I have just finished listening to Iris Krasnow’s “The Secret Lives of Wives.” A look at the author’s previous books and you can probably see a theme in her work and expect a pro-marriage argument. (Surrendering to Marriage, Surrendering to Motherhood.) There’s a whole lot of surrendering going on. When I started it, I fully expected a dogmatic defense of marriage based on “traditional American values” or some-such. The book focuses on women who have been in long term marriages–and by long term, I mean over 20 years. I picked it over at audible.com when I saw my credits were about to turn over and I’d start losing them. I HAD to buy something, quick, and the cover of the book and the title held promise. And the title is what pulled me in. We women all have secret lives, don’t we? I wanted to know what other secrets other women had. I wanted to compare them to my own. Are other women in my situation doing the same kinds of things I am doing?
Krasnow collected interviews from over two hundred women and highlights dozens of women who have been in long marriages. What keeps the marriage alive, vital and working? She states that not all the stories will resonate with each reader, but one or two probably will. I found myself alternating between shaking my head in disbelief and nodding in sympathy. There are plenty of women who have stayed in marriages that any reasonable sane person would have left, and with good reason. And, there are stories in this book that bring out some appaling notions about what is “natural” and what is not. The women who Krasnow interviewed are not all progressive, liberal thinkers who are just fine with modern notions about sexuality. But, one thing that seemed to come through for me was the notion that staying married requires two people. Two distinctly individual people. And, when women rely on their man to be their sole source of happines or whatever, then the marriage flails.
I’ve already, naturally, done a number of the things that women in long term marriages seem to do. When the kids started going to school, I started back into writing and pursuing writing as a career. Taking classes, going to conventions, tweeting, whatever it takes to get into the world again. That is, I am redefining who I am on my own terms as an independent person. I’m not sitting at home with the dinner ready hoping my man is going to walk through the door before it’s all dried out. My mom did that way too much, and I saw her ultimate disappointment at having a husband who was gone so much of the time.