Charlie - posted on 12/08/2011 ( 34 moms have responded )
Author Iris Krasnow spent two years interviewing women for her book, The Secret Lives of Wives: Women Share What it Really Takes To stay Married, to discover what underpins successful, long-term relationships and uncover the secrets of a successful marriage.
If your relationship is 100% of your life and suddenly it isn't working out, then nothing's working out for you
UK divorce rates are down, but even Michelle Obama acknowledges marriage isn't easy. Finding fulfilment with the same partner for two years - let alone thirty – takes work and commitment. And Krasnow's quest for effective marital cement uncovered some interesting - if contentious - strategies including taking separate holidays, dates with exes and young, muscular 'home helps' (who polish more than just the taps).
However contentious the approach, the reason was the same: stable marriages require a degree of personal separation. 'If your relationship is 100% of your life and suddenly it isn't working out, then nothing's working out for you,' explains psychologist Dr. Becky Spelman. 'It's essential to have at least three things as important to you as your relationship, primarily to support you at these times.'
We considered a few of Krasnow's quirkier tactics, asking: Could they really support happiness long-term?
(1) Keeping secrets
'It's different to lying,' according to Krasnow. 'Crushes, fantasies, resentments... there's no need to spill these poisons into your marriage.' Spelman agrees. Unless asked - avoid sharing things that may cause either envy or unnecessary hurt. 'But strong, lasting bonds are forged in truth,' she says.
'If something's bothering you, explain to your partner that honesty will bring you closer and that's why you want to share. Set aside the time, agree on the topic and both confide one thing. See how it feels. We're scared that revealing negative emotions will cause arguments, but very often they don't. It's incredibly empowering to discover that you can feel how you feel and your partner accepts that.'
(2) Having sex when you don't feel like it
'[It] can heal anything, at least temporarily,' reckons Krasnow. Indeed, two out of three of us admit to regularly doing it out of duty rather than desire, according to a survey by makefriendsonline.com. Dr. Spelman agrees that going with the flow can lead to satisfaction - and even greater intimacy.
Even if we're stressed or tired, 'it has been repeatedly shown that engaging with touch and physical closeness can definitely lead to arousal, even if you thought you weren't in the mood.' If it doesn't, we're not suggesting you lay back and think of England. 'Try something you do feel like. "I don't want sex but let's try X and see how it feels" diffuses any pressure and can often lead to an intimacy compromise that makes both of you happy rather than quietly resentful.'
(3) Hanging out with exes
Krasnow cites one of her subjects who simply flirts with her ex - nothing more - and channels the sexual tension back into marital nooky. We like. Rosie Freeman-Jones, relationship expert at extra-marital affair website IllicitEncounters.com says many clients use the site for precisely this purpose. And that it works. 'Some extra marital activity can positively affect your relationship. An external, mutually understanding relationship can provide a single element your marriage is lacking. Sometimes innocent flirting and a few exchanged compliments are enough to re-instill your confidence.'
'Friendships separate from your spouse are crucial,' adds Spelman. 'With exes, the fact we used to date them indicates deeply shared interests that define you as an individual. Just ensure that any interaction stays in line with your values, that your partner is fully informed and that the set-up is mutually agreeable. If you know he'd be happier if you went for lunch rather than out clubbing, compromise so you both get what you need.'
(4) Taking separate holidays
Krasnow insists it makes women emotionally self-reliant, confident and individually stronger. Plus you have new experiences to share with your partner - not just whose turn it is to go to Tesco. 'Holiday time is precious so it's crucial that it refreshes and energises you,' says Spelman. 'If he's into hiking and you're a city break gal, this tactic could really work. But ensure your relationship needs are met. If taking a joint trip, maybe spend a day sightseeing separately and only meet up for dinner. Or have a three-day getaway with friends but then book something with your partner for a few days when you get back.'
(5) Having an affair
'Not getting caught 'perks' up a marriage' reckoned one of Krasnow's interviewees. Monogamy 'bores' even Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. 'Not getting your sexual needs is definitely a major issue but cheating is very dangerous,' warns Spelman. 'Negotiating a satisfying sex life with your partner, however, can be deeply gratifying and often works better than you'd expect.'
If your partner won't cooperate, ask yourself: 'is everything else enough?' If not, maybe it's not an affair you need but to consider stepping away from the relationship completely.' IllicitEncounter.com's 600,000+ strong membership numbers may prove that, for some, affairs work.
'But ultimately, our members want to sustain their marriage,' says Freeman-Jones. 'If things get too complicated, it's the affair that gets the chop first.'
Agree ? disagree ?