Wedding officiants, pay attention. It's time to switch up that sage marriage advice. Instead of forsaking all others, you might want to encourage separate vacations, makeout sessions with old flames, low expectations and lots of secrets. Those controversial techniques are what keep some brides married happily ever after, according to spouses profiled in the new book "The Secret Lives of Wives: Women Share What It Really Takes To Stay Married," by Iris Krasnow.
"Marriage can last a very long time; you gotta be creative," says Krasnow, a best-selling author and assistant professor in the School of Communication at American University.
"Unconventional is good," she enthuses.
"There is no gold standard to which [couples] should aspire. Everyone will rewrite their own marriage rules according to their needs - " financial and emotional - " and their expectations."
And if your expectations include sleeping with the handyman or leaving your husband at home while you gallop across the world? The author is not going to judge you.
Here's a closer look at six secrets from the lives of wives Krasnow interviewed.
Krasnow, who's been married "23 blissful years . . . ha ha ha," interviewed more than 200 long-married wives for the book, gleaning what she calls the "straight truth" about their marriages, excerpted in riveting narratives.
She points out that the vast majority of married women contemplate divorce "if not once a month, at least every other month."
"The myth of the happily-ever-after bride and groom marching off together in the sunset with no challenges, no problems, is false," she says.
But if the old rules are out, is holy matrimony now a 24-hour buffet of anything-goes debauchery?
Is marriage the new Vegas?
Krasnow insists there will always be certain rules necessary for a thriving marriage, including trust, respect, emotional and sexual intimacy, friendship and flexibility. "Or else you're doomed," she warns.
Krasnow says the happiest wives she interviewed all retain a sense of purpose, passion and self-esteem outside their marriages.
As she writes in the book, "In order to keep the promise - 'till death do us part' without killing someone first, a woman must have work and hobbies she loves, extramarital adventures and a wine cellar."
Can we get that embroidered on a throw pillow? It would make an awesome wedding gift.
SECRET #1 MAKE OUT WITH OLD BOYFRIENDS! "I'm not condoning adultery in this book," Krasnow insists. "But in some marriages, it's mutually acceptable. It's not OK for me; but it's not my marriage, it's theirs." One such tale comes from Cynthia, a white- haired 68-year-old who reconnects with her old college boyfriend. They begin an affair of "necking," "tongue kissing" and "heavy petting" in the back of his car. While they never go all the way, their rendezvous adds a jolt of romance and mystery to herlife - " and her marriage. "Seeing Thomas makes me get along better with my husband," Cynthia says in the book. "I am a nicer, more tolerant person because . . . I am a happier wife."
SECRET #2 GO ON SEPARATE VACATIONS! Krasnow has spent the last eight summers (or at least a good chunk of those summers) several states away from her husband. "I come home and I'm always hot to see him," she confides. But isn't one of the best parts of marriage having a built-in travel companion? "You don't have to be twined as one for 20 or 30 years," she says. "Your husband likes to golf in Scotland and you like to lie on a beach in Greece? Go! You come back recharged, you come back alive." SECRET #3 GET YOURSELF A PLATONIC BOYFRIEND! Krasnow writes that "boyfriends with boundaries" can be a "sexy pick-me-up," reviving marriages. She says frustrated wives whose husbands hate long heart-to-hearts should cultivate male buddies to act as confidants. "If you're a woman who loves men, you should be able to have more than one man love you back," she tells The Post. "I'm not telling my readers to sleep with all these men . . . but it takes a tribal effort to steer a long marriage on its course." You don't get it all in one place." SECRET #4 LOWER THOSE EXPECTATIONS, LADIES! "If you expect your partner to make you happily ever after, that's a ticket to divorce," Krasnow tells The Post, recalling a particularly fraught time in her own marriage when she was homebound with four young children. She was ready to walk out herself when a friend advised her, "Oh, Iris, just lower your expectations." That advice, she says, has served her long marriage well. "Nobody else can make you happy," she says. "If you're expecting your groom to make you happy for the rest of your life while you're marching down the aisle, you may as well turn yourself around."
SECRET #5 CHOOSE MR. PREDICTABLE! Early in the book, Krasnow shares advice from a few famous wives, including Yoko Ono and Queen Noor of Jordan. Perhaps the savviest - " not to mention the most succinct - " wedding wisdom comes from former First Lady Barbara Bush: "Pick the right husband in the first place." Krasnow says the right husband is usually one who's interminably predictable. "Reliability is the sexiest quality that you could hope for," she says. "Don't look for sex that sends you overthe moon - " although that does help - " but look for somebody who says, - 'I do' and - 'I will,' and does it."
SECRET #6 KEEP SECRETS FROM YOUR SPOUSE! "A secret is different than a lie," Krasnow clarifies. "We all have secrets. People dye their hair, they get plastic surgery, they wear Spanx." But, she says, not all secrets must be shared with your husband. Crushes on other men, furtive hopes for a far-away future and negative venting are better left under wraps, she says. "You spew this poison and it poisons the relationship," she warns. "I think secrets are healthy, as long as they're not secrets that are hurting anyone else."