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The big picture (in picture) of a long and happy marriage.

The Secret to Prolonged Wedded Bliss: Two Televisions

This coming April, my wife and I will celebrate our twentieth wedding anniversary. At a time when marital unions seem as disposable as toothbrushes or cans of spray cheese, I am occasionally asked to unlock our secret to success. My answer is very simple: Two televisions.

My bride and I both work very hard at our careers, as well as parenting 11 and 14 year-old daughters. Our down time is precious to us, and when we have occasion to relax and watch a little television there is practically no overlap with respect to our viewing interests.

There was a brief, blissful sliver of time when “Mad Men” captured our shared, rapt attention, but alas Don Draper and company ventured into the 1970s without us and now my wife and I have been left with very little common viewing ground.

One genre that does curry a modicum of shared interest is home improvement (in lowercase so as not to be confused with the Tim Allen star vehicle of the 1990s.) But even in that niche, there appears to be a considerable amount of real estate between her viewing preferences and mine.

My beloved prefers the “quick hit” programs of mid-tier cable. You know the ones—they usually feature an impossibly attractive husband and wife who buy what appears to be a quaint fixer-upper home and soon discover the place is fraught with wiring or plumbing or structural issues that could create a one-way ticket to bankruptcy court. The couple then enlists the services of their good friend, the intrepid contractor, who not only solves the problems, but does so under budget so that the couple can afford the good marble countertops for the guest bathroom.

My preference is the granddaddy of home improvement shows: “This Old House.” Unlike the stuff my better half prefers to watch, an entire season of “This Old House” covers just that—ONE house. Each episode focuses on specific facets of a home renovation in decidedly more detail than the “fast food” cable home improvement shows. We see craftspeople at work as a residence goes from ramshackle to stripped down to gradually renovated, and not in a highly-edited 45 second video montage set to dreadful canned music.

And sometimes our homeowners do encounter those potentially bank-busting challenges, and these people (with whom we have likely developed some level of familiarity if not outright affinity) are left to make tough decisions about what they can or cannot do as a result of pinched budgets (notwithstanding some promotional considerations, we are told the homeowners are in fact spending their own money for the majority of the work being done).

My wife and I have been indulging in this dichotomy of home improvement entertainment for nearly two decades. Has it made us more industrious homeowners? Absolutely not. Do they inspire us to take on more repair-and-replace projects around the house? Sure.

But the real pay-off has been figuring out an effective solution to circumvent the nascent contempt that underlines years of bickering over entertainment to fill those blissful moments of marital downtime.

Now we just have to figure out how to tackle those projects.