A friend of mine shared a link earlier this week to an article on the Christian trend of courtship as opposed to dating.  The article is here and will open in a new window – so you don’t lose your place.

My bride and I dated.  Exclusively.  In fact, most of my dating life was exclusive.  And it was (when I was younger), probably quite foolish to date in the manner in which I did.  I am fortunate to not have caused too much damage (from what I’ve been told) nor been too emotionally damaged in the process.

Added: she reminds me that we courted. We did. Although I did not ask her father, I did ask a mutual older friend for his thoughts and approval. Our pastor. After all, he knew her a heck of a lot better than I did.

I admit I never thought that exclusivity was damaging.  But the more I think about it, there is definitely potential for problems.

First, being exclusive often results in isolationism for the couple – often before it’s appropriate for them to be isolated.  From an addictions perspective, recovery wisdom advises no major changes within the first year of recovery, and that includes romantic relationships.  When I have clients who ask me why it is not a good idea to begin dating too soon in their recovery, I ask them to consider what happened to their friendships when they dated in high school or college.

They generally smile at me, recollecting, “Oh, yeah…” that they stopped hanging out with their friends in order to spend more time with a potential romantic partner.  Essentially, pairing off exclusively gets in the way of the things that make us, well… us.  That includes hobbies, sports, and our friendships.

Second, I consider the different types of love and attraction according to Sternberg.  Most people realize that there is a significant difference between love experienced/felt in the early stages vs. that in later stages of a relationship.  There is truthfully a lot more going on when it comes to types of love.  I won’t bore you with all 8 of them, but would refer you to the Wikipedia Article on the topic, particularly the portion on the Forms of Love (new window).

I see both models (courtship vs. dating) from the article as being wise and unwise at the same time.  And sometimes they are not practical.  With regard to Sternberg, the dating model breeds the “like/friendship” type and the courtship breeds the fatuous type – where a couple might get married quickly and not actually like each other.  The extreme courtship (arranged marriage) might be best portrayed through the empty love model.

Courtship says the young man needs to ask the father of the one he would like to court.  In this day and age when people marry later (I know, often not the case with those in the courtship camp), it may be unrealistic to ask her father.  She may not have a great relationship with him or she may be sufficiently mature (read: on her own) and it is just freaking awkward.  Second, chaperones/monitors.  As if going out to dinner isn’t expensive enough?!?!  Rules about physical contact and purity.  Rules…  a great idea, but most people’s experience with rules is to question how close they can go to the line without crossing it.  Or even what the line is…  There are a few others, but the big one is the female’s father’s role in the relationship.  It reeks of control and, well, “purity balls”.

Note: I believe that sexual purity is important, but the stress on the behavior being more important than the attitude just gets downright ugly, particularly in the church.  It does not speak of grace and a renewed heart.

When it comes to the traditional dating model, I think hearts are better guarded, not by rules, but by not “putting our eggs all in one basket”.  It allows us to make better decisions about disclosure and the “giving of our hearts” (even non-sexually) to another.  When I read the article mentioned above, and the author refers to his grandmother’s history of not dating the same man twice in a row, I thought of the Beach Boys’ lyrics…

None of the guys go steady cause it wouldn’t be right
To leave their best girl home on a Saturday night (I Get Around, 1964).

For the record, it is difficult to tell the meaning of the song because there are only 2 verses and they offer little clue to one unfamiliar with the context of the decade – I would love some context if you can offer it!

The logic in the dating multiple partners, however, makes some sense.  If one of the greater concerns of purity is to protect oneself for one’s marriage partner, then it stands to reason that, simply putting oneself into a dating tradition where we are already considering the next date (because it’s next weekend) is a positive step.

I agree with the author’s comments that he is not convinced that anyone is truly ever ready to get married.  I agree completely.  I had no idea what I was getting into.  Sure, I promised for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, forsaking all others…  I think the last one comes more easily than the others.  And we’ve been through a lot of transitions, including 4 houses, several jobs (for each of us), 4 dogs, 2 Princesses, plus both home- and public schooling.

Regardless, as my daughters (the Princesses) enter 8th and 9th grade, I seem to be thinking about these things more and more and realizing that I have less and less time to do so.  I do know this much.  I want my house to be the “hangout house” for them and their friends.  And movie theaters are horrible date locations.  Horrible.  As such, we’re encouraging fun activities like minigolf, game nights in our home (h/t to a friend of mine while we learn the good and the bad about this), grilling out on the deck, and social activities.

And, for the record, the idea of my daughters dating is like my driving.  I trust my daughters.  It’s the other idiots out there I’m concerned about.

If you have children, how will you help them navigate relationships as they enter into and through young adulthood?

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2 Responses to Courting?

  1. malindar says:

    I’m in a contemplation phase with all of this stuff as far as my kids are concerned right now. Probably why the article stood out to me in the first place. Reasa is fast approaching 16, which was our “you can date when you’re _____” age. But now I’m really thinking about what I want dating to look like for her, and…I just don’t know. Realizing that our kids WON’T get married when they’re 17 or 18 years old, I’d love to encourage her to hold off on the “going steady” mentality for a while. But you contend with society with all of this too. And while I definitely don’t want her to bow to the stupidity of society, I also don’t want her to be the freak…as I think the whole “courtship” culture has been labeled. I’m sure there’s a balance. I don’t believe it’s “courtship.” And there’s obviously something not right with the way things are happening with the play-the-field, sleep-with-as-many-people-as-you-can-before-you-settle-down thought process.

    • Roman Hokie says:

      Agreed. 16?!?!? No way. Remember what I told you about when the human brain is fully formed? Honestly, I think that is why if one doesn’t wed by 23 or 24, it’s harder to do so later, along with the lack of proximity to dateable counterparts compared to school.

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