It’s no secret we live in a broken world, full of broken relationships. It’s not easy to make authentic friendships that last, and even harder to navigate dating. It requires us to have courage, be intentional, and even open our hearts and take some risks. It’s also an ongoing process.

Step 1: Meet and become friends.

It can be easy to objectify members of the opposite sex. How often do we let a small crush take over our minds and we turn each other into Barbie and Ken dolls who we want to dress up and control every move?

Remember the guy or girl you are dreaming about has thoughts, feelings and goals. So, before jumping in to full-fledged crush mode, be a friend. Friends, no matter their gender, can help us fight the good fight, battle the temptations we face and keep us on the right path.

To get to know someone, find out what they like, what they value, who they hang out with and how they treat other people. If you become friends and that person isn’t right for you to date, great…you now have a new friend. If you become friends and still want to date, find out if they feel the same way.

Step 2: Set Expectations

Now that you are friends, and still find each other attractive for dating, ask some questions. If the answer to any of these is YES – it’s a potential deal breaker.

  • Do they avoid responsibility at home or school?
  • Do they drink or do drugs?
  • Do they hang out with people who are doing illegal or immoral things?
  • What is their social media profile? What do they share online? Is it something you don’t want your family or friends to see?

The next set of questions are ones where a YES answer is a good thing:

  • Do they go out of their way to help or serve others?
  • Do they have good values and a strong moral compass?
  • Do they treat members of the opposite sex with respect?
  • Do they have a strong faith and belief in God at the center of their life?

Step 3: DATE!

With many of your questions answered, it’s time to find out more. The purpose of dating is to find out if you could someday marry this person – not now, but someday. Do things together and get to know each other better. Sexual intimacy can cloud your judgement accompanying emotions. To avoid this, set boundaries right away. Tell each other what is off limits and don’t back down. Chrystalina Evert, a Catholic speaker on love and intimacy says:

“If you have to sneak to do it, lie to cover it up, or delete it to avoid it being seen, then you probably shouldn’t be doing it.”

If you’re already in a relationship or “thing” and are going too far, physically, it’s okay to say you want to stop. The person you’re with should respect you and your choice. If they truly want what’s best for you, they will agree to have limits. If they break up with you because of this, good riddance. You shouldn’t want to be with someone who only wants you for what you can give to them.

So, what makes a healthy and holy relationship? Keep Christ at the center. Go to Mass together, pray together (even if silently in the same room), talk about your faith. These are all great ways to incorporate God into your relationship.

Not every relationship is going to be perfect. People let us down and we let ourselves down because we are human. So on those days, when you feel jealous, or you are disappointed by a guy or girl, remember you always have the Father, who is perfect, who will never leave you, and who uses forgiveness to mend the broken.