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How I Divorced My Imaginary Husband (and Got the Man of My Dreams)

Could this one habit be blocking a passionate, playful marriage?

Sarah Ellis

I used to be married to a figment of my imagination.

My imaginary husband was very affectionate. He always greeted me with a huge smile, and hug and a kiss when he walked through the door.

He was very romantic. He bought me flowers and chocolate and prepared candlelit dinners and wrote me love letters to express his devotion to me.

He always knew just the way to comfort me when I was down. He would say, “Honey, I’m so sorry you are feeling this way. What can I do to make you feel better?”

He always offered to clean the kitchen after dinner and never left a mess.

He replaced light bulbs and fixed broken parts as soon as I asked him–or even before I asked him.

He was so punctual and always accompanied me to events, arriving perfectly on time.

He was a spiffy dresser, just like my brother. He never had a stain, and I was always proud of the way he looked.

He was just like my father: really frugal with his money, never buying frivolous things like sweets and sodas and, of course, never feeding that junk to our children.

He always agreed with me and complimented me on my intelligence and ingenuity.

He always knew what to do, and never made mistakes or got us lost.

My imaginary husband was absolutely perfect–just the way I wanted him to be.

Until one day, I made a decision that changed my marriage forever.

Being married to him was both comfortable and safe, and very painful and lonely at the same time. My days were filled with disappointment because my real flesh-and-bones husband was failing miserably in comparison.

Soon, he stopped trying to measure up.

Then, something wonderful and miraculous happened. I found Laura Doyle and the Intimacy Skills, and then did the best thing I ever did in my life. I DIVORCED my imaginary man.

What I found in his place was the imperfect human being that I chose at the altar and who I committed to respect and love. I opened my heart to the man I had been rejecting for so long.

I threw away all my expectations. He didn’t have to be like my brother, father, uncles, cousins and friends–all those men I fantasized about. He was free to be himself. I embraced him with his strengths and weaknesses.

When he didn’t have the words to comfort me when I was sad, I thanked him for sitting close to me.

When he fed my children sugary treats before lunch, I let him know that our children will cherish the memories.

When he came home from work hungry and tired, I let him know that I missed him (and then got the hug I was longing for).

When we got lost in the car, I used super glue on my lips.

When he wore a ridiculous costume to a party, I focused on all the other silly costumes.

Slowly, my knight in shining armor was back. Now that he has a shot at pleasing me, he showers me with gifts and is always trying to make me happy. Now I really have the man of my dreams.

What I thought was apathetic and lazy, I now see as calm, thoughtful and deliberate.

What I thought was messy and disorganized, I now see as flexible and easygoing.

A man I thought was out-of-touch and flighty is now a man who dreams big and follows his dreams.

A man I thought was uncaring and selfish is now a man scared to disappoint me.

A man I thought was controlling is now a leader with initiative.

What I thought was a damaged husband was actually a damaged wife.

What I thought was an imperfect man is perfect for me!

By Laura Doyle

Hi! I'm Laura.

New York Times Bestselling Author

I was the perfect wife--until I actually got married. When I tried to tell my husband how to be more romantic, more ambitious, and tidier, he avoided me. I dragged him to marriage counseling and nearly divorced him. I then started talking to women who had what I wanted in their marriages and that’s when I got my miracle. The man who wooed me returned.

I wrote a few books about what I learned and accidentally started a worldwide movement of women who practice The Six Intimacy Skills™ that lead to having amazing, vibrant relationships. The thing I’m most proud of is my playful, passionate relationship with my hilarious husband John–who has been dressing himself since before I was born.

34 replies on “How I Divorced My Imaginary Husband (and Got the Man of My Dreams)”

That was absolutely perfect and probably true for 90 percent of us married women. We need to divorce our imaginary hubby’s and learn to appreciate the real life ones we are lucky enough to have in our lives.

What do you do about a husband who keeps trying to write on your page instead of on his own? My husband expects me to make his lunch for work the next day while he watches TV, and he will spend his weekends playing video games (which I don’t care about- he can relax how he wants to) but complains that I am not always getting things done, like sewing a shirt for him, depositing a check for him, etc.

He expects me to take care of the boys, bring them to and from school and lessons and playdates, feed everyone, clean and do laundry, go to the bank and market and gas station, and I work full time from home (so he says I have no excuse for not getting things done), and he is stingy with giving me money for basic things (like a haircut) but buys himself video game consoles and even a very expensive new TV because he wanted a bigger one.

I show him appreciation, am sweet, and take of myself, and basically never tell him what to do or give input at all after reading the book, and feel annoyed when he makes demands on me for things he could easily do himself. If I say, “I can’t” he yells and says I can, I’m just being lazy and inconsiderate. He also thinks if we are on a budget, and can’t both afford to go to something (plus pay a babysitter babysitter), he can buy a ticket just for himself to save on my ticket (and I stay home with the kids).

