My future husband was going to be tall, blond, strong, and quiet. His melancholic, withdrawn, and tragically romantic nature was going to perfectly complement my upbeat, outgoing personality. We were going to fall in love after an accidental meeting (hopefully in the rain) and begin an incredible, passionate journey that would eventually lead to a house in the suburbs with an impeccable lawn and lots of blue-eyed, blond-haired, beautiful children.
I am exaggerating a little (OK, maybe a lot); I wasn’t quite this unrealistic. But I can admit that I did have this kind of fantasy-husband trap for a long time. I know I’m not the only one. The fantasy varies depending on the woman, but the pitfall is the same: We are looking for the man who matches our already decided-upon profile, and no other man can satisfy.
What I have to share is a story that goes a little differently. It’s the story of meeting a man who defied every factor of my perfect-husband fantasy—and marrying him anyway.
There I was keeping an eye out for my blond and quiet imaginary someone, when I started to fall for a short, dark, thickset Latino who was twice as outgoing as me and roughly seventy times as loud (I’m not exaggerating now). He, a recent transplant to the U.S., was not particularly partial to American culture and couldn’t stand the idea of not living in a big city. And there was no freaking way that blond-haired, blue-eyed children were ever going to come out of his gene pool. My little white-picket-fence dreams were going up in smoke.
Luckily for me, I decided to put my fantasy on the shelf and give him a shot. I say “luckily” because in doing this, I found out that I was a poor judge of what would make me happy. I realized that most of my ideals were simply scripts that I had seen play out in the lives of family and friends whom I admired, but I had never taken into account whether those scripts would suit me.
We so easily fall into the habit of imagining, planning, and perfecting our lives—especially when it comes to the sort of relationships we’d like to have—that we often let our fantasy cheat us out of the real deal. Don’t mistake my meaning: I’m not talking about getting rid of standards. Values, priorities, behavior, and the like are all extremely important in choosing a spouse. What I'm referring to here is getting rid of the perfect personality profile and physical descriptions of your ideal guy. I'm talking about freeing yourself from the idea of the person you’d like to be with and instead being open to discovering the real guy you should be with.
I know that letting go of your “perfect” guy is easier said then done, but there are three concrete steps that you can take to help open yourself in this way.
01. Be willing.
The first step in breaking free from your ideal requires a willingness to step back and accept that you aren’t in complete control of your future. You can’t sit in a chair and decide at what age you’ll get married, at what age you’ll have kids, or where you want to spend the rest of your life. Accepting this fact is crucial to opening your mind and heart to a life outside your fantasy. It will take work on your part. Finally meeting the right (and real!) man for me was not the impetus behind my change of heart; rather, it was being open to the possibility of a different world that really allowed me to discard the limits I had subconsciously created for myself. If I hadn't made a conscious effort to let go of my plans, this wonderful and totally unexpected man could have passed me by.
02. Identify the nonessentials.
The second step to getting unstuck from your made-up man is to identify and acknowledge the fantasies that are holding you back. Write down a list of the characteristics that you’re imagining in your future husband, and separate them out based on essential versus non-crucial preferences: “Honest” is clearly going in a different column than “introverted.” The essentials column is so basic that “strives to be a good man” should pretty much sum it up.
03. Check in with yourself.
Keeping an open mind and heart is an ongoing practice. Check in with yourself every time you start examining a guy under the “Is he the one?” lens. Are you making your decisions based on a real essential or on one of those non-crucial preferences that you haven’t been able to let go of? If it’s non-crucial, give him a chance! You might surprise yourself.
Don’t worry, you won’t miss the dream life you so carefully crafted. I found that the more deeply I fell in love with the man who would be my husband, the less attractive that fantasy man started to look. I came to love the fast-paced life of the city and the possibility of living abroad, and my suburban American dream quickly turned into a distant second place. I discovered within myself a wanderlust that would have never been awakened, much less satisfied, by my comfortable, blond fantasy man.
Take it from someone who has tried it. When you stop fantasizing about Mr. Perfect—stop taking those quizzes to find out which personality type or nationality you should be looking for—and start opening yourself up to people outside your “type,” you will discover incredible things about yourself and about the people you encounter in your life—things that you never could have planned for. And trust me, you want to be in that state of mind because when the real Mr. Right-for-You walks in, you don’t want to miss him.