I Kissed Courtship Goodbye

2 posts in this topic

Original article by Reagan Ramm | Sep 14, 2013 

The title of this blog post may come as a surprise to many of you, considering I wrote a five-part series on why I believe in courtship over dating. Well, I’m here to tell you that I was wrong. I have tried dating, and it’s awesome!!!
Actually no, that’s not what happened. Everything I said in my courtship series still holds true.
Let me explain. During my series on courtship and dating, I mentioned that I believed even betrothal was better than dating. “I also want to be clear that I don’t think courtship is necessarily for everyone, but I think it should be the go-to method, rather than dating. There are certainly other tried and true methods for finding a spouse. Betrothal is one example. Before you start choking on your scoffing, betrothal has worked for centuries and still works today. In ideal circumstances, I think betrothal is actually much better than dating. I could say more, but that would be beyond the scope of this article.” – Dating Part 3: Courtship – What is it?
I was planning on writing this blog post to explain why I think even betrothal is better than dating (but not as good as courtship), but this post did not go as planned.
I did a little research on betrothal to get a better understanding, and during my search, I came upon an interesting article. According to the definitions presented in this article, I probably actually believe in something closer to betrothal than courtship after all.
Below is a description of courtship presented in the article:

Courtship is much more conservative than dating, and almost always mandates the blessing of the parents. The young couple usually meets at the parents’ home, or with a group. There is little physical contact, and usually you would never court anyone who wouldn’t be a serious candidate for marriage. Courtship is considered the interim between just being friends, and being engaged. During the courtship stage, the family tries to determine whether the relationship should progress into an engagement. The parents are usually heavily involved with each stage and often have complete say as to when and if the relationship moves into engagement.Courting means “wooing, or seeking the affections of another person.” One dictionary even uses the term “flattery.” Unfortunately, if you are trying to gain someone’s favor (as you do in courting and dating), you may put on a false front, and not really act in a normal way. Therefore, couples who have no commitment for marriage, often have a difficult time getting to know the true personality of the person they are courting. This provides many surprises after the honeymoon has ended!I know many young couples who have been brought together, by the Lord, through courtship (or even dating for that matter). I don’t want to imply that their relationships aren’t legitimate or God-ordained. God can choose to bring two people together using any one of these options, but some are more risky processes than others. – Israel Wayne

I don’t believe there should be any “wooing” or “flattery” in courtship. That fell into my definition of dating. However, if this is really how courtship is being done, then I don’t agree with it. Interestingly enough, thinking of courtship according to this definition suddenly brings clarity.
I know several homeschooling Christian families who say they believe in courtship, yet when they actually start to go through the process, what they practice more resembles dating than courtship. The courting pair enter an exclusive relationship before one or both are ready for marriage, or they talk with a lack of structure, or interact by doing “fun” events, which don’t help make the question of marriage any clearer. Perhaps, though, I am wrong. Maybe they really are doing courtship, and what I thought of as courtship was really betrothal.
The article I quoted above went on to describe betrothal, which I copied below:

In a betrothal model, there is no intermediate courtship stage. There is friendship and then there is betrothal or engagement. The two young people initially get to know each other as friends, in a non-romantic setting. They may do this at family get-togethers, or in church or group functions. Ideally, in a betrothal setting, a young man will evaluate a potential wife based on an objective set of Biblical standards and criteria, and if he feels God wants him to marry a certain young woman, he submits this idea to his parents.If his parents affirm that he should propose to a certain young lady, he then talks to her father. You may have heard the archaic term “pledging your troth.” It sounds funny, but it means that you are pledging your “loyalty, faithfulness and devotion.” Thus the young man makes a binding commitment to the young woman, and pledges to be faithful to her as long as they both shall live. If the father rejects the young man’s offer, the young man should have the integrity to move on with his life, and not hurt the emotions of the young lady. She should never know he has even proposed.

