I remember what I thought marriage would be like long before I got married. I loved to fantasize what my husband would be like - how absolutely everything I did would be irresistible to him. How absolutely everything he did would be irresistible to me.
My husband would be cute. He'd probably wear glasses. He'd wear cool boxer shorts as pajamas. I never thought about what kind of job he would have, but he'd wear a tie to work every day, come home and shower me with love and affection.
We could sit out and watch the stars at night. We'd take romantic walks in the rain. We'd embrace while watching sunsets night after night.
Life was going to be oh so romantic.
Then I stopped daydreaming. After years of waiting and fantasizing, God brought along the right man for me - and he was cute. He did wear glasses. And he did wear cool boxer shorts as pajamas.
His job has changed over the years. He doesn't typically wear a tie to work every day. And while we do experience love and affection when we're together, real life has a habit of getting in the way. Kids and chores and work stress have a funny way of overshadowing all the affection.
As for my other dreams, we've sat out to watch the stars a couple times in our 13 years of marriage, but head indoors once the mosquitoes start biting. I don't particularly like taking walks in the rain - it only happens when we're caught in a sudden downpour and are running for cover. And we'd both like to embrace while watching sunsets night after night, but the sun has impeccable timing and happens to set right at dinnertime for most of the year - or, in the summer, it hits right when we're putting our children to bed.
Fantasy vs. Reality
As fantastic as my dreams were, they definitely didn't take reality into account.
During my daydreams, as I fantasized over a future husband, I never took real life - and my actual husband's unique personality - into account.
Like me, I think many women have a tendency to think our husbands should be a certain way. Maybe like a character we saw on a TV show or movie. Maybe like someone we read about in a book. Maybe like someone we made up in our imagination because he would treat us just the way we felt we deserved.
There are quite a few flaws with this kind of dreaming, though. Once we start thinking about our daydreams long enough, we begin to compare real men with fictional characters.
In all my daydreaming, I wouldn't ever dare to imagine a husband would love to watch football all Sunday afternoon or play video games. Why would he ever want to have those kinds of interests if he was strumming me a love song on his guitar? Or reading me poetry by firelight?
At the core of my fantasies, I selfishly imagined my husband's time and affections would focus on me. Not only would life like that rob my husband of his own interests and gifts, but it would also end up suffocating me.
As women buy into a fantasy world, marriage can become a lot harder because of the imaginary expectations placed on husbands. Because your imagination is not based on reality, it can be easy to judge your husband against an impossible imaginary standard.
As a woman who spent years imagining my husband before I actually met him, I've realized that now I'm a wife, I need to remember five things about my husband. (You may need to remember these 5 things about your husband, too.)
1. Husbands are men. That means they're human
Since husbands are not the fantasies you've created in your mind - or have seen created on the screen and in literature - remember that they're men. Like every single human ever created, they have unique strengths and weaknesses. They have unique likes and dislikes. They have their own personal history and family history that have shaped them.
2. Judge your husband as you would like to be judged
Just as most of us would absolutely hate to be judged by impossible standards based on fantasy - or expected to be perfect - we should skip the unattainable judging. Our husbands are just human. (See point #1.) And as humans, they're imperfect - just like you and me.
3. Husbands aren't mind readers
Going back to my imaginary husband point, our real life husbands will not truly know what we're thinking or what we'd like unless we tell them. Husbands just aren't mind readers. And as a complex woman, it's likely no one can read your mind. (At times, you might even have a little trouble discerning exactly what you're thinking. I know I do.) Don't place an impossible mind reading burden on your husband - just talk to him.
4. Your husband isn't you
Keep in mind that you didn't marry yourself. You may feel like you married your soul mate, but there's a huge difference between soul mate and identical twin. Remember that you have different interests, personalities, and passions. That's a great thing! If you were alike, life would be pretty boring. Celebrate and appreciate your husband's differences, and encourage him to pursue his passions.
5. Husbands need appreciation and respect
Just like we need to be appreciated for the little things we do, our husbands do, too. Your husband may be a very hard worker and it's easy to find reasons to praise him. Or, you may think your husband doesn't do much of anything - but it's still important to find the things you do appreciate, and give him your praise.
Similarly, it doesn't matter if you feel they're worthy of respect today or not - men crave, seek, and need respect. Just like we, as wives, crave, seek, and need love. Like it or not, they need our respect.
(This isn't to say husbands don't need love ... or wives don't need respect. Everyone needs both love and respect; yet men seek respect just like women seek love.)
Depending on your husband, the thought and act of respect could be a tall order. But it's still necessary. If you're having trouble with this, pray every single day that your husband would become worthy of respect - and pray that you will grow to respect him.
As you begin to shift from your fantasy world to a realistic one, you may need to say a fond farewell to your sweet imaginations. Do it, though. Get your goodbyes over with and get on with building your real, actual marriage with your real, actual husband. And enjoy the reality!
Editor's note: This article was originally published on Hilary Bernstein's website. It has been republished here with permission.