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The Secret Lives of Wives: Women Share What It Really Takes to Stay Married Hardcover – September 29, 2011

3.5 out of 5 stars 88 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"At first this book terrified me: another submission and sacrifice marriage manual for wives? Instead Iris Krasnow delivers astonishing candor, realistic compassion, and invaluable wisdom when it comes to how paradoxically infuriating and rewarding long-term marriages can be. The best book on marriage ever." — Leslie Morgan Steiner

“In this breathtaking book The Secret Lives of Wives, Iris Krasnow opens a window into the inner world of women whose unique courage and vision has enabled them to find relationship happiness over the long term. With wit and wisdom, she thoughtfully tells their stories and then fills the reader with brilliant ideas and concepts to apply to their own lives. This is as much of a men’s book as it was written by and for women.”  — Dr. Bill Cloke

“Iris Krasnow has managed to demystify the workings of long-term marriages by confirming the mysterious uniqueness of each one. The secret, she finds, lies in the way two people negotiate their own personal amalgam of companionship and sex, compromise and disappointment, lust and tenderness, trust and lies. The challenge for the rest of us is to do the same.” — Suzanne Braun Levine

“She whips up a spirited, enlightening cocktail of comfort, support and grace. Fulfilling and well-structured.” — Kirkus Reviews

“One of Ten Titles to Pick Up Now. ‘Boyfriends with boundaries,’ separate summers, and other therapeutic strategies for maintaining wedded bliss over the long haul.” — O, The Oprah Magazine

About the Author

Iris Krasnow is the author of New York Times bestseller Surrendering to Marriage, as well as Surrendering to Motherhood, Surrendering to Yourself, and I Am My Mother’s Daughter. A longtime journalism professor at American University, she has appeared on numerous national shows, ranging from Oprah and Good Morning America to Today and All Things Considered. She lives in Maryland with her husband and four sons.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Gotham; 1 edition (September 29, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592406807
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592406807
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.8 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #100,808 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By wogan TOP 500 REVIEWER on September 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is a book, a marriage manual of sorts by Iris Krasnow, who repeats many times that she both loves and loathes her husband. This is the theme of the writing. It should be reassuring to those who feel a successful marriage never contains these feelings. She is 56 and has been married 23 years.

There is advice from experts, and the author and most of those that are interviewed and the views that marriage is better for all concerned. It is summed up, in many instances, "that you can have an extraordinary life within the framework of an ordinary, even mediocre, marriage." At least one knows in reading this that it is definitely not based on the fairy tale of happily ever after.
Strategies and secrets to keep a marriage going are given and reiterated in the many interviews that are contained in this writing. This can be a revelation to many who read it and a help to many. Some of the interviews can be shocking and eye opening. The basic theme is do not expect your husband to make you happy - it is within yourself.

There is little of the idea that friendship makes for a successful and happy marriage. There seems to be almost no evidence of husbands that help cook and clean... what a saint this rare find must be. It is an idea and solution that is not really brought up. It does seem at times that it rests all upon the woman's shoulders; but that is the concept that is reiterated time and time again that your happiness lies within yourself. It's a good solid idea and this is a book that shows the difference between self-exploration and self-absorption. The warnings are here - of women who now regret and utter that phrase,"if I knew then what I know now".

In total this can be a revelation and a teaching tool for yourself or others who are married or are even aiming in that direction. No matter what, it will make you think and have more of a feeling of what a marriage is and what it takes to keep one going through the years.
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Format: Hardcover
As a happily married woman of 35 years, I will agree with Ms. Krasnow about a husband not being totally responsible for one's happiness. However, this book seems more like an excuse for her to justify the lack of emotional intimacy in her own marriage. We keep being reminded of how sexy and handsome her husband is but what is more telling is how he acts, or more precisely, how he doesn't act. I thought the saddest part of the book was Chuck telling Iris to go tell the guy next door about her news that she was going to Vietnam. He didn't want to be disturbed from watching hockey on TV to share in her excitement. She reveals that she's married to a man who basically "wants to be left alone." I'm glad she's made a good life for herself. Ms. Krasnow, you deserve better. If I didn't know better this book would scare me off marriage completely.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book kept my attention and I read it cover to cover, uninterrupted by other books. I love how the author integrated testimonials of women throughout the entire book. These include marriages in which the woman found male platonic relationships to fill in what the husband couldn't provide; one woman in a sexless marriage who found a lover (and her husband turned a blind eye); an arranged marriage that turned into love--but without all the expectations of romance; an interracial marriage in which the woman was cut off from her father (who never even met his grandchildren!); an elderly woman who makes out with her college boyfriend but never has sex with him; and many, many more. I love how the author doesn't pass moral judgment on these alternative lifestyles.

Throughout the book, we get glimpses into the author's own marriage and its ups and downs. Spoiler alert: Her husband even takes a trip to Israel, which she thinks is a business journey, and surprises her by converting to her religion of Judaism!

There is even a chapter on how women cope with the empty nest syndrome, one on what makes marriage last, and one on elderly women, many of who rediscover sex through vibrators!

I found the advice in this book very inspiring. Bottom line: don't rely on your husband for all your inspiration, excitement, or even finances. It underscores the idea that you have to have your own life and not have the Hollywood expectations of enduring romance, or fairy tale expectations of a prince rescuing you from a dreary life.

In our day of divorce this book brings a timely message: don't leave your man just because he's imperfect (with the exception of abuse) thinking the grass will be greener with a new man, unbruised by a relationship history.
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By Iddh on January 9, 2013
Format: Paperback
I found this book to be depressingly bleak. The author writes from the perspective of a person who believes that marriage should be endured because, essentially, it's better than divorce. There was little sense of the joy of a long-term marriage from the author, although a good number of the women interviewed did talk about that; those many interviews are the reason I gave this 2 stars instead of 1. If I'd had to read only the author talking about marriage (it seems like every statement about her husband reads, "I love my husband. That is, when I don't loathe him"), I would never have finished the book. The argument she makes in and of itself is not a bad one--that you can't expect your husband and your marriage to be your only source of happiness--but her view of marriage seemed to me very, very bleak. As if marriage should be something we all endure instead of a place where we all thrive. Clearly, a number of reviewers disagree with me. If you think you might like to read this book, I would suggest reading the first chapter or two. If you don't like what she has to say at that point, don't read any farther. The rest is more of the same, and the interviews, while interesting, just aren't worth the feeling of despondency that settles over you as you read it.
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