Q: Hi Debra! Looking back to when you were single, what will be your top five recommendations to single ladies on how to prepare most effectively for marriage? (What were the things you did that you were glad you did? What were the things you wish you did more?). Thank you so much for this opportunity!
A: *In my best Beyonce voice* “All the single ladies, all the single ladies, all the single ladies, all the single ladies…”
I was at a wedding a few years ago that called “all the single ladies” to the dance floor with that song. It was “that special time” in the evening – you know – the time when they bring all the single girls out to see who will catch the bouquet of flowers and be the next one to meet their love and fall happily ever after.
I’ll be honest. I don’t know one single girl who likes that part of a wedding. I sure didn’t when I was single. Why can’t they do something more beneficial at weddings? Like offer some good ol’ relationship advice!
Well, that’s exactly what I’m in the mood to do today….so I’m thankful for this honest, vulnerable, and humble question from a woman who clearly has a teachable heart and a desire to “prepare” for marriage not just “wish” for it. I like that. I like that a LOT.
I had so many things wrong during my early years of dating. Instead of seeing dating as a time to hone in on the qualities I needed in a partner, I sort of saw it as an opportunity to prove that I was wanted/desired/needed. In the end, that way of thinking brought me a lot of heartache, and left me feeling just as insecure as when I began.
But I’m so thankful for the people God brought into my life, the healing He poured out on me, wisdom He imparted, as well as the professional career I embarked on, that shaped me and molded me. One (often painful) step at a time, God led me toward a relationship that was good on so many levels. I’m so thankful for my husband and our journey that brought us where we are today.
I could go on and on about that (and I often do), but instead I’m just going to cut to the chase. With everything I know NOW…if I could narrow down my recommendations on how to prepare for marriage (I’m not very good at narrowing down, considering I committed an entire book to this topic for singles – not just women, but men too) here’s what I would say:
#1 Get to know yourself first.
I don’t think I ever start dating advice without hammering this point for a while. I even have a talk committed to this topic called “the person you never thought you would date”…which is….(drumroll please) yourself! In order to prepare for your future relationship, you have to, have to, have to know who you are. Because if you don’t know who you are, you will have no idea what kind of person fits into your life. In fact, you’ll end up just fitting into theirs and becoming whoever they want you to become. It’s so easy to get lost in a relationship rather than taking the necessary steps to find yourself. It’s something that a lot of women struggle with.
Not only is it important, it’s CRUCIAL to uncover your identity, discover your talents, strengthen your confidence, and commit to becoming the person God has called you to be. Take classes, get a mentor, sign up for courses, enroll in professional counseling, and do whatever it takes to really get to know yourself in a deep and meaningful way.
#2 Start moving in the direction God has called you.
The first part of this advice is really important: START MOVING. I know so many singles who are just sitting around waiting for life to happen. As if life only begins when you’re married or in a romantic relationship. But if you have that view of life, you’re going to miss out on so much. Life is happening right now, and if you’re being passive with your life there’s a good chance you’re also going to be passive even in your relationships. This is the time to take next steps, to discover your talents and your passions, and begin moving toward your goals and dreams.
But not just your goals and dreams…which brings me to the second part of this statement. Read it slowly…”the direction God has called you.” I say that because there are so many directions that life can take us…
…but if we’re moving toward God, we’re always moving in the right direction.
Your life has meaning and purpose while standing alone. If you can grasp that during singleness, you will bring meaning and purpose into your marriage as well. What a great way to start a relationship.
***For more check out this audio lesson: “How to Live Life To the Fullest While Single”
#3 Figure out what you need to work on to become the best version of yourself, and then actually work on it.
You are the most crucial component to the health of your future relationships. I sincerely believe that. With all the couples I’ve worked with, I see it time and time again that marriage problems are always individual problems being played out within the context of a relationship.
So if you want to have a healthy future marriage, get healthy now. Figure out what parts of your past you need to deal with, what baggage you’re carrying, and what bad habits and sins are taking control of your life here and now. Become the best version of yourself – right now – and you’ll have a direct impact on the health of your future marriage.
#4 Surround yourself with good people.
I think there is a huge advantage that comes to people who surround themselves with good people. Because it’s in the context of relationships (ALL relationships) that we learn to communicate, to love, to give, to forgive, and to serve. It’s in the context of relationships that we learn to consider the needs of others, recognize our own flaws, and deal with our personality deficits. We were created for relationships, and there is so much to be said of people who learn to surround themselves with a meaningful community of people, because those are the people who end up with the healthiest romantic relationships as well.
#5 Invest in your relationship with God.
In the third section of my book, True Love Dates, I talk about “Dating Upward”. It’s one of the three necessary components to Dating…and it’s all about investing in one’s relationship with God. We’re all spiritual beings, and to leave out our spirituality in the pursuit of a relationship is to forget a crucial part of who we are.
So much of how we learn to love comes into play when we can learn to love ourselves FIRST….and we can’t really grasp how to love ourselves, until we know that we are DEEPLY loved, by a God who made us just to love us. There’s something really powerful that happens when we start believing truth; something that permeates every part of our identity and self worth. And the more valuable we believe we are, the less we’re willing to settle in our relationships.
This is why SO many women are stuck in one bad relationship after another. Because you ALWAYS attract the kind of relationship you believe you deserve. So begin to believe better…and watch what happens.
So there you have it, single ladies. Take this time to prepare for marriage and become the BEST version of yourself right here and right now. Because the healthier you are, the healthier are the relationships you are going to attract.
BOOKS BY DEBRA
Get busy learning what you need to know about healthy singleness, dating, and marriage. Check out Choosing Marriage: Why It Has To Start With We > Me or True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life.
Check out Debra’s LOVE + RELATIONSHIPS PODCAST
DEBRA FILETA is a Licensed Professional Counselor, national speaker, relationship expert, and author of Choosing Marriage and True Love Dates. She’s also the host of the hotline style Love + Relationships Podcast. Her popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, reaches millions of people with the message of healthy relationships. Connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, or Twi