Don’t get married. Wait a long ass time, I mean really long. Wait until you’re 30+ and have dated quite a few people. So many people get married because they don’t realize what kind of partners are out there and that the person they’re with is as good as it gets.
The best thing you can do is wait, hold yourself in high regard, don’t put up with a lot of BS (do put up with a little) from your partners, date the one you think you’ll marry for a long time. Live together for a while before deciding to get married. Don’t expect someone to change in a way you desire because you’re married, also don’t expect a person to remain the same. If your partner is acting in a way that’s detrimental to you or your relationship calmly talk to them about it. Try to make that conversation a positive one (after all, you’re not out to hurt their feelings, but to enact change for the better).
If you do move in with each other be prepared to move out too. It’s financially painful and rather stressful but infinitely easier than marrying the wrong person because that’s what people do…
Be mindful of the person you’re with. Try to do nice things for them every day. Hold them in high regard and treat them the way you would want to be. Grand gestures are nice but the smaller daily ones can add up to a lot more than one or two big ones every year.
Be mindful of yourself. This is the hardest part. Introspection is something that we all fail at, some much harder than others. You end up acting in ways because your subconscious tells you to. Many of the things you (yes you) do because of this can be pretty shitty. It’s very hard to admit that you do shitty things, but you do them. If you look back in your current and previous relationships you can notice patterns. It took me dozens of hours of therapy to realize some of the things I had been doing. The hardest part is to stop yourself from doing those things. If you make a conscious effort to change you will eventually catch yourself doing these things and eventually stop doing them. This part is important because you don’t want to be part of the problem in your relationship. By doing this you also become a higher value partner.
It’s very important that your partner and yourself are compatible on many levels; religiously, sexually, ethically… Some of the smaller things can slide, I don’t like making the bed but I do it because my GF likes the bed made. Larger things like religious differences, sexy times, how you plan to raise kids (do you want kids?), budgeting money… all need to line up pretty well. Large differences can and will cause fights, often.
tl;dr ramblings from a divorced man that’s gone through lots of therapy
**Some minor edits because I wrote this on my phone with not much time. Also I’m very glad some of you have found this helpful, it was pretty cathartic for me to write it.
This is really great advice. Thank you. As a 26 year old female, it’s hard to see everyone you know getting married but not feeling like you’re quite there yet. I plan on waiting til I’m a bit older, and I try to do some of these things daily but it’s nice to see it written out so well and be reminded what’s important for your relationship AND yourself as an individual.
My 20’s were full of (other peoples’) weddings. My 30’s are full of (other peoples’) divorces. I only know a couple couples who are still together. Almost literally all the marriages I witnessed are over now. When I was 26 I too felt left out, or left behind, and nervous that I needed to find someone and get married. My ex-boyfriend was about to propose 5 years ago but he decided to cheat instead. Bullet dodged. My SO is in the middle of a nasty divorce. All of my girlfriends who married are divorced. I’m 36— and it’s crazy out there.
I am 28 and for a long time I felt so alone. I am in a five year long relationship with someone I’m still not sure about marrying. I’m not sure because all of the people I was jealous of, because they found someone they wanted to take that big step with, are now in the middle of nasty divorces or custody battles. I’m not even 30 yet and I currently know more people who are divorced, will be divorced soon, or are staying with someone that they are extremely unhappy with their SO but won’t leave for whatever reason than I know that are happily married. I’m constantly asking myself if I want to put myself in that situation when I can easily just walk out the door right now and never have to speak to him again if I felt like it.
You’re welcome. I was far too young and inexperienced to know what is needed for a relationship to last 40+ years. Well, we both were. Getting married, having kids and moving to the burbs shouldn’t be your life’s dream. What will you do when your kids are all grown and out of the house?
Work on yourself, a lot. Do things you want to do. Gain experience and yes, you can have kids and move to the burbs if you want. But don’t stop doing what you love to do because when you’re older and your kids have moved out you need something to do. It may as well be what you’ve always loved to do.