Courtship, Part 3: Some Thoughts on Courtship

Courtship is a topic that’s dear to me because I believe in it. It’s also a topic that’s fresh on my mind.

We have six children. Four are married. Another is engaged and will be married in a month. (Oh, my goodness! What am I doing writing blog posts?! )

This will be our fifth wedding in a little more than six years! We can say that we’ve seen courtship work – in spite of the mistakes we’ve made.

Courtship is also a topic that’s important to me because I think a lot of Christian young people have been burned by what people have called “courtship”.

They’ve come out on the other side of an unpleasant courtship experience, bitter and disillusioned, or skeptical about ever trying that approach again.

It doesn’t have to end that way.

We’ve made our share of mistakes in our almost-30 years of parenting, and the area of courtship has not escaped the fact that we are just fallen sinners, saved by His glorious grace.

We look back and there are things we wish we had done differently. We do not have all the answers. But we also look back and very clearly (and gratefully) see God’s hand of blessing and guidance in leading our children into godly marriages. He is the one who brings any good from our efforts as parents.

What is courtship? Or at least what do I mean when I use the term? I wish we could come up with another name for it. A lot of different people mean different things when they talk about courtship, so we end up with a lot of confusion.

There are a lot of different ideas about courtship out there, and our own experience with five different courtships has confirmed the fact that every courtship is different. There is no textbook formula or 5-step plan for the perfect courtship, because no two people are alike, no two couples are alike, no two families are alike, no two moments in time are alike.

But some basic principles have been foundational in all the courtships in our family:

  • Courtship involves a guy and a girl. 🙂
  • Both the guy and the girl are ready to consider marriage. (So this means romance is not entertained in the preteen and early teen years.)
  • The young man is the initiator in the process – not his parents or her parents.
  • The guy and girl are getting to know each other with the express purpose of considering each other as potential spouses. (So they are not just looking for someone to go out and have a good time with.)
  • The girl’s emotions are being protected from involvement with young men who have no intention of marrying her.
  • Both the guy and the girl are seeking to remain chaste. They are saving any sexual activity for marriage.
  • Parents are involved. Both sets of parents (ideally) are involved and provide counsel and guidance. (Of course, this is not always the case.)
  • The girl’s father is the final authority in the process. He grants permission to potential suitors, he sets standards, he helps his daughter evaluate the young man’s character and readiness for marriage. (This doesn’t mean he ignores his wife’s valuable input. And if the father is not available or interested in filling this role, this can also be some other man who is acting as the father figure – some other willing and interested relative or leaders in the church.)
  • There is accountability to others in the relationship. This includes other family members, as well as the church community.

So our definition of courtship is does not include arranged marriages. But it also doesn’t include a guy just showing up long enough to ask a girl’s dad if he can date her. And it doesn’t include a list of do’s and don’ts, or any specified timeline.

Our definition of courtship includes a relationship between a young man and young woman who are potentially interested in marrying one another. The young man screws up his nerve and asks the girl’s father for permission to get to know her better, and then they both honor the authority and counsel of their parents throughout the relationship. From there the relationship can vary greatly! Different parents will set different standards (hopefully with humility and prayer) for their children’s courtships.

 

You might ask why we would ever want to pursue this sort of model for our children? Why courtship? Isn’t it kind of old-fashioned or unrealistic or just plain impractical? Why not stick with traditional dating?

Here is a quick list of reasons to consider.

  • First, “traditional” dating is the new kid on the block, not courtship. Dating as it is practiced in our present day has only been the accepted norm since the early 20th century. Before that marriages were usually arranged, with romantic interest playing a small part in the process.

By the late 19th century, a practice called “courtship” or “calling” came into being. A man was invited to call on a young woman, and got to know her in the context of her home and family.

Modern dating didn’t appear until the early 1900’s. Now the young man took the woman “out” to get to know her, instead of staying at her home. The focus became having fun, rather than assessing each other’s character and suitability as a marriage partner. This doesn’t mean that courtship can’t be fun; it just means the relationship’s primary purpose is to evaluate each other as potential marriage partners.

