Friday, December 2, 2011

Dating and Courtship Part IV

My understanding of traditional courtship is that once the couple recognize a mutual attraction, the gentleman asks permission of the lady's father to court her. During courtship, they spend time learning about each other in the context of family. Very little time is spent alone together. If the courtship goes well, the couple is then betrothed to be married with permission of the lady's father.

I have a few reservations about this model of courtship. First, the entire relationship is contingent on the father's approval. In an ideal world, every father would have a good relationship with his daughter and his approval would simply be an affirmation of her own opinions. Since our world is not ideal, though, I can see how requiring a father's approval could derail an otherwise well-suited relationship.

Also, although it is important to know how one's future spouse acts in the context of family, that is not the only acceptable way to interact. When the couple marries, they will probably not be living with either family. They need to learn how to interact with just each other, without family.

At a baseball game with friends and family

I think courtship has merits. It encourages thoughtful consideration of a relationship, rather than casual pairing for fun. I also think it is a good model for teenagers living at home. Young people in high school do not have as much life experience and are more reliant on their parents for good advice. Also, home is their primary living context. I think that traditional courtship is less practical for those in college or otherwise living independently. If nothing else, it may be very expensive in time and money to continually visit family!

I like the independence of dating and the importance of family and thoughtful decision-making of courtship. All of these were present in my pre-marriage relationship with my husband. Maybe I need to just make a new term. Intentional dating, anyone? :-)


  1. Yeah, I have problems with both "dating," as it's generally understood, and the new courtship model. Courtship sounds like a good theory in practice, but in reality my own attempt to practice it ended up making my relationship with my husband very difficult. First I felt like things ought to move straight from friendship to "serious courtship," with families involved and everything. So I didn't let our relationship take its own pace for the longest time, and ended up scaring my now-husband by making him call my dad when we were really more at the getting-to-know-each-other stage.

    Later, when we actually DID want to get serious, we faced huge opposition from his mother, who felt that he was too young (at 21) to be in a relationship at all. We were incredibly conflicted, since we wanted our families involved, but only one family was supportive. So we waited and waited on our relationship -- which in itself isn't that healthy.

    I love the idea of a friendship that grows into love, and that's definitely what we had. And I love the idea of at least trying to involve the parents (though, as you mentioned, this is hard to do when you are dating at college out of state). But letting parents have veto power, or insisting that every relationship be defined as "seeking marriage" or "just friends," can cause more problems. I think relationships should be a bit more organic and not be too bound by such strict rules.

    I like the idea of "intentional dating." I know I'm going to have some different advice for my kids when they start dating than what I got (which was next to nothing anyway). I certainly want to be told about my kids' relationships, but I don't want to demand that they fly every girl they take to dinner home to see me. And while I expect them to be chaste (and will give them a lot of tips in this regard!), I don't have a problem with them going out as a couple.

    Perhaps you should write a book I can give to my kids someday! ;) (I read Christian Courtship in an Oversexed World and really liked it, by the way. Definitely would recommend -- though I disagree with a couple things in it, like that 27 is the ideal age to get married.)

  2. "I think relationships should be a bit more organic and not be too bound by such strict rules." Yeah, that's a pretty good summary of this series. :-) Thanks for sharing your story and insights. In writing this, I've been thinking about what I want to teach Peter, but like so many other things, I don't think it's a one-time lesson. I think if I encourage him to bring friends home throughout childhood it will just seem natural to bring a girlfriend home, too. That's what happened for me, at least. And yeah, I should definitely write a book. Maybe I'll wait until after Christmas, though... :-) (And thanks for the recommendation!)