Monday, August 13, 2007

What is courtship?

A question from a reader:
'Anna, I don't really understand the difference between courtship and dating. Is it that courting couples are more committed to purity than dating couples? Or that courting couples seek the approval of their parents? Can you explain?'

I think this was an excellent question, and even though I already answered it briefly by email, I thought it would be good to give a detailed response here. Also check out this great post by Kelly.

The most important difference between widespread secular dating and what I perceive as courtship (I understand definitions might be different), is the following: courtship is marriage-oriented. Dating isn't. How do dating relationships usually begin? 'Oh, there's a cute guy/girl. I feel there's chemistry between us. Why don't we start hanging out together and then see how it goes?'

I think this attitude is defined by its awful lack of seriousness. Why do people invest time in choosing the right university, the right career, the right place to live in – but not in thinking when they want to get married and how they envision their future family life? Marriage is something that will make a much more serious impact on our lives. I rarely hear someone saying, 'this house looks nice, so I'll just buy it and then we see what happens!'

Courtship means remaining marriage-focused; in the process of courtship, we look at the man or woman we are seeing, and try to find out if this person could be the right one for us as a potential spouse. There can be attraction and affection, but we always keep in mind this is a serious decision, not to be based on impulses. You are choosing a mate not for a month or a year, but for a lifetime; and the children you will have together will influence the future of humankind. Whatever you decide now, it will matter for eternity.

The other things typically associated with courtship stem from this crucial difference between courtship and secular dating. If you are serious about marriage and view the person you are seeing as a future spouse, you will not want to compromise their purity, physical or emotional. If you decide it won't work for you, well, then this person is someone else's soul mate, and merits respect and honor anyway. Personally I feel that the physical side in courtship should be minimized as much as possible, to prevent light-headedness and reliance on chemistry rather than good judgment. I know it might sound awfully pragmatic, but just look at Hollywood-style romance based marriages. Do they work? Do they last?

Involvement of parents works similarly. If we're marriage-minded and we take our relationship seriously, it's wise to seek the counsel of our parents, who have much more life experience and can sometimes notice things that we don't see in moments of excitement and elation. If parents can't be helpful, a good option would be to have a mentor – an older, more experienced person who knows you well. And if this isn't possible either, just turn to God and pour your heart to Him (which you should do anyway!)

I wish you wise guidance and I hope you will find the right person, in God's perfect timing!


Jeannine said...

Thank you for this post, Anna. I was introduced to the concept of courtship only after I had been blogging for a while. Here most Christian date - although this kind of dating is still different from secular dating (most of the times). My husband and I dated, but it was marriage-oriented from the start. We met at a wedding and as soon as I saw and started talking to him I felt really attracted. So I asked him lots of important questions (family, interests, faith etc.) in those first eight hours we talked :).

But most people really date as soon as there is a physical attraction - I remember my years in high school when unfortunately I didn't do any different (even though I never went far with the guys). I really think that people should reflect more and really get to know each other before the relationship continues (be it courtship or dating).

Anna S said...


Definitions aside, I think it can be summed up this way: interest in the opposite sex should be marriage-minded, responsible, and chaste.

PS: Aren't you supposed to be on honeymoon now? Don't tell me you took your laptop with you! ;)

Jeannine said...

I'm not planning to take the laptop on a honeymoon :). We'll spend next weekend in Leipzig in the Eastern part of Germany as a mini-honeymoon. A longer trip is planned for after the church wedding next summer.

USAincognito said...

When I dated, I was dating with marriage in mind. But I also dated men whom I had been friends with first. (of course, i have come to the conclusion i am meant to be single so as to focus on my career so i am thru dating anybody! lol.)
Around this area where I live, courtship pretty much means the parents decide who you marry and the persons involved have no choice. That, I think, is tragic as I don't think it wise to force 2 people to marry eachother. Especially when they don't like eachother! But around here, that is what courtship entails. Pretty much like an arranged marriage and then they set up the times when the 2 go on dates.
I think as long as a person keeps the concept of marriage as the end result, whether they are "dating" or "courting," that is what matters.

Anna S said...

What, people are actually *forced* to marry someone they don't want to marry? I only heard of something like this practiced in the most traditional Muslim families... are you sure this is really what's going on?

Kelly said...

Exellent post Anna, my husband and I followed a courtship model. We liked the idea. It wasn't so much parental involvement as both of us were living on our own and in our late 20's. But for us courtship was about BOTH of us being focus on determining if it was God's will that we should marry. We were attracted to each other but knew that we needed to see if we were compatable in things that really mattered for the long term. We discussed all the things most people don't; such as politics, religion, God, marriage, children, etc. Made for some interesting heated discussions I can tell you.
We also agreed at the outset that if during the courtship either of us felt that it was not God's will for us to marry, in that we would discover something in the other person that we felt was a stumbling block to a marriage commitment, then we would speak up and end the courtship.
Obviously that didn't happen! :-) I enjoyed the courtship way of finding a mate. We were friends first and the courtship model kind of creates that. We also kept the physical aspect to a minimum. And I'm glad we did it that way.

USAincognito said...

Unfortunately, it does happen. The area I am currently residing in is quite rural and there are several Amish and Mennonite communities around - it is quite common for this to happen.
We also have a large Muslim community located in the major city about 30 minutes away so it is quite common amongst that community, as well.
I also know one of the girls I went to college with was forced to marry somebody she did not love. Her parents went to a very conservative church and that was the way they believed. It wasn't until 3 years into the marriage that she finally grew to like the guy she had married.
Seeing this stuff really opens your eyes. It really does happen.

