearly fifty years we have become intertwined mentally and emotionally. Mostly we agree on things and those we don't we agree to disagree. I can't imagine life without him. He became sick this past year, and for the first time in my life, I have become scared and depressed. He is getting better, but I still worry. Does this mean that I don't have a life without him; No, but it does mean that I have a richer one with him.

Caitlin F.
Caitlin F5 years ago


Michael Wecke
Michael Wecke5 years ago

Dear Pamela, You are asking for our thoughts? I suppose that even without rising to high academic debate there are - at least in my mind - certain fundamental rules that make a marriage successful. Without putting a finer point to it, I balk at Krasnow's suggestions. Having been married very happily for 29 years, I would say that the reasons for that are: My wife and I are both from the same cultural background, we share similar interests, we love each other, we recognise that we are individuals in our own right - with some dissimilar likes and dislikes. We share the same view on the critical importance of marital fidelity, honesty in our relationship and no penchant for extra-marital affairs in whichever guise. Forgiveness following a row is important, not going to bed angry with each other, not belittling each other, making the other feel valued, noticing the small things the other does for their partner...showing support in matters the other finds important…
I agree with the overall theme of your article and I can only repeat what I regard as the best statement, viz. “Instead of thinking about a marriage as a lock down, think of it as your home base”.

Chris Cole
Chris C5 years ago

I've found that the BEST way to make marriage work is to NOT be in one!! :)