  • Hormones are another good reason to consider courtship.

Think back over your life. Think of the biggest mistakes you feel like you have made, the ones you are most embarrassed about or ashamed of. What comes to mind?

I think most of us would probably say that those center on relationships with the opposite sex. It is far too easy to compromise our standards or experience what sometimes seems like a period of temporary insanity when someone of the opposite sex is involved or when hormones get aroused.

No matter how committed our children are to the Lord, they are not immune to sexual temptation, and can fall just like anyone else. They can make huge, life-altering mistakes during this period of their lives when it’s just plain hard to think rationally at times.

This is a time when they need special guidance. We need to be extra involved in their lives, talking to them, being their friends, advising them, protecting them – not sending them out alone in a car with their girlfriend or boyfriend for the evening.

Because of this, courtship usually excludes much time alone together, and includes many group and family activities as the couple gets to know each other.

  • The difference between guys and girls

Have you ever noticed? Men and women don’t think the same way. They’re not designed to!

It’s easy for us to think that everyone thinks the same way we think. It’s especially easy for girls to think guys think like they think. Our kids need help understanding the opposite sex.

Girls need to understand that a teenage boy’s attentions and nice words don’t necessarily mean that he loves her.

Guys need to understand what kind of message they are giving to girls when they say and do certain kinds of things.

  • Divorce.

Steve Farar has written a good book entitled How to Ruin Your Life by 30: Nine Surpisingly Everyday Mistakes You Might Be Making Right Now.

He claims that the most important decision you make about marriage is not, “Who will you marry?” It’s, “Will you ever divorce?” I believe this is true. We need to go into marriage committed to sticking with the person we’re marrying, and not even considering the possibility of divorce. We need to not plan on divorce as our backup plan.

Think about the practice of dating. Dating tends to encourage a mentality that moves from one relationship to the next. You date around, find someone you get along with pretty well, start dating them on a regular basis, and get emotionally (and often physically) involved at some level with that one person.

Then you run into the inevitable challenges that arise in any relationship, or you find out there are things you don’t particularly like about the person.

You break up, and start looking for the next person, the next boyfriend or girlfriend, the next person to become emotionally and physically involved with. Courtship helps guard against this mentality.

  • Marriage is not just about two people.

It’s for the Church and it’s for God. So the church community and God should be part of the process that leads to marriage.

Marriage is a picture of Christ and His bride, the Church. When Christian marriages fall apart, we mar that picture before the watching world.

When Christian marriages fall apart, the next generation suffers, and children who should be standing on their parents’ shoulders as they move into establishing their own households, often find themselves confused or ill-equipped for the challenges of marriage and family.

The practice of courtship, which involves accountability to others, gives fellow-believers the opportunity to offer input and counsel to young people who are considering marriage.

So there you have an overview of the approach we have taken with courtship. It’s not the only way, but God has worked through it to bring our children into strong, God-honoring marriages.

What do you think about courtship? Good or bad? Why? Let’s talk about it!

 

(Photo by Daniel Forster)

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28 Comments

  1. I think it is a fabulous idea!! I am concerned about where we would find potential courtship people for our kids. Not one family in our chirch does this and I wouldn’t know where to go about finding kids for my kids. The oldest is almost 11, so I know it is something that we need to be thinking about . Because time does fly by!!!
    Any help or suggestions would be appreciated 🙂

  2. Courtship is a concept that I have seen work beautifully for young couples in our church and I really want to introduce it to my children as they get older (no teens yet). I am very interested in how to prepare my children now, so that their expectation is for courtship later and not on traditional dating in their teens. I am also at a loss as to where to begin, never having experienced courtship myself. Do you have any resources you like to recommend in this area?