I want him OFF my page, and to stick to writing on his own darned page! And needless to say, I want control of my money back.

Can you write a post about how to deal with a husband who wants to scribble all over your own page when you are trying to do self care and let him take care of himself?

Jennifer, Sorry to hear you’re going through that with your husband being so stingy and demanding. I wouldn’t like that either! Sounds like you’re doing your best to take care of yourself, which is great. Here’s a blog that might be helpful in your situation.
Also, you would find my free webinar on How to Get Respect, Reconnect and Rev Up Your Love Life very valuable. You can register here:

I love this story . I am separated and on the verge of divorce. I actually suggested we follow through with the divorce and start over, because we are different people now. Much like letting go of the thought or ideal of marriage that we had anticipated.

This was such a simple, yet powerful read. I definitely needed this one!!! It was a good confirmation for me.
I love Laura’s blogs! They’ve helped me so much and have opened my eyes.

Thanks, Petra. Coach Sarah Ellis gets credit for writing this one and I loved it too.

Yes, I knew that someone else wrote this one in particular. I was just referring to the rest of your blogs. They’ve really helped me! I get so excited every time I get an email with a new blog post from you. 🙂

This is a great story. I am that person that has a picture in my head of the perfect man and I keep resenting my husband for not being that man. After reading your books and this blog, I have realized that I am the problem and I need to be more loving and caring and patient. I married this man for a reason, I love him.

I am going to divorce him – I can’t stand this another day!!!!

That imaginary, ideal husband of mine!

What a wonderful and creative article, Coach Sarah.

I read a book once, talked about a lady who gave a proper burial to her expectations of her husband. She wrote them all down and she and he together went into the backyard, dug a pit, and put them to death right then and there! ha Great article!

I know this blog is for women, but as a man, I can say the things I’ve read, including this post, are so true. I’m to the point of desperation in my marriage and I don’t know what to do anymore.

My wife is always upset with me about everything. She says if I know I’m not perfect, then I should change. She gets upset about the smallest things, a cup I left on the table to use later, I sat in the wrong chair, the vegetables I bought were to old, I forgot an item she wanted, etc. Her threshold for happiness is perfection. And no, I’m not perfect, so therefore, she will not be happy with me. She laughs and has a good time with friends, and she says that’s because they don’t do anything wrong to upset her. But me, she refuses to go on a date, for a walk, for a trip to town, to watch a movie or play a game. Then she gets upset that I don’t do anything with her. I literally can’t win.

She makes many demands of me. I want her to be happy, and for me to be her hero and the guy she can trust so I have tried to do what she asks – but it’s never good enough. She always wants more. She has decided she’ll never let me do or be those things. She always has a problem with what I do and is utterly ungrateful – even when I do what she asked. I have finally started refusing sometimes to do what she demands because I need some semblance of integrity. I realized I couldn’t buy her happiness (and I was losing all our money) and I lost self respect because I began to be like a dog she ordered around. She was just as unhappy with me (and often with what she wanted) after i got it for her as before.

She said she doesn’t like it that I don’t buy her gifts, but if I buy a gift, she either will barely acknowledge that I even handed her something or tell me what all is wrong with it – the colour, the taste, the style, the smell, the flavor. I finally have pretty much given up – not because I don’t want to buy her gifts, but because I don’t like getting verbally punched every time I do.

So because of the above, she now refuses to respond when I tell her I love her (she says I would things “perfect” if I loved her), she won’t hug me, kiss me, smile at me, anything. Won’t let me hug or kiss her either. She says she will when I get everything she doesn’t like in order, but till then, I might as well be married to a brick wall. Sometimes I think that would be better because at least the brick wall wouldn’t criticize everything i do.

The hardest thing is that I’ve tried to explain the things on this blog, I’ve asked her if she would just read them. She refuses. Won’t watch the webinar, listen to audio, read. She says the problem is mine, that I don’t know how to be a good husband and that I just make her more unhappy when I want her to change her approach to me.

Sorry for the long post, I guess it just feels good to get it off my chest…. Any advice for a man who’s wife seems set on having a miserable marriage? I love my wife so much, but I don’t know what to do when she utterly refuses to be happy no matter how hard I try.

Mateyu, So sorry to hear about the struggles in your marriage. I can relate to being the kind of wife you describe, and I remember it was painful and lonely. But she holds the key in this situation, and probably doesn’t realize it. This doesn’t match your situation exactly, but here’s what I can suggest for you, and I hope it helps:

Wow, thanks Sarah. This article was designed for me. Keep comparing my poor, decent husband to my “perfect” dad. The result has been disappointment and misery. Time to bury the phantom and appreciate the good man I have.

