“Marriage, the last vestige of Church and State, is the testimony to our commitment to each other and the culmination of profound love.” Or is it? In her latest book, The Nine Phases Of Marriage: How To Make It, Break It, Keep It, bestselling author and gender expert Susan Shapiro Barash answers some of the thorniest questions on the appeal, validity, and pitfalls of the marital institution. Mrs. Barash is here today to share with Miss A readers the results of her illuminating and insightful study.
Q. Welcome to Miss A, Mrs. Barash. The Nine Phases Of Marriage is one of those books every woman needs to read before walking down the aisle. What should modern day brides be prepared to face after meeting Mr. Right (or Mr. Good Enough) at the altar?
A. Modern day brides should be prepared to face the ups and downs of our fast paced, slick society. The delicate balance of work, romance, family (in-laws, adult siblings, parents), friends, interests and eventually children, is not always easy to achieve. If the couple has been in counseling, has been honest with one another and has discussed the ‘what ifs ‘ of life, they will be better prepared. And of course, Passion and Longing, Phase One of my study, cannot be sustained quite as it is during the courtship and wedding period. But since romance matters to many wives, they should consider date night and specifically carved out ‘couple time’ and other ways to keep the romance going.
Q. What is it about marriage that makes it so appealing, in spite of the new challenges and complexity of the role of wife?
A. Our society is keenly invested in marriage and in the role of the wife. As I state in my book, it is the last vestige of church and state. It is also the highest form of commitment in a coupled society. It translates into ‘I love you enough to spend the rest of my life with you’ and this is heady stuff, filled with promise and expectation. But wives also hold the bar too high, young wives as well as those in the middle years and later years. And we have to reconsider this and be more accepting and more willing to roll with the punches. Being a wife today is complex indeed, because the world has changed for women these past five decades much more than for men. And wives have one foot in the old template of wife and one foot in the new template — one that is not quite fully formed or understood.
Q. Alpha Wives, Beta Wives, Survivor Wives, Happily Divorced Wives…different approaches and different expectations. Which one has more chances to see her marriage succeed and why?
A. I have researched each of these types of wives in my study/book The Nine Phases of Marriage, and learned that each brings a certain attitude and expectation to the relationship– and some are crossovers. But regardless of what kind of wife a woman is, it remains important to have this identity. The majority of divorced women and widows hope for another chance. Those wives who are in a marriage that is somewhat disappointing and yet somewhat fulfilling hope to make it better, to improve matters.
Q. Even when the first go at that ‘endless love’ fails, a second or third chance at wifedom is still regarded as more acceptable than life as a single. What is your advise for divorcee and widows who are willing to invest in a new relationship?
A. Yes, indeed, the majority of single women hope for a second or third chance. It is partly a societal prescription and partly hardwiring that makes this the case. For the second or third marriage to succeed, a woman should have her eyes wide open in terms of children (grown or younger, hers and his), grandchildren, ex in-laws, finances, lifestyle, ex-wives or deceased wives, and friendships. Be very cautious and take your time, I would advise, learn about the person so that there are no surprises– or fewer surprises. Be alert and honest with yourself.
Q. Marriage: sacred vow or bargain?
A. Both, sacred vow and a deal. So again, know who you are, know who he is, know what values you share and what you can and cannot accept as life tosses obstacles and circumstances your way. Most women hope that marriage will be romantic, safe, rewarding and ongoing– a way to not be alone in the world and to share a life.
Q. The Nine Phases Of Marriage is a guide written for women from a wife perspective. Do you think that men could benefit from reading it? Have you ever thought about interviewing a group of men on the same subject?
A. The Nine Phases of Marriage is a guide book for women that would prove a guide book for men as well. I do not interview men for my books, and learn about them from a woman’s perspective. That underscores why my work could be a cheat sheet for men. They would glean insight into what women want.
Q. One last question, Mrs. Barash. Do you have a favorite charity? Any philanthropic work you would like to share with our readers?
Susan Shapiro Barash is the author of thirteen non-fiction women’s-issues books. She is a renowned relationship expert and teaches gender studies at the Marymount Manhattan College, in New York. Barash is frequently sought after by newspapers, television shows and radio programs to comment on women’s issues and blogs for the Huffington Post and Psychology Today. To know more about her, please visit her website, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon and Goodreads pages.