Young women often are in a rush to settle down, commit to a long-term relationship, and get married. While there is much to be said for the merits of coupledom, a girl who doesn’t make the most of her single life may end up with regrets or worrisome “what if”s later on in life. Being in a relationship comes with many responsibilities and needs for compromise-so why not enjoy your personal freedom while you can?
As a woman in her late-thirties only now preparing to settle down into a new home with my partner of five years, what follows is my advice to girls on what they should do-and enjoy-as a single woman. In order to be a good partner in life to someone, you need to be confident, content, and happy with yourself first. Here are fifteen things you can do to ensure just that.
15. Get a good education
Young women probably hear this advice frequently, but it doesn’t make it any less true: get yourself an education before settling down into married life and parenthood. Many relationships don’t last, but an education always will. At least finish your high school education before settling down, and pursue advanced learning at a trade school, college, or university if your interests lead you in any of those directions. An education not only gives you an edge in the job field, but can help you learn much about yourself, your abilities, and your talents. Trying to complete an education on the side while dealing with kids or supporting a family is not easy. So why not make the most of the time you have as a single woman to better yourself?
14. Spend weekends lost in a great book
Soon enough your weekends will revolve around making plans with your partner, and/or having to keep the kids entertained. So spend some weekends now curled up in bed lost a long novel by one of your favorite authors-or perhaps discovering a new one. Revel in a classic by Jane Austen, a suspenseful romance by Catherine Coulter, a Stephen King thriller or some feminist science fiction by Karen Traviss. Books can provide a great escape from the everyday. Once you’re settled down, you might not have the luxury to devote an entire day or two (or more) to the adventures of made-up characters, or to do so without distraction.
13. Live solo-and love it
Many young girls go from living at home with family, to living in a dorm with roommates, to moving in with their romantic partners. Doing so never gives a girl a chance to enjoy what it can be like to live on her own, without having to cater to or make concessions to another. A girl should get a place of her own and experience living by herself for a change. It can be wonderful to spend as much time in the bathroom as you want-whenever you want; to watch your favorite television shows without having to concede the remote to someone else; to lounge around in your pajamas or nothing at all for a day if you wish.
12. Stay up all night playing video games
Girls like to game, too, but your partner might not appreciate you spending all night battling away on World of Warcraft, or hooked on Farmville. Before it’s screaming babies waking you up at 3am, spend some nights exhausting yourself playing games well past your bedtime.
11. Decorate your computer, phone and walls with “wallpaper” of your favorite hunks
Your spouse might not appreciate it if your iPhone wallpaper is a half-naked photo of Brad Pitt, Jensen Ackles, or some other Hollywood hunk. So enjoy your time single to drool over your favorite eye candy whenever and however you wish. Who said you’re too old after high school to hang beefcake posters in your room?
10. Try a radical style change
Your single days are the best time to experiment and have fun with your personal style. Always wear your hair long and dark? Why not get a short, trendy haircut and dye it blonde or some wild color! Never wear make-up? Why not go for a make-over session and try for a more daring look? Once you’re settled down, your partner may strongly prefer your hair a certain color and length, your make-up (or lack thereof) a certain way, which is fine if it makes both of you happy. But use your single years to explore and try different looks for yourself to find what truly fits you best and makes you the happiest.
9. Learn about your sexuality
It is crucially important for a woman to know about her sexuality before committing to a long-term relationship. Of course this includes having a full understanding of one’s anatomy and how reproduction works, as well as how to avoid pregnancy before one is ready for it, if ever desired. But a young woman who might be questioning her sexual orientation should make sure to take the time to learn and explore before settling down. If a woman even believes she might have leanings toward bisexuality or lesbianism, one of the worst things she can do is ignore those feelings and rush into a committed relationship with a man, thinking those urges will just go away. Pushing aside those feelings for years won’t make them go away, and may only lead to broken families, hurt feelings, confusion and depression later in life. So if a girl is feeling confused or curious, she should take the time to learn and explore while single. Read about sexuality. Spend some time at a support group or a community center for LGBTQ individuals. Consult with a trusted individual such as a good friend, mentor, priest or therapist about your feelings. Take the chance, even, and go on a date with someone of your own gender, and discover for sure where your desires lie.
