Institute in Basic Life Principles

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How is courtship different than dating?

What Is Courtship?
understand how courtship differs from dating

Courtship is a relationship between a man and a woman in which they seek to determine if it is God’s will for them to marry each other. Under the protection, guidance, and blessing of parents or mentors, the couple concentrates on developing a deep friendship that could lead to marriage, as they discern their readiness for marriage and God’s timing for their marriage. (See Proverbs 3:5–7.)

Courtship is a choice to avoid temptation and experience the blessings of purity. It is a choice to not emotionally give away your heart, piece by piece, to many others through casual dating relationships and instead to give your whole heart to your life partner.

It is a choice to wait for God’s best, for His glory. It is a decision to walk by faith, to trust in God, to honor others above yourself, and to believe that God will deal bountifully with you, because He is love. (See II Corinthians 5:7, Psalm 9:10, Romans 12:10, Psalm 13, and I John 4:8.)

Because each individual, family, and set of circumstances is unique, each courtship will be unique. While those who choose courtship will hold to general guidelines for the relationship, their specific choices about when, where, and how to court may differ according to their needs and circumstances.

If, during the courtship, one or both parties realize that marriage is not God’s will and they end the relationship, the courtship has not failed. On the contrary, the courtship was successful, because God gave the direction that was sought through it.

Although the termination of a courtship most likely will be painful, damage and hurt—which can lead to bitterness—can be avoided. Both parties, as well as their families and all the people who love them, should continue to trust in the Lord and accept the grace He gives to deal with any disappointment or unfulfilled hopes. (See Romans 5:1–5.)

“Let love be without dissimulation [be sincere]. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another” (Romans 12:9–10).

The Difference Between Dating and Courtship

Purpose of the Relationship

The main difference between dating and courtship involves the goals to be reached by spending time with a potential marriage partner. Men and women who choose to date often have no commitment to consider marrying the other person. Maturity and readiness for marriage are not considerations in the decision to date. Instead, couples usually date with the selfish goals of having fun and enjoying romantic attachments.

In contrast, courtship is undertaken only when both parties are prepared to make a commitment to marriage. Dating tries to answer the question, How can I find the one who will make me happy? Courtship strives to answer the question, How can I honor God and discern His direction regarding my life partner?

Accountability to Authorities

In a dating relationship, there is little if any accountability for the couple and little or no interaction with family members. The dating couple is merely attracted to one another in some way and often pursues an exclusive relationship that is independent of others’ influence or counsel. Since the boundaries of the relationship are self-determined, the couple may easily succumb to temptation and fail to consider their responsibility to honor each other in purity and genuine love.

A couple participating in courtship seeks the accountability of their parents or other mentors. As they establish guidelines for their relationship, they can more easily recognize that God also holds them responsible to honor one another. Receiving God’s grace and the support of others strengthens them to maintain their commitment to purity.

Exposure to Temptation

In a dating relationship, self-gratification is normally the basis of the relationship. Instead of focusing on God’s pleasure, the couple is often looking for personal pleasure. This oblivious self-centeredness can lead only to dissatisfaction, promoting an attitude of lust (taking what I want) rather than the Scriptural attitude of love (giving unselfishly to others).

Consequently, dating opens the door to many temptations. If defrauding (stirring up desires that cannot be righteously satisfied) occurs, the couple can foolishly and tragically give away both emotional and physical affections that should have been reserved for a life partner. Thus, in a dating relationship, frequently intimacy precedes commitment.

A courting couple can evade numerous temptations by the choice to be held accountable to God-given authorities. The dangers of defrauding can be avoided more successfully, and an honest, open friendship can be nurtured and protected. Thus, in courtship, commitment precedes intimacy.

Focus on God’s Kingdom

Since one of the most important decisions we will make is the decision of marriage, we should make every effort to know and do God’s will in this area. A dating relationship is usually based only on what the dating couple presently knows about each other. In contrast, a Biblical courtship is based on what God knows about each partner and on His plans for their futures.

Jesus gave this instruction with a promise: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). When a person makes a growing relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ the foundation of all decisions—as he or she seeks God’s kingdom—God will provide all that is needed, including the marriage partner prepared by God just for that person. (See Proverbs 18:22, 19:14.)

