Washington Post contributor and Surrendering to Motherhood author Iris Krasnow dares to peer under the rock of appearances to expose the dark,
dirty secrets of marriage in order to help readers - and herself - discover why most
unions are worth fighting for. Divorce rates in the U.S. continue to hover near the fifty percent mark, and Krasnow's assignment in writing this book (and it was assigned, after the success of Motherhood) was to use her own marriage as a sort of field sample for saving
what sometimes seems unsalvageable.
She doesn't restrict herself to her own sometimes stormy relationship with her
husband, Chuck, although she's always painfully honest about her personal
experience with how spouses get
on each other's nerves over time, about how little battles (like coming home
to a messy house when her husband's been left alone for an evening with their four
young boys) can become epic wars, how sexual attraction wanes with parenthood,
age, and familiarity. She also delves into the trials of friends,
acquaintances, even strangers willing to talk about their discontent,
their divorces, their tired old routines, their affairs. It's a shockingly
intimate peek into the matrimonial bonds that are taken so for granted today -
not in the sexual sense, but in the raw emotional sense.
Krasnow comes to the conclusion again and again (as do various marriage
counselors and divorce lawyers she speaks with) that, unsurprisingly, the grass is rarely greener on the other side of the fence. Those who leave their marriages to be with others often find their "freedom" comes at a terrible price, paid in money, emotional pain, their children's security. Many - not all, but many - in
such circumstances find themselves wishing they'd stuck things out with their original spouses. That first blush of excitement and being "in love"
with their new lover quickly fades to similar sets of routines, annoying habits,
boredom and distance.
It's not all doom and gloom. Krasnow iterates that there's something
bedrock-solid wonderful about knowing that you're going to spend as much of your
life as you can with this person you've chosen. There are those rich veins of
shared experience that criss-cross the subterranean mazes of a marriage. And you
can stop beating yourself up that your marriage isn't happy-happy-happy all the
time. As Krasnow discovers, no one's is. Theirs ups and downs and, to paraphrase
an old saw, you can't appreciate the ups without the downs. Her advice -
probably the most succinct but useful one can find on the subject - is to let
go. You can't change a person, but you can remember to appreciate the
things you found so wonderful to begin with whenever you feel the steam rising
over one of those much-argued but never finished debates about picking up
laundry or closing the lid on the toothpaste tube. Surrender - not yourself, but
your stubborn insistence on always having things how you want them, on thinking
that with someone else you might find happiness. Tough to do
when it's human pride standing in the way, but, Krasnow says, she's no doubt -
nor will readers - that marriage is worth the effort. Happiness resides within
ourselves; switching mates midstream isn't the yellow brick road to paradise it
looks to be in our fantasies. Surrendering the Marriage should be required reading for every married adult.