1. Ask yourself why. Why this person, why right now? Don’t get married because there’s a child on the way or because it makes sense financially or because all of your friends are wifed up and you’re the last man standing — it sounds stupid and obvious, but people hastily marry for the wrong reasons ALL. THE. TIME. And even though divorce appears to be really commonplace, it’s not a walk in the park and it’s definitely not free.
2. Love your body. While it’s true that the media would often convince us that we’ll only feel beautiful in the arms of someone who loves and approves of us physically, when we’re alone in front of an unforgiving mirror, the only thoughts we’re left with are our own. Going into any relationship feeling ugly, unlovable, and as though you should be ashamed of the way you look is a recipe for disaster. If you think you’re not worthy or capable of being touched and admired, even if someone disagrees with you, it’s going to be difficult to feel their love through all the layers of self-loathing. Though no one wakes up one day and goes, “Oh hell yeah I don’t know what I was thinking, I’m f-cking gorgeous,” it wouldn’t hurt to work on becoming happy with your body and finding some balance every day.
3. Accomplish something just for you. It could be graduating from school, starting a challenging job, or just facing a fear you need to prove you can overcome. Frankly, the obstacles and goal posts we have scattered throughout our lives come in all shapes and sizes, and only you should be concerned with the parameters you set for success and accomplishment. But if we don’t do things to make ourselves happy and feel as though we accomplished something, we can easily become complacent, or feel that we shouldn’t even try, because we’ll never reach our goals. The longer we go without achieving something because we want to, the harder it will become to start up that hill.
4. Tell everyone you will never get married. There’s nothing like meeting the right person who will transform you from a commitment-phobe into someone who is willing to tether themselves to someone else for an eternity. (Or until you get divorced, whichever comes first.)
5. Talk about the boring details. Debt. Health. Whether or not the two of you have the same ideas about where to live or if kids are on the table. You don’t want to enter into a legal contract with someone without knowing all of the facts.
6. Live with someone you’re in a relationship with. If it’s the one you eventually marry, fine. The point is that living together changes things.
7. Learn from the time you dated someone and treated them like crap. Everyone has that one relationship where they’re not particularly proud of the way they behaved. They took someone for granted, they picked fights, and acted generally like a jerk. While such behavior is certainly not commendable, you learn a lot about yourself through treating someone badly. Mainly, you realize who you don’t want to be and what kind of relationship you don’t want to have, which makes you more prepared for something like marriage. You can’t ever go back to the way you acted because it made you hate yourself. Your future husband/wife will feel relieved that you got this relationship out of your system.
8. Have a one night stand. Sleep with a stranger just to see if you can do it, just to see if you can feel okay afterwards. After you’re married, you won’t get to do anything, besides the one penis/vagina you’ve committed yourself to, so you might as well sow some wild oats beforehand.
9. Meet the people who raised your potential future husband/ wife. Whether you like their family or not, you’ll be able to pick up on red flags that wouldn’t have come to light otherwise. The issues someone has with their family may not make or break a relationship, but you don’t really know someone until you watch them lose it and go apeshit on their parents at Thanksgiving dinner.
10. Live with a member of your preferred gender identity who you’re not dating. This is the best way to adjust your expectations of who is responsible for what in a household.
11. Get your heart broken. Whether from losing a good friend, having a fight you know you were wrong in, or seeing a love you were sure was forever end prematurely — we all need to know what it feels like to be broken. Perhaps the most essential thing about heartbreak is coming out on the other side and realizing that, no matter how badly you are hurting in the moment, it’s going to pass and you are going to be happy again. Few things manage to put future fights, anger, and sadness into perspective than getting over a real heartbreak at least once.
12. Finish college. Because you’re way too young to be married that early.
13. Learn how to cook, regardless of gender. One of the best parts of stability is the fact that you DON’T have to go out as much anymore. One of the best things you can do to prepare for a simpler lifestyle is to figure out how live more simply.
14. Have an adventure with your friends. One thing that’s noticeable about wonderful romantic relationships is that they can often obscure — and even make us forget — the wonderful relationships we have with our friends. Though these friendships should by no means diminish when we’re married, it’s important to take time to appreciate the love you have with your friends, while it’s front-and-center in your life. Life can take us in many directions — and so can marriage and children — so all the more reason to have the adventures with friends you’ll remember all your life. Go on a road trip, take a vacation, get into way too much trouble in your hometown. Do stuff that reminds you that you’re young, and free, and can afford to make a few mistakes.
15. Live alone/ be alone. People can go their entire lives skipping from relationship to relationship because they’re afraid of being alone. Being alone isn’t always a walk on the beach, but it’s important to develop the capacity to rely on yourself for happiness before you pass off so much of that weight to another human being.
16. Fall in love with a friend. What is this strange idea that only the people you have sex with/ marry are the people you are supposed to fall head-over-heels in love with? What a sad life we would all be living if we were incapable of loving someone just for long car rides, laughing at stupid TV shows, and staying up late eating junk food and drinking straight from the bottle. Take the time to experience love in all the forms that you routinely mistake for being “boring old friendship.”
17. Be good to your parents. Few things in life will be more exciting for your parents than seeing you find someone and get married, likely starting a family of your own, and certainly bringing a new family into theirs. Why would we ever want to taint that with a relationship that’s strained, disrespectful, and full of alternating miscommunication and silence? Our parents deserve to be loved, to be enjoyed for the people they are (not just some abstract idea of being punished for things), and most of all, included in our lives. The beauty of bringing two families together is very much in the love for your own being grown and shared into the love of the whole new family unit. Shouldn’t we be sharing as much of that as possible?
18. Move out of your parents’ house. Learn how to pay bills, manage your money, and live responsibly. The least you can do before moving in with someone FOR ETERNITY is get some exposure about what it’s actually like to take care of yourself.
19. Figure yourself out. Too often people rush into committed monogamy for all the wrong reasons. “Figuring yourself out” is cliche, but that doesn’t mean you can’t work on yourself and prune your crutches, delusions, and self-destructive tendencies. It’s a life-long process, but at least, before you marry, try and have a firm grip on who you are and what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, rather than rushing headlong and blind into an unknown situation.