...or a "significant other" (for those of you who eschew societal convention).
Not that I am any sort of expert in this area. My only qualification is that I did manage to get married. But, I have made some observations over the years, and these are my conclusions. They are probably lacking in many ways, but here goes nothing.
First of all, a person should ask himself/herself: "Do I want to get married? Do I want a significant other?" If not, that is cool. Just be honest with yourself -- and with other people. I have seen that there are a good number of people who say they want to get married, but their actions speak otherwise. This can be a real time waster, all-around. And it should be no embarrassment to want to be single. Bachelorhood and bachelorette-hood can be very good and worthy ways of life.
And now I am going to speak primarily to the ladies, as I am one and so this is where most of my experience lies.
If you want to marry, pay attention to how the people you date actually ARE vs. what they may say. Actions speak louder than words. For example, if a dude says he wants to get married, but is in the process of planning a sailing trip around the world, wake up and smell the coffee. No offense, or anything. I have just seen this sort of thing more than once. Yes, he may have wondrous forearms. In spite of that, you must strive to remain clear-headed.
Most importantly, though, be a woman with whom a man would want to spend his time and life. Cultivate a sense of humor. Nothing will ruin it with a guy more than if you don't laugh at his jokes. Sincerely laugh at his jokes. No faking it allowed here. And don't be too hard on people. Develop an accepting, non-judgmental attitude about others. Be compassionate. If your guy screws up, for heaven's sake, don't make him feel worse by throwing your criticism into the mix. After all, if you screwed up, you would expect him to hug you and tell you how much he loves you for yourself and not for your successes. Do the same for him. Again -- sincerely. No grand acting jobs allowed. And let your guy have his life. I have seen men run from women because those men felt oppressed -- with unreasonable demands and expectations being placed upon them by the ladies. I have seen women expect that guys will drop all their interests and hobbies in order to spend time with them. An utter failure, every time. Develop your own life and interests, so as to be an interesting person. But, just as importantly, be interested in people. Learn to enjoy listening to others, at least as much as you enjoy talking about yourself. Hell -- I love to talk about myself. But, I probably find myself more interesting than others find me. And, again, be genuine in doing these things. Don't just "act" a certain way in order to "catch" someone. It is vital to actually be a good person in order for a good person to truly want to be with you.
In order to attract someone to you, it is also important to care for your physical appearance. At the risk of sounding shallow, physical attraction is -- usually -- an important component when people choose their life partners. You may not be a stunning beauty, but you can make the most of what you've got. You can have good hygiene, style your hair attractively, and pay attention to what you wear. A little make-up never hurt, either. You don't have to spend inordinate amounts of time and money on these things, but -- let's be frank here -- they are important. It is also just plain enjoyable to look good, whether or not you are "with somebody."
And learn to recognize when "it is over." If your family and friends are all asking you why you are dragging things out with "so-and-so," maybe you should listen to them. Breaking up is, indeed, hard to do. Been there. Done that. But, while you are frittering away your time with Mr. Wrong, Mr. Right might just pass you by. "There are a lot of fish in the sea" may be an old saying, but it is still true.
Also -- be a happy person. Whether you are single or in a relationship. Count your blessings. Cultivate a grateful attitude. Let there be joy in your heart. After all, happy people tend to attract others and develop friendships. Good things -- whether or not you end up with a special someone.
I hope I have not offended anybody here. My young-adult daughters and I have just been talking about this topic lately, and it has caused me to reflect on things I have observed over the last 30 years. As I said, I am no expert. I'm just throwing my two cents into the fray.
Oh, and one more little thing. Remember in the movie "Wayne's World" where the two silly guys were in the presence of Alice Cooper (I think it was) and they kept bowing down and saying, "We are not worthy."? Well, keep in mind that you "are worthy." Have and project a little confidence. Not arrogance, mind you, but confidence. That you are good, and worthy of being with someone who will be good to -- and for -- you.