Author’s Note: This blog post has been expanded and clarified in my book Courtship in Crisis.
I grew up as a member of the homeschool community back when we were hiding from the cops and getting our textbooks from public school dumpsters. When I was a teenager, my friends started reading this new book called I Kissed Dating Goodbye. For months we could talk of little else. After reading it myself, I grew into as big an opponent of dating as you could find. Dating was evil and Courtship, whatever it was, was godly, good and Biblical.
My grandparents would often ask why I wasn’t dating in high school. I explained what courtship was and quoted Joshua Harris, chapter and verse. Their response surprised me.
“I don’t think courtship is a smart idea,” my grandfather said.
“How can you tell who you want to marry if you aren’t going out on dates?” my grandmother wondered every time the topic came up. I tried to convince them but to no avail. They both obstinately held to the position that courtship was a foolish idea.
Well, what did they know? They were public schooled. I ignored their advice on relationships, preferring to listen to the young people around me who were passionate advocates of courtship.
As I grew older, I started to speak at homeschool conferences and events. I talked with homeschool parents, students and alumni all over the country and started to see some challenges with making courtship work.
Some of the specific challenges I identified were:
- Identification (Finding that other person)
- Interaction (Spending time with the other person)
- Initiation (Starting the relationship)
So I founded PracticalCourtship.com. Its purpose: to instigate a national conversation about how to make courtship more practical. Visits and comments poured in from all over the country about how to make courtship work and why it did not work.
Each year I waited for courtship to start working and for my homeschool friends to start getting married. It never happened. Most of them are still single. Some have grown bitter and jaded. Then couples who did get married through courtship started getting divorced. I’m talking the kind of couples who first kissed at their wedding were filing for divorce.
This was not the deal!
The deal was that if we put up with the rules and awkwardness of courtship now we could avoid the pain of divorce later. The whole point of courtship was to have a happy marriage, not a high divorce rate.
So I humbled myself and took my grandmother out for dinner to hear why she thought courtship was a bad idea all those years ago. She had predicted the failure of courtship back in the 90s and I wanted to understand how and why.
Now let me define what I mean by “courtship”.
So what is courtship anyway?
After 20 years there still is no general consensus as to what courtship is. But here are the elements most conservative communities have in common:
- The man must ask the woman’s father’s permission before pursuing the woman romantically.
- High accountability (chaperones, monitored correspondence, etc).
- Rules about physical contact and purity. (The specific rules vary from community to community).
- The purpose of the courtship is marriage
- High relational intentionality and intensity
- High parental involvement. Fathers typically hold a “permission and control” role rather than the traditional “advice and blessing” role held by their fathers.
The Case for Traditional Dating
My grandmother grew up in a marginally Christian community. People went to church on Sunday, but that was the extent of their religious activity. They were not the Bible-reading, small-grouping, mission-tripping Christian young people common in evangelical churches today.
And yet her community of friends all got married and then stayed married for decades and decades. So what on earth were they doing that worked so well? Over dinner, my grandmother shared her story about what dating was like back in the 30s and 40s.
When my grandmother dated in middle school (yes, middle school) her parents had one primary rule for her.
The Primary Dating Rule: Don’t go out with the same guy twice in a row.
So if she went out for soda with Bob on Tuesday, she had to go to a movie with Bill on Thursday before she could go to the school dance with Bob on Saturday.
That sounded crazy to me. So, I asked her the rationale behind it. She explained that the lack of exclusivity helped them guard their hearts and kept things from getting too serious too quickly. The lack of exclusivity kept the interactions fun and casual. “The guys wouldn’t even want to kiss you!” She said.
The lack of exclusivity helped the girls guard their hearts and kept the boys from feeling entitled to the girl. How could a boy have a claim to her time, heart or body if she was going out with someone else later that week?
She went on to explain that by the time she graduated from high school, she had gone out on dates with over 20 different guys. This meant that by the time she was 17 years old she knew which Bob she wanted to marry. They got married and stayed married till my grandfather passed away half a century later.
“If I had only gone out with 3 or 4 guys I wouldn’t have known what I wanted in a husband,” she said.
It is not that her parents were uninvolved; it is that they played an advisory role, particularly as she entered high school and they relaxed the rules about not going steady.
The Difference Between “Dating” and “Going Steady”
She went on to explain that there used to be a linguistic differentiation between “dating” and “going steady”. “Going steady” meant you were going out with the same person multiple times in a row. It often had symbols like the girl wearing the guy’s letter jacket. This telegraphed to everyone at school that she was “off the market” and that she had a “steady beau”.
It seems that my great grandparents’ rule forbidding my grandmother from going out with the same guy twice in a row was a common rule in those days.
The Greatest Generation was encouraged to date and discouraged from going steady while in middle school.
This is different from my generation, which is encouraged to “wait until you are ready to get married” before pursuing a romantic relationship. This advice, when combined with the fact that “the purpose of courtship is marriage”, makes asking a girl out for dinner the emotional equivalent of asking for her hand in marriage.
I am not convinced that anyone is ever truly ready to get married. Readiness can become a carrot on a stick, an ideal that can never be achieved. Marriage will always be a bit like jumping into a pool of cold water. A humble realization that you are not ready and in need of God’s help may be the more healthy way to start a marriage.
As the decades moved on, our language and behavior changed. We stopped using the phrase “going steady” and changed “dating” to mean “going steady”. For example, we would now say “John and Sarah have been dating for 3 months.” when the Greatest Generation would have said “John and Sarah have been going steady for 3 months.”
We then started using new pejoratives like “dating around” and “playing the field” to describe what used to just be called “dating”. Each decade added more exclusivity, intensity, and commitment to dating and saw a subsequent rise in temptation and promiscuity.
It is easier to justify promiscuity when you are exclusively committed to just one person, even if that commitment is only a week old.
In the late 80s and early 90s this promiscuous culture reached its peak. People would “go steady” for just a few weeks and then move on to the next relationship. It was this “hookup and breakup” culture that the founders of courtship were reacting to.
But their proposed solution involved adding even more commitment, exclusivity and intensity, the very things that lead to the problem in the first place. This is why courtship is fundamentally flawed.
The courtship movement eliminated dating and replaced it with nothing.
Or, put another way, they replaced dating with engagement. The only tangible difference between an engagement and a courtship is the ring and the date.
Similarities between Courtship & Engagement:
- They both require the permission of the father.
- They both are intended for marriage.
- They are not “broken up” but are instead “called off”.
- When they are called off there is an inevitable rending of a community as one of the couple no longer feel comfortable spending time with the community of their ex-future spouse.
Young people are expected to jump from interacting with each other in groups straight into “pseudo-engagement”. This is a jump very few are prepared to make. The result is that a commitment to courtship is often a commitment to lifelong singleness.
Why the Courtship Divorce Rate is So High
Recently I have seen a spike in divorces amongst couples who courted. I have a few theories as to why this is. Young people whose parents often maintain veto power on all of their decisions are then expected to make this most important decision without any experience in good decision making. They have no context of who they are, past decision making or an idea of what they are looking for in a spouse.
How can you know what personality you fit well with if you only go out with one other person? The result can be a mismatched couple and a marriage that is difficult to sustain.
Right now all we have little research to go on in terms of the courtship divorce rate. In my observations, some homeschool communities have a much higher divorce rate than others. I would be very interested in seeing some research on this phenomenon. This blog post is my call for more research on the divorce rate amongst couples who “courted” before getting married.
Advantages of Traditional Dating
Less Temptation – It is hard to fall in love with Bob on Tuesday when you know you are going out for coffee with Bill on Thursday. This lack of emotional commitment leads to less physical temptation. Less temptation leads to less compromise. I have no idea how women are supposed to guard their hearts while in an exclusive relationship with the purpose of marriage.
More Interaction – I know many homeschool girls who are frustrated that they never get asked out on a date. It is not uncommon to find a 21 year old stay at home daughter who has never been asked out on a date. The reason for this is not because the girl is unattractive (although that may be the story she convinces herself of over time).
The real reason is that few guys are willing to ask permission from a woman’s father to marry her before being able to ask her out on a date to get to know her. Even when this permission is requested, it is unlikely to be given.
I know several godly, hardworking and attractive homeschool guys who have been rejected by as many as a dozen fathers. I respect their tenacity. Getting turned down by courtship fathers is tough on guys because the fathers are rarely gentle or kind. So if you are a courtship-minded girl wondering why the guys are not calling, you may want to ask your dad how many guys he has run off.
With Traditional Dating, asking a girl out on a date is no big deal. All the guy is asking to do is to get to know the girl better. Maybe this leads to a deeper relationship, maybe it doesn’t. Either way, the interaction is easier and more fun when it is not so intense.
Less Heartbreak – One of the promises of courtship is that it can lead to less heartbreak than dating. I laugh at this to keep myself from crying. This could not be further from the truth. Calling off a courtship can be as emotionally wrenching as calling off an engagement. It can take years to recover from a “failed courtship.” Also let’s not also forget the emotional cost for girls of not being asked out year after year and the emotional cost for guys of being rejected by father after father.
More Marriage – Let’s face it, most married people got married because they dated first. I would even submit that most homeschoolers who do get married supplemented with dating at some point in their journey. Courtship is not resulting in many marriages despite having been advocated by (sometimes unmarried) conservative leaders for nearly 20 years.
More Fun – The institution of marriage is crumbling. Of the last two generations, one won’t get married and the other won’t stay married. A smaller percentage of people are married in America than at any other time. Part of what helps perpetuate the institution of marriage is making the process of getting married fun. My grandmother made dating in her day sound really fun. Courtship on the other hand can be awkward and emotionally heartwrenching.
Dating also trains people to continue dating their spouse after they get married. It is important for married couples to be able to have fun with each other. The kind of parents who are the strongest advocates of courtship are often the ones who go on the fewest dates with each other.
More Matchmaking – Modern Courtship doesn’t really have a mechanism for matchmaking. How can there be blind dates if the man must first get permission from a father? Courtship relationships are so intense that even introductions can be awkward. I know many happily married couples who met through a blind date or an online matchmaking service like eHarmony. Matchmaking is a time-tested practice that Traditional Dating is fully compatible with. Courtship? Not so much.
More League Awareness – Not everyone has the same level of attractiveness, character, intelligence and wealth. Parents tend to see their own children through rose-colored glasses. Homeschool communities can be a bit like Lake Wobegon where all the children are above average. It is easy for “no guy to be good enough for daddy’s little princess”. The sad result of enforcing this mindset is a daughter who becomes a spinster. With traditional dating guys learn their league by finding out what girls say “yes” to that second date. Girls learn their league by seeing what kind of guys ask them out.
Responding to Common Questions & Objections to Traditional Dating
Why Not Just Spend Time in Groups?
If you talk with advocates of modern courtship they speak highly of single people spending time in groups. Group settings reduce the intensity, commitment and exclusivity and thus protect the hearts of single people.
The problem with group settings is that not all personality types open up in group settings. Many married couples include one spouse who is more comfortable in group settings than the other. These couples may have never found each other if they were limited to “group dating.”
In group activities, it can be hard for the wallflowers to be discovered for the flowers that they really are. They need a less intense 1-on-1 setting in which to bloom. Group settings are particularly rough on women who grew up in communities where they were trained to value submissiveness, meekness and quietness.
The other challenge with group settings is that they are logistically complex. The more people you add to the group, the harder coordination becomes. Where is a stay-at-home daughter who attends a small family integrated church supposed to find groups of young people to hang out with? The result of limiting interaction to group settings is many lonely nights interacting with no one.
But Isn’t Courtship Biblical?
When applying Scripture, particularly the Old Testament, to our lives, it is important to differentiate between Biblical precedent, principle and precept. Just because Jacob had two wives and a seven-year engagement does not mean that God wants all men to have two wives and seven-year engagements.
What we have in the Old Testament is a lot of precedent: each story is different from the last.
For precedents we have:
- the woman as the protagonist in the romance (Ruth & Boaz)
- the man as the protagonist in the romance (Jacob & Rachel)
- the romance arranged by a third party (Isaac & Rebekah)
- the woman entering the man’s harem (David & Abigail, Micah, Bathsheba etc.)
There are some good Scriptural precepts about sexual purity in the New Testament, and there are some principles about the benefits of marrying young and that sort of thing.
But the Bible is surprisingly quiet when it comes to laying out a system of courtship. Courtship Systems are cultural, and the Bible rarely advocates one cultural approach over another. God’s heart is that every tribe and tongue come worship him without having to surrender their food, language or other cultural distinctives in the process.
Most of the moral arguments for courtship are actually arguments for arranged marriage. The arguments for the strong involvement of parents fit arranged marriage much better than they fit courtship.
When I started PracticalCourtship.com, one of my goals was to never use the site to criticize arranged marriage. In countries like India, that have both arranged marriages and “love marriages,” the arranged marriages have the lower divorce rate. Arranged marriage has been used by many cultures for many years with good results.
The problem is that arranged marriage is not a good fit for western culture. Many Americans value individual liberty more than life itself. Giving this most important decision to someone else is not something many of us are comfortable with. Also, parents are often hesitant to arrange marriages lest their child resent them if the marriage turns out to be an unhappy one.
I don’t see Arranged Marriage taking off in Western Culture.
We need a system to help young people make good decisions. Fortunately, we have one: Traditional Dating.
Traditional Dating fits our culture like a glove. Most of Americans already intuitively know how it works because it is part of who we are as a people. If you don’t know how it works, ask your grandparents and they will tell you of the glory days when men were free. Watch the twinkle in their eye when they tell you of a time when men and women could fall in love and pick their own spouses.
Hasn’t Our Sexualized Culture Ruined Dating?
There is no denying that the media is far more sexually charged than it was when my grandparents were dating in junior high. Now while some of that is the media following culture (The Beatles sang about hand holding while hippies swapped STDs in the 60s), I do believe that media affects the culture. The question is how do we best respond to that culture.
The commitment, exclusivity and intensity of dating is what lead to temptation and compromise in the first place. Courtship makes the problem worse by increasing the commitment which intensifies the temptation. The advocates of courtship know this, which is why chaperones are so critical to the system.
The other problem with courtship is that it often delays marriage. Courtship communities expect young people to live celibate lives in a sexually charged culture for a decade or more before they get married. The Bible instructs us to flee temptation and to marry lest you burn with lust. Courtship teaches instead to delay marriage until you are ready.
I recently heard a local pastor complaining about a rash of older 20 something women in his church who had given up on finding prince charming. They started making physical compromises in an effort to attract a man. Once they gave up on courtship they just grabbed whatever the world was offering.
The benefit of traditional dating is that the lack of exclusivity reduces temptation. It also helps young people find out who they are and who they are looking for faster. Early marriage reduces the number of years a young person must resist sexual temptation through celibacy.
Finally, I should say this: Where sin abounds, grace abounds more. I understand Grace to be the power of God to do the will of God. The power of God is greater than the power of our sexualized culture. There is nothing new under the sun and no new temptation that is not already common to man. This is not the first time Christians have lived in a sexualized culture.
If you study history, you will find that this actually happens often. In each of those generations God provided a way out. I believe that for our generation that way is Traditional Dating.
Now Let’s Talk Some Specifics
Suggestions For Single Women
If you are a single woman, realize that the reason guys are not asking you out is NOT because you are unattractive. It is because you live in a system where he must want to marry you before he can get to know you. It is the system that is broken, not you. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Somewhere out there is a guy who will see you as the most beautiful woman in the world. The more guys you meet, the faster you will find him.
- If a Christian guy asks you out for dinner, say “yes”. You don’t need to love him to say yes to a first date.
- Be friendly. Give the guy hope that he has a chance with you. Coyness is not as attractive as the media makes it out to be.
- Don’t make him run a gauntlet before he can get to know you. Realize he is not asking to marry you when he asks if he can buy you dinner.
- Some guys are hidden gems and are more than meets the eye. Give him a chance to win your attention and to earn that second date.
- If you are not interested in a guy, let him down gently. There is a way to give a firm “no” to a guy without making him feel like a worm.
- Don’t call in your dad to scare him off unless he won’t take the hint. Your dad and his shotgun should be the last resort.
- Let the guy pay for dinner.
Suggestions for Single Men
- Start asking girls out. Most girls would love to be asked out and will say “yes” if you would just ask them.
- Realize that asking a girl out for dinner is not the same as proposing marriage.
- If she says you need to talk to her dad first, take the “no” for what it is and move on to the next woman. For a better explanation of this point see 7 Reasons I Recommend Avoiding Dragon Guarded Women.
- If you have been browbeaten by harsh courtship fathers, I feel your pain. Ask God to heal your heart and to give you the courage to try again. The tide is shifting. The leaders that those men used to justify their actions are quickly fading into the past. We are entering a kinder, gentler age. Who knows. Maybe the next girl you ask out could be the one.
- Get a job. Money makes you more attractive.
- Pay for dinner.
Suggestions for Both Single Men and Single Women
- Do what your grandparents did and go out on dates with lots of different people before going steady with any of them.
- Don’t marry the first person you have feelings for.
- Keep an eye out for public places where you can have private conversations.
- Find a church with lots of single people. There are still churches out there with a healthy culture of traditional dating. If no one in your church got married last year, don’t expect to break that trend. You can always move back to your parent’s church after you find your sweetheart.
- Have fun.
- Fear God.
Suggestions For Parents
- Try to make marriage attractive to your children by loving and respecting your spouse the best you can. One reason that your children may not be getting married is because they don’t want what you have in your marriage.
- Start dating your spouse again. Do whatever you can to make your marriage a happy one.
- Encourage your sons to ask girls out on dates.
- Allow your daughters to say yes to first dates from Christian guys you don’t know.
- As your children become adults, give advice instead of commands. Being a parent does not make you a Pope for another adult.
- The gentler you are in giving advice, the more it will be sought.
- Take a step back and trust God to guide your child directly.
- Pray earnestly and persistently for your child.
- Encourage your children to find their way to places where they can meet other single people.
- Don’t force your daughters to stay at home. Let them get out into the world where they can meet godly men. If you want to catch a fish you must first walk to the pond.
- Remember that gentleness and kindness are fruits of the Spirit.
- Treat the person interested in your child as a fellow brother or sister in Christ.
How to Talk With Your Folks About Courtship
Share this post with your parents and talk to with them about why courtship is flawed and why you are going to start going out on dates.
The older you are, the easier this conversation will be. I find that even the most controlling parents start to mellow out as their single daughters start entering their 30s. That biological clock waits for no man, even Prince Charming. It will help when their friends start bragging about their grandchildren.
Listen to them as they share the mistakes they made while dating. Listen to their story of how they fell in love. Just remember that every romance is different and your story will be different. Just because your parents got divorced or live in an unhappy marriage does not doom you to their fate.
Realize that many of their rules were created out of fear. They are afraid that you will suffer the same way they did when they were your age.
Don’t forget that they love you. Explain to them that you all want the same thing: for you to be happily married.
Explain that courtship is not helping you become happily married. Courtship leads to singleness more often than it leads to marriage.
If all else fails, play the grandchildren card. Most parents want grandchildren. Try to explain that if they want grandchildren you need to get married and courtship is not helping you do that.
Where do we go from here?
Share this post with your community on Facebook and Google+ to continue the conversation. My hope is that as single people start embracing traditional dating we can restore the fun first date to our culture. The more people who read this post the more guys that will start asking girls out and the more girls who will say “yes” to that first date.
- The Greatest Generation was encouraged to date and discouraged from going steady in middle school. (Click to Tweet)
- The courtship movement eliminated dating and replaced it with nothing. (Click to Tweet)
- The only tangible difference between an engagement and a courtship is the ring and the date. (Click to Tweet)
- A commitment to courtship is often a commitment to lifelong singleness. (Click to Tweet)
- Most of the moral arguments for courtship are actually arguments for arranged marriage. (Click to Tweet)
- Being a parent does not make you a Pope for another adult. (Click to Tweet)
- The benefit of traditional dating is that the lack of exclusivity reduces temptation. (Click to Tweet)
- When applying Scripture, it is important to differentiate between precedent, principle and precept. (Click to Tweet)
What do you think?
If I have learned one thing running PracticalCourtship.com, it is that courtship is very controversial. Even the definition of the word sparks a debate. That is fine. I am happy to see your thoughts and opinions in the comments. A few requests for the comments:
- Keep the conversation civil. No name calling. Just because you were hurt in the past is no excuse to hurt others in the future.
- Keep the conversation humble. Bragging about how this is not a problem in your family is not very helpful.
- Please read the follow up article before posting comments. I may have already addressed your question in the Q&A post.
- I reserve the right to delete comments. It is not censorship to take your comment off of my personal blog. Remember you can say whatever you want about me or this post on your own blog or Facebook page.
If you think that this post should be expanded into a book to respond to some of the concerns posted below, click here, to get book updates.
This post has turned into a book!
Thank you to everyone who backed Courtship in Crisis on Kickstarter. You can now find the book on Amazon.
This is so great. Another point I would add: a heavy emphasis on courtship indicates to me that parents (a) don’t trust their ADULT daughters to make wise choices, and (b) likely also have trust issues with God Himself to guide their daughters!
Well stated. After all our children don’t belong to us they have been entrusted to us by God. He has provided all the guidelines we should follow in training them up. As parents our hearts desire should be that our children love the Lord with all their hearts, minds, souls and strength. Authentic goldy character isn’t something that is dictated but demonstrated. If we walk our talk, trust and obey and rely soley on His saving Grace, God will equip us to parent in love and humility and not in fear.
Amen, amen, AMEN!!!!! I whole-heartedly agree!! Our 29 year-old daughter has experienced all of the heartaches of the courtship debacle. My heart breaks over it. She is now married to the man of her choice but she has suffered great pain in the process. In our case, it is evident: nothing good comes out of fear. God is able to bring people together–He’s been doing it since Adam and Eve!!
Margaret Stroud, you put it perfectly. I agree, those two points were the most prominent in my situation. We ought to be raising a godly generation of God fearing independent little Christians! Children who seek to follow God because He has taken hold on their heart not because dad and mom have been there every step to ensure they are never in a position to sin, never sin, and are forced never to sin.
It was precisely when parents lost control of their daughters that feminism happened
No, feminism is not a result of lost control but the sad result of over controlling women and denying them their God given place of authority in the world.
Parents do not need to “control” their adult children. They can make their own decisions.
Feminism happened when men stopped leading.
I don’t think anyone in this sub-thread of comments knows what feminism is.
Feminism is the quest for equality of treatment between men and women. Yes some people have taken it too far. Some people do and say ridiculous things in the name of ‘feminism’. But true feminism – fighting for women’s rights to vote, the emergence of women being allowed to do “men’s” jobs (circa world war 2), etc – has little to nothing to do with parents’ control of daughters, over-controlling women or men stopping leading. It had to do with women realising they were not allowed to participate in society to the same degree men were and saying “we’re not going to put up with that”. You can bet daughters still happily lived under their fathers’ authority and men still lead well back in the 1800s and early 1900s when true feminism was taking off.
Respectfully, I must disagree, sir. See, parents shouldn’t, and can’t, control their children forever. They must guide their children to become enlightened, wise, strong, and faithful adults. If the parents succeed, then they won’t need to control their kids.
I say this as a 15-year-old who hasn’t dated or gone steady. I’d like to ask people to use a bit of good constructive logic here.
Have a good day.
I agree with Jonah: The job of the parents is to guide their children; not control them. Guiding simply means to show the way by leading, directing, or advising, usually by reason of one’s greater example. Not; forcing them to follow a specific path of reasoning, based on one’s personal preferences. That’s controlling. Young people are meant to be guided by their parents and role models, so that they can then determine their own path, based on what does and does not work for them, as well as what does and does not work for their peers. To control someone, particularly a child or young person, in addition to what I said above, means to downplay said youth’s own intelligence and creativity, likely to lead to someone who enters the world of personal independence, with a brilliant mind, and not the slightest clue as to what they’re supposed to do next. It has happened to my mother, and I myself am narrowly avoiding it. I too am a young person, who has gone through one “steady” relationship, and am now barely recovering from the break up that happened almost three months ago. Also: Thank you to Leah, for explaining feminism. Before your explanation, I honestly had not the slightest clue.
I’d bet the farm that Jonah was homeschooled. Thanks Jonah for a well-articulated response.
So basically, women have to be controlled by their men? Just like cattle and other animals are controlled by humans? Feminism is about gender equality and both sexes being equal. Do not let misandrist fool you otherwise into thinking it is just a man hating movement. It is NOT!
Women’s right movement was just part of feminism to gain political and legal equality, feminism incorporates that and has tackling social attitudes. Don’t let your antiquated archaic views of the world cheat you into thinking that men should control women.
Equality for women? The same rights and treatment as men? Wait until they impose the military draft on 18 year old women. Then ask if women will be singing the same tune.
I strongly disagree–no one should ever control another person. Govern righteously, having the best interests of the other person at heart, yes; lead in humility as a godly example, yes; really listen to the heart of another with a view to sharing heavenly wisdom, all yes. But no one, especially one in authority, such as a parent, should ever try to control or rule down over someone else. God Himself does not control–rather, He is in charge of all things/creatures while graciously giving each person free will to choose for him/herself. His Kingdom is founded upon a love RELATIONSHIP. It is the open, loving relationship between parents and God, each other, and their children IN CHRIST that is the very best foundation for developing strong marriages in the next generation. Feminism is, I believe, the heart cry of women who seek for value and worth but through fleshly means. Valid intention–wrong response…rebellion is sin but the reason for the sin will be understood by those who are secure in their identity in Christ. May the Body of Christ return to God’s original intent in Genesis 1: 26-27– to bear the image of Almighty God as one — male and female–one in agreement and one in purpose to glorify the Lord on the earth.
WW1 helped tremendously as women were involved in the war effort because (a) they could be through factory work that required less raw physical strength and (b) they needed to be due to the strain the war had on our country. When the men returned, the women realized they could be educated, employable, and members of society. Also, this was during the birth of radio, so the movement got to be heard by more people more quickly due to that. So, Radio + WW2.
Allison, the military draft hasn’t existed in the US since 1973.
I agree that women and men are not the same. But they should have equal rights and protection under the law (domestic violence used to be par for the course), equal ability to earn a living (we were forbidden by law from holding certain jobs), to vote (we were not allowed to vote), and to own property. Most often movements (like feminism) goes a bit too far on the other side of crazy to get to the sane sweet spot in between of all the “equality” we women have now, that you probably take for granted.
Margaret, wow! You sure have a strong opinion about what parents do or don’t do as a whole. I’d say that parents who place a heavy emphasis on courtship want to help their daughters (no matter the age) to make wise choices. It doesn’t matter how old you are, temptation is temptation. Temptation for a 16 year old may look different than temptation for a 20 year old, but temptation is still temptation. Trying to help your children make wise choices is NOT the same as not trusting them. Nor is it the same as not trusting God.
Yes, God can work all things together for good. However, He also calls us to guide a direct our children… sometimes even when they are “adults” a.k.a. Naomi & Ruth. If Naomi had not guided and directed Ruth but rather only trusted God, the story could have been very different… or completely unknown.
Also, in Biblical culture at times people were not considered full adults until they were 30.
Sorry, that should be “trusted God”
I’m not sure that that is entirely accurate. You refer to the Biblical culture as if it is one period of time, when, in fact it spans thousands of years. In the parts that you reference, (Isaac & Rebecca), yes, people weren’t considered adults until they were 30. But keep in mind the practice of Bar Mitzvah, which was around in Jesus’ day. At 13, boys would become men and would earn the full respect and authority of their father.
This was one of the apt points the author made: When applying Scripture, it is important to differentiate between precedent, principle and precept.
Some of the precedents that existed in Abraham’s day were gone by Jesus’ day, and so it is important to try not to turn precedents into commands.
Maybe men were sometimes not thought to be adults until 30’s, buut women were traditionally VERY young. My situation was just a men controlling women and that’s the way the “Tradition” went. “Courtship” was just so the father could pick the husband. And what kind of person do you think they’ll “pick”?? Someone like themselves, of course. And I didn’t want a husband like my father was. He’s a good man, but has a temper like no other and I didn’t want that. Ironically, I met my husband when I was 15, we married 6 years later and have been married 4 years now with 2 children. My parents weren’t involved at all in that (they were completely opposed), yet I still only dated one man, without the stupidity of courtship.
Gee, not recognizing humans to be adults until age 30 would have been kind of inconvenient during biblical times since life expectancy during that time averaged between the ages 26-28.
Kinda hard to be recognized as an adult at age 30 when you’ve been dead for 2 years already.
Kinda hard to get married then too, but that may just be me.
life expectancy rates are all skewed by birth deaths. a lot of people lived to be older, even in Bible times. And despite bar mitzvahs, were not counted in the census as adults or recruited as soldiers, till they were age 20.
So, you could become a soldier at 20, but were not considered an adult until you were 30?
Child warriors then, I guess.
Well said JCM. If we do not need guidance, why did God tell us to join churches? Why did He put under the authority of pastors and elders if we need no guidance?
I think that the 30 year old requirement was for men. I know Mary was a teenager and I’m pretty sure Rebecca was a teenager. Girls married young. That really is a cultural thing. There is something to be said for dating in the right atmosphere. My parents weren’t Christians and would have been happy for me to marry a “nice, stable” boy. I had a great youth group that taught respect and helped us concentrate on friendship. We always had opportunities to spend time with the opposite sex in group settings. Our pastor taught us to set our expectations high on how to be treated and where to draw the line on physical relations. The same was true for the college group, and there was an expectation that the young men would ask different young women to the functions. Eventual people paired off and there were multiple marriages. Most lasted some didn’t. I had a number of relationships before I found my husband and I had to move 2200 miles away to do it. I’m a firm believer that if we wait on The Lord he will bring us together with our mate. As far as staying together that takes commitment to gods plan as much as anything else. There were many times I could have justified divorce if it had been an option for me but it NEVER was. The benefit is that I finally learned how I could be a better mate and now I love my husband more than ever, and it only took 20 years. My parents really had nothing to do with my choice but my youth pastor and the examples I saw in the people around me were very helpful. Parents are parents all their lives it’s true, but we aren’t marrying our kids mates , they are. We need to help them have a structure and boundaries that protect them while they explore the options. If they have a real love for god and a biblical understanding of morality and strength of character they should be able to make good decisions.
We have to give them the tools to live their lives not decide for them what their lives should be.
@JCMasterpiece: While I agree that most parents ultimately have their daughter’s best interest at heart, I’m specifically thinking of parents who feel it is necessary to monitor and manhandle their daughters’ every move when it comes to relationships. And not just any daughters of any age– I am specifically thinking age 20+…a point at which I believe a young woman really should be capable of making wise decisions on her own, provided that she has been given a healthy foundation on which to build.
If a young woman has a healthy, trusting relationship with her parents, it only makes sense that she will continue to communicate with them regarding dating/whatnot *of her own accord* and not because they are forcing her to do so or laying down the law on what she should and should not do.
I agree that temptation is a very real thing, no matter how old you are. But while I don’t discount AT ALL the value of having trusted Godly mentors in one’s life–whether they be your parents or someone else– they are not ultimately the ones to constantly watch you and keep you from temptation, especially after you reach adulthood. God is, and you answer ultimately to Him.
While I suspect the concept of Bar Mitzvah and “becoming a man” at age 13 might have existed in the Biblical culture of 2000 years ago, I would have my doubts about it existing 4000 years ago in the time of the Patriarchs.
We could, for example, consider the age of the sons of Judah when he married them off in Genesis 38. This age of marriage isn’t directly given in the text, however we can easily calculate it from the narrative. We know that Judah and his brothers sold off Joseph when Joseph was at least 17 years old. We know that Joseph was 30 years old (Genesis 41:46) when he gave the interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams. It is generally believed that this was not more than a year before the beginning of the 7 Good Years, which were directly before the 7 Bad Years. We know Joseph’s entire family came down to Egypt in the 2nd of the 7 Bad Years – so Joseph would then be around age 39 at this time. So a total of some 22 years or so have passed. Among the 70 souls that came down to Egypt were Herzon and Hamul who were the sons of Pharez.
So, in the 22 years of time that Scripture gives us, we learn from Genesis 38, that after the sale of Joseph, Judah left home, courted, and got married. He got his wife pregnant at least 3 different times, and he then married off his first son Er to Tamar, and Er died, so he gave his 2nd son Onan to Tamar to father sons in the name of Er – and Onan died. When the 3rd son was not sent to Tamar to raise up seed, she disguised herself and got herself pregnant by Judah which produced Pharez the father of Hezron and Hamul who were among the 70 souls that went down to Egypt when Joseph was 39.
Obviously the Biblical culture accepted this account as literally true by stating that Judah gave Tamar to Er as a wife when Er was just 8 years old – you will still find this taught by Orthodox Judaism. However, it seems that everyone in the Christian community rejects the literal reading of the account and no one accepts that sons should be married off at age 8.
Think of all those hormonal issues that teenage boys wouldn’t have to deal with so much if their parents would just follow the Biblical example of giving a wife to their sons when they turned 8….. 🙂
Thank you~very, very well put.
So Naomi sent Ruth in to a room of men to lay at the feet of a man WAY older then herself. Yes the culture was different. But Boaz sent her away before anyone could see what happened.
Naomi had Ruth do something WAY out of the norm for the courtship culture of our current culture.
That said, there are some parents that encourage courtship that are way over the top controlling. But I think many just want what is best for their kids.
But any of these dating/courtship things are really traditions of men. There are probably many ways to go about this topic that could be considered Biblical.
I really enjoyed the book, “I Gave Dating a Chance”. But until today I have not heard this perspective on dating and I am interested in knowing more about it. I feel like I want to interview some of the Great generation.
Great point JC…as parents we are called to guide and counsel our children…after all, we have decades of experience to draw from in helping them make wise choices.
This entire blog post is so slanted against courting it’s hard to know where to begin to rebuke it…our family has chosen courting…which means we are TRUSTING GOD TO BRING THE RIGHT MATCH. We are not controlling anything but only seeking the Lord’s will for our children.
I think I’ll stick with what scripture says rather than the advice of one person’s grandparents (as well intentioned as they may be).
I’d bet the farm that Jonah was homeschooled. Thanks Jonah for a well-articulated response.
This is the exact point the article makes. How does courtship only help daughters? it says females are not able to make their own choices and they have to depend completely on male authority. The author is addressing legal adults still single in their late 20s because of these teachings.
Helping to make wise choices is one thing. Making those choices for them is another. The courtship movement crossed that line way too much.
I’d like to point out that Naomi directed Ruth to disrobe a drunk guy. I’m guessing that you won’t tell your daughters to do the same thing.
That part about being an adult at 30 isn’t completely accurate. People became adults at 13. Girls were expected to marry soon after (15 or 16) while boys joined their fathers’ businesses. The men would get married around age 25 after having at least a decade to build up enough to support a family. The milestone at thirty was when a father would turn over the business to his son.
