"I just married my best friend!" exclaimed an acquaintance on Facebook I vaguely remember from a distant college party I wish I'd forgotten. I take a quick peek at the profile only to discover that this person has been dating said “best friend” for a year!
I wasn't even fully committed to my favorite television show ("Mad Men") after a year.
We've all experienced that all-too-familiar honeymoon period, when friends tolerate the PDA, incessant texts and phone calls back and forth seem normal. It's a glorious time in any relationship, but a dangerous one, as well.
Just because you "haven't had a single fight" or you "moved in together five months ago and loving it" doesn't mean you should get engaged on a whim.
I don't need to see the engagement rings on Facebook, and your friends can spare me the unconvincing congratulatory Facebook comments that are similar to the comments that appear on my Facebook wall on my birthday each year. Whether you've been dating your significant other for 10 months or 10 years, marriage is one of the biggest decisions a couple will face.
Here are five productive things you can do while dating before making the big leap:
1. Establish A Meaningful Relationship With The Parents
This may be among the most important things you can do. Your partner's parents should trust you as much as you partner does, plain and simple. Try to strike up conversations that go a little deeper than weekend party plans or that new Beyoncé single.
It shouldn't need to get too personal. Focus on topics like your career, life goals, aspirations and hobbies. You may not see your partner's parents so often, but when you do, it's important to make every moment count.
2. Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone
When a relationship starts to become routine, things start to go awry.
Don't get me wrong; I love watching "Game of Thrones" with my girlfriend every Sunday, but it's one of the many things we do together for enjoyment. We teach each other new hobbies. We learn from one another.
Go skydiving on a Tuesday just for the hell of it. Head to the gun range together and fire off a few rounds, even though you've never held a gun in your life and are deathly afraid of them.
If you don't keep your partner on his or her toes each and every day, yours will eventually get stepped on. After painfully watching my parents' marriage crumble, I will not sacrifice lasting happiness for a life of comfort, complacency and routine.
3. Find Enjoyment In The Little Things
Our twenties won't last forever. If you can't find enjoyment in your relationship without constantly getting drunk together, using other substances or partying night in and night out, you will soon realize that marriage might be all of the things that your relationship is not.
Having an active social life with your partner is healthy, but finding other avenues of enjoyment is never a bad idea! If you both can appreciate the little things in life, your relationship will thrive on experiences that don't require much to make you both genuinely happy.
4. Practice Selflessness And Ditch The Selfishness
If the sex is vanilla, it's a relationship killa'. No matter how much you think you love each other, if the sex isn't great, how do you expect it to last a lifetime? That word "routine" comes to mind again.
When you're with someone for years, routine tends to creep in and that spark can easily disappear if you don't put serious effort into keeping the flame burning. Take a visit to your local sex store and buy some toys or other crazy contraptions that the kids are into these days, if that's what it takes.
Once you start viewing sex as a chore or obligation, you've got 99 problems… and poor sex is the direct cause of all of them. From a guy's perspective, it's important to overcome the need to only please yourself.
Lasting fulfillment is when you put all of your effort toward satisfying your partner, both physically and emotionally.
5. Travel As Much As Possible
This may sound cliché, but not for reasons you may expect. I truly believe that traveling tests the boundaries of a relationship more than anything else a couple can do together.
Going on a trip is fun and gets you to see and experience the world. But, when you escape the comfort of life back home and are with your partner 24/7, tempers can flare and the boat can start rocking.
Traveling is stressful as hell. From the planning of a trip to the plane rides, hotels, food, lack of privacy and general discomfort of not being at home, it can be a true test of how well each of you can handle adversity.
Interestingly enough, the fantasies and realities of marriage and travel are one in the same. You have this ideal picture of how perfect it's going to be, encountering no problems and clinging to a naive sense of optimism. Then reality hits: Your GPS brings you to the middle of nowhere.
Bonds are tested when we least expect it, and couples must be confident to face anything that life, marriage and love throws at them.
Photo via We Heart It