  3. I am in agreement with Brenda. How does one initiate this practice when other families are not thinking this way?
    One thought I have is that my children can be taught these ideas, and when they are old enough my boys can initiate “calling” on a girl, and my girls when asked to go on a date, can gently explain the “rules” of the family. And leave it up to the boy at that point. If the boy is interested and has good character, he’ll call her father. If not, there’s your answer. 🙂

  4. Exactly, Heather! You don’t have to have other people around you that think exactly the same to be able to do this. Your sons can approach fathers and explain their intentions, even if the father doesn’t require that, or thinks he’s crazy. He will respect him for his commitment and courage. Your daughters can direct young men to their father, and her father can basically train young men in this process. If it scares them away, then they weren’t the one for your daughter!

    I’ll try to post more later, but am scrambling to get out the door for wedding tasks this morning! 🙂

  5. My husband and didn’t court, but we did pursue what we called “intentional dating” which included 5 of the principals included above. We began dating when I was 15 and we married when I was 20. We have been happily married for 12 years, by God’ grace.

  6. Our daughter, Rachel, has been happily married for almost four years. Her husband is the son of a close friend who was widowed when her children were young. He had some rough years growing up. It was really neat because the two of them did not like each other as teenagers. After a period in her life during which she was doing some mildly rebellious and destructive things, he happened to come home from the Air Force and they talked. He said, basically, “Why are you doing these things, you weren’t like that before.” She started acting like herself again and in a few months, he called my husband and they had a “Talk”. The courtship was kind of long due to things like deployment. We always liked the courtship model but we did not have strict rules about it. I never would have expected this particular young man to be interested in courtship. When he was younger he just didn’t seem like the type. . . whatever that means( Now that he has a daughter, he certainly IS the type!!!). He was not on my list of possible husbands for my daughter . I have been really happy with the man he grew up to be. God transformed them into the perfect match for each other while we weren’t looking. It is amazing what God can do!! Our next three children are sons and I am hoping their sister’s experience will inspire them. I am also praying for the families of their future wives!!

  7. I have watched some great and some not so great courtships in Central Oregon. When we moved to the coast 4 years ago – Everyone dated. Everyone in the churches date. It is sad. My 15 year old son has been called all sorts of not nice names because he does not pursue girls, and has not had physical or emotional relationships yet. He has a lot of great friends, guys and gals, but one one special person. He saw what the boys did in Central Oregon wants to go the route of courting. He saw young men change drastically when they started dating. Any personal goals and ambitions went to the way side to start pleasing girls, which meant spending all of their money and time on them. I just heard out new youth pastor say he was going to start talking about dating with the boys. My heart sank. In their family, when you turn 15, you are allowed to date. I loved your post this past week about God Being Faithful. I know what path our family is on, and I know He is faithful. I know that just the right young woman will be ready for each of my sons – because I’ve been praying for her and her family. My youngest son doesn’t really remember a lot from our previous town, so he operates more on faith – but he does enjoy the attention he gets from the young girls in town. I pray double hard for him, and we monitor their activities closely!

  8. My friend and her (now husband) courted, he was in the service so it was distant. They hit a rough spot and she wanted to “break off the courtship” but her parents told her it was up to the father of the girl or the man of the relationship whether the courtship was over or not. I’m kind of confused, is that an actual “rule” or just something for their family?

  9. I’m not a fan of courtship, having done one (and not one of the horror stories ones, either). I think your thoughts here still show some of the key weaknesses of courtship.

    1) Assumption that a relationship always follows a particular sequence. (Young man develops interest, becomes sure of that interest, approaches father, then interests girl.) Real life is not that simple. Sometimes the girl is sure first. Sometimes a friendship turns into a romance without anyone being able to trace when or how it happened. Some time people need time together to see if marriage is a good idea for them, and find out that it isn’t. These situations don’t fit at all well into what you speak of as courtship, yet I fail to see anything sinful or wrong about them.

    2) Assumption that women are unable to make wise decisions. What should a woman do if her parents do not approve of a young man, yet she is sure it is God’s will for her to marry him? Even if everybody is seeking God, they are not guaranteed to come to perfect agreement (witness all the denominations!) This model puts a lot of pressure on parents to get it right for their daughter, instead of letting them give her the freedom to hear from God for herself.