For Further Study

Comments

Rebekah

The potential for a young person's heart to be broken, and for there to be great pain is there in a courtship just as it is in dating. There is a godly way to date without placing on the relationship all of the rules, regulations, and strains of courtship. When you only are allowed to get to know someone with your parents or a chaperone present, you get to know the Sunday best of the person. This is in many cases, a very dangerous practice disguised as a perfect formula for a happy and successful marriage. "A relationship between a man and a woman in which they seek to determine if it is God’s will for them to marry each other" puts marriage on the table when the couple have not yet committed to such an end. This is no different than dating when two people get too intimate too fast (I do not mean sexually) and give away a piece of their heart. I had to learn this the hard way. I am now married to a wonderful Christian man and we have 4 children. We dated and honored God in our relationship and listened to his direction throughout. Our parent's approved, but after both of us went through failed courtships that left us emotionally disheveled, they decided to trust us and let us seek God together and individually as to how we would like to conduct our relationship. We had no chaperones on many dates, we knew our convictions and if temptation came up (If and when, temptation is not constant, as courtship would have you believe), we turned to the Lord. We have been married 9 years tomorrow. Courtship does not fail every time, but when it does, it can be just as harmful as dating that is done the wrong way. I look back now and I am thankful for my heartbreak, it helped me learn what love is and is not. Always being afraid of, and being sheltered from getting hurt leads to being so cautious that you never learn anything by experience, and to missing out on walking closely with the Lord through the trying time and learning from Him. I thank God for my husband and children every day, who I would not have if not for my parent's seeing the flaws in courtship and trusting their daughter to stand in her own relationship and convictions with the Lord.

Patricia

Thank God for his word of truth, all the answers we need concerning anything in life is found on the living word of God.

Elizabeth

This is realy good, and good to know. Now I will know how to handle things differently.

Alejandra

Cited

Mrs. Warren

Thank you for having this available to share. It is well written and helpful!

Tricia

Thank you for the knowledge collected hear I have now finished making the decision to courtship instead of dating I'm tired of breaking my heart for boys that don't deserve it I will wait for god to tell me.

Constance

Thanks for the article a real eye opener I recently started online dating Thank God I haven't met with any of the guys.

Just Me

I find these guidelines to be reasonable. They are not rules or restrictions unless you make them to be such. the point is to make finding the best partner in marriage for you a spiritually and emotionally safe process without undue pain. The key here is in creating a safe environment for the relationship to be balanced and healthy while developing. It seems that people who conscientiously consider marriage inevitably come face to face with these guidelines at some point. However, the sooner the better in my estimation. No method is a one size fits all in finding a marriage partner, except listening to and obeying the voice of God concerning his will for a person. With that said, these guidelines can be safely followed by one who is seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, no matter if they choose to use all or some of the points given. Not all apply to every person's situation. Yet letting God lead will always take you to the right choice for the fulfilment of his will. married or not.

KImberli Crawford

I wanted to thank you for this site. My story is long but I'll try to make it short. I met my husband and his wife of 20 years had passed away almost a year before. I had been in one horrible wrong relationship after another. Neither of us wanted to go wrong but didn't quite now how to go about things. I started looking up some things on courting and your site was awesome. You guys are giving scripture and giving pros and cons of dating bs marriage. I love it! I wish young people would grasp this concept and guard their hearts! My husband and I courted for about 6 weeks, we clearly were ready for marriage but didn't wanna get caught up in the emotions and miss Gods motion! I fully believe dating is for mating, courting is for marriage and I have a love that I never dreamed possible! I praise God for my husband, band thank you for being a guiding light! Love in Christ, Kimberli Crawford

KASOKA STEPHEN

that is a very encouraging message, i love it, may you countinue with the same spirit. as youth of today we need such kind of messages for us to grow in our christianity and it is also very vital for us to to find God given patterners.

Bright Seyram

Interesting and cogent argument . It all balls down to faith and optimism. Courting couples should remember that love, prayer, patience, honesty, and commitment are the very relevant . Hence couples should be open to share their thoughts and avoid intimacy as courtship is the period set aside so as you know yourselves better.

