I’m young, and when it comes to the topic of lifelong love, it will be an eternity before I feel anything but young in that regard. I will never have all of the answers. Marriage is such a unique and complex entity. It starts out as this distant thought that most people think of very lightly for as long as possible. Then time creeps up on you, and almost in an instant, forever starts to become more than a thought. Marriage has never felt light to me. I was eleven years old when I read my first Nicholas Sparks novel and started writing poetry about soul-mates. I generally pinpoint that as the moment I became doomed. That being said, I feel I would be doing an incredible injustice to myself and my future partner if I made that commitment without these ten points. I think we, as young people, have things we need to do before we say “I do.”
1. Establish a true acceptance of our parents and of their relationships.
Some of us were blessed enough to have parents with a very strong and loving relationship. Others were not as lucky. Before getting married, leaving behind resentments and negativity caused from the marriage you were shown as an example is really important. Your marriage never has to be your parents’ marriage, and overcoming these feelings can be a daunting and challenging task, but a crucial one.
2. Rid ourselves of our immaturities.
When I envision the journey from my first love to my last love, I want to see the changes I have made. I want to see myself letting go of pettiness. I want to see an understanding woman. I want to see a woman that possesses very little jealously, selfishness, or bitterness. I know I can never be perfect, and I see myself growing each day. But before I dedicate myself to a man, I want to be a woman mature enough to handle the situations we face together with a sort of grace. I think we all need that.
3. Love who we are and find true confidence.
I want to build a life with someone, not build myself in someone. It becomes all too easy to establish a sense of identity in someone else. I know this because I have done it. Before promising yourself to someone for forever, you have to be able to know how special and incredible forever can be with you. You have to believe that first, not wait for someone to tell you. Part of that amazing love story I envisioned when I was reading countless Nicholas Sparks novels is falling in love with one’s self.
4. Feel like we have and will continue to follow all of our dreams.
Contrary to some beliefs, following one’s dreams isn’t just a quest limited to a person’s twenties. The ability to continue to follow our dreams is a lifelong gift. Before marrying someone, we all need to feel like we have followed our dreams pertaining to being young and single. We also have to feel like we will still be able to follow our dreams with our partner. A partner is someone to grow with and follow the desires of your hearts and minds with. Being confident you can do those things without someone else, and that you’ve done all that you’ve wanted to do on your own, is crucial.
5. Let go of unfair expectations of ourselves.
I can be incredibly hard on myself. I have beaten myself down about everything from the flab on my arms to my sub-par abilities in my college Spanish classes. We all do it, especially when we are younger and have less acceptance of our inevitable imperfections. Before we get married, I think it’s important to be able to let go of this expectation of perfection for ourselves. We can’t expect perfection in our relationships or in who we are.We will be many things in our lives. We may even be mothers and fathers. If we are going to do that with any amount of happiness, we will need to be able to accept imperfection, and see the beauty that lies within each of us.
6. Become entirely conscious of the fact that there is no need to rush any stage of life.
Rushing is in our nature. We get excited. We want to move on to each new and intriguing stage of our lives. However, part of being truly ready to get married is knowing that like all other stages, it doesn’t have to be done in a hurry. Marriage is not a testament to the validity of your adulthood or to your mature relationship. It isn’t something to check off your list before you move on to the next category of gift registry you can create. When we each get married, it should be the right time. It should be something we can afford and can spend the time we really want to on. Every other stage is that way too, and entering one as important as marriage without understanding that can damage one’s ability to appreciate each state he or she is in at the time.
7. Understand what we require from life for true happiness.
This may seem like a no-brainer upon first glance, but it is actually extremely difficult to concretely determine what it is that each of us needs for happiness. If it’s passion and laughter that you need in life, that isn’t something you can compromise. You have to be able to do things you are passionate about and that bring you true happiness with your spouse. You have to be able to go on hikes together or order pizza for movie marathons. You have to be able to talk about what matters to you. You have to be able to do what you love. The first step to all of that, is just figuring out what those things are that you need in life, and making sure you have them when you are ready to be a husband or wife.
8. To have stopped making decisions out of fear.
Being with someone forever shouldn’t be because you are afraid to be without them. The same goes for your career choices or your choices with living circumstances. You shouldn’t live in one place because you don’t know if you’d make it where you really want to be. You shouldn’t marry a person because you are afraid you won’t find someone else. You shouldn’t settle in life at all, and you certainly shouldn’t do so because of fear. As adults, we must be able to thrive in the unknown, and follow the rhythmic passions of our hearts and minds. During the years that we are married, we will face situations that are terrifying and complicated. However, entering those years knowing that your heart is stronger than your sweaty palms, can make all the difference in the end.
9. To understand the importance of understanding.
Being young can often mean being innately selfish. This is often a good thing actually, because it helps to encourage each of us to work towards our dreams vigorously and not allow others to dictate our life choices. However, when it comes time to share a life with someone, selfishness can be toxic in certain ways. Marriage brings differences. It means making decisions alongside someone else that strongly affect the both of you. It means looking at situations from a perspective that isn’t your own. It means compromise. It means respect. Before any of us are ready to offer a partnership in this world, we have to be ready to let go of stubborn attitudes and pride-fulness. We have to be able to understand.
10. To know what love is.
“Love is patient. Love is kind. It is not envious, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
1 Corinthians 13
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