Dr. Val FarmerDr.Val
Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

The Town Bar And The Wayward Wife

August 4, 2003

The television networks are missing a good bet. The soap operas are about super-slick city sophisticates, high-powered professionals with money, power and lovers with foreign accents, all muddling up their lives with affairs, fraud, alcohol, betrayal, murder and assorted major crimes against humanity.

Networks, get real! What you need for Neilson ratings is a rural soap opera about good, honest, "salt of the earth" types muddling up their lives with affairs, alcohol, betrayal, gossip, simple assaults and assorted minor insults against neighbors.

Here is a plot line for a projected pilot project, "Days of our Rural Lives."

Cowboy meets cowgirl. "Rural Cowboy."A young couple in their early twenties have a rollicking infatuation after a slow-pitch softball game. They retire to the town bar to hoist a few in the company of semi-rowdy cowboys (is there any other kind?) who know how to whoop and holler. The music is country-western and the atmosphere is sexualized and electric. The courtship waxes and wanes with the usual sexual politics of chase and capture.

Throw in an old boyfriend and a barroom fight for emphasis. The final episode in this sequence portrays an idyllic wedding party emerging from a rural church. The warm embraces and high hopes flow like champagne.

Oh well, nothing is perfect. "The Bar Scene Turns Ugly." It turns out our "rural cowboy" doesn't like bars after all. Or dancing. Not really. That is what he had to go through to find a wife. He wants domesticity, attention and good cooking. He is loyal, devoted and demanding. Lately, he has turned humorless and deadly serious. Life is hearth, home and hard work.

He goes to the bar with his wife and exhibits the personality of a loan collection officer working on commission. He makes no effort to dance with his wife and glowers his disapproval when she dances with others. She lights up and becomes the life of the party when others come around, but knows she'll catch hell for it later. Finally he has had enough and insists they leave early.

Bar and breakfast. "Women's Lib Comes to High Plains." The wayward wife enjoys herself with her single and divorced friends at the bar and then breakfast afterwards. She enjoys the "innocent" attention of men who ask her to dance, and the easy laughter of the group. She forms a strong friendship with a divorcee with a reputation for climbing into the sack with whomever.

Green-eyed monster makes his move. "The Martyred and Jealous Husband Confronts His Wayward Wife." A worried and pacing husband waits in vigil until 3 a.m. and confronts his wife on her activities. There are several explosive scenes where the husband tries to dictate to her the extent of her freedom, her friendships and reminds her of her motherly and wifely duties.

Next he resorts to rough and degrading interrogations capped off by some wild and unfounded accusations. Having no sense of timing, he tries to make sexual advances toward her and is rebuffed by his wife still steaming about his high-handed and unjust attacks on her integrity.

Self-help or self-delusion? "The Unhappy Wife Receives Much Consolation from Her Friends While Discussing Her Marital Problems." His wife shares the horrors of her husband’s behavior with a sympathetic cast of listeners, mostly female. Her friends support her rationalizations and minimize her guilt.

A particularly attentive and unattached male listens to her troubles and selectively discloses a tear jerking account of gross marital mistreatment by his first wife. At last, someone who finally understands.

This guy is scary. "The Devoted Husband Becomes Unglued and Tries to Save His Marriage in His Irrational State." The tension mounts between husband and wife as she prepares to go out. He prepares to spend a long evening waiting for her in the company of his agitated and racing thoughts.

When she finally returns, he catches her in a few white lies. This confirms his worst fears. He is losing his wife and family. He is losing his grip on himself. Alternately he blasts her with his anger and then begs and pleads with her as he tries to break through to her and show her the "Error of Her Ways."

Mom was right. "The Wife Stops Short of Having an Affair or a Divorce and Agrees to Counseling." These wholesome rural types regain their senses and remember their Sunday School lessons in time to avoid making a Major Mistake. The wife's parents assist by encouraging her to work at her marriage and to reassess her priorities.

Cowboys get help after all. "A Visit to the Shrink.." The couple visits a counselor at the High Plains Mental Health Center. They have a protracted and sometimes heated discussion about the bar and whether or not a married woman should be there without her husband, followed by an equally protracted and heated discussion about how the husband changed after the marriage and how he became a "stick-in-the-mud" homebody glued to his TV.

The counselor emphasizes choosing social activities where they participate as a couple, developing areas of mutual interest, improving emotional intimacy through conversation, having mutual friends, and spending more time together.

Feel good ending. "The Little Brown Church on the Prairie." The final scene shows the couple together in church holding hands while exchanging appreciative smiles and loving glances while their children look up adoringly. Now really, did you expect that "Days of our Rural Lives" would end any other way?