Marriage and relationships are hard, and no one couple or country has it all figured out. With that said, each place (and corresponding set of cultural norms) has a few ideas about what's important in a relationship. And Jo Piazza, author of the forthcoming book How to Be Married, set out to identify them; she traveled to places as varied as Chile, Kenya, Denmark, and France to interview hundreds of people about what it takes to a make a marriage work.
"I started this book believing that somewhere, someone has figured out the secret to the perfect marriage," she told Vogue. "Now I know that everyone, no matter how good their relationship, struggles to make it work. A happy and successful marriage requires effort every day.” Keep in mind that the below excerpts from French women err on the heteronormative side; read on for insight as to how our friends across the pond make long-term relationships work.
Make yourself happy first
"American women think that they need a man to fulfill them. We [French women] fulfill ourselves and then we find a man to come along and be part of our journey," one French woman told Piazza. "None of the whining 'Ooohhhhh I look fat in this dress…I look old!' He will believe what you tell him to believe about you. You tell him you feel beautiful and thin and young and sexy and that is what he will think of you. The more you love yourself, the more your husband will love you."
Avoid the mundane
"When you go out to dinner put down your damn phone and don't talk about work or the laundry or the broken toilet," said one of the French women Piazza interviewed. "Speak about things that are interesting, and leave the nagging to his coworkers." Another adds, "Don't pick small fights; don't speak of small things. And above else, never be boring."
Don't forget to flirt
"Even after years of marriage, having babies, losing jobs… [French] husbands still gaze at their wives with an intense mixture of passion and curiosity," notes Piazza. The French women she interviewed emphasized the importance of staying mysterious. "Stop peeing with the door open. Keep some things private!" Another adds that there's nothing wrong with a little flirting. "Americans are such prudes about flirting. It releases some of the tension."
Next up: The 10 things French women always do when decorating a home.