I have a great imagination. Even when I was only 5 years old I was already imagining having a boyfriend. I was in kindergarten and he was in 5th grade. I liked him because he was cute and nice to me on the bus. I’ve always been the type of person who was able to pretend very easily. I can retreat inside my head and live in my own little world. I have an idealistic personality type. I usually see the potential in things rather than the reality of the situation. Sometimes this is a blessing and a gift, other times it’s a curse.
I grew up thinking about marrying this guy who would be loving and affectionate. He would be able to put up with my moods or make them disappear altogether. He would also think I was the most beautiful person in the world. I had this dream inside of my head, and I didn’t know if it would ever become a reality. Would I ever find this ideal person? Would anyone ever find me beautiful or think my moodiness was sexy? In my fantasy world I believed this person existed and that I would find him. I lived with this dream and some days it was the only thing that kept me going when I was single.
Even in college I held on to my dream of finding, not the perfect person, but the perfect person for me. Someone who would just get me. After I graduated and started my career in counseling my dream slowly began to fade. I started to see the reality of relationships in the families I counseled. I started to realize how hard it really is to communicate and get along, let alone raise a couple of kids. I started to realize how hard life is for most families. My fantasy world didn’t seem anything like the real world I was witnessing. At first I was sad. I didn’t even know if I still wanted to get married. I started to think it was better to be by myself. Then I would get invited to a wedding of a friend of mine and a flicker of my imagination would kick back into high gear. I would see my friends so happy on their wedding day and I still wanted that for myself.
However, I didn’t get married when most of my friends did. So, after a few years of being around married couples I realized it wasn’t just my clients that had communication problems. My friends had great marriages, but I still witnessed plenty of arguments and heated moments. I witnessed exhaustion over trying to get kids to eat their dinner and get ready for bed. I witnessed financial struggles as well as struggles to get pregnant. So many stressors on a marriage. I thought to myself, how does anyone make it these days?
By the time I finally met my husband, I had a more realistic view of relationships and marriage. I remember meeting his grandparents, who have been married over 61 years, and thinking, “how have the made this far”? I asked his grandmother what helped their marriage last so long. She told me that having a lot of humility (the ability to admit when I’m wrong and say I’m sorry) and common courtesy (being polite to each other) went a long way to creating a long-lasting marriage. To be honest, I didn’t really consider those things when idealizing my perfect marriage. Now I do realize that they are very important and that she is very wise. It is much easier for me to do something for Steve when he says please and thanks me afterwards. It is nice to hear him admit when he is wrong and it makes it easier for me to do the same when I’m wrong. It is easier for me to let go of past hurts and not build up resentment and I’m sure it is the same for him.
I took her wisdom which has helped me so much more than my fantasies from childhood. In my dreams I would make up in my head that my husband would always love me no matter what I said or did. I realize now, this is not true. I can poison my husbands thoughts and feelings against me very easily if I’m not careful. Just because he said “I do” at our wedding doesn’t give me license to take advantage of him. I think a lot of people let their guard down in a committed relationship. I know I used to think that if someone loved me they would put up with everything about me. I didn’t imagine that I would have to work so hard and reign my personality in a lot of the times for the sake of my relationship. Now I know that I have to make a lot of sacrifices and so does my husband. If we were going to have kids, we would have to make even more.
Marriage is not a dream of happily ever after. It is about two people who love each other enough to gut through the hard times and not take advantage of each other in the weak times. It is about admitting when you are wrong and being nice even if you don’t think you have to be that way anymore. I’m glad I was able to shed my imaginary relationship. I remember thinking one day a few years ago that I could stay single and keep the fantasy in my head for the rest of my life, or I could accept reality and be in a long term relationship with a man who can be hurt and would most likely hurt me at times. I eventually chose to give up the dream and marry the real man who is now my husband. He is not even close to perfect, but neither am I. Together we are making it work one day at a time until hopefully we can say that we’ve made it over 61 years together.
I hope if you are single and waiting for “the one” to come along you will let go of the dreams you have for your marriage and embrace reality. Focus on being the right person instead of finding the right person. Be realistic about sacrifices that will have to be made and that you won’t be able to do whatever you want when you want while having a relationship at the same time. Being single is hard, but being married isn’t any easier. I’m not saying your should settle and marry just anyone because marriage is hard no matter what. I’m saying that even if you find the best person you could possibly find, it will still be hard at times. You will still have to admit when you’re wrong and say please when you want something if you want to make it last. However, I can tell you that it is worth it to give up the fantasy to live a real life with someone you do love. I hope everyone is able to have that in their life at some point.