My husband and I courted.
Or at least that’s what we called it.
Die hard courtship enthusiasts insist that we did not actually court because my father didn’t choose my husband for me and we were allowed to be alone sometimes.
Proponents of dating argue that it was courtship because my husband and I never went on a date together –out to dinner and a movie by ourselves– and because our fathers were involved in setting standards and expectations.
I finally started telling people that it didn’t matter what you called it as long as your relationships are God-honoring.
I mean, that’s what is most important, right?
As a believer, isn’t the most important thing –the whole reason that we would alter from what is standard American dating behavior– that we make choices that align with scripture, are wise, and ultimately honor the Lord?
And everyone seems to have a different definition of what dating/courtship looks like.
I actually call it betrothal when the father picks the husband for the daughter –and I am very opposed to this idea especially since the guys my dad would have picked for me would possibly have been strangled before we could ever get to the wedding day!
(Betrothal is part of middle eastern culture but is absolutely not commanded in scripture; to say it is, is to say that a story is a command which is very very bad Bible interpretation. Courtship is also a choice and not required biblically. It is only one method to try to align our lives with the Bible.]
We were young when we got married: My husband was not quite 19, and I had just turned 20 the month before.
More than one person pulled me aside and said that we were too young and needed to wait, but we proceeded with our parent’s blessings.
We plan to have our children court as well.
As I mentioned, there are many different definitions of courtship, so let me describe what courtship means to me –and what it does not mean.
I know people who courted and it looked like this: dad picked the husband-to-be.
They were basically committed to marriage before they even knew each other and some were even married before they had ever had a chance to have a conversation alone or without someone else listening in.
They were not allowed to hold hands, embrace, or kiss before they were married.
Now, I see the reason for that if you are saving yourself for your wedding night and admit that embracing and kissing made it harder to wait (but not impossible because we did wait).
The biggest issue is that in these cases was that the couple really did not know each other before they got married.
In my opinion, the purpose of courtship is to get to know each other with the intent to get married.
[This is the reason I am opposed to normal dating: you don’t really get to know each other only the best parts of the person.]
If they are not getting to know each other then the point of the courtship is missed.
And if the father is choosing the future husband, that’s all kinds of wrong.
Many times, I have heard of the father choosing someone like himself and failing to recognize sins in the future son-in-law’s life because the father deals with the same sins (alcoholism, pornography, homosexuality, etc).
If she has a say in who she courts and she also has right of refusal if during the courtship process the relationship has issues, then this is a more healthy way to address courtship.
Although one goal of courtship is to avoid heartbreak, some heartbreak will happen when you are trying to deal with sinners in relationships.
Better heartbreak at 19 years old before you are married, then 25 years of married misery, 6 kids, a bunch of abuse, and a divorce later.
Yes, courtships relationships can and have ended in divorce.
That’s just the reality of life in a fallen world.
Courtship doesn’t save a relationship from every trouble.
But hopefully, it gives it a firmer foothold, a better foundation.
As stated above the purpose of courtship is to get to know the person, and when done right it does a better job of this than dating because in stereotypical dating you put your best foot forward –like never even letting him see you without makeup or in a bad light at all and there’s a whole bunch of pretending.
Whereas in courtship you spent time together as families and in groups allowing you to see the prospective mate in their natural setting reacting to real life situations.
[I know some people do the that and call it dating, but I was referring to stereotypical dating.]
This makes it easier to spot issues and harder to gloss over those issues.
Courtship also means that you wait to have sex although the level of intimacy varies between couples.
There is no assumption of waiting in the world of dating.
It really matters how much closeness you can handle and still wait –since waiting is biblical and part of the goal.
For instance, we were fine holding hands and even hugging, but kissing proved to be a bit too much and resulted in us spending a lot of time apart during the last month of our engagement in an effort to not cross a line we couldn’t come back from.
[Not waiting to kiss was important to my husband who didn’t want our first kiss to be in public in front of 500 people like I had originally wanted.]
It was a miserable month, honestly.
But, it was absolutely worth waiting for marriage for intimacy.
Many people –even Christians– seem shocked that we waited.
I have actually had Christians ask me “Do people still do that?”
Yes, they do.
Because the Bible commands it.
It is not easy, but it is a command.
To me, courtship looks very different than dating.
It looks like the parents involved in the relationship, watching for potential issues (this requires good relationships and may not be possible in all situations).
It looks like the couple is old enough and mature enough to handle the topic of marriage and act on (ie old enough to get married).
It’s not just having a good time and a hook-up.
It is always a relationship with the intent to marry.
You stay in groups and rarely alone in an effort to keep your actions toward each other aligned with scripture.
That doesn’t mean you can’t have a private conversation –my future husband and I even talked about sex during our courtship (which may shock some people).
You don’t spend time alone with other people of the opposite sex because you are trying to avoid the appearance of evil (this is true for us even after we got married: I don’t spend time alone with other men except like my dad and brother).
My husband and I were sometimes alone: we worked on the cottage we were going to move into after we got married and sometimes were alone. We sometimes drove from my house to his house without anyone in the car, but generally, we did have someone else with us even if it was one of his grade school siblings.
Exactly how courtship is done varies, and we may end up having slightly different standards and methods with our own children than what our parents had, but I still think it is a good system with good goals.
You can even call it dating if you still have the same goals: to honor the Lord with your life.