Monday, May 16, 2011

not my usual type of post. . .

So basically, I've been thinking a lot lately about the whole 'courting not dating' thing among conservative Christians, and I'm sort of curious.

Why exactly is it bad to have a boyfriend/girlfriend before you're ready to get married?

I'm not asking because I'm planning to get a boyfriend anytime soon. Or because I would like to get a boyfriend before I'm ready to get married.

Obviously, I believe you should stay completely pure before you're ready to get married.

But in some ways, if it's not an impure relationship, how is it any different than just a different type of friend?

I'm not even asking this because I think it's ok. I'm just wondering why people feel this way. Why do you think it's wrong to date if you're not ready for marriage?

I know that of course if it's like most romantic relationships in this world, it ends up being impure, etc., and of course that's obvious to me why you shouldn't do it.

But if it's just a different kind of friend, and nothing ever comes of it, is it still wrong?

The more I write about it the more ridiculous it sounds to even be wondering this, but I still want to know what people think. If you have a reason, do you have biblical grounds for it?




  1. I'm not sure a blog is the easiest place to discuss this, but I'll tell you my thoughts nonetheless.

    I think a lot of the courtship camp has gone over the edge in trying to differentiate themselves from "dating." In my understanding it more or less began as a reaction against the "dating" which was happening as a recreational activity and the dishonesty and impropriety practiced by many young people in high school. By "dating" they meant men and women enjoying the attraction and belonging they felt without any intention of getting married.
    However, in reacting against that I believe some of the later followers in that tradition didn't realize what the original objections were against and so took things even further than originally intended.

    All that to say I think there is a perfectly legitimate form of "dating" that is very healthy for men and women to engage in if they are in a position to be able to marry in the next few years.
    I have a feeling that those who put themselves in the "courting" camp would praise a film such as Pride and Prejudice, but the relationship between Elizabeth and Darcy, and Jane and Bingly would be considered a dating one by many Christians today.
    The culmination of the relationship was contingent upon the approval of the Elizabeth's Father, but the relationship leading up to that was entirely between Elizabeth and Darcy. I'm not saying that there should be no interaction between the couple and her father, in fact I think it is healthy for the couple to interact extensively with both of their families. However, the guy needs to remember that his primary responsibility is to win the girl's approval.

    What can be lost sometimes with the courtship model is the thinking that the guy even has to work very hard to win the girl's affections. I see the courtship model as dangerous in that respect as it tends to leave the guys thinking they must only impress her parents before he can secure her. That's going back to arranged marriages, which some men and parents may want, but most girls don't.

    I'm very much in favor of a form of dating. This form includes interaction with the girl's family once a mutual interest has been secured, but not forgetting that ultimately this relationship will be between a guy and a girl.
    I believe that with more of a "dating" approach it can make things more relaxed, so that a relationship is free to develop, but there's not pressure to make things serious from the first time you attend an event together.

    I believe the courtship lacks a substantial category for relationships between young men and women. It seems to leave little room for good friendships between the opposite sexes which are then free to turn into more serious marriage minded relationships. I think "dating" allows for that category which does and should exist better than most "courtship" models.

    I don't mind the word courtship, but I see it get abused so much that I'm now hesitant of using it myself. It seems as though it is often used as a synonym for arranged marriages. I believe many of the courtship models presented today do not take into account the complexities of the whole process and present unattainable (and in some cases undesirable) ideals, in this fluid organic relationship between men and women.

    There's a few cents, I could say more, but will probably wait until there is a request to flesh out some of those ideas which may have been presented unclearly.

  2. Hey Londa,
    This is a tough subject. I think it really comes down to your definition of "dating." For me, dating is a more casual way of finding a spouse than courting. Way back when people didn't date but courted, their intent was to find a spouse. It was a serious relationship that usually ended in marriage. But these days, people don't want to commit to anything, so they date. If the relationship they are in gets rough or they find someone else they like, they think they can just end the relationship. It's all about their comfort and happiness, not being committed and faithful to the other person, even when times get rough. But that's the world's way of dating. It's really just up to you! But you need to make sure that you aren't going into the relationship thinking,"If this doesn't work out, we can just break up!" I think whether a Christian dates or courts, they need to be committed to the other person and not date just for fun, but with this in mind- "Does this person have the qualities I desire in a spouse?"
    Does that make any sense? I really got on a roll...Hope it helped! Also, you can try reading "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" by Joshua Harris. I'm reading it right now and it's pretty good. It talks about dating vs. courting. Phew! Sermon over. =)

  3. Dating and courting are equally absurd attempts at trying to define something that is ultimately beyond definition and should never have been squished into the box people attempt to cram it into.

    There's no shame in dating someone you like, and discovering through one reason or another that a future relationship is not for you, however much you may want it. There's pain in it; there's a lot of sadness. But there's no shame unless you have done something you shouldn't have done, and then it doesn't matter if you do get into a future relationship or not because the sin was committed and there's no wiping that out by your own actions.