    3) I understand the concern about premarital sexual activity, and I do not endorse that by any means. But over the long haul in a marriage, it’s the relationship you develop that matters, not how much of each other you touched before the wedding. Both my husband and I feel very strongly that the emphasis on guarding our hearts, avoiding time alone together, and listening to our elders prevented us from working to develop our own relationship with each other, in our own way and time. It set us up in patterns of avoidance, hiding our thoughts and emotions from each other, following other people’s rules, instead of working through things together. It took us many years of marriage to finally recognize and begin fighting these patterns.

    I don’t plan to encourage my teenagers (coming up soon!) to run out and pair off at the first opportunity. I will encourage them to wait to actively pursue relationships until they are reasonably close to the possibility of marriage, and to be kind and honest in their proceedings. But I don’t intend to tell them they need our approval, or tell them what or how or when they should proceed.

  10. E. Reese, the situation you’re describing certainly is not part of the “rules” of courtship! First, there are no rules. That’s part of the point. Parents are involved and offer counsel, but they are not dictators. I definitely think that attitude is one of the “failures of courtship”, but it’s not courtship’s fault: it’s the fault of parents who attempt to exercise far too much control. Parents and children are allies in this process, not rulers and subjects.

  11. Queen of Carrots (I would love to know the story behind your name!), thanks for your thoughtful comment, and I would like you to know that I agree with much of what you have said. As I said, there is no formula courtship. Every story is different, and some underlying principles such as the ones I described, can apply to the different situations you described in your first point. I’m not describing at 3-step or 5-step or 25-step courtship process. The five courtships in our own family have all been very different, but they have all honored the counseling role of parents, the Scriptural admonition to keep ourselves pure, and the postponing of a romantic relationship until both parties are ready to consider marriage.

    You may have misinterpreted my comment about the girl’s father being the final authority in the process. I certainly don’t mean that he can simply veto a relationship, or coerce his daughter into a relationship. He should be seeking his daughter’s best, acting as one of God’s agents in his daughter’s life, and working hard to understand her and her wishes, while also helping her make a wise decision in an area that will profoundly affect her for the rest of her life, as well as the generations that follow her.

    These principles will also play out differently depending on the age of the man and woman. An 18-year-old daughter may need more guidance than a 26-year-old, for instance.

    I agree with what you are saying in your comment: “Both my husband and I feel very strongly that the emphasis on guarding our hearts, avoiding time alone together, and listening to our elders prevented us from working to develop our own relationship with each other, in our own way and time. It set us up in patterns of avoidance, hiding our thoughts and emotions from each other, following other people’s rules, instead of working through things together.”
    I think it’s very easy for fallen, human parents, while seeking the very best for their children, to err on the side of too much control. We had to learn this in our own home. If parents are seeking to help two adult children who are considering marriage, they need to remember that those adult children are ADULTS. If they marry, they will be making all their own decisions. They need to be treated like adults, not children. They need to be part of the decision making process, and free to set their standards (while prayerfully listening to the counsel of their parents) If they are simply conforming to a set of rules that their parents have outlined, they are not learning to govern themselves and submit to God’s Word in their lives.

    Every situation is so different. It’s difficult to talk about courtship without coming up with zillions of hypothetical situations that all require the wise and prayerful application of the principles of God’s Word, rather than trying to force them all into a black-and-white formula.

    Another thing many well-meaning folks need to remember is that people who choose to not practice courtship are not sinning. Dating is not a sin, but it may lead to sin, just as courtship can lead to other sins, such as pride and legalism. God does not think more highly of us if we choose to court instead of date. He thinks highly of His Son, and only sees us as righteous when we are in His Son through faith in His saving death and resurrection.

    I think we’ll spend a bit more time on this subject tomorrow, so stay tuned! Perhaps I can make myself more clear. Also, you might want to read other posts on courtship from our archives to get a broader picture of what I’m describing as courtship.

