My Imaginary Husband

Today, I’d like to tell you all about my imaginary husband.

He looks like this:

He’s simple-minded, annoying, controlling, emotionally distant, and only vaguely lovable.

Wait, wait, wait… didn’t you ACTUALLY get married? Was that whole post bullshit?

Why yes, astute reader. I DID get married. To a lovely man, who is none of the above things. He is, in fact: charming, loving, easy going, open-minded, and endlessly supportive.

But I’m not talking about him.

Actual husband
Actual husband

I’m talking about the person that comes to mind whenever I say “Oh, I’ll have to talk to my husband” when I’m trying to shrug off a sales pitch, or “My husband drives me crazy!” when making small talk during a haircut.

And that is NOT The Mister.

Why would I make up an imaginary husband? There are several things to blame.

First, the media: What comes to mind when you think of a married couple? If you’re a well-adjusted person, you probably think of your family members.

But if, like me, you were raised in the 20th Century onslaught of TV/movies/news, you might think of a family sitcom, movie romance, or Dear Abby sob story. When I think of a husband, I imagine Archie Bunker, Ted Kennedy, and the male counterparts in The First Wives Club.

An entire film devoted to how much husbands suck.

Many women my age are stoked by the idea of getting married. And yes, marriage is awesome and not like the media portrays it.

But to be completely honest, real world marriage is exactly like living together; only now you share a bank account and hold slightly higher esteem in your relatives’ eyes.

Second, its just so easy. Everyone has the same fictional married characters running around in their heads.

So to say “Ugh, my husband… I tell ya!” universally gets a nod and sympathetic sigh.

What else is there to talk about during brunch?
What else is there to talk about during brunch?

And I should say: The Mister does this, too.

Its an automatic cop-out to say “Well, my wife takes care of that, so I don’t know.”

It just doesn’t have the same salience if he says “Well, my girlfriend takes care of that” (everyone thinks “WHIPPED!”) And if I say “Well, my boyfriend takes care of that”, it implies some weirdly controlling relationship. But a married couple, well… obviously they need to consult with each other.

Pre-marriage days, we actually had to think of excuses and relatable small talk on our own.


Okay, okay… the truth is: we’ve been doing this for years. We’re each others best scapegoats.

Scene 1: Out to lunch with a friend, and The Mister’s phone buzzes.

The Mister, rolling his eyes and texting: “Ugh, sorry… I have to respond or she’ll get annoyed.”

Scene 2: Hanging out on the couch, a friend is complaining about her boyfriend.

Me, nodding vehemently: “Oh my god, I know! You wouldn’t believe The Mister the other day…”

Scene 3: At home

The Mister: “Your text was the greatest thing I read all day.”

Me: “I told my friend that you cried watching The Hunger Games.”

The Mister: “I’ve never even seen that movie.”

Me: “I know.”


It’s not lying, readers. It’s… embellishing.

If we actually admitted how much we trust each other, how little we question each others’ decisions, and how we never get on each others nerves, nobody would want to talk to us.

It’s the same reason everyone liked The Honeymooners better than Father Knows Best.

And finally, Husband is an ugly word. There, I said it! And after a year of using it, I still don’t think it applies to The Mister… which is why I have an imaginary husband in my head to take the label instead.

Hus•band. It sounds like an entrapment: “I couldn’t get away! They tied me down with a husband!”

Wife is alright. It sounds whimsical, like a fairy name. The Mister likes it because it sounds like “Life.” In fact, he sometimes prefers to call me his “Life” rather than his “Wife”. I’m okay with that, too.

It’s better than saying it sounds like “Knife”.

“Hello! My name is Wifey.”

“Husband” doesn’t have the same whimsy or easy rhyming correlate.

“Hubby” makes me shudder. It rhymes with “chubby”. And then I think of Chubby Hubby ice cream.

Which is delicious, but could eventually kill you.

