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When I was younger and dating, I had a vision of what my husband would be. I wanted the smartest, most confident guy in the room. I wanted an extravert who would make up for my introverted tendencies, a charmer who could work the crowd. I wanted someone driven and successful who impressed my family and friends. I wanted someone like my dad and, I suppose if I’m honest, someone who could make up for what I was afraid I might be lacking.

Then I met Kyle. He was in law school when we started dating. He was certainly driven, but I was caught off guard by his self-deprecating sense of humor. He was also understated, often quiet in a group, and quick to praise others for excelling in ways he didn’t. He had absolutely no bravado and was a true introvert.

Still, despite the disparity between his real-life personality and my dreamed up ideal, there was just something about him. He had a sweetness in his nature like no one I’d met before. He was an avid runner and amazing movie-quoter. I loved his face and his walk and his smile. And he continued to pursue me—almost heroically—considering his schedule. I was drawn to him. But still, I couldn’t stop analyzing him. And us. As a couple, I was afraid we came up short.

Two introverts? Two too-often self-conscious people? Two people who said, “I don’t mind—what do you think?” It couldn’t work.

Except, sometimes it did.

By the end of four months of dating, with my vacillating and his hectic schedule, I initiated a break and did some soul-searching. After a week apart it finally occurred to me: What if it was my vision that was driving me crazy? What if Kyle was right, and my vision was wrong? I wanted to get back together to find out, but he opted for a clean break. And that’s when I knew I had lost something really, really good before I ever had it. It was devastating.

After two years apart, when I had given up on him for good, Kyle sent me a friendly little Facebook message. He had done some soul-searching too, and he came back for me.

In that two-year interim, I had kicked my ideal husband to the curb. Instead, I couldn’t help but compare the men I met to Kyle—the real and true Kyle. When we dated the second time, a whole new world opened up to me, and I learned a few important things about real love.

Love is full of wonderful surprises.

The first time I dated Kyle, during the most stressful epoch of his life, I had no idea how hilarious he was. Where he was at first self-conscious, he turned out to be downright goofy. He does these spot-on impressions of people we know or characters from shows; it’s like I married a comedian. Even more surprising to me was that behind his initial quietness was a mind full of depth. Where he was once slow to open up, he now sometimes follows me around the house talking and talking as he works out an idea. He is still quiet, but when he walks around with his head in the clouds, I know later on he’ll tell me something either really funny or really interesting. Like my mom says, still waters run deep.  

Time allowed me to see this hidden side of my husband. My husband isn't anything like the extroverted man I had dreamed about, but an open mind and heart—and a second chance to get to know him—allowed me to discover his humor, his depth, and how perfect for me he really is. 

Real is better–and way more interesting–than ‘ideal.’

When I used to picture time with my future fiancé, I couldn’t get much further than an image of us on a couch in front of a fire, totally in love (and totally bland). But one of the best surprises about marriage is that you come to love each other’s little idiosyncrasies—things you never could have pictured or put on a must-have list. For example, Kyle loves my high voice and the fact that I communicate thoughts and feelings through small noises. I love the way his cheeks turn pink when he thinks he’s let me down and that after a good run he shows off a little in the front yard. This imaginary guy who was the life of the party? There’s nothing special about him to miss. 

You don’t always know what’s best for you.

I recently saw the scene from Sex and the City when Charlotte, the beautiful, classic, Episcopalian Upper East Sider, tells the girls she’s converting to Judaism to marry the bald, stocky lawyer, Harry. She says he wasn’t who she was expecting to fall in love with, but he made her laugh and was so good to her, she couldn’t help it. 

I had planned on someone loud, fun, and larger than life, and I got someone measured, witty, and deep. He suits my own sensitive nature perfectly. We discuss things I’ve always cared about and things I never knew I cared about. We love to be alone together, alone with our children, or together with loved ones. He brings out the best in me and I in him.

When I finally gave up on my own version of an ideal husband, a real and wonderful man swept me off my feet. This is the truth: My marriage to him is better and more fulfilling than I ever could have imagined or planned.

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Wells Photography