    Thanks again for commenting!

  12. I don’t like ‘courtship’ as such. In my case, I was a young woman who’s parents were divorcing, my father, a non-christian, had no intention of ‘allowing’ me to marry anyone! Even if he had, his values are very different to mine. My husbands father, a christian, was more concerned about money than any relationship and felt our marriage was the wrong decision financially (he had basically never spoken to me). Going through traditional courtship was impossible for us, and had we waited until it ‘may’ have become possible, we would have missed a lot. It was the support my husband gave me through my family’s breakdown that kept me going and allowed me to be the support and ‘in between’ person for my mother, father, siblings and grandparents. Had we waited until we had both parents approval to persue each other, I don’t think we would have ever been together.

    Having said that, I believe VERY strongly in intentional dating. My husband talked to me about marriage and children on our FIRST DATE (quite a shock to this newly-christian, ex-‘bad crowd’ young woman!). We got engaged within 3 months, and married after another 7, but in that time we had talked about family, children, life, goals, personalities, what we believed marriage was, and more importantly, was not. We talked about health and finances and how we believed we should spend our weekends. I had celebrated birthdays and Christmas with his family, and he had stood there when we saw my siblings for the last time, and sat with my father as he broke down.

    We crossed a few physical boundaries that we now wish we had not, but that was in many ways due to my abusive past and believing if we didn’t touch me then he didn’t want me (I did the pressuring, not him. Unfortunately he was not equipped, in any way, to deal with it). We hope to help our children learn how to deal with all of these things a whole lot better than we did. But, it was a mistake, we have repented, and it wasn’t the end of the world, it didn’t destroy our marriage. It was a sin, it was wrong, but, if we were sinless, we wouldn’t need God would we?

    So all that is to say, I do not believe in courtship. I do not believe a girls father has the final word (though I do believe he should be involved, get to know him, and give strong, thought out opinions and guidance) I do not believe in constant chaperoning, I do not believe in only seeing each other with family or during family functions, some of our best times to talk were on the car trips alone to go out ice skating or to dinner. But I do, very much, believe in intentional, pure, marriage building relationships between boys and girls, and unfortunately, without a term for this sort of situation, I can only call it purposeful dating.

  13. Thank you so much for this post!! I love courtship vs. traditional dating, and my husband & I made the decision for our children to court before we even had children. My husband & I were both older (by some standards) when we got married. I had just turned 33 & he was almost 30, however when we started getting to know one another we already knew so much about each other through my husband’s family. His sister & mother had been very dear friends of mine for over 9 years, and I was already in the habit of praying for my husband, simply because of my sweet friend’s requests for him. We corresponded for a few months & got to know one another more through emails. Once we started spending time together, we discussed marriage & were engaged two weeks later then married 5 weeks after that. So many people were surprised to hear how fast our relationship progressed & expressed their concern that we were going too fast or that we didn’t know one another well enough. However, we had both been praying for our spouses before we got to know one another, and we both knew about each other through my husband’s family. From the very first moment of beginning our correspondence, I had a huge peace that this was the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with–getting to know him more & more. We will have been married 9 years next month, and I still thank God for my amazing husband on a daily basis. I know this isn’t typical of “courting”, but my husband’s father went home to be with the Lord when my husband was 16. I didn’t grow up learning about courtship, so it seemed a bit old-fashioned to me when I first learned about it. Looking back, though, I’m so very thankful that both my & my husband’s hearts were protected from so much of the “baggage” that can come with traditional dating. God has blessed our relationship, and I wouldn’t trade our “courtship” for anything else. 😀 Thanks again for such an encouraging lesson!

  14. This is such a great post!!! My husband and I courted, and my family and church family were there to counsel and support!!! We have been very happily married now for just over 14 years!!! God is so good!!

  15. I loved the term one of the other commenters used “purposeful dating”. I think that comes the closest to the type of relationships I myself pursue and the kind I would wish for any children, if I’m ever so blessed.