Of course, for some such notions will never even cross their minds and they have no question at all about their sexual orientation, be it gay, straight or bisexual. Which is fine for those women, but they should still be certain about what they need sexually in order to be happy in a long-term, committed relationship.
8. Take an extended workshop class-halfway around the world
Love painting, music, history, language, cooking or some other specific subject or hobby? Why not find a school offering a two-week or longer course of the subject in some exotic location? You could go to Florence, Italy and study old master painting techniques in the land where they were invented. You could learn about island cooking techniques at a tropical resort in the Caribbean. These kinds of courses are great for individuals who might want to travel and learn at the same time, and not have to worry about keeping children entertained or finding activities their spouses would enjoy with them.
7. Go on a solo vacation
Travel on your own doesn’t have to be a downer. Taking a solo vacation can be a great idea for a single girl to do before she settles down. With no one to please but yourself, you can take your time on vacation to do as much-or as little-as you want, without your partner’s agreement. Whether you’ve always wanted to shop your way through Milan or explore the pyramids of Egypt, go hiking through the Brazilian rainforest or spend a week at a remote cabin in Vermont, don’t wait for someone else to join you for it. See the sights you want to see before having children can limit your budget and vacation possibilities, or before you end up with a partner who hates the beach, big cities, or wherever else you want to explore.
6. Hook up with an old flame
We all have one in our life: The One Who Got Away. The old flame who we always wonder if he or she was Mr. or Mrs. Right. Don’t let that old flame haunt your life with your future loved one; why not call them up or write them and find out what your future together might have been? Quite often, the result can leave you relieved and reassured that you didn’t in fact make the wrong choice getting away from him or her in the first place. That gorgeous teen you had the major crush on in high school might already be going bald and have a pot-belly. He might spend every weeknight at the bar, avoiding going home to his new wife. He might still be aimlessly searching for the right job to come along while you’ve excelled in your field.
5. Buy something really outrageous and far beyond your budget
One you’re settled down, you’ll probably be dealing with household budgets where every splurge must be negotiated with your spouse. So now’s the time to enjoy whatever free money you might have to indulge in the things you love best. If fashion is your thing, go on and buy that pair of Jimmy Choo’s, or the Gucci purse you’ve always wanted. Love music? Spluge on a top of the line stereo system, a musical instrument, or a front row ticket to see your favorite band. Are you a foodie? Try out that new high-end restaurant that’s been getting so much praise, either by yourself or with some friends.
4. Go on a road trip with your girlfriends
You don’t have to end up like “Thelma & Louise,” but a road trip with your best girlfriends can be a great thing to enjoy while you can. Many spouses might not appreciate their wives hitting the road without them for days or weeks on end. So why not plan a cross-country getaway with the girls with no destination in mind, just to have a good time? Or a vacation to a great party city like New York, Las Vegas, Atlantic City or Miami? Be fun and get a little crazy, knowing your best girls are with you to make sure you’re safe and in good company.
3. Enjoy dating without needing a major commitment
Have fun going to clubs and bars to dance, flirt and mingle. Try speed-dating, on-line dating, going to community events or other ways to meet new people-but don’t always be on the lookout for love. Just try to have fun and learn more about yourself and your preferences in partners before becoming too focused on finding “The One” you want to spend the rest of your life with. That doesn’t mean you have to be promiscuous, although enjoying safe and consensual sex outside of a committed relationship can be liberating and educational, if it does not go against your personal or religious beliefs.
2. Have a one-night stand
It doesn’t even have to be sexual. But every girl should experience the whirlwind thrill and romance of spending one perfect night with someone whom you know you’ll likely never see again, but for the moment seems like the person you’ve been waiting for all of your life. In the long run, it will only make you more appreciative of what a solid, long-term partner can give to you.
1. Be happy with-and by-yourself
All of the previous items point toward this one important goal: learn to be happy with yourself. You will never be a good partner to another if you don’t love yourself first, and know how to be happy without relying on the approval of others. Don’t be the kind of girl who has to run from one relationship right into another, just because you can’t stand to be alone. Learn to appreciate single life and make the most of it, and you’ll be that much better off when you finally make the choice to settle down.