Now, I not only believe in happy marriages, I'm in one. Learning to recognize a great man when I saw one, not self-sabotaging the relationship and taking the leap into marriage wasn't simple. It took time, energy, courage and, most of all, faith. But there were some simple things I did to start taking those steps. Here's what helped me - and can help you - get there:
Research the happiest couples you know
Eight months before I met my husband I was pretty pessimistic about marriage, but didn't want to be. I made a list in my mind of genuinely happy couples I personally knew, then I observed them.
I watched how they treated each other, observed their mutual hobbies, the habits they had, how they divided house work, how they parented, etc.
There was really only one commonality that stood out to me.
Each person in a happy marriage was genuinely delighted by the person they married. Delighted is the only word that fully described what they had that other couples didn't. This didn't mean they didn't have arguments, or that they lived in a permanent Instagram-filter lifestyle. It meant that in the glimpses of total authenticity I watched for, they delighted one another.
Try it yourself: Find happy couples and figure out what they have in common. Your results will probably be different than mine, because everyone looks for different priorities in a marriage.
Dating can be the worst. It's a constant stream of either rejecting or being rejected. Some dates are pretty awful, which doesn't make believing in a happy marriage any easier. It also started making me kind of cynical about humanity.
So, I started looking at dating as a wild adventure - something that would give me great stories someday.
Somehow that took the pressure off to fall in love. Instead of looking at each date as a potential love interest, I looked at them as an interesting person to learn something fun about.
Try it yourself: Everyone has something great about them. Find it in those you date.
Talk about porn in a healthy way
A 2012 study showed that men in committed relationships who look at pornography are less satisfied with their sex life. Pornography is dangerous and can be addictive, and it's OK to be wary of it. But it's also important to learn how to talk about it in a healthy way.
Talking about porn should be done when the time is right. I learned that it's not fair to ask someone to open up about it early in the relationship (unless they want to). And if you're going to get extremely angry when someone opens up to you about their porn use, it's probably a good idea to learn to control that before you talk about it. I'm deeply against pornography, but I've learned how to respectfully talk to guys about it and not categorize every guy who looks at it as a porn addict.
Try it yourself: Educate yourself about the effects of pornography, and decide what's a deal breaker and what's not in your future relationship.
Don't get caught in the sexist traps
I've written dozens of marriage articles, and there is one thing that always surprises and disappoints me: what my fellow feminist friends call sexist.
Many of these articles emphasize loving and serving your spouse. If there is ever any mention of serving your husband, being kind or stepping in when he's had a hard day, it's stamped with an angry "SEXIST" label.
As a feminist, I'm disturbed that we're starting to label kindness, service and sacrifice as sexist, rather than something that's key to ANY loving relationship - romantic or not.
Try it yourself: Go serve someone right now. Service is really important in marriage, so the sooner you learn, the better. Do the dishes even if they're not your own. Buy your roommate her favorite treat on a day you know might be a little tough.
Pray for it every day
I wasn't desperate to get married, but I believed that God had a plan for me and if that involved marriage, I begged him to help me find someone I could build a great marriage with. Eventually, he answered.
Try it yourself: Pray, pray, pray.
I met someone who made me excited about spending a life together
I did my homework before meeting my husband to get to a healthy place with my views of getting married, but it wasn't until I met him that my mind completely changed. When I thought of my future with him, it made me excited. I believed life would be better with him by my side. I'd never felt that before, and I realized something. If you're not excited about the idea of growing old with someone, it's probably time to step away.
When I first became friends with my husband, the best word I could think of to describe him was delightful - and that obviously made an impact. I'm not saying our marriage is perfect or that we don't have hard times ahead, but the doubts and fears I had about marriage have long disappeared. Getting to grow through life with your favorite person in the world? That's not scary at all.
Amberlee is the content manager for FamilyShare.com and earned a degree in journalism. She creates beautiful things with her experience in writing, graphic design, photography, video and music. She loves her family, the outdoors, baby foxes and podcasts.