    I have a few friends that married at a younger age were able to follow more of the model of courtship you present – because they were living in close proximity to their parents and because their parents were willing to take an active role in their relationships. More of my friends though have met their spouses through “purposeful dating” – they met their spouses in college and interacted as friends first, through small group at church, met online or were introduced through mutual friends. In all cases they involved their families, friends and church families early on as they got to know one another – but in most cases their parents weren’t as involved as in most courtship relationships I’m familiar with (the father’s permission was always sought to ask for the daughter’s hand though). Not that they were uninvolved, but these were women in their 20s and living more or less on their own either as full time students or professional working women, so they weren’t living in their parents’ house. In all cases they were also dating with an eye towards marriage – and if there were any character, values/morals or personality issues that took marriage off the table that were revealed, they (usually) broke up pretty quickly there after. In all cases they also took guarding their own hearts and the heart of their intended seriously.

    In my own case, I’m getting to know a man at the moment. We are not what I would call “dating” but we’ve been getting to know each other for a few months now and I have my friends and mentors praying about the relationship. At some point in the very near future I expect to move forward into an exclusive “purposeful dating” relationship OR to regress to just a casual friendship/acquaintance. Should we move towards that “purposeful dating” I would expect to meet one another’s parents as soon as is convenient (probably my parents first, since they live closer) and to also attend one another’s churches together, etc. I’m 28 and he’s 36, we both live on our own – so a lot of parent involvement is not likely – but I would certainly want blessings from both sides.

    In any case, whether you call it dating or courtship – I would hope that all Christian young people, and all Christian families would pursue marriage relationships with wisdom, guarding one another’s hearts and with Christ at the center.

  16. Beautiful article! One commenter asked about finding other families that believe the same. You may not find them but that doesn’t mean you can’t help to train the young man or young woman. Our young teenage daughter has an young man that is interested in her. We explained to him our view of courtship and marriage and told him that she wouldn’t be dating. He has decided to wait for her.

  17. Pam,

    I certainly agree that parents having too much control causes damage (and that is why I think people who *are* advocating courtship should spend more time warning about that than they do about the dangers of dating–they’re preaching to the choir on the latter. More marriages are destroyed by family conflict than by premarital sex.) However, in our case it was not parental control that was the issue. Our parents did not set restrictions on when and how much or about what we could talk to each other, nor did my father have any particular rules about time alone, physical contact, etc. (I believe my husband’s parents did set specific standards for him, but it was private, not with me involved.)

    Rather, it was the whole atmosphere and teachings of courtship and the many testimonies we had read, much like those elsewhere on your blog. It was the many months of scrupulously hiding our feelings and interest from each other until courtship had been properly approved, because we believed we needed to guard our hearts. It was the perception that the less physical contact we had, the holier and more God-honoring our relationship was. (And the perception that we would be, apparently, completely unable to control ourselves if we had any physical contact or solitude. We had no other experience to compare to, so we could not have known whether or not that was a reasonable deduction from the constant cautions we had heard from courtship speakers.)

    Also, I hear the qualifications you place on the father’s authority, how he should listen to his daughter, etc. However, if you are still placing the father as the final authority–then he is. No matter how kindly and graciously he listens to his daughter, he can still say No. My dad is kind and loving and the most reverse of domineering you can imagine. I understood then and understand now why he was concerned about my husband (he is disabled and at the time I had had several bouts of poor health myself). It was all and absolutely only with my best interest at heart. But, ultimately, he was not the one who would be living the rest of my life. It was fine for him to say, “Have you thought about this?” It was not fine for him to say, “I don’t know if this is a good idea” with us both knowing the backdrop of “father is the final authority.” That turned what might otherwise have been good advice into a threat that did not need to be spoken to be paralyzingly real.

