Want to know the secret to a long, successful and fulfilling marriage? Good Housekeeping has the answers - all eight of them to be exact, thanks to best-selling author Iris Krasnow and her latest book, The Secret Lives of Wives (Gotham Books, $26, amazon.com). Krasnow, a journalism professor at American University (and a wife who is just one year shy of her silver 25th wedding anniversary), spent two years interviewing over 200 married women - from ladies rounding their 15th year of marriage to veteran wives who have watched their grandchildren walk down the aisle decades after they exchanged their own vows - to learn how keep the marital partnership strong, permanent, and yes, fun-filled. The result of Krasnow's research: eight top tips to going the distance long after you promised each other "happily-ever-after."
1. Have Secrets
One of the chief tenants of Krasnow's book is that every marriage is entitled to a healthy amount of secrecy. This does not apply to harmful activities - bank robbery or adultery, for instance, but rather to the "secrets of your soul that aren't hurting anyone else." Krasnow writes, "no one knows what's really going on in a marriage except the two people in it. That gives each of us the freedom to write our own rules and keep our own secrets."
2. A Marriage Should Run on Multiple Tracks
Marital success is not, Krasnow asserts, about depending on someone else. Instead, each spouse should allow for self-growth, whether in a career, through special hobbies, or pursuing fun with a great group of pals. "When you go out with your friends or your work is pumping you, you are pumping your self esteem and your sense of accomplishment," Krasnow explains. "When partners are each growing on their own, they have a better shot at growing for a longer time." So go ahead, seek your adventures or hang with the girls and leave your husband at home. It's good for both of you!
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3. Act Like a Kid Again
Remember that journal you kept as a teen because you loved to write? Maybe you plucked a violin in your school orchestra, or played midfield on a club lacrosse team. As kids and young adults, it may have been easier to chase your bliss simply because you had more time. But rediscovering an interest from your youth in your married life can build more confidence, both in yourself and in your relationship, according to Krasnow. "When you resurrect a childhood passion that is yours alone," she explains, "you feel worthy. Everyone needs to feel like they're worthy." Greater self-worth leads to greater happiness, and, Krasnow explains, the happiness that you build for yourself is crucial to a wedded couple. "Stop expecting someone else to make you happy; that's a real formula for success of marriage," she says.
4. Keep Your Friends Close
It's terrific if you count your husband as your best friend - just make sure you make room for some best girlfriends too. Krasnow's research affirms that the women with the highest marital satisfaction stay connected to a group of gals who spice up their social life, provide great laughs, and offer support for whatever unfolds in their marriages - the peaks and the valleys. Krasnow writes, "Our girlfriends, ever-forgiving and always empathetic, provide the escape hatch from the inevitable storms and challenges that comes with long marriages."
5. Spend Time Apart
Who says girls' night out has to just last an evening? If your idea of relaxation is a trip to the spa and not a day on the golf course with your hubby, Krasnow recommends the occasional vacation apart. Taking a separate week or even a separate summer can reinvigorate your marriage: "After some weeks apart from each other, removed from the grind of ordinary life, marriage seems way hotter than the tepid state in which you left each other in." Ooo la la!
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6. Lower Expectations
Happily-ever-after doesn't mean happy all the time, and it's important for you and your spouse to be realistic about the bumps along the married road. That is why it is imperative that women be zealous about forging their own sense of purpose; writes Krasner, "marital bliss is possible if each partner is blissful without the other."
7. Be Grateful
Practicing gratitude can go a long way in a marriage, whether it's thanking your husband for taking out the trash, or making time for him because he has given you the ability to have a life outside of your relationship. "Gratitude is a powerful feeler," explains Krasnow. "A lot of us need to stop and just say, 'thank you. I know you're not perfect and I am not perfect, but thank you for sticking it out.'"
8. Reslience Matters
Bearing a grudge does not make for a harmonious relationship. In fact, says Krasnow, "the ability to bounce back from strife and arguments is the real secret that makes marriages last forever."
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