T Malone

This is a excellent article. Very well thought out. My wife and I have been involved with Marriage ministry for over 18 years. We have seen the good, bad and ugly of marital relationships. Throught much study, teaching, prayer, experience and revelation. I have connected the destruction of the family(ie: marriage) to the practice of dating by our society. I always believed, if you don't know the purpose of a thing, abuse is inevitable. The purpose of courting is to discover if this person is someone you could build a life with. There are three questions to ask yourself. 1. Are you compatible, 2. Are you going in the same direction, and 3. Are you both Believers(about at the same spiritual level). This is called being evenly yoked. If any of the three are no, then as a believer, you are really wasting your time. At least for now. Things could always change. Now if theses three are all yes, then if you chose to proceed then boundaries need to be set. Courtship or a variation of it creates accountability and an experience. Where dating typically leads to isolation and unresolved issues, due to the lack of accountability. In our culture today, people hate authority and accountability. Which has led to (at least in marriage) a very high divorce rate. Over 55% of all marriages end in divorce(believers or non believers). Lets walk through a scenerio which may explain one reason why. Many women and men see the potential in a person, fall in love (per say) and marry that potential. The problem for the woman is that a man without purpose can lead you no where. Her expection is for him to provide, financially, physically and emotionally. Yet, right now, he is providing very little in these catagories. Soon, the helper instinct takes over for the woman. She begins to try and help the man in his roles as a husband. Over time the weight become to much to bear. It was never intended for her to carry it in the first place. So, over much time, his potential never turns into purpose or due to it taking longer than expected. The women becomes tired, frustrated, weary, angry and soon resentful. By this time, she looses respect and hope that he will change. She never gives him the respect he desires and in turn never recieves the loves she truly needs from him. This begins the downward spiral toward divorce. Unfornately, the people that get hurt the most are the children. This becomes the example set in the home for generations to follow. Dating multiple people over many years creates numerous unsolves issues. When those issues pop up in a marriage, the solution to get a divorce rises quickly. Why, you have been practicing divorce for years. You call it dating. In and out of relationships, not realizing the damage spiritually, physically and emotionally. Courting eliminates so much of that. Trust God in all things. He is Faithful.

James

I'm glad to see the difference between courtship and dating spelled out. I do want my parents and my partner's parents to be heavily involved in my relationship. Courtship is the way people used to always do it, before our Twentieth Century convenience and consumer culture came along. People who say courtship is flawed do not understand history. Yes there is the potential for your heart to be broken, but so is life. I would rather be upset over a terminated courtship than violate my purity in dating.

milinda

Aren't we all looking for a marriage partner at some point in our lives? Of course I'm praying over this and seeking God's guidance for my life. I want to choose someone who will be a good role model for my son. I want to choose a good Godly man.

Joel

This is one of the most balanced approach to the subject of pre-marital relationships. The damage that dating is bringing to young people is quite tremendous and devastating. I think to help people one should not persuade people to do what is exceptional for them. Rebecca's experience must be considered unique; and it should not be taken as a reliable guideline. This article presents a workable principle for the success and safety of young people as they seek to allow God to guide them in this matter.

Dad

We seem to be even losing dating. I see couples go on one date before it denigrates into just hanging out. I'm not talking about the world; this is frequent amongst Christian youth with good parents. Marriage is the chief decision you'll ever make. Youth go slower and more deliberately when choosing a college. Your soul is fragile and untried at this point in life. You don't just reach dating age and get let go. Many are determining mates before they even have the ability to be self-sufficient. Crazy.

Albert Martin

"Marital intent."

Courtship is only entered in once both individuals feel fully mature and ready to take on the responsibility of marriage. The sole motivation for the relationship is discovering whether or not this is the one God has for you to marry.

Thanks
~Albert

Stanley

This is a blessed message and should be considered important. It's content are raw facts which are visible to every eye that is open in this present world. Trying to kick against the principles contained in the information above, may land someone in darkness and gloom. If two parties have intentions to tread the path of marriage, what is wrong if their parents and mentors get to know about it? Exposing their intentions to parents and mentors, shows their commitment to each other, and the willingness to be properly guided for the best decisions at the end. The place of FATHERS cannot be over emphasized because, fathers are feathers upon which people fly. Any interraction or relationship that does not recognize the place of parents, is questionable; and that often happens when the parties are dating, not courting.

Anonymous

Thank you!

Chica

I was just looking for a biblical article that explains the difference between dating and courtship and stumbled upon this site. I love this article, actually makes me want to cry because it's so beautifully written and articulates what has been in my heart but I couldn't put into words. Having experienced the dating scene and been deeply traumatised by my past experience with failed relationships , I deeply desire a wholesome relationship and my spirit has been leading me to court instead even though I didn't really know the full meaning. This all makes sense now. My focus is a Godly marriage and the foundation of the relationship establishes the direction of the marriage so it's important how we enter into it in the first place. Thanks for writing this article.

Ben

So I'm new to the Christian life ... when do people meet just to determine if they even like each other??? Maybe one day God will bless me in a marriage and that would be incredible but I would hope just meeting a few times would help to determine if both were interested to "court" ...just curious ... thank you

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