“Hubby” also sounds like “hubba hubba”, and suddenly you’re transported to a 1943 dive bar with middle aged dudes in zoot suits eyeing up a co-ed.

three pachucos from yaqui
“Hey there, Little Lady.”

For a brief period of about two years (brief in our playbook), I referred to him as my partner.

“Partner” is such a lovely word; it sounds active, intentional, ongoing. It’s like waking up every day and thinking “Who would I like to partner up with today?” then saying  to yourself, “Yup, still that guy.”

Like its use in business, it evokes deal-making, compromise, trust.

“Husband” feels more static.

It’s something you can wake up after a bad night in Vegas and suddenly have forever.

Why don’t I just call The Mister my partner?


I tell someone I have a partner, they assume either (a) it’s a woman, or (b) we’re not married. Or both.

Which is fine, but then they’ll be confused when they find out it’s a man/we are married, then they wonder which one of us is transgendered, but they’re too polite to ask.

When they find out we’re just a heterosexual cisgender married couple, then I’m the type of person whose just being difficult on purpose for the sake of semantics.

I think other people fall into the media-generated “husband and wife” trap, too.

As the pioneers in our age group, we are now our cohort’s resident “married” friends. This comes loaded with assumptions on diminished autonomy and a stereotypical homelife.

Spoiler alert! Marriage is not this.

I think people assume we spend every night kissing over the stovetop and playing parcheesi.

Which we only do on Tuesdays.

So now you know. Friends, family, acquaintances: when I’m spinning a yarn about “my husband”, take it with a grain of salt. Because I’m probably not talking about this guy:

My marriage partner. And occasionally still my boyfriend (old habits die hard).
My marriage partner. And occasionally still my boyfriend (old habits die hard).


Nope. There’s a 75% chance I’m talking about this guy:

My Imaginary Husband

(Edit: The Mister is dismayed that I’ve given away our secret. Also, he’d like me to explain what’s going on in the last picture of him, because there is a perfectly logical explanation. But I’d rather not.)


4 thoughts on “My Imaginary Husband

  1. This is perfect.
    You have summed up something I often think about myself (though I’m not teeeechinically an old married woman like you are!)
    In our society, it’s the complete norm to complain about your significant other. So much so, that those of us with nothing to complain about pretend that we do, or just plain make things up! I often find myself nodding and saying, “Ugh, I know!” to friends complaining about their boyfriend/husband’s behavior, even though I don’t!
    I’ve noticed Rob’s friends complaining about their wives so much (in front of them and behind their backs) that one time I outright asked him if he complained about me to them all the time when I wasn’t around. He said, “No, I do the opposite, I’m always bragging about how great you are.” And I believe him, since all I ever overhear him say is jokey things like, “I gotta check with the old lady.”
    And, since I’m not a “wife,” and “girlfriend” makes me feel insignificant and 13, I kinda like being his “old lady.”
    So, thank you so much for writing this, I love it. And I would also really like to know what Paul id licking and why.

  2. True! There could be a whole second post about the word “girlfriend” (g&g interested?). That’s why I switched to “partner”, but “old lady” sounds lovely as well.

    And we’re not the only ones who make up complaints (or complain about real things, but act like they bother us when they don’t). I have confirmation from at least one other couple. Maybe we’re all making shit up.

    The photo: During our summer trip to Europe, we visited the Wieliczka Salt Mines in Krakow. About 1000ft underground, the mine shafts (floors, ceilings, walls) are 100% salt. The Mister is listening to the guided tour on his headphones while I’m goading him to try licking the wall. I had to do it about three times before I convinced him to try it, but strangely I couldn’t fit those photos into this post.

  3. Oh my God, I about died laughing while reading this. You brightened my day. 🙂 Might we be your unnamed “other” couple? We constantly use each other as excuses to get out of uncomfortable situations. So now the cat is out of the bag. Does that mean that we are free to tell the truth? “I’m sorry, I can’t make it to your party. No, my husband is great, which is why I’d rather spend the evening with him watching Star Wars in our pjs and eating ice cream out of the tub.”

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