It might seem like the only real way to work towards a future of marriage while you’re single is to set out to find your future spouse. While that’s the most concrete way to actually make it happen, there are a lot of other things you can do to set yourself up for success in that future marriage.
As much as we’d like to think about marriage as being a non-stop honeymoon and bonding experience with the love of your life, the reality is that a healthy and happy marriage takes a lot of work from both spouses.
The best time to prepare yourself to put in the kind of work it takes is right now. Here are four things you can do to help make sure your marriage is the best it can be when that future spouse does come along.
1. Put effort into your current friendships
Chances are, you have some platonic friendships in your life. Hopefully you even have some close relationships with some family members.
It’s easy to take these relationships for granted. But perhaps one of the best things you can do to prepare yourself for being a good spouse is to work on being a good friend.
There are likely to be times when your friends are needy, over-react, and are just plain bothersome. Even your best friends.
When you’re married, you’ll probably find that the same thing can happen with your spouse occasionally. There might even be moments when you’d like nothing better than to tell your spouse to just buck up and get over it. But (not surprisingly!) this isn’t the type of thing you can routinely say to your spouse without a lot of hurt and anger between the two of you.
Work on being a good listener to your friends. Don’t avoid them when they’re being silly or complaining too much. We all have moments like this, and you can bet your spouse will at times. If you work on being a good, selfless friend now, it will be much easier to love your spouse through moments when they seem to be acting a bit ridiculous.
2. Self-discipline plays a big role
When we think of self-discipline, we might think of the ability to get out of bed on the first ring of our alarm in the morning, rather than hitting the snooze. Or we might think of sticking to a workout plan.
But in terms of marriage, you should think of how necessary self-discipline will be when you have to abstain from sex at times, or when you have to give up hours of much-needed sleep to tend to crying babies.
While you can develop this virtue once you’re in the thick of things (believe me, once you have kids, you’ll have no choice), it’s a good idea to start working on this early. Because it can be tough.
Embrace small penances, ditch the snooze button, and try to get in the habit of dying to self at times, if you want to set yourself up for a happy and holy marriage.
3. Don’t underestimate the importance of self-care
The term “self-care” can envelop a lot of things, and probably all of them are important for a healthy marriage.
When one or both spouses are routinely burnt-out, struggling to meet their bodies’ physical needs, or struggling emotionally, a marriage can become strained.
Work now to develop healthy habits. This means getting enough sleep and sufficiently healthy food, finding good ways to deal with stress, and examining whether you’re in a good place emotionally and mentally.
If you already know you’re struggling in one or more of these areas, you might find that your current life as a single person is even suffering. Once you’re married, this struggle typically intensifies, because you’re sharing your life very intimately with another person. Your struggles become their struggles.
Try your best to create a game plan to deal with these struggles now, before the hectic-ness of having a family makes it more difficult to deal with.
4. Prayer life is perhaps the most important of all
Your biggest task in marriage is to get your spouse (and eventually your children, if you’re blessed with them) to Heaven.
If you’re struggling to stay in a path of virtue and holiness yourself, this is going to be a pretty difficult task.
None of us are perfect, but the more intimate a relationship we develop with God, the holier we become. Of course it’s a lot simpler to say it than to do it, but the more effort you put into developing a consistent prayer life, the easier this becomes.
I have more than one relative who has told me how developing a habit of praying the rosary daily has made graces and virtue spring up in their personal lives in ways they never expected. I know for myself, setting aside time every day for silent mental prayer, even when it’s least convenient, has helped me grow a lot in my relationship with God.
Holiness never comes easy, but it’s important to work for it in our own lives if we want a happy and healthy marriage.
Work on your prayer life now, for your future spouse’s sake, and for your own as well. After all, even if God does plan to bless you with marriage in the future, it’s His own love for you that will always be most fulfilling.