  18. To find a Godly husband/wife for our children we only need one thing. Faith. Our heavenly Father knows who is supposed to marry who and will bring them together at the right time. My husband and I always believed that it didn’t matter what our personal feelings were. When God would show us who we were meant to marry, we would just trust Him and do it. That’s why we got betrothed. We thoroughly enjoyed “courting” afterwards, knowing that we were destined for marriage.
    Having an “arranged” marriage is not scary when God is doing the arranging.

  19. Thank you very much for this post. Very well written. I pretty much agree with everything you wrote but I did want to point out one thing.

    Having parents initiate a conversation about a possible relationship isn’t the same as an arranged marriage. A father could approach another father or a guy and ask them to consider the possibility of having the guy get to know his daughter. The guy still has a choice as to whether or not he wants to pursue and and the girl can still make up her own mind too.

    Matchmaking suggestions don’t necessarily equal arranged marriages. Wise suggestions from someone who knows and loves you can actually be a really good thing and it’s been working for hundreds of years.

    Just my little addition. Take it or leave it. 🙂

  20. Some resources to start to prepare your tween/teen girls and mothers to read together is Raising Maidens of Virtue, another one is So Much More by Anna Sofia Botkin, and Before you meet Prince Charming. For parents, What he has to be to Marry my daughter by Voddie Baucham. For boys and dads, Boyhood and Beyond by Bob Schultz, and Raising a modern day Knight by Robert Lewis. And lastly a good one for parents is Family Shepherds: Calling and equipping Men to Lead their homes by Voddie Baucham.
    Parents don’t be so desperate to find families…we have a Great God who can do anything including bringing families together, he doesn’t need our help, we just need to be prayerful and obedient. 🙂

  21. I appreciate this post!! Such a blessing it is to find other people with godly standards! 🙂 My husband & I courted for 4 1/2 mos. with the purpose of marriage. We clearly felt that only hidden sin would cause us to break up, & anything else could be worked through. We were both concerned about hurting each other by casual dating & wanted no part of it. However, we attended the same church for almost a year before he asked me about courtship. My parents & I talked it over, prayed about it with me, & then gave their blessing; but ultimately the final decision was up to me. They told me I would have to live with this decision the rest of my life! I felt clear in the Lord’s leading & am happy to say this happened over 7 years & 3 children ago! We basically had a hands-off courtship. (He did hold my hand a few times!) We came to our marriage chaste & pure & that has been such a blessing to us. I certainly am happy to say I really have no regrets, only fond memories of that time! BTW, I was 25 & he was 27 yrs old. I’m looking forward to teaching & walking with our children through this time when it’s their turn!
    My husband is the only guy I’ve ever been out with & the only one to ever ask for me. It was a bit hard at the time, but ever so worth the wait!! 🙂 If you are a single person, I want to encourage you to keep your eyes on Jesus & patiently wait even though it seems hopeless & so hard. You will have no regrets that way!!
    I also appreciate the part of this article about divorce. You are right on!!! May God bless you for your willingness to speak out about this controversial issue! God’s word is clear on the subject & we may stand firmly on that! 🙂
    May God grant us strength & wisdom as we seek HIS ways & keep HIS standards!

  22. Ashley (and also Leila), just to clarify — when I say “I’m not talking about arranged marriages,” I am simply saying that in the context of defining the word “courtship”. There is so much confusion about the term, my purpose in this post was partly to clarify what *I* mean when I use the term, so readers know what I’m talking about.

    An arranged marriage is great for those who are willing to take that route. When we get right down to it, we actually start learning to really love the person we marry after we marry them. Loving becomes a matter of choice, not just emotion. If both the young man and woman are on board, I think it’s a perfectly legitimate, time-honored way of bringing two people together.

    What I was trying to clarify with my statement is that I am not talking about arranged marriage when I use the term “courtship”. Many people seem to equate courtship with arranged marriage.

    And of course, it would be foolish to reject a parent’s input about potential spouses. Parents know and love their children and will be sensitive to the kind of person that might prove to be a good spouse for their child. I’m definitely not saying that parents shouldn’t offer suggestions or help facilitate opportunities for marriageable children to get to know each other. We should be our children’s greatest allies in this process! 🙂

    Thanks for commenting!

