My first marriage was a perfect example of life teaching you important lessons after you need them. I wish I could go back in time and say, "Girl, don't marry him. He's a narcissist, a compulsive liar, and doesn't have a clue how to manage money." Since I don't have a time machine, though, I'll settle for helping other women learn from my mistakes. There's so many things I want every woman getting married to know, so consider this my wedding gift to you.
I know you might be thinking that you shouldn't take marriage advice from a divorced person. But the thing is, I learned so much about how to be a way better wife and partner, and how to make a marriage work in a healthy way, from my divorce. I learned how to compromise without compromising myself or the things that were important to me. I learned how to fight fair and how to disagree respectfully (which is something everyone claims they know how to do, but rarely ever put into practice).
I also figured out what things were important to me in a partner and in a marriage, and what things I should definitely never do again. So trust me when I say that I am so much better at marriage the second time around and, as a result, have a few pieces of friendly advice for you to contemplate before you walk down that aisle.
Do some soul searching before you make a commitment to someone. Have you always wanted to travel? Do you want to earn a graduate degree? Are you interested in trying out a career path that might not let you put down roots for a while?
Whether you want to go on an adventure or simply haven't figured things out yet, it's a good idea to start before you have to coordinate or compromise with someone else. Also, make sure you are on the same page with your partner about your future together before you get married.
After my marriage ended, I realized that I had spent too much time trying to find happiness from another person. I totally settled for someone who was not a good fit, and then relied on him to "make me happy" when I was totally capable of being happy without him (I just didn't know it at the time).
My advice to you is simple: know what you want — and more importantly, what you don't want — in a partner and don't settle for less. Also, own your own happiness. I was way happier after my divorce than I was when I was in a bad marriage with the wrong person.
Get Your Finances In Order
My ex-husband and I rarely talked about money until something horrible happened. To make matters worse, I brought home the majority of our family's income and managed our finances. I paid all of the bills, which caused huge fights when he decided to "invest" in the latest "get rich quick" scheme or spend our mortgage money on junk food and toys (for him, not for the kids) and I didn't find out until the credit card bill came in the mail.
I highly recommend taking time to put together a budget, plan to live within your means, and to talk with your partner about spending money on things not in the agreed upon plan. I know that money is supposedly some "taboo" topic you're not supposed to talk about, but you have to be able to discuss finances with your future husband or wife.
Intimacy is not just about sex, and it's so important to a healthy marriage (or any relationship, really). Love is a verb, not a noun. For your relationship to thrive, you need to learn how to love your partner, and how you need to be loved by them. Sex is important, sure, but the other things that you do to love your partner — remembering their favorite ice cream flavor, sending love notes, rubbing sore feet, washing their favorite shirt — might just matter even more.
I could have avoided so many fights with my ex if we had just established clear lines of communication. I think we, as human beings, have a tendency to expect perfection from other people, while letting ourselves off the hook for being, you know, human beings. But the thing is, your spouse can't read your mind and he or she is going to make mistakes. So it's only fair to be clear about your wants, needs, expectations, and to ask your partner to be clear about theirs. It sounds simple, but it's so important.
Learn How To Fight Fair
If you go into marriage thinking you'll never disagree with your husband or wife, you're wrong. Sorry, but it's the truth. You should know that learning how to disagree respectfully (which is easier said than done) might just be the key to a good marriage.
See also: owning your mistakes, not expecting perfection from your partner, letting little things go, and saying sorry (even when it's sometimes really, really hard).
Don't Expect Them To Change
I basically spent my entire marriage thinking that things would get better if I was able to change my partner. I foolishly thought I could help him become a more responsible, kind person, and to share my progressive, feminist values. I realized that it was unfair to both of us to rely on the hope that he'd eventually change who he was in order to be happy in our marriage. The song that goes, "If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with" is wrong. Don't go into marriage expecting your partner to change. It's not gonna happen and you'll both be unhappy.
Maintain Your Independence
You don't have to give up yourself when you get married. When I married my ex-husband, I found myself doing the things he wanted to do and, to a certain extent, letting my dreams and goals take a back seat to his. I wanted to make him happy, but I made myself really unhappy in the process. Now, I try to maintain independence in my marriage. I have my own hobbies and am not afraid to do my own thing when it's not something my husband enjoys.
Just because you're about to get married, doesn't mean you have to stop being you. Always, always, have the courage to be you.