When I was in my teens and early twenties, I had this sort of vision of what I thought my future life with a spouse was supposed to look like. Tall, smart, cultured husband with dark hair and a serious job. Nice dinners out. Nights at the theater.
And then I met Dave. Smart? Check. Dark hair? Check. But we were the same height, he had a job working in college sports, little interest in culture, and his idea of fine dining was anything a step above McDonald’s.
I loved him anyway, and he loved me, even though he was clearly disappointed that I didn’t fit the mold of his dream girl, who could challenge him on the basketball court and didn’t ask questions when he was watching sports on TV with her.
But rather than being joyful about finding someone who made me laugh, who let me be who I was without taking myself too seriously, who I could talk to for hours and really imagine making a life with, I worried that he couldn’t possibly be the right person for me, because he didn’t match my checklist.
I explained it to Dave this way — imagine you’ve spent 10 years dreaming of adopting a Golden Retriever. You’ve thought about your future with this beautiful creature by your side — taking walks, snuggling on the couch, brushing its long golden coat.
So you go to the animal shelter, still dreaming of your life with this Golden Retriever. When you walk in, before you can even find your Golden Retriever, you see a Dalmation. And for some reason, you’re drawn to him. You ask to meet him, he looks at you, and there’s some instant connection. For a moment, you forget about that Golden Retriever. You’re in love, and you know that you can’t leave this Dalmation at the shelter. He’s yours. You were meant to be together.
So you take the Dalmation home. Things aren’t perfect, but they’re pretty great. But every once in a while, you look at him and wonder how you ended up with this dog with the weird spots. And what about that Golden Retriever?
But with each day that you and the Dalmation are together, you somehow stop noticing the spots. The short hair that you thought was going to be golden and flowing. The long, brisk runs that you’d imagined would be ambling walks.
You realize that those aren’t the things that really matter.
Dave and I learned that he could teach me about sports, and I could teach him about the arts. That sometimes it was okay if we pursued those interests alone. And while he’s still quite content to eat a bowl of cereal for dinner (and still refers to too-fancy restaurants as “big plate, little food” places), we can enjoy nice dinners together.
We all have Dalmations in our lives — the husbands who came in packages different from what we expected for ourselves, the kids who aren’t the student or athlete we thought they’d be, and the friend who wants to meet for brunch instead of a late night out (okay, that one’s me).
But when we take the time to get to know the Dalmation, instead of focusing on that Golden Retriever we thought we wanted, there can be some pretty wonderful things in store.