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To date or to court? That is the question.

The LoveEd video above shares our thoughts. And our warning.

What Is Courtship Anyway?

Though I’m commonly questioned about courtship, I’m cautious when addressing it, because it’s hard to nail down precisely what courtship is.

When some speak of courting, there’s a lot of legalism and a chaperone system of accountability which resembles parole. Parents (or other authority figures) may be so involved in the process, it can almost be like an arranged marriage.

In contrast, what others call courting is pretty much dating just like the world does it. I can’t even figure out why they’re using a different word. Other than to make it sound more Christian. Or Amish. Or plain old-fashioned, like they’re dating… I mean courting in a Jane Austin novel.

Then there are a lot of people out there “courting” somewhere between those extremes.

That said, whatever you want to call the process of finding a marriage partner, we want to encourage you to:

The Most Common Consequence of Courting

Speaking of conflicting concepts of courtship, here’s a true story that illustrates a common courtship pitfall.

The story began when a young man in his teens expressed an interest in a young lady who’s family believed in courtship. And so the two began courting. But after only a few weeks, the guy’s parents put an end to the relationship, and severed contact with the girl and her family.

Why would the boy’s parents do that, you ask?

Because they discovered that the young woman’s parents were encouraging the two lovebirds to do whatever they felt comfortable doing sexually. No boundaries. No accountability.

Why would the young lady’s parents do that, you ask?

Because in  their minds, courtship meant those two high school kids were already as good as married. It was a done deal. The wedding was only a formality. So why wait?

Why wait, you ask?

How about because after only a few weeks, this young couple didn’t even know if they could be good friends, much less lifelong marriage partners. At their age, they weren’t even ready to live on their own, let alone live with (and raise) children they had brought into the world together.

Of course, it’s perfectly normal for two who identify as “madly in love” to feel like marriage is a foregone conclusion.

This is the natural result of the chemistry of infatuation (aka limerence). Like really, there’s no need for discussion. A marriage license is just a piece of paper.

But Christian parents should know better. And they should honor the marriage bed.

And, therein lies the irony. Most who have ditched dating for courtship do so because they do desire to honor the marriage bed. But as demonstrated in this story (albeit to a rather exaggerated extent), those courting (and even their parents) can be tempted to believe that intentionality will ensure the outcome of the relationship.

However, (as we say in the video above) you can’t remove the risk from dating… or courtship. You aren’t married until you’re married. Even if you do “everything right” (if that were possible) you can’t guarantee the wedding day.

We address the desire for guarantees in the following paragraph which comes right out of our dating book, Date Like You Know What You’re Doing: Your DatePrep Guide.

What Courtship and Cohabitation Have in Common

Starting in the 1990s, many (but not all) in the courtship movement determined they would wait until they believed they should marry someone before they dated them, so they more or less made the marriage commitment up front.

A lot of pressure for that first cup of coffee, right? Do you shop for rings on the second date? Or play it safe, and wait for the third? Or do the parents pick out the rings?

Curiously, couples who hold off on that first date until they’re convinced they have found the person they will marry have much in common with couples who wait to cohabit until they think they’re going to get married. Because couples in both categories are trying to predict something they really can’t, and in doing so, they presume upon the future. They’re assuming they’ll eventually marry, without actually committing to do so. And in their presumption, they often act “committed” or “married” in ways they shouldn’t (whether those acts involve shopping for rings or jumping in the sack prematurely).

[Again, the above post is an excerpt right from Date Like You Know What You’re Doing: Your DatePrep Guide. I wrote it to empower YOU to grow spiritually and date wisely so you can marry well. Check out the book and video curriculum here.]
  • Still have questions about courtship? Share in the comments below.
  • Have you seen it “done right?” Tell us how in the comments below.