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How to Date When You’re Ready to Be Married

A bridesmaid at a wedding wishing she could be the bride.

Whether it’s your biological clock, the plethora of dating experience you have behind you, an excitement for building a future with someone, or a desire for a family. Whatever it is, you’re now ready to find the one and you know it. Dating to play the field and dating in search for your perfect match are two very different experiences and it comes with two different sets of expectations.

Before you were more open to seeing what and who was out there in a general sort of way and stumbling your way towards your end goal. But now you’re ready for something more and, as a result, finding your future husband or wife requires more self-awareness and introspection to fine-tune who would make a good life partner for you.

Even though finding your future partner sounds like a very serious decision, which it is, you’ve been honing in on who the yin to your yang is throughout your entire dating life and those insights are there to help you date when you’re ready for marriage. Before we can even focus on the other person though, we need to focus on you (yes, you!) and how you came to this point.

Dating for marriage is an extremely conscious decision. The movies make finding the person for you seem like a fairy tale.   (As if Prince Charming is going to ride on his horse and sweep you off your feet. Ha! So not true.) The truth is you’re going to have to sift through the frogs to find your prince/princess and you do that by being specific about your needs in a relationship. These are deep down, got-to-have-this-or-I-will-be-unhappy needs. And these are the needs you’ve come to recognize based on your prior dating experiences. Some common ones include mutual respect, shared values and life goals, effective communication, a foundation of trust, and mutual admiration. Often we confuse our needs with our wants — height, good looking, extroverted, eye color, athletic, etc. Dating for marriage is about being steadfast about satisfying your innate needs and being flexible about your wants. In other words, your future husband or wife must have the qualities that you need in a relationship, but you recognize that the qualities you want are nice-to-haves but not necessarily deal-breakers.

Now that you’ve determined your non-negotiables, it’s time to get out on the dating scene. You may feel compelled to qualify your date on every checklist point the first time you meet. Please don’t do that. While you should reshape your dating style to fit your goals, you shouldn’t turn into someone who you wouldn’t even want to date. Remember, a date is not an interview. It’s an opportunity to start getting to know someone on a deeper, more intimate level, which happens over time.

The first several dates should be fun and most importantly, comfortable. It can take several months before you are able to be certain about some of your non-negotiables like trustworthiness and the ability to communicate effectively with one another. But you can start to peel back layers with questions that go beyond the surface. Start with divulging something personal about yourself, which may offer your date the opportunity to let their guard down and share something vulnerable with you too.

Let’s spend a moment on dating style or your approach to dating. If you are ready for marriage, you should act in ways that communicate that you’re looking for a serious and committed relationship. For example, return texts and calls within appropriate time frames, don’t text when drunk, and be courteous and polite on dates. Become the person you want to attract and you will naturally attract the right person to you.

Both men and women need to maintain their individuality when looking for their future spouse. You don’t want to put undue pressure on the relationship just because you’re ready to take the next step. Time allows a relationship to mature and blossom into what it potentially could become. Putting pressure on the relationship to mature too early is sabotaging the relationship.

One final piece of advice: While you’re allowing your relationship to grow and take its natural course, learn each other’s love languages, a concept created by marriage counselor Dr. Gary Chapman. Each individual, he says, has a different way he or she is most receptive to receiving love. Partners who know each other’s love language are more effective at meeting one another’s emotional needs.

Marriage is the most important commitment you’ll ever make. It’s worth taking the time to truly understand what you’ll need in a partner for a successful marriage as well as the time to build a solid foundation with someone who meets your expectations.

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