Alright. I’ll just say it. Believe me, it’s a hard thing to say. (We’re friends right?)
I’m 30 and have never been in a romantic relationship. Heck, I’ve never been past a second date, let alone getting close enough to touch the golden calf of marriage. It is at this point in the article where I turned to the Internet to see how old Josie Geller was in Never Been Kissed. She was 25.
(This is also the point in the article where I should note I’m grateful for the Lord’s specific plan for me. This article isn’t about wallowing.)
So while I don’t think I have a lot to contribute in the ongoing conversation about how to date or marry effectively, I’ve learned a couple of things about preparing for marriage when you’re in a state of perpetual singleness.
1. Appreciate the principle of marriage with a positive attitude. Now, I’m a fan of the occasional pity party. I’ve experienced the intense struggle, self-questioning, and loneliness that comes with being single. But I’ve noticed some unsettling trends in Church culture. While no one wants to have every Church meeting and activity turn into a marriage prep course, Church leaders shouldn’t have to walk up to the podium to speak about dating or marriage as if they were facing a firing squad. Friends who are dating or engaged, while needing sensitivity of their own, shouldn’t feel that way either.
Marriage is one of the most sacred institutions created by our Father in Heaven. Treating it with disdain, disgust, or inappropriate humor (even in an attempt to come off as unconcerned with the topic), doesn’t help our hearts internalize the doctrine and beauty of marriage.
Finding ways to appreciate and express gratitude for the amazing gift of marriage, whether we feel that opportunity is available in this life or not, will help us be ready for that gift whenever it comes.
2. Figure out the financial logistics of an adult life. There is no doubt about it: shouldering financial responsibility is hard, especially when you have to go it alone. Compacted with student loans and a struggling economy, the idea of financial independence may seem impossible, even years after graduation. Whether you are actually able to support yourself financially or not, learning how to pay bills, set budgets, file taxes, and understand loans can be an empowering experience.
An effective way to apply this principle is to create plans and do research before presenting it to someone you trust. For example, if you’re looking to buy a car, research as much as you can about buying cars and loans. Once you have a basic plan, take it to a parent with questions. If you have a job, watch your expenses and follow a budget. Follow the counsel of Church leaders when it comes to spending.
3. Create a savings account. Whenever possible, try to regularly put money into a savings account. No matter the amount, saving for the future will help you feel confident and at peace. Personally, I have a savings account that automatically tucks away $100 a month from my checking account. I’ve specifically labeled this account “Life Events.” At the moment, the money is reserved for paying for my non-existent wedding. It’s tempting not to spend it, but having it there brings me peace of mind.
4. Master basic living skills. Just as you need to learn about financial independence, you also need to be able to live a productive life on your own. There is a lot everyone can learn from doing laundry, making healthier meals from scratch, and cleaning the bathroom. Building good habits will not only enrich your life, but help you prepare for family life.
You can implement this by creating a dinner group with your friends or ward members, working with roommates to set up a cleaning schedule, and learning basic appliance and car repairs.
5. Boost your communication skills. In today’s plugged-in culture, a major problem with dating is coming from a lack of communication skills. We have a hard time expressing interest, being honest, and unselfishly listening to others. Then there is the fact that many people don’t communicate at all. It’s time to get out of the house, keep the phone in your pocket, and relearn how to talk to people.
It’s about introducing yourself to the person standing across the cookies at Institute and sitting by someone new at Sunday School. It’s about joining a group or class to meet new people. It’s about fostering the relationships you do have by investing your emotional energy in someone’s life and taking the time to listen to their problems.
No matter your comfort or shyness level, set goals that will help you become a more effective communicator.
6. Never stop serving others. While we all may be waiting for the love our life, we often forget the love that transforms lives is the love of Christ. It is easy to become selfish when you’re single because the only person you really need to worry about is you. Striving for charity not only equips us to better love our future families and turns us outward, but it also helps us fulfill the divine yearnings we have to love and be loved in this very moment.
You should never use service to try and convince someone they should like you, but genuinely caring for others and noticing how you can help strengthens the hearts and can often heal it.
7. Pray for your future spouse. On days when it seems like the idea of my future spouse is nothing more than a fanatical fantasy, I remember to tell myself he is a real person. At this very moment, as I type at my computer, he is breathing, living, and hopefully working as hard as I am to be a disciple of Christ. Nothing helps cement this idea more than praying for your spouse. Pray for their well-being, both physical and spiritual. Pray you both can have the eyes to see the best in each other. Pray for the Lord’s will to be done in the timing of your life.
8. Develop a relationship with Jesus Christ. For those in a state of perpetual singleness, building relationships can be hard. Relationships take honesty, trust, and a lot of hard work. When loneliness starts to take hold, it becomes easy to rely on yourself and start building walls. Remember that the greatest relationship you will ever build, whether you are married or not, is with the Savior. Learning to love, trust, and cherish the Savior will help fill your life with light and help you love, trust, and cherish your future spouse and family.