Courtship is an often misunderstood and mischaracterized method of pursuing marriage. It’s by no means an arranged marriage but it’s also not modern dating. Beauty is found in balance. However, just because it’s balanced doesn’t mean it’s easy. Choosing not to date is unusual and, like anything else that is ‘different’, comes with its fair share of criticism. I’ll admit, it was tough sometimes feeling like the only single girl home every Friday night. Watching every word I said, every thought I had and all of my actions being certain to be emotionally guarded and careful in all my interactions with guys throughout high school and beyond was sometimes mentally taxing (and I wasn’t always completely successful). It was no easier for my husband in his endeavors to pursue something better than dating, either. Now that we’re on the other side, however, we can attest to just how worth it every second was. Please understand I’m not attempting to toot our own horn or act as though we had it all together and did everything right, but I am going to use our relationship as a foundation for this discussion because it’s the one I know best. With that in mind, I’d like to detail the 6 reasons why we chose courtship.
One of the biggest purposes of courtship is to protect the heart of the young lady. The young man puts himself on the line by asking the father (or otherwise established Christian authority figure in her life) to court his daughter, but it’s also a safeguard for his heart as well. Yes, rejection hurts if he’s turned down, but it will hurt less coming from the father instead of the woman. It is a mutual protection in that it saves both parties an unnecessary emotional entanglement that would end in heartbreak. We were able to avoid relationships that weren’t “the one” before we got together because of this safeguard.
2. It begins with a solid foundation.
Our relationship began long before we started courting. Before romance ever entered the equation, we’d already established a solid friendship and a great respect for one another as people. As a matter of fact, I can remember a time when I didn’t yet believe him to be the one for me but I would freely admit that I respected him more than any young man I knew for who he was and the character he so obviously possessed. We spent time truly getting to know one another in no-pressure situations at church events or when he’d come over to spend time with my family.
Every step is thoroughly thought out and pre-planned. We were both very decisive from the beginning. There was no fooling with one another’s heart or “maybe it’ll go somewhere, maybe it won’t” moments. From the time he asked my father’s permission to court me, it was understood it was solely for the purpose of making sure we did in fact want to pursue marriage. As an example of just how serious and intentioned we were: We had been courting two days when we sat down to discuss our individual non-negotiables. We already knew one another’s stance on most all Biblical beliefs, so we discussed things like our current personal spiritual states in our relationship with God, our plan for how many children we’d each desire and how we’d want to raise them, our stance on finances and it was also when I took the opportunity to let him know of some medical issues I had that might affect our future together. That was after two days. If there was any reason whatsoever to not pursue this relationship any further, we wanted it on the table from the start so we could avoid any unnecessary heartbreak. After that point, I felt much more free to allow myself to grow more and more attached to him as we planned for our future together.
4. It didn’t depend solely upon our own wisdom or discernment.
Our families played a huge part in our courtship. They all had their say about our choice in one another. While we didn’t necessarily always agree with everything they had to say, their positions were factored into everything. They were also always there for and with us. That doesn’t mean they sat across the room and stared at us every moment, but they were always “around.” We were never alone. When you spend all your time around one another’s family and friends (people who know you better than anyone), it becomes much, much harder to put on a “nice guy/girl show,” a danger of traditional one-on-one dating.
As we discussed under the third point, we were very intentional and the biggest reason for that was to keep ourselves from becoming attached prematurely. We didn’t want to knit our hearts together only to tear them apart. If we weren’t meant to be together, we wanted our hearts to be as protected as possible for when the right man or woman did come along. Don’t our spouses (even if we don’t know who they are yet) deserve the best of us? This reason is also why we chose not to date before we were ready to pursue marriage in the first place. I’d also like to note here that Jack (my husband) didn’t know what courtship was when he made the decision not to date. He knew it didn’t make sense to date without intentions, but that was the extent of it. When he met my family and became interested in me, he set out to learn all about courtship so he could pursue me the way my family had established. It was yet another testament to his character. Yes, it’s true that few people practice courtship, but that doesn’t mean you can’t convert the right person to it. If you really set your heart on courting, the right man will pursue you at whatever the cost. If he refuses, he’s not worth it anyway.
We’ve actually had people tell us that courtship is a great option if you don’t have self-control. We respectfully disagree. In every other area of our life we go out of our way to avoid sin, so why is this different? If the strongest (Samson), the wisest (Solomon) and the godliest (David) men in the Bible weren’t able to resist sexual sin, what makes us think we’re so perfectly immune? Not everyone who dates throws his or her virginity to the wind, and I’m very certain we wouldn’t have either, but why test that? If I were a recovering alcoholic, I wouldn’t go into a bar. If I had a pornography problem, I’d set up filters and take all the precautions I could to overcome it. I’d be an absolute liar if I was to tell you that the hormones and passion don’t course through your veins at full force when you’re in love and heading towards marriage, knowing what’s waiting for you when you’re finally man and wife. The temptation is inevitable; the sin is not. The Bible tells us to flee sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18), not put ourselves in positions that could lead to it. No matter how passionate things may be or how strongly you may feel, you’re not going to mess up your purity when you don’t spend time alone. I’ve never known someone who chose to court who had regrets about their purity.
So there you have it, six simple reasons we chose to court. It was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made and we look forward to guiding our child(ren) into a successful courtship of their own someday, Lord willing.
By Anna Wilkie Dodgen
Anna and her husband, Jack, live in Texas where he serves as the Associate Minister for the Whitehouse church of Christ. Both of them are also team members of StrongChurch.org, an online ministry site. They’re extremely excited to welcome their first child this summer and Anna looks forward to being a stay-at-home mom.