    Having a boyfriend or girlfriend, even from a fairly young age, with the knowledge that you want to stay together forever is certainly commendable, if often found to be infrequently carried to fruition. Dating is fun, going to places and talking, or laughing; hanging out at the movies, or at fancy restaurants; changing a flat tire in the rain, or being carried through a mud puddle at eleven o'clock at night trying to make it home for curfew. Dating is holding hands on a December evening as you walk through the snow looking at the Christmas decorations up everywhere. That's what dating means if you're doing it right.

    Courting is talking to parents, sitting around with chaperones, and having deep theological discussions about getting married. It ruins the fun, and there's no sin in fun. (Some sin might masquerade itself as fun, but for fun in itself, no prohibition is to be found in the Bible.)

    The main thing with having a boyfriend or girlfriend that you don't marry is sharing things with them that you would rather share only with one person, secrets, and smiles, and laughter, and living the rest of your life with the knowledge that whoever you are to spend the rest of your life with will never have those same smiles, those same secrets, because you can't repeat your life like that. It may be fun while it lasts, but if you aren't careful, you'll end up feeling used, or feeling like you used someone else.

    We shouldn't even use the terms dating and courting in contrast or comparison; maybe we shouldn't use them at all. That's my wise opinion on the subject anyway.

  4. Courtship seeks to prevent hearts broken by jumping from relationship to relationship. The theory is to involve the families, particularly the girl's father, so that candidates can be "preapproved". There are some good ideas, but sometimes they become extreme. What of the man that has jumped through countless loopholes, and spent months talking with her dad, only to discover that she has no desire to marry him? That time is wasted, for both parties. Yet dating can go to the other extreme, where two people form an attachment first, and then seek approval - what if the girl falls in love with a bum? My own view has changed over the years as I've been an observer of the process, and where I stand now, I would agree with Isaiah.

    You aren't going to find a verse that tells you whether to date or court, or how old you should be. Can you be friends with guys without it being a romantic relationship? Absolutely. Can a platonic relationship turn into something more down the road? Absolutely. It works both ways. I think guys and girls can and should be friends with each other, though obviously with certain boundaries. Sometimes it isn't until you become friends that you discover the true character of someone, and you realize that even though you didn't see it right away, that this is the person you want to spend the rest of your life with. But no matter what you do, courtship or dating, your heart is able to be broken. Because sometimes you will love without being loved in return. And it will hurt. As girls, it is easy for us to become emotionally attached, to become deeply connected to another, so we have to guard ourselves.

    Different people have different ideas of when one is ready to date. Is dating prematurely wrong? I think it would be wrong to make those deep, emotional connections to other guys that I would have no chance of marrying. I, personally, wouldn't want to needlessly create excess baggage to carry into a marriage. Like I said, I think you can be "just friends", but I would want to avoid romantic relationships, or intentional friendships, before I was ready to marry. It's easy when the guy friends are fun to be around, dedicated christians, and provide godly encouragement, but you know you would drive each other insane if you were married. Now when it is someone you actually would consider, that's when things can get complicated. Not even going there. ;)

    Yeah, that was more than two cents worth of my disconnected ideas, but hopefully answers at least one of your questions. ;)

  5. I agree with Siah. (I'm guessing your name is really Josiah) You can't really over-think these things. You just pray that God will give you wisdom.
    Anyway, one thing that I've learned from experience is that you shouldn't start to date someone while thinking "Well, this person is pretty nice, funny, and good-looking...I think I'll give it a shot, maybe it will lead to marriage." You should make friends with the person first. After getting to know them, you'll know if that romantic feeling you had for them was something legit, or just puppy love. Oh yes, I am quite the philosopher. ;) I think dating is perfectly alright if the people involved are down-to-earth and put God first. Hope this helped at least a little.

  6. thank you, everyone! you gave me what I wanted: a variety of opinions.

    Mostly my reasons for writing this and/or thinking this is because I get easily sick of stereo types. I don't like the dating stereo type and I don't like the courting stereo type. It is so individual, that it seems really rather silly to me to make up hypothetical rules. I personally, am not interested in dating right now, partly because I've been brought up that way, but mostly because I'm just not interested. Frankly, for me, I'm not really interested in getting involved in a romantic relationship unless I want to get married, but I'm not sure it's a sin to do so, and I haven't found anything yet to show me that it is.

    Again, it is so individualized, I'm not sure I would even want to try to sort out my opinion. My biggest thing is wondering why people think it is or is not wrong to get involved romantically before you're married. Jess said that she personally wouldn't want the extra baggage; that's perfectly understandable, and perfectly legit. But does that mean it's just a personal opinion? So if you're ok with that possibility than it's fine? Just wondering.

    Anyway, thanks again. And anyone else, feel free to comment! I would love more ideas and opinions.

  7. Reading over this, I think maybe we missed your original question, wondering why dating before one is ready for marriage would be wrong? I do think that recreational dating/getting romantically involved without the intention of marriage is wrong, and that is what dating before marriage-readiness is. You are involved with someone with no commitment. God created romance to be between a man and wife, not between guy and girl friends. Outside of marriage, it leads to promiscuity. Being intentional in our relationships is different. It is getting to know someone with the express purpose of discovering whether marriage would work. Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:22 "Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart."

