Marriage Advice for Newlyweds (and the Not-So-Newlyweds)

Newlyweds, I hate to be a downer, but this wave of bliss you’re riding isn’t what marriage is really about.

You and your mate are ablaze with sexual chemistry and romance. You’ve yet to have your love sabotaged by illness, financial hardship, boredom, or a screaming, sleepless, poop-covered child.

But fear not. I’ve discovered the secrets of a long-lasting marriage in journalist Iris Krasnow’s latest book, “The Secret Lives of Wives: Women Share What It Really Takes to Stay Married” (Gotham). Here are 3 surprising keys to marital success that I gleaned from the book and my interview with Krasnow.

1. Don’t expect your marriage to make you happy.

Krasnow interviewed a diverse group of 200 women who had been married from 15 to 70 years. “Some of them couldn’t believe they were still married,” she says. “But they had figured out the central secret to staying married: You can have the best husband and family in the world, but really, happiness is up to you.” The happiest wives had a sense of purpose and passion outside of their relationship.

These women have what Krasnow calls “multi-tracked marriages,” which include meaningful work, hobbies, friends, and even a fantasy or flirtation. This concept runs counter to the romantic ideal that husband and wife should become one. But, says Krasnow, focusing all your energy on your husband is a sure ticket to dissatisfaction. It’s better to lower your expectations for your mate and raise them for yourself.

2. Create a marriage that works for you.

Krasnow believes in commitment, but acknowledges there are times when the loving comes with periods of pure loathing. To cope with challenges, she urges couples to define their relationship on their own terms.

“What I wanted to do with this book is give people permission to invent their own marriage based on personal, physical, emotional and financial needs, and to shatter this misconception and myth that there is a gold standard marriage out there,” she says.

There’s no right way to be married, she has found, and no one is perfect. So there’s no point in comparing your marriage to anyone else. Some of the couples in “Secret Lives of Wives” have come up with some very unconventional arrangements.

“You never know what’s going on behind closed doors, and the only people who know are the people in the marriage,” she says. And, she adds, “Everyone lies about sex.”

3. Hanging in pays off.

Marriage is worth it, unless your husband is abusive or an addict or a total jerk, says Krasnow—and boredom is a rotten excuse to bow out. If you’re not happy or interesting yourself, a new man won’t change a thing. Many women find a group of wild girlfriends and a good wine cellar liven things up.

The benefits of staying married are many, and in time, even rocky marriages can end up in a very sweet place.

According to the book, Florence, married 64 years, says,  “At my age, you have gotten to a place where you really love your partner again. Because after a long life together, you cherish the history you have created. You know how to resolve conflict. In the last lap of a marriage, you are really getting close to being merged and whole as one. It takes a lifetime to get to this wonderful place.”

Why, she and her husband sound almost like newlyweds.

Check out our other articles on strengthening your marriage: