Monday, November 8, 2010

Courting vs. Dating: Just What Does It All Mean?

There was a discussion the other day on the Facebook page about courting vs. dating and why each was the better option. A lot of people who were pro-dating and anti-courting seemed to have a few misguided ideas of what, exactly, courting is, and that could be why there were so against it. So let's first define our terms:

Courting is the idea that you meet someone that you're interested in a future with--marriage being the end goal. You pray about it, discuss it with your parents and/or pastor, and then discuss it with the parents of the person you want to court--asking permission. The Duggars show made it a bit confusing, they showed the beginning of the relationship between Josh and Anna as their engagement. This clearly was not their first meeting or their first time together. During the courting process you don't spend time alone, but with chaperones. However, you do get to talk on the phone privately and email.

Dating can be looked at many different ways. You can date many different people at once casually, you can date one person at a time more seriously, or both at the same time and marriage doesn't have to be the end goal--it can be just to have fun.

Michelle and Jim Bob describe their pre-marriage time together as dating. They weren't chaperoned. They did save themselves for marriage in a sexual way, but they do admit that things "went further than they should have" and that they did kiss before they married. We can only guess what they're referring to.

I think it's important to point out that the Duggar children are not required to go through the courtship process--it's a choice each child gets to make. In fact, when you watch the episode where Josh proposes, he goes out of his way to insist repeatedly that it was his choice to court rather than date. The older girls are also interviewed and express interest in courtship. However this was 3 seasons ago--or maybe 4 depending on how you count--it was season one. They are older and they've witnessed cousin Amy's different boyfriends and multitude of break-ups since then.

The pro-daters seem to see dating as a way to gain experience and learn what you want. I am not going to pretend that I didn't date--I did--a lot. I've been married three times and engaged even more. So I know the ins and outs of the dating ritual in many different forms. I will say this--if you're dating to learn what you want, you shouldn't be dating. Why? Because you clearly don't know yourself yet, if you don't know yourself, you shouldn't be dating other people--you aren't ready. Why would you want to be in a serious relationship with someone if you weren't headed towards marriage or a lifetime together? What's the point? Fun? You can have fun with friends, even friends of the opposite sex, without having to be in a serious relationship.

Not all experiences are good. In fact, I've had many unpleasant ones from dating and the baggage I brought into my marriage wasn't fair for my husband to have to carry. I dated an alcoholic who couldn't tell the truth to save his life. All those lies took their toll and it was very hard to trust when a good guy came along. That was not fair at all--and the only reason I was in that relationship was because I was letting my hormones do the thinking for me. And if you get a guy (or girl) who's verbally or physically abusive (G-d forbid) that takes years and lots of self-help and/or therapy to get over, if you ever do really get over it. That will also make it hard to trust when you move into a relationship with someone healthy and they end up paying the price for something someone else did you to.

Now where do I stand on this? I am all for parents being involved in the process of their kids dating. I don't think they should have the ultimate choice in who their kids date, but I think they should be present as a support system for their children. I think they should know what's going on and be able to talk to their kids about any problems or concerns raised when dating. I like that the Duggars are there for their kids. I personally couldn't abide by the strictness of courting, at least not when I was in my 30s and 40s. I probably could have handled it when I was a late teen or in my early 20s, but frankly, it never came up. I do wish my parents had said a few things about the men I married before my current husband, but when you aren't raised like that, you tend not to listen even if they do say something. I knew walking down the aisle that my first marriage was going to be a mistake, but I was more afraid of cancelling 5 minutes before the ceremony than I was of making the mistake--that's wrong.

I think both styles have their good points and their bad points. I do think it needs to be the choice of the participants, not their parents. No one should be forced into a way of thinking, taught about it sure, but not forced into it. Informed decisions are always a good idea.


  1. Thanks Hun, it never crossed my mind people didn't understand the difference between "dating" and "courting"...

  2. "There was a discussion the other day on the Facebook page about courting vs. dating and why each was the better option." Marybeth, can you please post a link to that page? Thank you!

  3. "I think both styles have their good points and their bad points."

    I agree completely. I get VERY offended when people say one is better than the other. Saying courtship will ensure a long marriage is a BIG slap in the face to people who dated and have been married for 20-30 years.

    My grandmother was not my grandfather's 1st love and yet they still found each other. Been married 50 years! I also have other friends and relatives who dated...and still are married with no "end" in sight.

    Some courtship relationships appear "shorter" than dating. On some blogs I've noticed couples start courting in Sept...and get engaged by Christmas. I see nothing wrong with this. It just seems so "rushed". But then again you hear about people getting married in Vegas after 1 date. Hehe ;)

    "No one should be forced into a way of thinking, taught about it sure, but not forced into it."

    So true. I believe the (older) Duggars will court when the time comes. They have already been exposed to it and might view it as something that's best for them. Yes Amy is dating and maybe she is having fun. Some people are not out to find a spouse right away. Of course that might be viewed as being "un-Godly".

    When Michelle is kissing JB, I seriously doubt if she is thinking about the "other" guys. They clearly LOVE each other to pieces. JB's dad kissed his mom on the "1st date" and she was with him til the day he died.

    Adults over 20 should not have a chaperon. G-d is a great chaperon. Of course this is just my opinion. ;)

  4. I do realize that "courting" is another word for "dating" in many instances...but the Duggars and those with similar beliefs have a specific definition of "courting."

    I think both paths have their valid points and their downfalls. I married my husband after 38 days...he proposed after 8 days and we married 30 days later...I knew I loved him and I knew we were compatible, but I didn't fall head over heels in love with him until we were on our honeymoon in Dublin...we were walking along the Liffy and I just had this feeling come over me...I knew I'd made the right choice and while we still have "getting to know you" issues sometimes, I have no doubt that we'll always be together...we're coming up on 5 years in Feb and that's a record for both of us! hahaha

  5. Jim Bob has said that Michelle did bring "baggage" into their relationship from her prior dating relationships...I'm sure as teenagers that was a given--but clearly they're past it and aren't looking back...but they do share that as a lesson for their kids.


  7. So this "baggage" is considered a bad thing??

    When courtships don't work out, is that considered "baggage"? I'm just trying to understand why baggage is viewed negatively.

    So Michelle brought baggage into the relationship. That didn't stop him from begging her dad to let him marry her.

    "but they do share that as a lesson for their kids"

    The fact that their parents are still madly in love...even after this "baggage" is a lesson I hope they have learned. Baggage can't be ALL bad. What do you all think?? :)

  8. obviously it was enough of an issue at the beginning of their relationship that he feels the need to still mention can get past things, it just depends on what it is...yes 'baggage' is a loose i said, i had a boyfriend that was an alcoholic and lied non-stop--so that made trust a difficult thing for me when i started courting my husband--it wasn't his fault, but i had trouble believing things he said, just because i was used to being lied in that case, it was a bad thing--i refused to believe he wanted to marry me until the ring was on my finger...and that wasn't fair, but i couldn't help it, all thanks to the previous douche i dated...

    usually baggage is deemed bad, otherwise they wouldn't call it baggage...but there are degrees...i doubt michelle was abused or beaten by a previous boyfriend, but my guess is she was a little "looser" than jim bob when it came to intimacy, before she became a born again christian...she probably went further with previous boyfriends than jim bob would have liked or than she went with jim bob before they got married...she speaks of her time as a cheerleader as if it was time in a whorehouse...but those are just guesses

    it's fabulous they've moved beyond it and are so happily in love--it is a great lesson for their kids, but i think their point is, why even tempt that kind of situation, the baggage situation, if you can avoid it altogether...i wish i had avoided it altogether...there are just some relationships that you wish you'd never entered into, and unfortunately, you can't take them back and pretend they never happened

  9. I am of the opinion that a little (and maybe even more than a little) of baggage (otherwise known as life experiences) is a good thing for most people. It's part of figuring out who you are, and who you ARE NOT. Part of figuring out who you are compatible with and who you are NOT.
    Part of figuring out where you want to be in five years and with who, and whether or not this one person is THE ONE.

    Marybeth, if you did not have your baggage... maybe you would not have recognized your current mate as the ONE.

    Parents should be supportive, and should regulate who you are seeing until you are of age, after that, they should just be supportive. My parents could never have picked out the right person for me, even now, when I have children of dating age myself. Nor do I want to pick out their mate either.

  10. i never said parents should have a say in picking your mate...i said they should be a support system for you when you're in the relationship--i wish my parents had told me BEFORE i married my first 2 husbands all their ill feelings about them instead of waiting to say when i got divorced "yeah we thought he was kind of an ass" would have been nice to have someone on the outside give me some input--this guy is mean, this guy isn't smart, etc...maybe i would have listened, maybe i wouldn't have, but knowing that someone cared enough to pay attention and be involved would have been mom knew the whole time i was with my ex that he was drinking too much and lying about everything but never bothered to tell me that breaking up was an option for me...

  11. Hello. I'm not sure where to post and have never posted on anyone's blog before, but I have a topic that maybe you could shed some light on at some point, Marybeth. In tonight's episode (Nov 9, 2010), the boys were cooking turkey bacon and a little note popped up on the screen about the Duggars not eating pork products "because of their religious beliefs." Have you ever heard them explain exactly what leads them to believe they must abstain from pork? I did a quick online search and didn't end up with much, but I did find your blog. I'm excited to read your posts as I have time. Thanks!

  12. I have enjoyed this blog for some time, but this is my first time commenting. :)

    I can't help but feel like some people are missing the point here. Courting isn't just about having your parents' input or approval and going on chaperoned dates (which isn't required, btw). It's an entirely different mindset about how we choose a spouse.

    If you date, you spend time with someone (or many people) to try to figure out if you're compatible. Your experiences help you determine what you want, what you don't want, whether this person could be THE ONE, etc. I can see why people who date would think that "baggage" and past dating experiences would help guide them to (hopefully) the best choice in a spouse. You're on your own, and we are not always good at figuring out what's best for ourselves, so the more experiences we have, the better. ;-)

    But when you court rather than date, you are specifically searching for the mate God has chosen for you. You know that God knows you better than you know yourself, and He will only pick the best for you. So it is more a process of prayerfully discerning whether this is the spouse God has chosen for you, rather than figuring out for yourself if you think you want to be with this person. In a sense it makes past experiences and/or baggage unnecessary (and I happen to think that's a good thing ;-) ).

    I would like my children to court, rather than date. I think it's easier in a way - God will ALWAYS know what's best for us, better than we ourselves will! That being said, I dated and made no attempt to consider whether I was marrying the person God chose for me, and we've been happily married for over 10 years now. So I do not think by any means that courting is the ONLY way that works. I just think that, by definition, it gives a couple the BEST CHANCE at happiness and a "forever" marriage.


  13. Seems to me that those who "court" end up getting married at age 19, 20, 21.....that's WAY TOO EARLY to be getting married, I don't care who you are. You are not the same person in your 30's that you are when you are 19.
    Michelle Duggar got married when she was 17 years that what we're supposed to want for our children? Are you kidding me ?

  14. Hey! Got insomnia. Got a few things to say.

    " I just think that,by definition, it gives a couple the BEST CHANCE at happiness and a forever marriage."

    Again, I will say comments like this are a BIG slap in the face of couples who have dated and been happily married for 20, 30, 40, and even 50 years.

    I am also aware of couples who courted and have been happily married for years and years. I am happy for anyone who has a wonderful marriage. But, it is very "rarely" mentioned that "sometimes", NOTHING is fireproof.

    People can appear G-dly in the beginning...and change once that ring is on. I've seen it happen with courtships and dating.