This is perfect. I recently told my husband to leave me alone because I couldn’t handle his behavior any longer. After clearing my head off the negative thoughts I had off him, I realized he was not as owfulll as I thought he was. To be honest, he was the romantic one in our marriage, always looking hugs and kisses from me but I am always too busy with other things like cleaning and organizing. Taking care of our children and focusing on all his problems. I hated to see when he would be relaxing on the couch watching TV and I am stuck in the kitchen. It’s extremely hard for me to stop myself from arguing with him over everything.

Hi Laura,

Wonderful blog topic! I am engaged and have been with my fiancé for 4 years. My fiancé is a total sweetheart and I have been using the 6 intimacy skills to help improve not only my confidence, but his. I tend to be a perfectionist and controlling and through your books I have found a way to curb this so I thank you.

My question is about his relationship with his mother which I certainly have no say in…it’s “not on my paper”. However, he and all of his siblings are very afraid of displeasing her and she literally flips out if something does not go her way so while I share everything with my parents, we have to hide things from her and when she is unhappy, he shuts down-which is often. Can I use SFPs about him being a strong decision maker to help instill confidence or am I stuck? To be honest, it makes me feel second sometimes as he is often more concerned about her freaking out than how it affects me and I have to bite my tongue.

Thank you!

Renee, Congratulations on your engagement! Great job working on letting go of perfectionism and control, too. I know that takes a lot of courage. SFPs might be one approach to the situation with his mom, and also looking hard at what IS on your paper the next time this situation comes up. I bet your fiancé wants to make you happy and that’s the key. Also, you might find some inspiration for your situation here:

I wish I had that loving and caring husband that I married, he is now a drinking beer and other items that make my life impossible. If I say anything he gets angry and mad and says I don’t understand why he is drinking. I have dinner made for him, make his lunch’s every day he works, and the days I work he does nothing for me, watching TV, makes a mess, that I have to clean up after being away from the home over 10 hours, and then asks me want is for dinner. As he as been home all day drinking. He make every excuse under the sun to drink now, I’m so stressed out, I don’t know how he is going to reacted anymore. He also gets upset with me if I don’t answer my phone, thinks I’m cheating on him, usually don’t hear it. I have had it and don’t know which way to turn, if he left right now, I probably don’t care, because I’m so hurt and no respect from him anymore, he says he does, but doesn’t show it, Gives more to his mom, grown kids then to me, no help with bills on the house anymore, How can this marriage be helped.

Sheri, That sounds awful! I remember feeling like my husband was more of a burden than a contributor and I hated it. Sounds like you could use a break! I can see why you feel hopeless, but I think this deserves a longer conversation to see if there is hope for your marriage. I invite you to apply for a complimentary discovery call to connect with one of my coaches and determine the best move for your relationship. You’ll find it so valuable. You can do that here:

Hey Laura
I am separated now. It is my second marriage the children asked me to leave since they cannot stand the way he talks down to me and criticizes me. I have read the surrendered wife 2 times over and practiced everything you said he refuses to put are finances together because he constantly devides mine and yours I feel like a maid just keeping the house clean and his kids happy. I had an operation 2 years ago which did not allow me to have children with him from then on he claimed our physical intimCy is purposeless ….I am 52 years old and have several grandchildren. He is always making me feel very small in front of his older children due to his own in security’s I realized that the marriage no longer has value for me especially when I started saying “ouch” and he would just say “ouch” back . I am separated now and happily on my way to a divorce. If I had these skills for my first husband of 26 years and 5 beutiful children I would never have left him in the first place!
Looking forward to working on these skills in my next marriage when ever that will be.

Sarah’s post is excellent, very well written and I can relate! The Six Intimacy Skills are magic. Even when I focus on just the first one (doing what makes me happy), positive things happen in my relationship. Thanks, Laura, for your knowledge, published materials and continual reminders.

Wow Sarah
This makes looking forwArd to being married Mor enriching and exciting to create something you have alway dreamed of having without getting it at first what an amazing challenge to surpass
Thanks for your amazing encouragement Sarah I think you are an example for all!

Shy, Sounds like your boyfriends kids are a source of tension in your relationship. I can certainly see why! I’ll add this to the list of future blog topics.

Yes the youngest one mom calls all the time. He is very into his kids and well I have thought about leaving him due to this. I want my own family and I don’t want to deal with two of his exs for the rest of my life.

lee, I’m happy to respond, but I didn’t see a question. What is it you want me to comment on?

My previous article very controlling and condensending husband 2nd marriage and claims I am a guest in his house.

Lee, I’m sorry to hear about the struggle in your marriage. I’m still not sure what your questions is though. Let me know how I can support you.

I’m sorry, but as a single woman this sounds like Stockholm syndrome to me. This attitude allows men to give less than their best and to mistreat women. I can’t come on board with you guys here. If you find yourself even imagining an imaginary husband, something your husband is doing is wrong and not fulfilling you. He knows it. You know it. And you are enabling it. Look up codependency. This article is terrifying. Can’t support you here, ladies. What I just read here is desperately unhealthy. Sorry.

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