    Actually, Pastor Nathan did an excellent job covering this topic in his courtship vs dating sermon: (!/note.php?note_id=99259274312&refid=21).

  8. I am very inclined to agree with you, Jess, that dating before being ready for marriage is wrong, but I still am wondering where you would get that from the Bible. What if it DIDN'T lead to anything impure, and it was just an innocent romantic relationship? I'm not interested in that necessarily, as I've said, but what grounds do we have to say it's wrong if it IS innocent and pure?

    Basically, I know the 'why' people have for not dating before being ready to get married. But I really don't know of a verse that says anything like that clearly.

  9. The verse often cited for that is what Jessica cited 2 Timothy 2:22 about fleeing youthful lust. The logic is that if you are involving yourself in a relationship that could progress to natural desires of physical and sexual intimacy, when that is not lawful, you are doing the opposite of fleeing lust, you are actually stepping as close to it as you can get.

    If someone is in no position to seriously consider marriage than those kinds of relationships can be wrong. Whether it is a man or woman who is already married or a single person who (for whatever reason) is not in a position to marry.

    The problem I have with the courtship camp is that they tend to think that their model can prevent broken hearts…That is very false. Broken hearts happen in any model. "Love" (or at least attraction) occurs between people who have barely seen each other and even the best courtship model can't prevent that desire springing up. Certainly the degree to which that relationship is taken can affect the hurt, but even love that is not expressed and then unreciprocated can hurt for years.

    There is a difference, however, between teenagers developing friendships that may eventually mature into marriage, so I think there can be no hard and fast rules laid down. The maturity levels of each person need to be considered on an individual by individual basis. It's a much more sensitive and delicate issue than many people tend to think.

    I think friendships between opposite sexes should be encouraged (with caution of course—but no more than any friendship between friendships of the same sexes). If you don't know anyone of the opposite sex interactions can be quite awkward, and of course marriage is rather difficult if you don't know anyone of the opposite sex. ; p
    A multitude of interactions with the opposite sex can also help you understand them better and not be so easily fooled by manipulative people who put up false pretenses.
    If we take the courtship model two strictly there is a danger of not really knowing the person before you commit to something like an engagement. There should be a period where you are free to get to know each other better, while still not making anything definite. That has a tendency to make things much more awkward. If going out to coffee together means that you are about to get engaged, that's very awkward and unhealthy and you won't be able to have those important conversations before engagement and you risk more broken-off engagements.

  10. Oh dear after reading through all these comments I think that each one has lots of important points. Firstly, about the dating vs. courtship, in my vast experiance :) (mostly things my older siblings Adam and Meg, Abby and ..., Joel and Megan has shown me) I think it all comes done to the goals of the realationship and legalism. It would seem that these titles are generally thought of as extremes which is not nessasarily the case. Courtship and dating can either be two ends of a spectrum or the two sides of a very fine line. The term courting has the conotations of parental guidence as a key part of the realationship whereas dating tends to be more of the couple's initiative. Adam and Meg carried out succesfully, godly dating and are now happily married. In their relationship, any proagitive to move their short friendship into a realationship and later towards marriage, was completely up to Adam. Our family knew about it but Adam made all the moves which included talking to her parents and our parents but focusing on Megan. And later with the engagment, Adam told us and asked for our opinions but did not rely on us to give our consent having already decided to carry it out( he already had bought the ring). He was constantly involving us but the whole relationship was on his shoulders and he made all the calls.
    Abby has expiranced both and in some of our long, deep, mignight conversations we have talked in depth about the pros and cons of each. In her opinion and the opinion I have come to agree with,(I don't know if her currant views are the same but I think they are)courtship sometimes blocks or cuts out very important emotional and and developmental (of the relationship) stages that are pretty important. In her expereance,the rush to ask the father's permission, a typical part of courtship, was cut out; a whole chapter of learning about what you feel and think about the other person. And as soon as you have asked the father there is a new finality and added pressure to force like and other emotions since now your *supposed to be with that person*. I do not think this is necessarily always how it is but in the diffreent courtships she has gone through this is what she noticed. Compared to dating which left it more up to the couple to decide they were ready to like each other.

    So the ideas in our family would probably call what we have done in most of the cases dating.

    Now back to your main question about the dating before marriage, I would say dating before marriage, depending on the people is not bad. Abby has said to me that she wished she had dated colledge because you can learn things that are improtant and that can only be learned through dating.
    It would make a huge diffrence depending on which poeple were invovled but it seems like if you were careful and seeking to remain upright before God (I hope I don't sound self righteous because I sincerely mean it) I think it could be a good thing. I can easily see how without proper supervision (in teenagers) things could be twisted in a bad way, but I would mostly say with proper guidence and family support it could be a good thing. Most teenager relationships have a sad reputation and survivers tend to be extreme in their sentiments toward it but in moderation many things are benefitial that are fatal in an over dose.

    The importance of it may not be outway the consequences of the wreckage should it crash so I can see why it might be skipped. But I am not against the idea. I guess so much depends on the different people involved that is hard to say absaloutly yes or no.