My husband is a figment of my imagination. Now that I mention it, I myself am also a figment of my imagination. So much of how we relate to other people is based on our perceptions, our opinions, our unconscious biases, our interpretations of what they say and do; it’s hard to avoid coloring our portraits of other people without at least a splash of illusion and fantasy. Knowing that going in, I choose to add some sparkles and glitter glue to mine.
I’m a novelist. I can make a character sketch of anyone I know, and present it as umpteen different stories, all illustrated with completely true and verifiable details. It depends on what I observe and what kind of tone I want to set. I can make you fascinating or boring. I can give you a version of yourself that will leave you wondering why you never saw the potential hero that I see. That, of course, is what makes me a great life coach. People need a vision to get them through the day. I happen to think an inspiring vision of heroism is the best kind.
Back to my husband. He actually is a hero. He went out and became an emergency medical responder just because he wanted to be able to contribute in that way. He’s been first on the scene in two different accidents already. Luckily he doesn’t read all my posts, or he’d be pretty cheesed off that I am telling these stories about him! He researched becoming a bone marrow donor but wasn’t qualified (so, naturally, he wouldn’t think that counts). He rescued two little frogs that were trapped in his office lobby; one looked like it had already dehydrated beyond recovery, but he saved both of them, and carried them out to the creek where they hopped away. He volunteered two days to install solar panels on low-income families’ homes. He’s paid for a stranger’s gas. I was there with him one day when he helped a young woman at IKEA strap a large piece of furniture onto the top of her car, using some tie-downs from our truck. I have a strong suspicion that he prefers to do his good deeds in secret, when I’m not looking, so I don’t embarrass him by talking about them. The story I would most like to tell, I dare not. He hates making a fuss. If you see him, don’t tell him. Just smile.
My man is also an ordinary man in some ways. I mean, he does appear to be human and mortal. He’s not the sort of guy to serenade me under the bedroom window, although he knows basically every possible rugby song, so if he did, the neighborhood would be talking. He’s never written me poetry and I’d be awfully surprised if he tattooed my name anywhere on his body. I bet $100 he wouldn’t remember the song from our first dance at our wedding, or be able to name it or the singer. We had a conversation shortly before our wedding in which he revealed he didn’t know my middle name – and couldn’t correctly name my eye color! Almost nothing in a typical romance novel would apply to him, except that he’s tall, dark, handsome, and makes my knees weak. Unless that’s middle age…
Research indicates that one key to a happy marriage is to overestimate your spouse’s good qualities. If you think I’m putting too much frosting on the cupcake and that my husband is actually less awesome than I think he is, I will fight you. I will dance-fight you anyway. I’ve never seen the point of those oh-so-common bitch sessions where everyone takes turns venting about how annoying their husbands are. If men do this, in my experience, it’s because they’re contemplating divorce. Women seem to do it as a medium of exchange. You have revealed a personal detail to me; therefore, I must reciprocate by sharing something personal and salient to the conversation. Ten minutes later, it’s like a competition to see who is the most mismatched to the lamest, dumbest, laziest, most immature and spoiled manchild. Oh, I see. You’re a 10 and he’s a 1. That makes perfect sense! I’ve been divorced, so I have plenty of stories to tell about being in a bad marriage to the wrong person for the wrong reasons. I know the difference. This time, I’m married on purpose, to my best friend, for great reasons. I like him and I want to talk to him as much as possible. He makes me laugh. I think he’s cute. If we weren’t already married, I would totally want to go out with him. I’m more attracted to him than I was when we started dating, and I think he’s a better catch.
All these attitudes are completely within my control. It’s my preference and my choice. I see what I look for. Every now and then, I allow myself a dirty little fantasy: the fantasy that I’m actually married to someone else, say, the husband or boyfriend of one of my friends, or a celebrity. There has never been a time when I would have wanted to trade for a single day. Sometimes I feel like I’ve dodged a bullet. Due to the miracle of social networking, I’ve been able to stay in touch with a few old flames, and it’s easy to see that we’ve grown apart even further in the years since we split. That makes it easier to be friends with them and easier to understand “what went wrong,” which was generally a fundamental personality mismatch. Bless you, honey, and go in peace.
My husband is my dream man because I’ve dreamed him that way. After our disastrous first marriages, we both spent a lot of time introspecting about what went wrong, what we could have done differently, and what we’d want in a good marriage. We’re both definitely “the marrying kind,” which is not true of everyone who signs a marriage license. More people should establish themselves as lone wolves or swingers or polyamorous; it would save a lot of heartache for all parties involved. We like being married. We’ve talked out much of the structure of our marriage: what is most important to us, what we like the best, what is the ideal balance between together and alone, what we want to do for fun. In the process, we’ve basically created and passed a certification program for becoming each other’s ideal spouse. He knows not to bother with bringing me stuffed animals or Mylar balloons; I know he’s unimpressed by make-up and high heels. We know where to put the effort for optimal results.
I live an illusion. I have a fantasy marriage with my dream husband. He looks the way I think a husband ought to look. He’s the first person I think of when anything interesting happens. I can’t wait to tell him things, whether it’s news or gossip or a dumb joke or some alternate song lyrics I just made up. He supports my work. He thinks I look great and he’s impressed with my housekeeping. He compliments my clothes, partly because he helps me shop for them, and I pick out things we both like. He “gives” me the freedom to travel alone and do whatever I want, because I return the favor and because we understand each other’s motives. I married him with the plan to make him happier he married me each year than he was the year before. Being married to someone who is glad he married you is a pretty effective way to tighten the bond! We’re motivated to delight each other. We’ve known each other for over a decade, and he still surprises me sometimes; I feel like he’s matured and improved with time, and that he’ll be even more interesting in another decade, and another after that. Some of this is because I asked enough questions when we got together. Some of it is because he’s risen to meet my expectations, responding to my hero worship the way a plant reaches toward the sun.
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I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.