Laura H said...

From a very young age, my parents had courtship in mind for me and my sisters! And also, that the young man would have to go to the father first, for permission to ask to court the daughter. The courtship would be done in the company of the parents on both sides, or a chaperone of an older sister or brother. As I know that you don't have any siblings, and such, how do you do it?
My sister Sarah, was courting her husband Clay, over the phone. He would call her everynight, on the phone, and she would talk in the room we were sharing. In a way, she was chaperoned, and looked out for! They got married in January 2006, and have been happily so ever since. Their courtship was unconventional. I would like to go through the experience, someday, as well as marriage. I am committed to courtship, and so, I hope to find someone who will be just as so!
To read some good books on courtship, read the Castleberry Farm Press books. Look them up on the interent, and you will find them. They are really good!
Enough of my ramblings! May the Lord bless your day, and keep you and N.P. safe in the Hollow of His Hands!
Laura H.

Anna S said...

Kelly, I'm happy to hear that the courtship model also worked for you and your husband, as older singles not living with their parents.

Laura, what can I say? GREAT question! I'm going to talk about this in my next post, and explain how the model of courtship can work for women who don't have protection from parents/older siblings, and who might have already made some mistakes in this area.
Our dates aren't chaperoned, but we made a commitment to purity, and we don't remain alone together in a place where we know we will not be disturbed. And above all, we know God is watching over us all the time! How's that for a chaperone? ;)

Emily said...

A very well-explained description of courtship, Anna, thank you for posting. I have been reading all your previous posts but haven't had the time to comment I'm afraid, but do know I haven't disappeared! :)

Anna S said...

I know you've been having laptop problems, from reading the notice on your blog. :)

eliza said...

great post!

Michelle Potter said...


How timely of you to post this! Just last Friday I was trying to explain this concept to my young daughter for the first time. She's much too young to "date" even by the world's standards, but she's recently been exposed to seeing dating on TV and having an older friend who has a boyfriend. I didn't want her to become confused, so I was explaining to her that this is just another way that our family is different because of following the Lord, and that while other people see dating as just a way to have fun, we see it as an important search for the person you will marry.

There is only one question I have, and thankfully my daughter hasn't asked, yet. How on earth do you find young men who also want to do things this way?? Even among conservatives in our area, our family is considered a bit extreme -- and they don't even know about our ideas on courting yet!

Anna S said...


I will expand about this in my next post about courtship (will be published in a day or two), but I can already tell you it wasn't easy, and took a lot of determination. Basically, after going through the dating game and burning myself through, I said I'd rather die single than go through the same humiliation and exploitation of an uncommitted relationship!! I'm serious.

... But fortunately, it doesn't have to happen like this. The key, for me, was networking, networking, networking! If there are no likeminded families in your area, contact families from other areas. Even long-distance courtship might be an option. This is what I have now with my fiance, most of the time. You can make it happen, and good for you to make the right choice for your daughter, well in advance!

Anna S said...

PS: Now I see a post on your blog, Michelle; it seems as though I just can't get the visual code right, though. I tried about 10 times :) My impaired vision? ;)

Kyla said...

I think it is interesting how Courting is viewed in different circles. So much of it has to do with attitude and not just a description. I always dated...but I was taught to date with purpose. There was no reason to continue a relatioship with somebody who wasn't a potential mate. I was famous for first dates becomeing great friends.

I know that if I had dated just to date I would have missed out on some wonderful friendships.

Michelle Potter said...

Sigh, I wish I didn't have to have that code, but I was getting SO much spam it was ludicrous. It's a hazard of having so much traffic because of the Abortion Ticker. (I get WAY more hits than you would expect from my comment count!!) I just approved your user account, though, so you should be able to post comments without that now.

Buffy said...

I can only talk for the UK but I think as people get older they are on the look out for their marriage partner and enter a relationship hoping it will end in marriage.

It is more those under 25 who are dating in the sense you are talking about i.e. having fun and sex with someone without the expectation of marriage. It is considered to be foolish to look for a marriage partner before you are 25 but of course you are still going to be interested in the opposite sex. The reason you are encouraged to wait before you get married is because so many marriages end in divorce. I think you are supposed to mature into marriage. Cultural expectations again.

Anna S said...


THAT is precisely what I think is so disturbing. I won't argue here about the right age for marriage, but the point is, people are encouraged to seek casual relationships with the opposite sex before they are ready to get married. Recipe for heartbreak!

Anonymous said...

Good afternoon, Anna. A while back I found the following quote and thought I'd share it with you...

Let’s not become absorbed with either creating or following a myriad of rules for courtship. We would all be better served by focusing on a few key principles, while remaining flexible to the situation and seeking the Lord’s leading and wisdom. Suggestions and examples of other courtships can be very helpful, as long as we use them properly. We must not try to force every courtship into one narrow mold. Extend some grace to your brethren in Christ. You may not see the wisdom in some of the courtship decisions of others, but don’t be quick to criticize or find fault.

Anna S said...


Yes, I definitely agree with that. I think that what matters is that a courtship is marriage-minded and chaste. As long as we keep focus on that, rules can be individual, and vary for each couple.

Anonymous said...

Agreed, Anna. :o)

Even in my area (northern California valley) the pendulum swings widely with courtship expectations. Some expectations running the risk of grace in Christ.

That said though, I've witnessed lovely *real* courtships flow into blessed marriages.