A heartfelt conversation with Ramona Zabriskie
“What is life for? Is it all about you and your happiness or is it about others? Is it about helping your husband to become his most courageous, most loving self? Is it about you becoming your best, most creative, most loving, generous self? Is it about children and starting a whole nother generation and helping them become their best, most mature, most intelligent selves? Is it about the projects you take on as an individual and as a family and as a couple that go out to impact and influence for good? The more solid a marriage is; the more solid a family is, the more positive influence and impact they have on the people around them: the extended family, the friends, the community, the nation, even the world. They’re so solid emotionally that they don’t spend a lot of energy; they don’t waste a lot of energy on the internal angst that so many dysfunctional relationships and families go through. That’s a lot of energy wasted. If they’re solid, they just have all this energy left over that it can just spill out blessing others and that’s what life is for, in my opinion. This is what we should all be hoping for, looking for, and aiming for.”
This wonderful view on life is expressed by Ramona Zabriskie, author of Wife for Life: The Power to Succeed in Marriage. Her book has and continues to inspire women from all different marital backgrounds to build up their marriages or soon-to-be marriages to a grand marriage with a love that will last longer than a lifetime. Zabriskie herself has been married for 38 years, has seven children, and three grandchildren. She loves old movies, music, being with her grandchildren and family, and teaching. She admits when it comes to teaching, anyone would be lying if getting up on stage in front of others was not nerve wracking, but she loves talking to people and making others happy. “The presentations I make these days are an hour and a half to two hours. That’s just me, standing up there talking and it just blows my mind!” Zabriskie said. Her voice in real life is just like her voice in her book: it is a voice that flows, a voice that comforts, and a voice many will not want to stop listening to or reading from. She even mentioned that when she lived in London for a year and a half she made friends with women from 24 different nations and many of them were African. Her African friends would say to her, “Oh, Mona, talk to me, just talk to me, keep talking” because they loved the sound of her voice and her American accent.
Women who read Wife for Life would think her target audience was married women or newlyweds, but in actuality, her target audience is to the young women who are not yet married, who are afraid to be married, who have had bad experiences with relationships, or who have had bad role models to watch while growing up. “My intent was to restore her confidence in marriage and to show her that it’s possible,” Zabriskie said. Once she had finished the book, a New York editor told Zabriskie to share her book before publication to see what others thought. She gathered 25 beta readers who came from every marital experience and even a couple of men. “Some were unmarried, some had been married, but were now single, some were multiple divorced, there were a couple older women who had been married for decades, and then we had everything in between and every state of marital happiness, as well. We did that on purpose,” Zabriskie said. “What they really did for me was come back and say, in their own way, ‘Why do you think this book is fully for a young unmarried woman or a newlywed?’ This book is for everyone. This book is for every woman. [All of the beta readers] said that. That was a big surprise for me. That was not my intent.”
It can be both surprising and rewarding to discover something on such a grand scale. For a writer to discover that her original intended audience impacted an even larger audience is truly wonderful. Zabriskie said another surprising trait was that many women who find her who are just browsing the internet and find her book are women who are thinking of or in the process of getting a divorce. Yet another surprise was when Zabriskie discovered women would buy the books in stacks to give out at bridal showers and wedding receptions. “I really love and applaud women who do come to the book who are not in such a dire circumstance who just want to learn and be prepared or who want to improve a pretty solid good marriage right now, but they just want things to be as good as they can be or better and they are very inspired by the concept of a grand marriage because I think we all know it’s possible and, deep in our hearts, at least we hope, we long, we wish, but we’re looking around and it’s very despairing not to see it anywhere. So that is what I do. I put myself out there as an advocate and as a mentor,” Zabriskie said.
Being an advocate and a mentor to women with all different kinds of marital backgrounds, Zabriskie is thrilled when she is told by another wife that she has a successful marriage thanks to Wife for Life. “It happens every day and it is very humbling,” Zabriskie said. “I don’t take a lot of credit for it. I’m just so thrilled to help and that is all I ever hoped for.” Zabriskie has been asked by her readers on who influenced her while writing. She answered that successful wives are the experts and said that she was influenced by dozens and dozens of wives. She read 150 books on marriage before she wrote Wife for Life and her husband even asked if she was ever going to write her book. Throughout all of her research, she realized two things were missing that she was really looking for that she could not find: why do women want to be married and why do women want to be married to one particular man? “I started thinking real hard about a woman’s ‘why’ for marriage that I hoped would resonate so deep down with women that it would reach their hearts, their limbic systems, if you will, their emotions. I wrote the book to do that,” Zabriskie said. “Yes, I did all that research, all those studies, I know the academic voice I could’ve written in, even though I don’t have a PhD in marriage and family relations, but I wanted to reach the heart.”
