If you long for a soul mate, you’re not alone. It’s human nature to want a partner for life.

The longing is there. Yet so many unions don’t last these days. We may hope to say “I do” but fear being disappointed.

Actually, I was like this. I avoided commitment for such a long time that a friend at my wedding, 31 years ago, quipped, “It’s the end of an era.”

When I told my mother I was engaged, she said, “It’s a miracle.” She expected me to stay single. She didn’t want my heart to be broken like hers had been when she and my father divorced.

When she knew I was seeing someone, she’d ask, “Is he still nice?” meaning he’d sooner or later disappoint me. So I stopped telling her about men in my life. As far as she knew, I hadn’t had a date in ten years. “Get a dog,” she said. “Anything to cuddle with.” No wonder my news surprised her.

If I can do it, so can you! Below are four bits of advice for overcoming fears and creating a fulfilling, lasting marriage:

  1. Develop realistic expectations.
  2. Gain knowledge.
  3. Know your reason for marrying.
  4. Gain confidence that you can succeed.

Developing Realistic Expectations

When single, my friends and I talked about what was wrong with men, blithely unaware of our own imperfections. In real-life good marriages, not the fairytale kind, annoyances are normal. Spouses who are compatible and realistic treasure each other regardless.

The idea is not to simply marry someone who loves, loves, loves you. It’s to marry a person who’ll also stay the course even when you’re not being so lovable. And to marry someone whom you’ll still hold dear even when he or she slips up.

So do recognize your fine points, traits a good partner will value. But also note traits of yourself that are less than ideal, though not necessarily deal breakers. It’s fine to cut yourself some slack about your own shortcomings — as long as you’ll do the same for a good potential partner.

Knowledge Is Power

You can succeed in marriage, once you learn how. Many resources exist to guide you toward choosing a partner wisely, dating constructively, committing, and preparing for a lasting, fulfilling union. If you’re been avoiding commitment for a long time, perhaps by staying out of the dating pool or staying in a going-nowhere relationship, you may find therapy helpful for getting past a self-defeating pattern. You can also learn a lot about creating a good marriage from happily married people. They can serve as mentors and role models.

You may find some of the many good books for marriage-minded singles helpful. A number of them offer one-size fits all kinds of advice, so evaluate which recommendations or advice really fits for you and your situation.

I believe in marriage. Societal pressure to marry has decreased. Economic incentives are less relevant. So why marry?

Why Marry?

New, yet often unconscious, reasons exist for tying the knot. Most of us long for a lasting union that fulfills us emotionally and spiritually, as well as physically and materially. This book tells how to create such a marriage.

Not everyone who hopes to marry will say so, when cynics are claiming marriage is obsolete. Some people don’t speak about their desire because they fear being viewed as desperate.

A mother told me that her daughter, Emily, in her 40s, wasn’t interested in marriage. That’s what Emily told her. Then I met Emily, an attractive public relations executive with a bright smile. Privately, she looked me in the eye and said, “I want to get married. My friends do too.”

Susan, 26, with a 4-year-old daughter, said “My life is fine.” Yet in moments of vulnerability, she asks, “Why can’t I meet a great man who accepts me, really cares for me, and wants to be with me for life?”

Beth, 68, gave up on finding a partner after her second divorce 20 years ago. Recently, she confided, “I want to get married. But I’m afraid of the ‘meet market’ (or meat market, as some people think of it) and being rejected if I put myself out there. Can you help me?”

You Can Succeed in Marriage

As a clinical social worker, psychotherapist for over 35 years, and leader of Marry with Confidence workshops, I’ve seen people of all ages create great marriages. Many women in their 20s and early 30s are eager to wed and have children. Others want to establish their career first, another reason later marriages are more common. Plenty of women in their forties to seventies and beyond are marrying for the first time, or again.

Whether you want to marry and start a family or are seeking a partner later in life, you can gain a wonderful, lasting marriage. Marriage is here to stay.

My mother loved me. She warned me about whom not to marry. Doctors were too stuck up, lawyers argued too much, and of course, avoid drinkers and gamblers. (Good thing an accountant wasn’t on her list; I married one.) Yet her story has a happy ending. At a later age, my mother found love. She spent the last 8 years of her life married to a wonderful man who cherished her. Another miracle.

Every good marriage is a miracle. You too can create one.