If you're currently single, but hoping for a great marriage in the future, there are a few things you can learn to do right now that will help prepare you for that relationship. The really great thing? They'll help you have a more fulfilled life anyway, no matter how long you have to wait for Mr. (or Mrs.) Right.
1. Develop self-awareness
Dig deep to find your true values and priorities. You may think you want a partner with good looks and money, when really you need someone who respects, appreciates and cherishes you. You can't have it all, so decide what your top priorities are and which things are deal-breakers.
Take a good hard look at what you bring to the table, too. Relationships in general (and marriage in particular) require both parties to contribute, so if you're single and focused only on what you want in a spouse, it's time to start thinking about what you have to offer. Get familiar with your own qualities (the good and bad) so you can recognize the person who is going to compliment and complete you.
Self-awareness also helps when the inevitable conflicts of any marriage come around. Being self-aware can help you see what went wrong, what part you played in the issue and even how to fix it.
According to The Positive Psychology Program, self-awareness is the cornerstone of emotional intelligence, and self-aware people "tend to act consciously rather than react passively, to be in good psychological health and to have a positive outlook on life." So spend some time getting to know yourself. If will help you make better decisions in every area of your life.
2. Learn to give
Winston Churchill is reported to have said: "We make a living by what we get. But we make a life by what we give."
This makes perfect sense, because for most of us, our life is about our relationships and relationships are about giving. The better you are at giving, the better your marriage will be. This doesn't mean the giving should be all one-way - Far from it. Your spouse should be giving back too, but while you're single, learning to give selflessly is a great way to prepare for marriage.
Sometimes, when we're working hard on maintaining a marriage and raising a family, it feels like we're giving our all and getting relatively little back. Often we're exhausted by all the giving, but then one day we take a breath, look around and see the awesome life that we created with all that giving. Churchill was right.
Generosity doesn't just affect your marriage. There are some very good reasons that generous people are more successful in general. So find every opportunity you can for service and generosity in your everyday life.
3. Clear emotional baggage
Being single is a great opportunity to deal with all your destructive or unhelpful emotions and feelings. If you bring old hurts and resentments into your new relationship, it may be doomed from the start (or at least much harder than it needs to be).
Some people can do this work on their own. Some need to talk to a counsellor, spiritual advisor or trusted friend. Others might need to find a support group to talk through their issues. Find a method that works for you and take the time to release what's weighing you down. Forgive the people in your past, take responsibility for any part you've played in past conflicts and accept that when you enter a new relationship, you're starting over.
4. Get strong
Marriage is not for the faint of heart. The stronger you are - emotionally and spiritually - the more prepared you are to take on another person and all their issues, faults and foibles. Too many of us still look at marriage as something that can solve our problems. That's not how it works. Marriage can bring new problems and heartaches, as well as joy and solutions.
They say a problem shared is a problem halved, but that's not always accurate. Marriage can half some problems and double others. You have to be strong enough to take on your spouse's issues and difficulties, as well as his triumphs and celebrations. So toughen up while you're single.
5. Do the things you won't be able to do later
It's ironic how often we wait for a relationship to come along, only to feel some level of regret or resentment that we now can't do the things we could when we were single. It's especially sad when we missed out on some of the opportunities of being single, because we were too busy looking for a relationship. So have some fun. Do some traveling. Spend time with your friends and family. Enjoy the freedom of being single, so you're ready for the responsibilities of being married.