Returning to her voice, Zabriskie did not want her book to read like a textbook because then it would end up back on the shelf collecting dust. It had to resonate deep within the womanly heart. “I’m a mature, maternal kind of person and very compassionate and that is the voice I use,” Zabriskie said. “I wrote every word from the heart, not from the grain.” Her voice really reaches her readers and Zabriskie is thrilled when women tell her in person or through a review that it feels like they are reading words of wisdom from a friend and that is exactly what Zabriskie wanted. “I would love to inspire a whole army of mature women who are willing to get involved and help younger women or less successful wives or confused women who are scared, who will step in and say, ‘No, no, no, come on. I’ll help you. You could use it,’” Zabriskie said.
Zabriskie has assembled a team of mature women who are willing to help other women alongside Zabriskie who call themselves the “Dream Team.” These women act as teacher’s assistants at the online university Wife for Life University. At Wife for Life University, Zabriskie teaches live online classes and her “Dream Team” are right there helping out in the classes. Women, no matter their marital background, sign up for the ten week classes and the classes are becoming a huge success. “It’s live, it’s dynamic, there’s always new people joining, and they can support each other throughout the week on the Wife for Life University forum, so it becomes a very supportive community. It’s a beautiful thing. It’s gorgeous and I love it,” Zabriskie said.
For a future book, women have asked Zabriskie if she would write a Husband for Life book and she admitted that she had considered it and even knew exactly how she would write it, but anytime she would try to write it, she would stop. She knew men would not buy the book, their wives would and would then try to force their husbands to read it and, to be honest, would men REALLY read the book? More than likely not. The truth is many men read Wife for Life, which was yet another surprise for Zabriskie. They would read it on purpose or out of curiosity. “I articulate for [men] what they wish they could articulate. Not only that, they learn about themselves. They learn all about themselves as men and it just blows their minds and they eat it up,” Zabriskie said. Granted, the information for men in Wife for Life is intended for men with good intentions for wives or future wives. “Wife for Life teaches you how to help your husband understand you better, how to teach him what you need so that he gets what you need, and you’re building yourself up the same time you’re building your marriage up and you’re building your husband up,” Zabriskie said.
To hold Wife for Life for the first time in physical form was very humbling for Zabriskie and she still feels humbled to this day. She surprises herself for, though she has gotten used to seeing her book, when she opens it and reads a paragraph or two, she is baffled by some of the things she said and it is still awe-inspiring to her. Being such a compassionate and humble woman, Zabriskie has shared so much and continues to share so much wisdom with women everywhere. She is an inspiration and has one of the largest hearts that is all too ready to help and to love. “As women, inside, we are oceans. We are fluid, we are moving like the tide going in and out. We are so fluid inside, so full of emotion and thoughts and dreams that we are incredibly respective to all the emotion and everything going on around us all the time. We just absorb it all up and that’s an incredible gift, but the idea of losing yourself in a relationship where you’re no longer yourself, in a sense, is true. You will become someone altogether new in the end, but you’ll be better than you could’ve been by yourself, I believe. And he will become better than he has ever been, that’s for sure,” Zabriskie said. “You’re on this path, this grand marriage journey, and you have taken your first step by reading the book, but there is a long road ahead of you. No matter when you’re married: if you’re 40 or 50 or 20, you’ve got a long road ahead of you and there are tons of potholes and detours along the way and I don’t want you to trip up. I’m in this for the long haul. I tell people, I want to be at your 50th wedding anniversary party. You might have to roll me in in my little wheelchair, but I really want to be there. That is how I feel. I am committed to anyone who wants to commit to this Wife for Life ideal. I’m committed to you and I will do anything I can to help you get there.”
Originally published at www.examiner.com on January 24, 2016.