Marriage can be a scary thing for men these days. We all know someone who has been in an unhappy marriage or has gone through divorce, and it’s really rough on them. But the answer is not to just avoid marriage altogether.

Instead, if you are thinking about marriage — or you just intend to get married some day — there are some things for men to do before marriage that can increase your chances of success and happiness in the long term.

1. Watch your language

This may not apply to everyone’s bride-to-be, but a lot of guys will learn that all the vulgar talk that endeared you to your buddies will just turn off your wife. Don’t expect to be walking around the house cursing up a storm anymore. Instead, learn to cut back. Pick your spots. Being able to show restraint demonstrates that you can control yourself and that you’re considerate of her opinions.

2. Go out with the boys now

Some women are really okay with their husbands going out with the boys — and getting married doesn’t mean you’ll never see them again. But if you like to party, get it out of your system now. After you are married, there is someone expecting you to be home at a certain time. Those last-minute road trips or unexpected sleepovers on the couch of your pal’s apartment? Those days will be history. She will care about your safety, and having a wild night with the fellas is bad news.

3. Fight with her

Yep, fight. Have a serious fight. This is one of the most important things for men to do before marriage. When you get married, both of your opinions will matter, and that means they will clash from time to time. Fights are inevitable. But before you get married, learn how to fight fair. Don’t call her names, don’t storm off in a huff, and don’t be childish. Even when things get hot tempered, learn to fight constructively so that the fight actually solves something and you’ll grow closer together. If you haven’t fought and you’re planning on getting married, you might want to hold off. You need to know that neither of you will fight dirty.

4. Learn to cook

… and not just from a can. Even if your wife loves to cook and makes the best meals ever, there are going to be times when she won’t be able to. She’ll work late. She’ll get sick. She’ll be pregnant. She won’t be home. You need to be able to take care of yourself. So get to know the pots and pans in your kitchen now and learn how to make some simple, healthy, basic meals. That way you can take care of the both of you when it comes time for you to step up.

5. It’s time to budget — and talk about money, too

Money is one of the leading causes of marital stress and divorce today. That’s because many couples simply don’t communicate openly about money. If you want to avoid that problem, get to know your money now. Talk about financial goals. Make a budget. Have an understanding about where you want to be headed financially. Keep that conversation open and you’ll ensure peace in your marriage.

6. Take a trip by yourself

Traveling by yourself is one of the great pleasures of life. There’s nothing quite like only being responsible for yourself while experiencing the world. If you can swing it, get a plane ticket somewhere and get the full experience. After you get married, you’ll likely have a travel partner all the time (or partners, once you have kids). There is a real peace to traveling alone, and you need to be comfortable with yourself before tying the knot.

7. Learn basic cleaning skills

Nobody wants to marry a pig. And no woman wants to be a maid for her husband. So learn how to use the washing machine. Have a regular vacuuming schedule. Wash your dishes and put them away. You need to be able to pull your own weight in the household after you get married, and being able to clean now will mean she won’t have to train you later.

8. Make peace with your past

Look, we all screw up. We have horrible ex-girlfriends, or we made some other mistakes. Instead of avoiding them, make peace with them. If you are on the outs with an old girlfriend, just bury the hatchet and move on. Carrying baggage is not a smart move for men to do before marriage. Let it go, and you’ll feel much better about yourself and your wife.

9. Get to know her family

It’s true: when you marry someone, you marry their family, too. And if she’s particularly close with her family, you’ll be seeing them a lot. They might be annoying, but they’ll be your family, too. So cut them some slack, spend some time with them, and form your own bond with them. You should be on good terms with them to avoid some of those nasty family conflicts that can pop up in marriage.

10. Live on your own for a while

Going from single to married is a big enough culture shock on its own. You shouldn’t have to also learn how to take care of yourself at the same time. So try to find a way to get out of your parents’ house. You’ll learn valuable lessons, like feeding yourself and cleaning. Most importantly, you’ll learn how to manage and pay bills, because once you’re married, those bills will start coming. Develop a little manly self-reliance.

11. Get to know your own parents

If applicable, start having longer and more meaningful conversations with your parents. Sit them down and talk about their marriage and about how they got together — and how they stayed together (if they did). Learn about their past from the perspective of a fellow adult. You might be surprised at what you don’t know, and you could learn some valuable lessons that will come in handy when you are married.

12. Do absolutely nothing with her

Some couples thrive on going out all the time. They visit restaurants and clubs, and they do a lot of activities together. And that’s great, but a big part of marriage is the day-to-day life. You can’t go out every night. Some nights, you’ll be in. And you’ll have nothing to do. So try doing nothing with her now. Just kill some time together. Learn to value each other’s company apart from other activities. This will go a long way in keeping a happy relationship between you two.

13. Talk to your married friends

This could be an example of learning what to do, or learning what not to do. Among your friends you’ll find people with varying levels of marital bliss. Having conversations with them (similar to the ones you’re having with your parents now) will help you learn about marriage from today’s perspective.

14. Challenge yourself

Marriage is full of challenges. Your time and energy will be completely depleted on occasion, but things will still be expected of you. So you need to toughen up. Sign up for a race of some kind. Or join a gym and start throwing some weights around. Start reading some more complicated books. Push yourself mentally and physically, and you’ll know what you’re made of. Then you will have the guts to approach and deal with marital problems when they happen.

15. Live with someone else

It doesn’t matter who — just find a roommate. A wife is a roommate for life, so you need to know how to interact on a roommate level with her. This means learning to divvy up the chores and share responsibilities around the house. Or cleaning up after yourself. Plus, you’ll learn about the element of surprise: coming across a mess that you didn’t make. Knowing how to handle this properly is really important.

16. Figure out your deal-breakers

Sometimes, there’s one aspect of a relationship that can crush it for you. While I don’t encourage you to be picky, you also should have some kind of conviction that makes you put your foot down, whether it’s religious, or health-related, or in the way she treats you. Determine what those are and be willing to walk away from a relationship if they are being violated. It’s not worth it, and marrying a person expecting them to change only leads to heartbreak and frustration.

Follow these tips and you can give yourself the best chance at a long and happy marriage. Do you have any other pieces of advice or important things for men to do before marriage?

Featured photo credit: August 6, 2009: Late night hands/Christopher via flickr.com

Love this article?