Courtship isn’t just for conservatives …
If you’re tired of dating, have you considered courtship?
It’s difficult to define, but the essential difference between courting and dating lies in their purposes: people date for various reasons, but people court only under the assumption that they will marry.
And despite its old-fashioned connotations, courting is still widely practiced today — especially in religious circles. Even if you’re not religious, courtship guidelines offer solid advice to the modern daters among us.
Here are five guidelines — find out how they apply to your dating life and whether or not you’re in for a full-court press:
1. Only Court One Person At A Time.
There’s no “shopping around” once you start courting. The “what are we” talk may even occur date one. This initial commitment is meant to provide the freedom to love each other fully without being afraid that the other person will start considering other partners. Of course, this doesn’t mean all courtships end in marriage, as reality dictates that some things simply aren’t meant to be. It just means that people enter into courtships for the purpose of a serious, future-focused relationship.
Apply this: Be honest and direct about your intentions when you start dating someone. Looking for a rebound? Say so. Want a long-term relationship? Make that clear. Likewise, be honest with yourself. If you want to settle down, don’t feel uncomfortable passing on a man who’s sweet and charming but a total commitment-phobe.
2. The Man Pursues The Woman
While this practice varies from community to community, most groups that favor courtship also favor a more traditional method of wooing. The man initiates the friendship, the “talk”, and even approaches his and the woman’s parents for their blessing.
Apply this: If you’re a woman eager to let the man take the lead, by all means, let him! For those who prefer an equal-opportunity approach to dating, try letting him pay now and then (or at least hold the door for you) without being deeply offended. Many men like to feel they’re leading the way, even if you know you secretly have the upper-hand.
3. Family And Community Are Central
Courtships are always conducted publicly, and with the approval of both parties’ parents. Oftentimes, the man will ask the woman’s father for his approval before the courtship officially begins. In more conservative circles, pastors and parents act as matchmakers. The goal is for the family to help the man and woman stay accountable for their level of commitment to each other. So, Mom and Dad are allowed to counsel their son if they feel he is compromising the woman in any way.
Apply this: Sometimes your mother does actually know what’s good for you. Don’t dismiss advice from your elders — relationships haven’t changed all that much in the past few decades.
4. Group Activities Are Encouraged
Nowadays, one-on-one date nights are basic protocol for people in relationships. While the same applies to many courting couples, traditional courtship encourages group dates before private time. The goal is to help the couple get to know each other on a friendship level before becoming romantic. The presence of others also helps limit opportunities for sexual activity, which bring us to the next point …
Apply this: Starting a relationship with someone doesn’t have to mean you automatically spend long hours gazing at and whispering sweet nothings to each other. Lighten up in the early phases of dating! Get to know each other better first as friends before going deeper. There’s a reason adages like “slow and steady wins the race” abound.
5. Commitment Precedes Intimacy
Courting couples wait until the wedding night to have sex. Although non-religious dating culture upholds the importance of discovering sexual compatibility prior to marriage, couples who court believe that true commitment means learning to be sexually compatible after marriage, even if it doesn’t happen right away.
Apply this: Without going so far as to stave off sex until the wedding night, many new relationships could benefit from prolonging the first roll in the hay. While you’re busy figuring out if you can tolerate his differing political views and whether or not he’ll change his mind about wanting kids, sometimes it’s easier to remove the sexual distraction from the equation until you know the relationship’s a keeper.
To those comfortable with dating, courtship may sound like an antiquated, even foreign practice incompatible with contemporary norms of sex and relationships.
To courting fans, however, the practice is less about rules and regulations, and more about emphasizing selflessness, friendship and commitment, and diminishing the use of romantic partners for sexual and emotional indulgence.