- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 29, 2001

Author Iris Krasnow wife, mother of four, trim in a figure-hugging outfit with dark, wavy hair loosely pinned back struggles to talk above the laughter of 100 other wives and mothers.
"Even modern hip women go into marriage believing in the dream" of happily ever after, she tells the women who gathered last week for the Wednesday Morning Group lecture at the Cedar Lane Unitarian Church in Bethesda.
"But who tells you marriage means you have to buy snore strips?" she asks as the audience roars.
Men and women need a reality check about marriage, says Mrs. Krasnow, whose book, "Surrendering to Marriage: Husbands, Wives and Other Perfections," recently hit No. 1 on Amazon.com.
Yes, marriage brings inexplicable joy and "patches of light," she says. But it also brings "the grind of the ordinary" days filled with furniture covered with Juicy Juice, endless dirty dishes, talkative wives and silent husbands who sit in T-shifts glued to TV sports channels. Even sex undergoes a change, morphing from a blissful, near-daily honeymoon activity to another item on the weekly to-do list.
"The grind and hell" are worth it because marriage is based on a promise that is "bigger than our own selfish desires," says Mrs. Krasnow, who has been married 13 years to Annapolis architect Chuck Anthony.
"If we surrender to the sacred promise, then we can maybe go the distance," she says.
"Commitment is emancipating," she added on a recent appearance on the Oprah Winfrey show, where Miss Winfrey recommended that newlyweds be given Mrs. Krasnows book as a wedding gift "along with the blender."
Mrs. Krasnow believes her book is on "the front edge of a marriage- preservation movement."
"Many of us are seeing the dreadful ramifications of divorce," she said in an interview last week.
If people give up the impossible dream that marriage is sustained happiness, they can fight on and get through the tough times, she said, adding that two of her favorite sayings are that "the grass is not greener on the other side," and "nobody is perfect, so you may as well love the one youre with."
"Surrendering to Marriage" arrives at a time when there is national soul-searching on the issues of marriage and divorce.
Recent research, such as that by California therapist and reseacher Judith Wallerstein, is showing that many children never quite recover from their parents divorce and continue to struggle with it decades later.
The suffering of children of divorce contradicts the messages of the 1970s, when no-fault divorce was being introduced, that said if the divorce made the parents happy, the children would be happy, too.
Last year, researcher Linda Waite and syndicated columnist Maggie Gallagher wrote their book "The Case for Marriage" as a way to compile all the data that showed marriage to be a superior lifestyle, physically, emotionally, sexually and financially, to singlehood, cohabiting or divorce.
The nation has begun to respond to these messages: Private groups are encouraging premarital counseling, marriage mentoring and marriage education in communities around the nation. Government officials are working to encourage couples to get counseling before divorcing and reduce "marriage penalties" in tax codes.
But interest in reviving a marriage culture in America has galvanized another group, which believes that family diversity is becoming the norm, and that nontraditional families shouldnt be stigmatized in the rush to preserve marriage.
"Todays family issues are too complex to be settled by one-size-fits-all responses," Barbara Risman, a sociologist, said at a conference earlier this month in New York sponsored by the Council for Contemporary Families (CCF).
The pro-marriage movement "puts all our eggs in the leaky basket of an institution that can no longer serve as the exclusive way of organizing child-raising, elder care and other interpersonal obligations," said Stephanie Coontz, another CCF leader who is also an author and university professor.
Mrs. Krasnow, a self-avowed Democrat with an appreciation for Eastern and New Age philosophies, includes testimony from a lesbian couple in her book as an example of a committed relationship that is not sanctioned by mainstream society.
Her books focus, however, is that marriages are really filled with boredom, a fine line between love and hate, temptations and midlife malaise and that these are not good enough reasons for couples to divorce.
Second marriages are usually fraught with problems, she writes, "because you took your own imperfect self with you, and from that there is no escape."
Mrs. Krasnows book differs from another "surrendered" book released this year, "The Surrendered Wife," by Laura Doyle.
"The Surrendered Wife" advises women to stop trying to "manage" their husbands as if they were still at work. Instead, wives should recognize that marriages goals of companionship and romance require different behaviors, and women should become softer, more feminine and less demanding at home, Mrs. Doyle said in an interview with The Washington Times earlier this year.
Diane Sollee, director of the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education, prefers Mrs. Krasnows take on surrendering to Mrs. Doyles.
"The Surrendered Wife" seems to support the view that happily married couples are never supposed to disagree, and that women should basically "humor" their husbands to make the marriage work, said Ms. Sollee, a divorcee.
"Surrendering to Marriage" says "you both have to surrender to marriage, and realize that one of the reasons youre getting married is for the children and to build a civilization," said Ms. Sollee, who is interviewed in Mrs. Krasnows book.
Ms. Sollee, whose group is hosting a national conference on "smart marriages" in Orlando, Fla., next month has her own favorite quote on marriage, which is reprinted in Mrs. Krasnows book.
It comes from the Thornton Wilder play, "The Skin of Our Teeth": "I didnt marry marry you because you were perfect. I didnt even marry you because I loved you. I married you because you gave me a promise. That promise made up for your faults. And the promise I gave you made up for mine.
"Two imperfect people got married and it was the promise that made the marriage. And when our children were growing up, it wasnt a house that protected them; and it wasnt our love that protected them it was that promise."
Mrs. Krasnow, who asserts that her book is written for men and women, gives her husband the last word.
"For nearly three years as Iris has … badgered me for my thoughts," three words kept coming to mind "as the key ingredients of marriage … love, devotion and surrender," wrote Mr. Anthony.
"The 'ing of surrendering" is important, he said, because surrendered implies that the task is done, and surrender sounds like "a command that you must do such-and-such."
"Those fleeting glimpses of why were together sustains us, even when we cant stand to be in the same room," he wrote candidly, adding: "I got you, babe."


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