Teaching the Way of Love (TWL) is a program for Catholic parents that encourages and empowers them to embrace their role as the primary educators of their children, especially in the areas of moral and personal development.

Relationship Before Romance

Children, adolescents and young people should be taught how to enter into healthy relationships with God, with their parents, their brothers and sisters, with their companions of the same or the opposite sex, and with adults.
~Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality #53

Every person on earth wants to be part of a lasting relationship that is filled with love and joy. No
one on this planet wants to be isolated or alone. Why is this? Relationships are essential to our well-being because God created us to live in communion with others. He wants us to experience social connections that enrich life and expand inner joy. And God wants us to avoid relationships that breed sadness and harm.

If you were to Google the question, “What are the elements of a great relationship?” you would probably find the following: build a foundation of trust, use manners, explore each other’s faith and interests, admit when you make a mistake and apologize, be respectful and safe, say what you mean and mean what you say, laugh at yourself, listen, be reliable and loyal… Sound familiar? Nothing on this list should surprise you because intuitively you know that if you want to be in a great relationship, you must possess these characteristics. And that is the toughest part of relationship success; developing the skills needed to make a relationship work.

Perfecting one’s relationship skills takes time and hard effort. It is not easy to do what the experts suggest. Admitting a mistake is difficult. Being trustworthy is tough. Letting your guard down so that someone else can get to know who you really are is unnerving. And yet, if we want to experience the goodness of being in a right relationship, we must “suffer” these difficulties and endure. It is a bit ironic that a person must “suffer” the affliction of becoming relationship-ready before he or she can experience the benefits of a right relationship. In reality, there is an order that has to be followed in one’s quest for good friendships and romances; work first, benefits second. Shortcutting the work or reversing the order likely results in shallow relationships that are filled with drama, harm and disappointment.

It should be noted that the elements of a great relationship mentioned above do not include sexual expression or intimacy. The main reason for this is that most relationships in life are not sexual. This does not mean that sexual intimacy
is not important. Rather, it means that sexual intimacy is so powerful that it rightfully belongs in the only relationship thatlastsalifetime,ismutuallyexclusiveandisopentothe creation of new life. That relationship is found within the Sacrament of Matrimony.

Unfortunately, young people in today’s society are being enticed to believe that great relationships begin with and are built upon sexual pleasures. They are being led to believe that the core of any friendship or connection is a physical encounter. They are being tempted to think that feelings of attraction guarantee a great relationship and that unmarried sexual expression is a pledge of undying love. None of this is true.

There are many negative consequences that occur when romance and sexual expression become the focus of a relationship. But the one that is most troubling is the reduction of sexual expression to a quick and intense recreational activity rather than to an intimate union that lasts for a lifetime. Most parents recognize the harm that occurs when a relationship starts with this ideal of romance and not friendship. In fact, many parents have first-hand experience with the harm caused when personal pleasure sets the course. They remember how the longing to be with someone can cloud one’s judgment and pull a person away from doing what is right and good. This “life experience” should motivate parents to become intentional about their guidance and to help their child set the right relationship course during the young adult years.

Parents who set expectations about what is and is not acceptable in relationships have youth with stronger relationship skills. Youth with parents who pay attention to what their child is doing experience more joy and less drama. Parents who stay engaged during the teen years forge a stronger bond of trust with their emerging adult. This will both help smooth the relationship bumps on the highway that leads to adulthood and ensure that relationships precede romance.


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