Review: The Secret Lives of Wives

I’ve read a couple of non-fiction books about marriage recently. One was Elizabeth Gilbert’s Committed: A Love Story, about the process she went through coming to terms with having to marry her Brazilian partner, Felipe, because of an issue with U.S. immigration. I liked the book all right—it’s an interesting sociological study of marriage—but, oh lord, can that woman make a big deal out of something. I don’t think she knows how to live outside a state of emotional turmoil.

In any case, the thing that struck me about Gilbert’s book is that she seems determined to believe that, in marriage, a person expects—in fact needs—her spouse to make her happy. Despite being a strong, educated, fairly independent woman, her very identity is wrapped up in her relationship. I’m sure it won’t  be a surprise to you that this is a perspective I find hard to choke down.

A while back*, another blogger I know (who works in PR) was looking for people to review a book about marriage. Laura offered up a copy of The Secret Lives of Wives: Women Share What It Really Takes to Stay Married. I had heard about the book because it was getting fairly sensational press and I thought it might be a juicy read.


It was, in fact, a very good read, but not in the sense I expected. The author, bestselling journalist Iris Krasnow, interviewed more than 200 wives whose marriages have survived for 15 to 70 years to find out what they do to make their marriages last. Yes, there are the expected affairs and illicit liaisons. There are women who keep some sort of their lives secret and would never even dream of sharing that side of themselves with their husbands. Contrary to the author’s argument, however, I suspect those women aren’t as happy—or happily married—as they’re portrayed to be.

The thing that fascinated me, though, was that the book’s essential assertion is that you have to be someone separate from your husband in order to stay happily married. This, of course, is no surprise. It’s the exact opposite of Gilbert’s belief and the exact message that made me like Krasnow’s book so much more than Gilbert’s evolving narcissistic memoir. (In case you haven’t heard, I’m not a fan of Elizabeth Gilbert. Though, to be fair, in that post I did acknowledge one part of her perspective that really spoke to me.)

It’s also no surprise that in The Secret Lives of Wives Krasnow concludes that the secret to a happy marriage is as individual as the women she spoke to but that, ultimately, “marital bliss is possible if each partner is blissful apart from the other.”

So, wanna read it? Enter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*And this is where I apologize to Laura because she sent me the book shortly before we moved and then it got buried. When I finally dug it out I didn’t feel as though I had enough intelligence hanging around to do this review justice and, while I’m still not sure I have, I did want to share this with you and offer a copy to someone who wants to read it. It really is an interesting book.


Just so you know:

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on the book titles and buy one Amazon will give me about 3 cents. Except not really, because I’m never going to earn enough affiliate commission to get paid out.

I received two copies of this book – one to read and one to give away – but was not paid to write the review. All opinions are my own, including my intolerance of Liz Gilbert.



  1. The idea of keeping secrets from your spouse being the key to a happy marriage rubs me the wrong way. However, keeping a sense of self, having something that is just your own, is exactly how I feel about my relationship.

  2. I admire people who remain married for the long term and think their tips would be interesting. But I also think it a conundrum to be “happily married” and in bliss with your own company. Independence of self and marital obligation are a contradiction. Perhaps a book about what these women have hidden from their spouse or deprived of themselves to remain Married, would be more compelling.

  3. I do believe that keeping your sense of self after marriage IS important. I also believe however, that there are many other factors that come into play in a successful marriage – the sharing of life values, the acceptance that your spouse also needs to maintain THEIR sense of self, knowing how to fight, and gosh, so many more things.

    Now I’m curious about the other book you weren’t so fond of 😉

  4. I am a fan of Elizabeth Gilberts, perhaps for the simple reason, her Eat, Pray, Love Memoir came out at at time, that I could identify with so much of the drama in her life. Narcissistic? Perhaps to some. For me, she put into words exactly many of my own thoughts and feelings (too frightened to fess up to) and so I connected poignantly with her and admired her openness as well as the ability to put her feelings into words. She has a gift for being authentic and I think some view it in a different vein. I too read her book Committed and was greatly disappointed. The historical data just reinforced why I’m in no hurry to be married again! I guess I just view Elizabeth Gilbert’s immersion into her man as part of her personality, married or not. She seems to just have a propensity for addictive relationships. Witness the ones in Eat, Pray, Love. Different strokes for different folks. I think I was that way as well for a very long time. I get her. I think now, being single, I recognize, if I’m not happy single, being with someone isn’t going to fix it, married or not. Bliss is a personal thing and a choice.

  5. I agree that I think you have to be happy with yourself to be happy in your marriage. Love comes from within!

  6. Sounds like an interesting read.

  7. This book sounds really interesting. Ever since my parents’ marriage fell apart when I was in university, I’ve been watching other marriages, trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Five years married this May and I still haven’t figured that out… but I like reading books about it! :) Thanks for the review – sounded smart to me. :)

  8. My mom and my grandma drilled into me that I had to be me own person in marriage at all costs. Easier said that done but true all the same. Thanks for the reminder!

  9. Why not? I’m always looking for new material to read.

    I agree that being your own person is important – I think couples that only identify as what they are together quite often have difficulties overcoming challenges. Makes it more difficult to change.

  10. Marrying your best friend is a good starting place for a happy relationship. Committing every day to that relationship is another. Anyone who says marriage is easy is lying. Marriage is work, but it’s worth it. I’m fine on my own, but I’m better with him. I prefer myself with him. He makes me a better person, and I know he feels the same about me.

    That whole thing about making sure you have a life outside your marriage? Yeah, OK. But my thing is that whenever I go do something fun on my own: all I wish for is to have him there with me to share it. As long as I keep feeling that way, I’m pretty sure I’m doing it right.

  11. My marriage absolutely does better when I’m immersed in my own interests outside of the two of us. I’d love to read it :)

  12. The secret to a happy relationship is probably communication. And the ability to admit when you totally screwed up.

  13. It might make my hubs a little nuts if he saw me reading it, but I’d like to!

  14. I think having hobbies/work you’re passionate about, and communication are both secrets to a happy marriage.

  15. Communication, honesty, trust & vulnerability are the keys to a happy marriage. A sense of humor is key. We wouldn’t have survived the past few years as parents without it.