Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Wire Saved My Marriage

While waiting tables in my early twenties I became determined to learn, once and for all, the difference between a date and a one-night stand. Another waitress and I swapped dating advice books wrapped in brown paper bags at the cash register, hoping people would think they were something less humiliating, like drugs.

One of the books suggested that the basic character defects men had fell into two categories, a profound duality that encompassed all of the subtle complexities of life. Type A Men were axe murderers or pimps who refused to tell you their last name and arrived to pick you up with a police escort. Type B Men cleared their throats a tad too loudly when they were, on occasion, ten minutes late to pick you up. It was up to you to decide which kind of man you could live with.

Well, the man I wanted to live with did not have any problems at all. He was perfect. I had only known him for a few weeks and I’d already dreamt about him twice. In the first dream we’d sailed around the world visiting exotic locales on a wooden sailboat and in the second, we’d run a marathon side by side. At the end of the marathon I’d been so exhausted I’d flopped down in the dirt to sleep and he’d put his hand under my head to use as a pillow. This was a man I wanted not only to eat popcorn with, but to marry.

And amazingly, despite the counter-intuitive suggestions I actually took from the dating books, we did go on a date and we did get married, a year later to the day.

But there was a wee bit of territory my reading had not covered. Not only, I discovered, were there more than two types of men, but sharing a life, a house, a mortgage and a child with one of them was a sure-fire way to uncover a Dewey Decimal system worth of categorical flaws of my own. I had vowed to stick with one man for the rest of my life before knowing exactly who I was or what kind of life I wanted to live.

Nine years in, I began to blame him.

And so, last spring when I was ready to move out, my husband was ready to help me pack. We decided to visit a marriage counselor first. It was clear that we still loved each other but that the whole living together thing wasn’t going to work. My husband said it best: “I’d like to date Valley again after our divorce.”

Our counselor was skilled enough to avoid taking sides while making us both feel heard. I’m sure that she offered lots of helpful advice, but one suggestion stood out. She asked us to rent and watch HBO’s “The Wire.” Every night. Together. Even though we weren’t speaking during the day and were sleeping in different rooms at night.

It seemed like such an absurd suggestion that I was willing to try it. And eventually, through five complete seasons of Baltimore cops chasing, arresting and building intimate bonds with Baltimore drug dealers, my husband and I began to inch closer together on our chair and a half. Compared to McNulty’s relationship with his ex-wife, ours didn’t seem so bad. I began to realize that, married or not, I’m still responsible for running my own race. Having the chance to rest my head on my husband’s shoulder at the end of the day is a lot better than demanding he carry me through it.

And now that we are celebrating our ten year wedding anniversary this June, we can’t agree on which series to watch next. But, I would say that’s a Type B kind of problem to have.


  1. OMG . . . LOVED this. Really well-written and wonderful, Valley!!!

  2. Valley - You are such an amazing writer. Well done! And by the way, congratulations on 10 years - It doesn't seem like it could have been that long.

  3. Excellent story, Valley! Congratulations on the ten-year solution!

  4. Awesome, Valley and congrats on the ten year anniversary!

  5. I'd love to know why the therapist came up with that solution. It seems so off the wall. "The couple that watches cable drama together, stays together?" I mean, I love that she prescribed it (and I burned through the series myself), but what did she know that you didn't? (Or that I don't?) You don't have to answer. I just find it fascinating.

  6. I'm so happy for you both. Congratulations!

  7. Somehow your posts are always timely to my life. And that, I imagine, is one reason you write. You connect to me, and to so many who are going through or who have been through similar situations. Right now, as I wonder about my current relationship (maybe saved by Stargate Universe, but the show was cancelled!) your writing reminds me how much I am learning about myself while I try to learn about someone else. Keep writing, Valley. You keep me inspired.