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What is Courting? The Difference Between Dating and Courtship

What is Courting? The Difference Between Dating and Courtship (Facebook title image)

People define Courtship in a number of different ways.  At one extreme, it’s just a fancy word for dating (no distinction).  At the other extreme, it can get kinda weird, with lots of special rules to follow that don’t seem to serve any real purpose.  (Most people’s objections to courtship are rooted in this extreme.)  So…what is courting to me?

First, let’s talk about what courtship doesn’t mean.

Courtship Doesn’t Mean Arranged Marriage

Courtship is not arranged marriage.  Arranged marriages are perfectly compatible with Scripture.  And, although the idea of arranged Marriage offends our modern, individualistic sensibilities, they have some strengths of their own — like a heavy focus on love as a choice rather than a feeling.  But they aren’t what people typically have in mind when they talk about courtship.  They certainly aren’t what mean by courtship.

Courtship Doesn’t Mean Dating

Courtship also doesn’t just mean dating.  It would be an unhelpful and superfluous term if it were just a synonym for dating.  There can be some similarities, but the difference between dating and courtship is found in the principles each one is built on.  A few key principles define courtship, setting it apart as distinct from typical dating.

Courting is the pursuit of a relationship with marriage in mind, with accountability, and with the oversight of the woman’s father or other overseer/protector.  (If the woman has been previously widowed or divorced, or her parents are unwilling or unavailable, the absence of this oversight might not bump the relationship out of the realm of courtship.  But it can still be wise to find a trusted mentor to fill this role.) 


Courting is the pursuit of a relationship with marriage in mind, with accountability, and with the oversight of the woman’s father or other overseer/protector. #t2hmkr #courtship
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Courting Means Having Marriage in Mind

Perhaps the primary principle that differentiates dating and courtship is that a courtship relationship always has marriage in mind.

With dating, the underlying idea is usually “trying on” partners for size.  You’re testing to see if the other person is compatible.  Or maybe you’re even “just having fun.”  But the expectation is that you’ll go through multiple partners.  You’ll try them and then discard them.  You’ll create attachments and then break them.

This is divorce rehearsal.  This expectation for relationships to be temporary is at odds with the goal of learning to work things out and establish permanence with a partner.

When Courting, major compatibility issues are sorted out before entering a romantic relationship.  One simply doesn’t court a man or woman one doesn’t consider marriage material.  The courtship isn’t binding, so if something unexpected does come up, it can still be broken off.  But it’s taken seriously, not entered into casually.

As an adjunct to this principle of marriage-mindedness, age is a factor.  Given that the goal of courtship is marriage, it’s pointless for those who are nowhere near a marriageable age.  Courting, then, is usually reserved for those who are ready to be married, or will be very soon.

Courting Means Having Accountability

Acountability means different things to different people.  This is the aspect of courtship where you’re likely to find the greatest variation.  Some are very loose about this, others are very strict, and most are probably somewhere in between.  The basic idea is that of the traditional chaperone — ensuring that physical boundaries are held to, that the relationship doesn’t move too quickly, that wisdom and discretion are exercised.

This accountability isn’t necessarily in the form of a traditional chaperone, though.  Most often, courtship also has an element of “real life” to it.  That is, where dating is typically about taking a break from your regular life to go be with the other person, courtship is typically more heavily based on drawing the other person into your regular life — doing many of the things you would usually do, but together.  This usually has a lot of built-in accountability, because most of these activities have other people present — usually people who know you.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything just to be together.  In those instances, accountability means thoughtfulness about the environment and company.  A family party provides more inherent accountability than a crowded restaurant, which provides more accountability than a darkened movie theater, which provides more accountability than a movie at home alone or an unaccompanied hike in the woods.

Although every couple or family will probably draw their lines of acceptability in slightly different places, all should be mindful of the circumstances and seek out additional accountability when necessary (for instance, by inviting a friend along on that hike).

Courting Means Oversight from a Father or Other Protector

Oversight by fathers is the courtship principle most likely to ruffle feathers — and for good reason.  Not only has our culture moved far away from the Bible’s household-mindedness toward sheer individuality, many women don’t have good fathers (to put it lightly).  So before you panic, or shut this page thinking I’m crazy, let me explain why I think this is the ideal…and what happens when life is not ideal.

Biblically, daughters are given in marriage — or not — by their fathers.  This is not for the sake of “control,” but to help ensure that women are protected.  A woman would be under her father’s protection until marriage, at which point her father would hand off that responsibility to her husband.  When a daughter has a loving father, this is a beautiful thing.  (You might doubt me, but I’ve been there.)

Unfortunately, not everyone has a loving father.  Some don’t have fathers at all.  Some have fathers they need to be protected from.  Some do have loving fathers…who think this courtship thing is weird and have no interest in being involved.

If a father is unavailable or unwilling, or if   involving him would be unwise, I would encourage finding someone else trusted to act in this capacity — perhaps not as authoritatively, but one who is willing to advise with uncomfortable honesty when necessary.  Parents or mentors have the ability to be more objective than the man and woman who are, themselves, in the relationship, and often pick up on “red flags” that those involved miss.  If they’re throwing up caution flags, pay attention.  If they offer counsel, take it to heart.

What is Courting? The Difference Between Dating and Courtship (pinnable image with silhouette of couple)What is Courting? The Difference Between Dating and Courtship (pinnable image with portrait of couple)

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What is Courting? The Difference Between Dating and Courtship is a post from: Titus 2 Homemaker



This post first appeared on Titus 2 Homemaker - Hope And Help For The Domestic, please read the originial post: here

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