Authors Offer 'Rules' for Marriage, Despite Divorce

Their recommendations for "capturing the heart of Mr. Right" included not returning his calls and declining a Saturday-night date if not asked before Wednesday.

While critics said such guidelines were outdated, sexist and manipulative, millions of women across the world went wild for Ellen Fein's and Sherrie Schneider's 1995 play-hard-to-get dating strategy called The Rules.

Fein and Schneider have now written the third book in the series, The Rules for Marriage: Time-Tested Secrets for Making Your Marriage Work — just as Fein is filing for divorce from her husband of 16 years.

Fein denies any perceived contradiction in continuing to cast herself in the role of marital adviser.

"I don't think it ruins my credibility at all… I totally, 100 percent, believe in The Rules," she says. "We told you what to do to get him, and now we're telling you what to do to keep him."

In fact, the book notes that while Fein has separated from her husband, "she is more committed to The Rules than ever.

'Not About Fairness'

Like their first two books, The Rules for Marriage advises women to put their own needs on the back burner and maintain an air of mystery.

"This book is about self-esteem," says Schneider. "It's about setting boundaries."

Here's a sample of their rules for a successful marriage:

Rule #5: Lower your expectations in the first year.

Rule #6: Be a team. Go to parties together or not at all. Force yourself to go to his distant cousin's wedding even though you don't know anyone and have a million things to do that weekend. (The authors also suggest you consult with your husband about everything from the hemline of a cocktail dress to health and career issues. Separate vacations are a no-no, as are separate savings accounts.)

Rule #7: Give him 15 minutes alone when he comes home … Let him take off his jacket, sort through the mail, grab a cold drink, play with the dog, sit in his La-Z-Boy, or lie down on the couch for 15 minutes before you say a word. (Even if he's late, the authors say, you don't want him to feel smothered and start taking the long way home.)

Rule #9: Let him win. More often than not, when you let your husband be right and try to make him happy, he turns around and reacts in kind — and both of you win.

Rule #10: Accept that some things are none of your business. (That includes his relationship with his family, why he's home late from work, his health, his business secrets and his choice in clothing.)

Rule #13: Don't expect a lot of sympathy from your husband … Thank goodness for friends and relatives!

Rule #23: Do things you don't want to do. (Going to college reunions or antique car shows and watching porn are all on the list.)

"It's not about fairness, " says Fein. "It's about what works."

And when it comes to sex, the only one who should be calling the shots, say The Rules authors, is the man.

"Whether you like it or not, or think it's right or fair," Rule #29 advises, "your husband determines your sex life. Whether your husband wants it all the time or is not that interested in sex, you will be happiest if you adjust yourself accordingly."

Saying they have their readers' best interests in mind, Schneider and Fein warn women not to make the first move with their husbands because it's just too risky.

"We don't want you to get hurt," says Schneider. "And you get hurt whenever you initiate things."

Questioning Fein's Credibility

As for why her marriage fell apart, Fein, mother of two children, recalls her earlier years of matrimony. "I had a perfect marriage, and I did every single one of those rules … My husband was the happiest thing," she says.

But once the book became a best seller, her sudden celebrity became a problem. Fein admits, "I probably didn't prioritize things well enough and I got very tired and very burnt out … I just was too tired."

Fein says she hid the fact of her failing marriage from her publisher for a year and continued working on the new book with Schneider. Warner Books learned about the divorce when a reporter called their offices to ask about it.

"There are at least a dozen advice gurus on relationships that have been divorced," argues Schneider, whose marriage of seven years remains intact. "And nobody ever mentions it because their advice is good."

Their personal lives are not the source of their credibility, Schneider adds.

"We have a gift for helping women with dating and marriage," she maintains. "And that is going to continue — regardless of what happens in our personal lives."

Written for by Rebecca Raphael.