There’s no doubt you need to have a certain degree of personal maturity in order to have a healthy marriage.
Even though you can’t be totally “ready” for something like marriage (more on that here), you should be cultivating a healthy, balanced, God-centered lifestyle in your singleness if you want to do marriage well. The decision to get married is the second-most important decision you can make, and it warrants some very careful thinking and planning.
But this is the 27-year-old version of me talking.
When I was a 22-year-old grad student in Louisville, Kentucky, I was pretty obsessed with the idea of marriage, and I wanted to make it happen sooner rather than later. I didn’t spend too much time wondering about how to cultivate maturity in my singleness.
When a gorgeous, half-Italian, sweet-natured girl named Mandy came into my life, I felt like I didn’t have any reason to. I was hopelessly in love with a godly woman I knew would make for an incredible marriage. Heeding Beyonce’s call, I put a ring on it pretty quickly.
That was almost four years ago, and thankfully it has worked out pretty well. Our marriage has been nothing short of incredible, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
To be honest, though, every once in a while, I wonder if I got married too young. Not that I regret it at all, but I wonder if I could have been a better man for her if I had spent more time as a single man developing maturity. I think about some of the ups and downs we’ve had, and I wonder if some of that could have been avoided.
So, here are a few things I wish I could have done (or done better) before getting married.
1. Learned How to Manage my Time
One funny thing about time management is you have to spend a lot of time learning how to do it well. I’m a classic head-in-the-clouds right-brainer, and I was all over the place in college. I got married a little more than 18 months out of college, which meant that Mandy had to deal with a lot of my adulthood growing pains at the beginning of our marriage.
I definitely didn’t (and still don’t) have my time management where it should be, and I probably could have taken more time to cultivate my scheduling habits before taking on the responsibilities of husbandhood. It simply takes a while to figure out your personal limits, your personal rhythm, when you need to rest, and so forth.
2. Learned How to Handle Money
I was only a few months out of college when I fell in love with Mandy, and like most college kids, I wasn’t a seasoned pro at handling money. I wasn’t the worst with money, but I wasn’t the best, either. I’m fairly certain that if I had spent more single years budgeting, learning how much I should spend on what, figuring out how to save better and live within my means, I would have been better prepared to serve my wife financially at the beginning of our marriage.
3. Selflessly Served Others
I can be a pretty selfish person sometimes. It’s true, and it’s an area of my life I’m working really hard to change. I typically make decisions and go about relationships based on whether they fulfill my comfort and my agenda.
By God’s grace, I’m not as selfish as I used to be, but when I was 23, I entered into marriage with a lot of selfish expectations. I expected my wife to understand me and serve me without always taking initiative to do the same for her. I lived for my own pleasures and comforts and, in a lot of ways, built our marriage around them.
I wish I had learned before marriage how to become a servant in the context of our local church, among other avenues. When Paul talks about the benefits of being single in 1 Corinthians 7:7, he’s saying people should be taking advantage of their freedom in singleness to serve others. I wish I had taken more time to learn how to deny myself and serve others instead of quickly becoming married and pulling another person into my self-absorbed world.
4. Learned How to Adjust to People
I went to a college filled with super-high achievers who did things like hang out at Denny’s at 2 a.m. to talk Kantian philosophy and start businesses on the side and set up campus seminars to lament the current state of American evangelicalism.
I loved it, because that’s my personality, but it took me a while coming out of college to realize that not everyone is like that. People have different interests and personalities, and you have to adjust.
Like so many other things, learning how to adjust to different personalities takes time. My wife and I are polar opposites, and while I’m regularly reminded that she’s smarter than I am, she isn’t the type of woman to want to stay up late talking about intense issues while wearing her heart on her sleeve (like me). She’s a left-brainer, I’m a right-brainer. She’s quiet, I’m talkative. She enjoys different things than I do.
I wish I had spent more time experiencing different people’s personalities while single so I could have better adjusted to my wife’s personality and served her better.
5. Cherished my Singleness
In a lot of ways, I had a pretty skewed understanding of marriage and singleness when I got married. I kind of idolized marriage and demonized singleness. This started way back in college, when I got into a relationship with a girl I really wanted to marry. When she broke up with me, I took it really hard, which showed how out-of-whack I was.
It didn’t take me long to pursue another girl, then another one and so on. I was pretty insecure. I thought that being married meant you had arrived and being single meant you were less of a person. Now I know that I was completely wrong.
I wish I’d spent my early twenties learning to cherish singleness as an opportunity to glorify God, not belittle it. Perhaps I could have spent more years in my early and mid-twenties enjoying singleness and all it has to offer.
Having said all this, I love my wife, Mandy, with all of my heart, and I’m completely grateful for her. Even though I definitely could have used my singleness better and been a better man for her by the time we had our wedding day, I don’t regret the way things have worked out. Marriage has been incredible.
And the thought that it can be made even better by doing singleness well is a great one.
Jared Lafitte is a life and leadership coach who serves individuals, businesses and ministries. Check out his website at lafittecoaching.com and follow him on Twitter @jaredlafitte