Were you one of those little girls who always dreamed about getting married, planned her wedding, mentally designed her own dress, and couldn’t wait to find the right person and settle down? Even if you know exactly what you want (it’s fine if you don’t, too!), and whether or not you’ve already found your future spouse, there are 10 things you need to do before you say your vows.
#1: Get a Passport (and Use It!)
There is no better time to explore your own country and beyond than before you get hitched, and especially before you have kids. Go somewhere with your girlfriends to strengthen your bonds and create everlasting memories. Or go with your significant other for a sneak peek at what it’s like to deal with potentially stressful situations in unfamiliar surroundings. When you travel with someone, you learn so much about their personality (and whether you can see traveling with that person and being together 24/7 for extended periods of time for the rest of your life).
#2: Figure out Finances
One of the biggest causes for divorce has to do with disagreements surrounding money—how you spend it, what you spend it on, how much you save, how much you invest, and so on. If you don’t understand finances and have a money plan in place, it will be difficult to talk about your financial plans as a married couple once the topic comes up (and it should come up, even if you plan to keep your own personal accounts, just so you know where the other person stands). If you’re burdened with a lot of debt, see what you can do to alleviate that before tying the knot (and encourage your future husband to do the same) so you’re not starting off the marriage under financial stress.
For some help learning about budgeting and general finances, visit FeedthePig.org.
#3: Learn How to Cook
I’ve heard funny stories and even songs about the first year or two of marriage when one or both people in the relationship are trying to learn to cook. There are a couple of reasons you should go ahead and get comfortable in the kitchen before you get married. You’ll be less likely to look at each other, throw your hands in the air with matching looks of confusion, and order take-out. It’s also less expensive to cook at home than to go out. This is also one more way you can learn to care not only for yourself, but your spouse, friends, family, and anyone else who comes along. Most of our recipes are pretty easy to put together.
#4: Get a Pet
Getting married is about joining your life with someone else’s with the promise to take care of each other. Having a pet teaches you to take another living being’s needs into account on a daily basis and forces you to juggle schedules a little bit (even if this kind only involves feeding, walks, and potty breaks!) so that everyone’s needs are met.
A pet is also a fantastic step toward having kids. A cat or dog may wake you up much earlier than your alarm because it needs something. And of course we can’t neglect the fact that a pet teaches you more about deep, unconditional love. Try PetFinder.com to find all kinds of pets—not just dogs and cats.
#5: Love Your Body
Don’t tell yourself, “I’ll love my body when I’m thinner/more toned/healthier.” Learn to love your body right now, regardless of the changes you hope to make. Love yourself so you’ll attract others who will love you for who you are, too. What better way to learn about unconditional love than to practice on yourself? Tiny Buddha has some great tips for learning to love yourself as you are right now.
#6: Live Alone
You have to be comfortable with yourself before you can decide which person you’ll be comfortable spending the rest of your life with. You’ll learn just how capable you are when you’re the one who’s responsible for making all the meals, paying all the bills, and fixing things that break around the house (or finding someone who can do the job). When you start from a confident, comfortable place, you set yourself up to find the right person for you. Plus, once you’re able to share the workload with a spouse, you’ll be more thankful for their contributions around the house.
#7: Live with roommates
Living with roommates will give you the opportunity to see how you work with others to maintain a clean, happy home, and how you navigate disagreements when you’re all living under the same roof. You’ll learn to maneuver the give and take dynamics that come with living with someone besides parents or siblings, even if you’re not going to live with your significant other before you get married.
How do you react when they leave their dirty clothes lying on the floor? How do you think you should react? How do you respectfully express your needs? What are some of the things you can do around the apartment or house that will help make your roommate’s life easier? Train yourself to be thoughtful in this kind of environment and to deal with the little inconveniences that come with living with another human being who has different habits and expectations. Living with other people offers a lot of opportunities for self-inspection.
#8: Be Selfless
What matters to you? Do you want to feed the homeless? Put in some volunteer hours at an animal shelter? Sponsor a child? The list of ways you can help others is endless, and what we’re on this planet to do. When you’re single—especially if you’re living alone—it’s easy to forget to open yourself up and lend a hand. Make an effort to allot a certain amount of time per day, week, or month, to do something kind that benefits others. If you don’t know where to start, Volunteer Match can help you find the right opportunities for your interests and passions.
#9: Learn a New Skill or Language
Learning something new gives you a boost of confidence and makes you feel more powerful and capable of learning and achieving new things. If you’re single, it could also lead you to a place where you can attract a spouse with similar interests and passions.
#10: Finish School
Sure, you could continue to go to school or even go back to school after you’re married. However, with marriage and possibly a family, there are more distractions and obligations tugging at your mind than there are when you’re single. By finishing up at school, it’ll be that much easier to do what you’re called to do in life. You won’t be juggling a spouse, kids, and other responsibilities at the same time you’re trying to hold down a job and make it through school so you can get the job you really want to have.
Continue to Grow Even After Marriage
I’m not saying that marriage is the end to all your fun, all your free time, and all of your personal growth possibilities. Far from it! You’ll continue to grow once you’re married, too. Sometimes your spouse will go along for the ride (maybe you can take a cooking class together, travel to a new country, or share a passion for volunteer work) and sometimes you’ll pursue a new interest, passion, or challenge on your own.
Before you get married, you should take the opportunity to grow, learn about yourself from introspection and interactions with other people so that you’re comfortable in your own skin and love yourself. That way when it’s time to settle down, you will have attracted the type of people who belong in your life forever, including “The One.”