If the young woman’s father feels that this young man is the one who should marry his daughter, he and his wife talk to their daughter, and the decision is left with her. Her reply to the young man must be one that is approached with sobriety and prayer. If she says no, the father tells the young man, and he respects the young lady’s wishes. (A betrothal is not in any way a prearranged marriage which leaves the young people with no choice in the matter of who they marry. Even the Biblical Rebekah was asked if she would go away and marry Isaac. The decision was hers.) If she is in agreement, they become betrothed, or engaged, and set a date for the wedding.During the betrothal stage, they have the freedom to become emotionally bonded with each other, since both have committed to marriage. Betrothal is similar to courtship in that it insists that the young people must avoid inordinate physical contact. In fact, my wife and I kissed for the first time at the wedding altar.In Biblical times, a betrothal was legally binding and in order to break off a betrothal the young man had to give his betrothed a certificate of divorce. They were considered legally bound and committed to marriage. – Israel Wayne

I like this description of betrothal. It’s serious, safe, and responsible. This is how I would go about courtship if/when I do. I definitely think there should be “criteria” that your spouse must meet in order to be considered—the most essential characteristics–but meeting everything on the “list” does not necessarily mean marriage is right. There are other considerations that must be made, such as personality, desires, and if the potential husband’s vision is one the potential wife can follow.
This definition of betrothal also dispels the major myth of betrothal: you have to marry a complete stranger whether you like them or not. According to the above model of betrothal, this is clearly not the case. The young man and woman are friends first. By being friends in a non-romantic setting…you are likely going to have an accurate understanding of compatibility (or lack thereof.) By interacting, you can see if your personalities mesh or clash. You’ll find out if you have differing beliefs or not. So if the young man and women are both mature Christians and would make good spouses and parents…then there is really no reason to have a long drawn out courtship. Indeed, there may not even be a need for a courtship at all—or rather—the courtship would only exist to help further prepare the couple for marriage, but they are already committed to each other. By following the betrothal method, you will know—or at least have a pretty good idea—that the two of you are a good match (if not then some extra time can be taken to discuss possible problems, whether they be differing beliefs or personality faults). From that point, it’s just a matter of establishing an emotional connection, which in my experience, isn’t hard to form if you have the same beliefs, and personalities that mesh.
Another way betrothal seems to differ from courtship is that you MUST be ready to marry to be able to be betrothed. In my courtship/dating series, I highlighted readiness for marriage as a must in order to court; however, I have witnessed others who support the courtship model begin courtships before either one or both of the young people are ready to marry. So either these families really don’t believe in or courtship, or I actually believe in betrothal.

It’s too hard to know if a young man and woman are compatible before they are ready to marry. They’re both going to change, so there is no reason to even start a romantic relationship. They may think they are compatible, but in a few years they may not be, or the reverse could also be true. Of course, the circumstances of individual cases will always result in exceptions to the rule, but in general, it doesn’t make sense to start a romantic relationship unless both the man and woman are ready to marry. Since it seems betrothal is the only system that actually holds this up as a key facet, I must actually believe in betrothal.

Betrothal is clearly better than dating. Physical contact is limited and even non-existent in betrothal, whereas physical contact is a key aspect of dating, and it seems even many courtship followers accept some forms of physical contact and affection. Betrothal doesn’t mess around, so losing your purity, either physical or emotional, is unlikely. Betrothal is a serious commitment, which should weed out anyone who isn’t seriously considering marriage. Betrothal shouldn’t drag on for years, which also results in a safer and less emotionally difficult situation. The young woman is protected, and it’s the young man who must take the risk, which promotes leadership on the part of the man going forward in the relationship. All of these aspects of betrothal I described as courtship in my previous blog series, but it seems I was actually describing betrothal.
Before you start listing all kinds of ways betrothal would never work, please understand that I acknowledge exceptions will exist, and betrothal isn’t realistic for everyone (I’m sure you can think of some scenarios where betrothal would be unrealistic). It’s not the only way, though I do believe betrothal (or courtship, whatever you want to call it) is the safest way to go.  

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