Courtship can be a wonderful season in the developing romantic relationship of any couple. Courtship is also an important period. It is worthy of a couple’s utmost consideration. A bad date can be quickly forgotten. It may cost you a little time, a little money, and perhaps a little annoyance. A bad courtship, however, will cost you a piece of your soul—your emotional and mental substance. Dating is observation. Courtship is involvement. Dating is time allotment; it is an end in itself. Courtship is directional; it is moving towards something. Dating has no strings attached. Courtship involves some mutual responsibility, more vulnerability, and a greater need for trust. Dating is marketing. Courtship is negotiating a potential sale to its close. A person once said to me, “What you are saying is that dating is casual and courtship is serious. I hadn’t thought of it in precisely those terms, but she was right. Unfortunately, in our society most people take dating seriously, and then they continue to date without really taking the idea of courtship seriously. Few people truly have a clear understanding about when they move from dating to courtship. Essentially for Yvethe and I, we went from being friends to courting, bypassing a lot of the negatives and got all the positives of dating. We are recommending the principles of what we did to everyone, even though the way you meet and what God may direct you to do may be quite different.
Courtship is the time when you begin to date one person exclusively, frequently, and with the purpose of determining if this is the person with whom you truly want to spend the rest of your life. Courtship begins with a decision to date only one person and ends in a formal engagement or a definitive dissolution of the relationship. In other words, the end of courtship is either an engagement or a breakup. A good courtship can be exhilarating and joyful. A courtship that is conducted poorly or ends badly can leave a person feeling bitter, angry, frustrated, disappointed, discouraged, and even depressed. Therefore let’s do courtship right!
Perhaps the appropriate word to describe a good courtship is growth. A couple should experience a growing together in closeness, a growing passion, and a growing identity of “us.” Courtship is not only allowing, but also cultivating the growth of a relationship. The word courtship comes from an Elizabethan era in which the ladies of the court were wooed and won by knights and lords of the court through the process of frequent visitation, attention, gifts and compliments. A man generally asked a woman’s father for permission to court his daughter, which implied that the man seriously and openly desired to pursue the possibility of marriage. In saying “yes” to a courtship proposal, the father was granting the man permission to visit his daughter, give her gifts, accompany her to formally to social events, etc. The two young people were rarely left alone, but perhaps were allowed to sit on the porch swing and talk, take walks together in the neighborhood, and perhaps even go on chaperoned buggy rides. In our world today, courtship is likely to be thought of as “going steady.” Even though the social norms have changed, a good courtship still should be couched in extreme courtesy and respect. It should be marked by sexual purity. Before you begin to date a person, you should have carefully evaluated that person’s character. Dating gives you further opportunity to get to know the person from the inside out. Courtship is the time for evaluating consistency and for deepening communication.
We’ve all known couples who were on again, off again in their relationship. If such a couple ends up at a marriage ceremony, those who witness the event and have known the couple for a period of time are likely to think, “This is an upswing. A downswing is sure to follow.” They may even be taking bets with their other friends about how long the honeymoon bliss will last. I have met and counseled couples who are worn out from their dating highs and lows, and then they have erroneously concluded, “We don’t seem to be doing very well in dating. Let’s get married.” That’s like saying, “I can’t bench-press seventy pounds, so let’s stack three hundred pounds on the bar.” Trust me—if you can’t get along with a person for a few hours a day, four or five times a week, you surely aren’t going to be able to get along with that person seven days a week for the next fifty years! There should be an easiness of compatibility in your dating relationship as you move into courtship. There should be a growing easiness in your relationship the longer you court. Don’t continue to add layer upon layer of time and commitment to something that does not have a solid foundation. Always provide a second chance but if there isn’t any change and you have been clear, it may be time to move on.