  23. @Pam
    It is certainly clear that you had a hard time getting past your courtship experience. However, I think that your experience is heavenly compared to my dating experience. Broken hearts, broken trust, broken purity, jealousy are all common in the dating experience. It took many years of marriage for my husband and I to forgive one another for the mess we brought to the altar when we married. When I was pregnant with our first child a woman from his past showed up in our life and began stalking me. Our marriage almost didn’t make it past that. I would have taken the worst courtship experience over that any day.

  24. Lynn

    I think you meant me, not Pam. I hear what you are saying and I am sorry for all the pain you brought to your marriage. But there are people who have safe, healthy dating experiences. And there are people who have true courtship horror stories–who find themselves married to people they didn’t really know, people who were abusive or unfaithful. Or who suffer permanent rejection and alienation from their family because they didn’t do things “the right way.”

    My younger brother married five years after I did. His wife’s parents actually suggested they meet up, but it was basically just a blind date–what they did after that point was totally up to them. They spent lots of time alone together, set their own boundaries, and generally worked on building their own relationship. I don’t see anything we gained from our “courtship” that was an advantage over their “dating,” and a lot that we missed out on.

    I think waiting for adulthood and working to be kind and responsible are the important things; parental authority and an emphasis on emotional purity create as many problems as they solve.

  25. People wait for GOD to speak to them and HE does often, if you read and listen carefully.

    Hello GOD, hope you are having a great day!

  26. I agree with those that don’t think one way of finding love is better than the other. I think God can work in a couple’s life together whether they are courting or traditionally dating. For example, I am 19 and currently dating a young man of the same age who could possibly be the one. While my parents are somewhat involved in our relationship (they really like the guy) they never dictated who I was or wasn’t allowed to date. We also are allowed to travel in cars by ourselves because we both agree about waiting until marriage and are mature enough to have self control. I feel like because our parents raised us with really strong values and less rules, we were able to make the right decisions for ourselves because we knew WHY we were making those decisions.

    On the other hand, my older brother who is 24 is dating a young lady who is from our church and while they don’t officially call it courtship, are pretty much courting as opposed to dating. They go out on chaperoned dates and visit each other’s families frequently. They strictly are not allowed to touch in anyway. Also, my brother has been asking her dad for permission along the way.

    All in all my brother and I are both very happy in our relationships. I think that assuming both work out, both of us would end up in Godly marriages. For me personally, I would not prefer to have a courtship, but in some ways I think that is why God has blessed me with a wholesome relationship that allows me independence without allowing me to go off on a wild spree. I think that the Lord knew my brother would be happy in a courtship and blessed him with a situation that is also very wholesome. So whether you date or court doesn’t matter as long as God is at the center of your relationship and of your life.

  27. A lot of different viewpoints here! I know my parents got to know each other through “intentional dating” and I believe they did the best they could in their circumstances. People are put into different times and different cultures, and there are differing levels of cultural support out there for what they can do at the time.

    For me though, I hope that if/when the Lord in his providence brings the right man along, it will be a courtship situation–however that looks for us. Unlike my parents, I am blessed with parents who love the Lord, love me, and want the best for me. I have no fear whatsoever that my father will use the great influence he has in my decisions to overwhelm my better judgement. I will rely on him to ask the young man some of the hard questions that might be awkward or painful for me to ask. I will rely on his judgement about the young man’s worthiness as a suitor before I start getting excited about him. And I know I can do this because, when I asked my father what I should be looking for in a man, he gave me just three things, which means his list is about 30 points shorter than mine!

    Queen of Carrots, thank you for sharing your courtship experience, and your caution to get to know the other person thoroughly and learn to communicate. Guarding one’s heart is, I believe, less about concealing emotion than it is about keeping emotion in its proper place. Even rational, purposeful dating cannot operate without some measure of emotional self-control. Otherwise, courtship rather encourages deep communication on deep issues, rather than otherwise.