How we conduct relationships has changed constantly for decades, sometimes for the better, and sometimes in unwise directions. In a constant search for a healthy relationship, we are often finding it more difficult to end up happily married. (See this article from the New York Times about changing practices: End of Courtship.)

Successful dating is not particularly about whether we telephone or text, go out as a couple or hang out with a group, or give expensive gifts. There are four essential aspects of establishing healthy relationships. Couples who focus on these are more likely to create something special that lasts. Consider:

  1. Friendship: The couple has an ease and effectiveness with communication, interacts well socially, helps each other out in difficult times, and enjoys spending time together in a variety of circumstances. They trust each other to keep promises and confidences.
  2. Equality: Respect is the guiding principle for the couple. They value each other’s mind, heart, soul, and body. They appreciate and draw on each other’s talents and abilities. They contribute to the health and growth of each other and their relationship. They mutually discuss and make decisions about what concerns them both.
  3. Chastity: The focus of the relationship is on getting to know each other and exploring future possibilities. They are active, learning, and growing well-rounded human beings who do not put sexual fulfillment as the dominating center of the relationship. They have a mature understanding that sexual touch will likely draw them too close too fast and interfere in their ability to thoroughly know each other’s character.
  4. Character: For the relationship to be healthy and lasting, each person in the couple needs to know themselves well and have many character strengths. The relationship will benefit by the practice of truthfulness, kindness, responsibility, cooperation, compassion, patience, and many more character qualities. The couple must also be clear what qualities they strongly value and why. They clearly observe that their partner has the ability to consistently utilize the valued character strengths for positive purposes.

Parents can also have a role in the relationship success of their teens and young adults. They can teach them these four elements, provide supportive times for them to be in family situations, and demonstrate character strengths and examples of healthy and happy marriages. The more we choose a new, more empowered way of being in relationships, the more we will establish cultural change in dating and courtship that has longevity. Passing fads will not benefit us. As relationships consistently include these four essential elements in a healthy relationship, more couples will move forward into happy marriages.