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The Secret Lives of Wives: Women Share What it Really Takes to Stay Married
By Iris Krasnow
Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the closed doors of a
successful marriage? How those happy couples make it look so easy? In THE SECRET LIVES OF WIVES: Women Share What it Really Takes to Stay Married bestselling author Iris Krasnow pulls back the curtain and
reveals shocking and uncensored real-life confessions of women who
have stayed married for the long haul. Krasnow, a wife of 23 years, and
the more than 200 women she interviewed - married anywhere from 15-70
years - challenge the traditional way of thinking about what it takes to
achieve "happily-ever-after" and invite women to define for themselves
what constitutes a satisfying relationship.
THE SECRET LIVES OF
WIVES will inspire any woman who is hungry for marital commitment and
reinvention. Yes, women can have it both ways: a committed, happy
marriage and adventures in uncharted territory. While some women stay
sane in their marriages by having weekly wine-and-whine girl's nights
out or resume old hobbies they abandoned once they had kids - swimming,
painting, horseback riding - others get a bit more creative. Don't be
surprised if your "'happily married' neighbor is spicing things up by
regularly going out on dates with 'the one who got away' or convincing
her husband to join her in sleeping with other couples. "Playing
mahjong with the girls may be all the added oomph [some wives] need.
Others may crave a spot of mischief. Who are we to judge? A stolen kiss
can go a long way and a secret is different than a lie."
About Iris Krasnow:
Krasnow is the author of the New York Times bestseller Surrendering to
Marriage, as well as Surrendering to Motherhood, Surrendering to
Yourself, and I Am My Mother's Daughter. She has appeared on numerous
national shows, ranging from Oprah and Good Morning America to All
Things Considered. She lives in Maryland with her husband and four sons.
I am settling into my seat on a Southwest flight
en route from Cleveland to Baltimore, and as I'm buckling up I notice
that Dennis Kucinich is in the row in front of me. The Democratic
congressman and 2008 presidential candidate from Ohio, if you can't
picture him, is short, in his mid- sixties, and has large ears and an
elfin face. It is five minutes from takeoff and just as the flight
attendant is about to begin her air- mask spiel, a six- foot latecomer
with waist- length red hair and tight jeans comes racing on board, puts
one long leg over the armrest, and cozies up so close to Kucinich she is
practically sitting on top of him. This is not hyperbole: She is one of
the most beautiful women I have ever seen. And she looks like a college
She kisses his ear, his cheek, then they start making
out. They radiate the heat of teenagers in the backseat of a car. I
break the "cell phone off" rule and text my friend Max: "Need NOW.
Google Dennis Kucinich and tell me if he's married and if yes, how
long." God love Max: In less than a minute, before we start our whoosh
down the runway, she reports that these incongruous lovebirds are
thirty- one years apart and have been married for six years, Elizabeth
Harper is his third wife, and he is her first husband. (I then turned my
phone off , for any FAA official reading this.) Back in my office, I
did some more digging on her official website, on which is posted a
thorough article titled "How Kucinich Found Love," by Evelyn Theiss,
that ran just after they wed, in the October 30, 2005, edition of
Cleveland's The Plain Dealer. I discovered that Harper is an
activist from the English village of North Ockendon who grew up in a
cottage where Pea Lane meets Dennis Lane. She saw this as a sign that
the politician, always the shortest boy in his class, was meant to be
with her, always the tallest girl in the class. She met Kucinich when
she visited his office on Capitol Hill on behalf of her job with the
Chicago- based American Monetary Institute.
Harper said that she
knew within "eight minutes" of their first encounter that Kucinich would
be her husband, and that she "loves everything" about the man known for
championing humanitarian crusades. Having traveled to India at the age
of eighteen to work with Mother Teresa's charity, she immediately
noticed the bust of Gandhi on Kucinich's shelf, another sign of a soul
mate. A few months later, they were dancing at their wedding reception
in the rotunda of Cleveland City Hall. The groom was fifty- eight, and
the bride, who has a pierced tongue, was twentyseven. Elizabeth shoos
off naysayers of the May- December match with this explanation to The Plain Dealer reporter
Theiss: "And it's not like I'm some ditsy young thing and he's an old
fogey. He has the wisdom of an ancient and the energy of youth." Theiss
got the first story, fresh off the blush of the nuptials. I would love
to interview Elizabeth Harper Kucinich in ten or thirty years, when she
has lived with her mate as long as the rest of the women portrayed in The Secret Lives of Wives.
These are wives who have accrued lots of ancient wisdom about what can
feel like ancient marriages. Not many of them would lope down an
airplane aisle and start nuzzling and necking with their husbands,
oblivious to the crowd, lost in lip- locks.
Let's just say that
the majority of my subjects, many of whom have been married longer than
Mrs. Kucinich has been alive, have a bit less romantic spring to their
steps. Yet, with each passing year, they have more grounding
intelligence about matters of the heart.
They have shown me through
example that the fleeting intoxication of new love, if we're lucky,
leads to something deeper and better- a permanent attachment.
wish Mr. and Mrs. Kucinich that luck, and most importantly, grit and the
ability to surrender in paving the way toward a forever marriage.
Voices in this book will help show them the way. I've only been a wife
for twenty- three years, a newcomer compared to the Golden Anniversary
girls you are about to meet. But we vintage wives of a certain age know
that while steamy moments of intimacy do stoke the fires of marriage-
lots of us do still make out with our husbands- it's stamina at the
level of soul that makes for a lasting relationship.
learned so many valuable lessons and secrets on how to stay married
during this two- year research project on love, hate, and carrying on.
One thing I know for sure that is personified in the congressman from
Ohio and his English fair maiden is 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.
some very basic survival strategies that definitely inflate our odds of
staying on this side of the divorce rate that hits about 43 percent of
first- time American marriages. Frankly, that's why I wrote this book:
I'm a midlife wife facing an empty nest looking for answers on how to
accomplish what can feel like the impossible dream: maintaining passion,
commitment, and my sanity with one person, in one house, for the rest
of my life. The biggest takeaway for me is the importance of sustaining a
strong sense of an evolving self apart from the relationship.
consistently make the point throughout this book that there is no gold
standard for marriage, that each couple can write their own rules that
match their individual levels of acceptance and intolerance- and that
it's really no one else's damn business. In fact, many of my sources opt
to remain anonymous, and in those cases, a pseudonym of their choice
has been given; there is no surname, and identifying details have been
changed. Sources who spoke freely on the record are quoted with their
real first and last names.