So what exactly is the difference between ‘Dating’ and ‘Courting’? According to Dictionary.com, the definition of the noun, ‘date’ is ‘a social appointment, engagement, or occasion arranged beforehand with another person,‘ but there is no definition for the verb ‘date’ other than for archaeological or historical purposes. According to the same website, ‘to court’ is ‘to seek another’s love; to woo.’
The term ‘dating’ alone implies a more casual, momentary pleasure with no foresight involved. In contrast, ‘courtship’ seems to involve more purpose and is driven by a goal: to win a young lady’s love.
Obviously, as with most things, our culture has naturally veered to a certain extent from the origins of these terms. Many people successfully date with purpose and intentions of marriage, rather than a passing thrill. In addition, there are many people recklessly going from relationship to relationship in the name of courtship. However, the mindsets that generally accompany these are indeed stereotypically opposed. According to a poll of married people, the average person dates approximately 24 people before they finally discover and marry ‘the one.’ I find this number to be astronomically high and rather alarming. If this is indeed true, the average person’s heart is shattered into more than 20 shards, leaving only one sliver for their eventual spouse. Obviously, we serve a healing and merciful God Who is very capable of mending hearts. However, if we are able to at least partially prevent such pain, why wouldn’t we?
Sadly, there are many courtships that end badly also, so what is the solution? I think one of the biggest problems in conservative, Christian circles is an obsession with slotting each relationship into the category of either ‘courtship’ or ‘dating.’ This leads to judgmental attitudes and often legalism. As many people have discovered, Courtship also has its own problems. Many couples have a false sense of security when in a courtship, believing because they are courting, their relationship will succeed and everything will end ‘happily ever after’ like the final chapters of a Jane Austen novel. Sadly, this is not always the case; following all the ‘right‘ steps and giving a relationship the name ‘courtship‘ is not heart insurance. I know of multiple courting couples whose relationships did not succeed, many of whom were heartbroken. This is not always due to something the couple did wrong; at times, such cases are often inevitable.
However, rather than strict formulas or haphazard, headlong dives into love, there is a fine balance that can indeed be hard to achieve. From observation and discussion with multiple people both in and having been in relationships, I’ve found some common themes that would be beneficial in a healthy relationship which I will share in my next article.