7 Ways to Prepare for Marriage in Your Twenties
“How would my spouse feel if they could see me now?” I’m not sure when this became a question I asked myself on an almost daily basis in my teens.
I do remember hanging out with a group of guys and girls and thinking, “If my future husband is one of these guys, I wouldn’t want him to be treating that girl that way.” I then started thinking about my own interactions with the opposite sex. I realized that the patterns of behavior I began in my teen years would most likely be the same ones that followed me into marriage. If I flirted with every guy I met, this would be a hard habit to break once I was married.
I didn’t get married till I was 29. So I spent more than 10 years preparing for marriage. Don’t get me wrong; I wasn’t one of those girls whose life depended on finding a man and getting married. In fact I was told repeatedly, if you want to marry someone someday you have to put yourself out there with guys.
What I didn’t know while used this time to prepare for marriage is what was going on in my brain. Clinical Psycologist Dr. Meg Jay says, “We know that the brain caps off its second and last growth spurt in your 20s as it rewires itself for adulthood, which means that whatever it is you want to change about yourself now is the time to change it. We know that personality changes more during your 20s than at any other time in life…”
In America, the average age at first marriage is now 27 for women and 29 for men — up from 20 for women and 23 for men in 1960. While marriage is happening later in life, it doesn’t mean that you can’t start preparing for your marriage in your early twenties.
“The best time to work on your marriage is before you have one, and that means being as intentional with love as you are with work,” says Dr. Jay. “Picking your family is about consciously choosing who and what you want rather than just making it work or killing time with whoever happens to be choosing you."
If you want to be intentional about building the marriage you want in your twenties here are seven ideas to get you started.
Decide on the type of marriage you want
If you are going to start building intentionally towards the marriage you want then you need to start by defining what that might look like for you. Take a look at the relationships around you. What do you like about them and what would you prefer not to have in your marriage? Speak to older couples who have marriages like you want and ask them what has worked for them.
Invite Jesus along for the ride
Your relationship with Jesus will be your cornerstone of your marriage. Jesus won’t leave you when your vows get tested or when you’re nursing a baby in the middle of the night. Be intentional about building a relationship with Jesus. On the nights when you don’t have a date, pick up your bible and listen for his voice. One verse I memorized and often return too is 1 Corinthians 7:17 from the Message Bible, “And don't be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God's place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there. God, not your marital status, defines your life.”
Ask yourself tough questions
Now that you know what the marriage you’re building towards looks like you’ll need to ask yourself some tough questions:
If I keep living my life exactly as it is, where will I be in 3 years?
How can I intentionally move myself toward the marriage that I hope for?
Meet different types of people
Dr. Jay points out that, “Twenty-somethings who huddle together with like-minded peers limit who they know, what they know, how they think, how they speak, and where they work.” Chances are your future spouse won’t come from your current group of friends. Accept invitations to events you wouldn’t normally go to, make friends with people of different ages, socio-economic classes and races. Allow these people to expand the horizons of your heart.
Gain control over your emotions
In my early twenties I shared an apartment with my younger brother. We had good times but we also fought, a lot. Then I read the book, Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend and I began to learn how to own my emotions and diffuse our arguments. If you are often angry, depressed, or anxious, and don’t know why, your twenties is the time to find a good therapist. Find out what your emotional triggers are, how to handle them and develop healthy coping mechanisms.
Manage your money
Finances remain one of the top reasons for divorce. People don’t usually get divorced for lack of money but when two people handle money differently it can be a source of ongoing friction. Start a saving habit, find a budgeting style that works for you and see that pay off in the long run. Dr. Jay says, “Here is where we get to my main reason for encouraging 20-somethings to engage with their financial futures: brain development. The habits you instill in yourself while your brain is wiring up in your twenties will be with you for a lifetime.”
Stop comparing your life to others
Theodore Roosevelt famously said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” It can also be one of the quickest ways to take life out of a romantic relationship. If you compare your spouse to someone else chances are they will fall short in some area, most of the time. So be intentional in your 20’s about not comparing your life, achievements or relationships to others. Choose to live your life intentionally rather than living in reaction to others.
Wendy van Eyck is married to Xylon, who talks non-stop about cycling, and makes her laugh. She writes for anyone who has ever held a loved one’s hand through illness, ever believed in God despite hard circumstances or ever left on a spontaneous 2-week holiday through a foreign land with just a backpack. You can follow Wendy’s story and subscribe to receive her free ebook, “Life, life and more life” at ilovedevotionals.com. She would also love to connect with you on Facebook and Twitter.