This article doesn’t touch on the most disturbing element of courtship. The idea that a woman’s time and future are determined by negotiations between an interested guy and her father. There is nothing biblical that indicates woman are subject to these property negotiations. As a homeschool mom I am so embarrased by the association with archaic religious leaders binding heavy burdens.
Unfortunately the Bible does have (awful) statements that indicate that that was the case, however I am personally going to believe that this was a cultural issue and should not be the standard held today.
Deuteronomy 22:28-29, for example:
“If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay her father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.”
This makes it very clear who was in control of a woman’s romantic life, as no woman would choose to marry her rapist, even after he paid her father for the privilege. This payment was given because the father would no longer be able to seek out marital arrangements that would be beneficial to the family, because a biblical woman without purity was without worth.
Before we get to mired in the idea that a man could rape a woman and then she would be forced to marry him, you need to realize there is a specific context here and it is most certainly not rape. The NIV has a number of translational errors and this particular error is especially disturbing to any Christian who happens upon it. Thankfully if you have access to a KJV Bible and a concordance you can see that the word translated in the NIV as rape is the Hebrew word “shakab” and is used many times in the Bible to denote consensual intercourse. The word that as far as I have been able to find is exclusively used for rape is the word “chazaq” which he uses in verse 25 clearly indicates a rape and the woman not only is free from punishment, the man is sentenced to death. We must be very cautious when reading the Word as our own minds can lead us astray.
In the example you gave, the requirement to marry was on the man: “You have to live with your choice for the rest of your life, and you can’t back out of the consequences. Ever.” It also emphasized the permanence of, and commitment required for, intimate relationships.
While the man could not divorce the woman, I have no doubt that the woman could divorce the man.
I am not saying this as evidence for or against courtship or dating, as I, personally, am undecided.
True! And we must never rely on any formula to save us from heartbreak. Works of righteousness don’t save us from any pain. Only the blood of Jesus can save us from the hell of breakup, or divorce, or…hell! Trusting some guy’s book or some couple’s love story to be what I base my life on is sinking sand. Cry out to Jesus for wisdom and be amazed at how He answers.
Thank you for writing this brilliant article and being so deeply honest. I have passed it onto my children, one who was deeply hurt in a controlled courtship. Again, thank you.
It’s true. I don’t live at home any longer and so go on the dates I want to when I want to but I cannot introduce even my male friends to my father without him becoming overbearing and argumentative; all leading me to believe that not only does he not trust me to hear from God on this issue but also that he doesn’t trust ME and the precepts I was raised with to guide me in making wise choices.
I have been happily dating for the 9 years I haven’t lived at home and although I haven’t found “the one” as yet I know exactly what I’m looking for at this point; conclusions only reached through dating many different people and kissing a few a frogs here and there.
My philosophy of parenting is to move from high control (when toddlers could dash into the street) to relinquishing control as my children enter adulthood. This gels well with that idea. We have loved, prepared, coached, and encouraged our nearly-adult kids. We trust them. Do we pray? Yes of course. Do we offer guidance? Sure. But we also trust the Holy Spirit within them. God is absolutely big enough to shoulder their mistakes and sins (as He is big enough to shoulder ours).
Trackback: http://www.marydemuth.com/kids-date-dont-court/ Why Our Kids Date (and don’t court)
I totally agree! I have 2 daughters… one I parented in fear which caused me to take the role of dictator. As you can imagine this lead to a breakdown of communication and promoted anger and rebellion. The consequences of my fear and lack of trust in God has been heart wrenching to say the least. I have taken a different approach with my youngest daughter, which is truly a life giving experience. God is good; quick to forgive abounding in mercy – by His grace and love He is restoring the relationship between me and my oldest daughter. By His divine wisdom with love and humility I am learning that REAL LOVE is NEVER controlling. Thank you for your words of wisdom.
With autonomy comes responsibility (and consequences). Its important to grant autonomy as they are able to accept the responsibility of it, but also let kids deal with the consequences of their autonomy. We don’t let toddlers run around in the street unattended, but we also shouldn’t require a 15-year-old kid to stay in the play pen.
“Spare the rod, spoil the child.” You have to give the young autonomy and responsibility as they grow (in all things), and relationships are no different.
Kudos on pulling this off with such a gentle and non-judgmental tone. It’s so easy to get on a self-righteous high horse when it comes to this subject. When we speak the truth without love it mostly goes unheard, and I think you avoided that as much as is humanly possible.
The one and only thing that I really disagree with you on is this statement:
> If she says you need to talk to her dad first, just move on to the next girl. Don’t let the fact that some women have controlling fathers keep you from dating the girls with more normal families. There are a lot of fish in the sea and some dads are nicer than others…
It sounds like you’re suggesting guys avoid even the smallest obstacle. If she seems open to going out and dad is willing to talk, I see no harm in talking to him. Who knows, you might even pick up a Godly adult mentor in the process–something young guys badly need.
And then what about her? Just gonna ignore her plight? Could you be a catalyst in that family for positive change? You’ll never know if you just move on.
“Just don’t bother” seems to be a bit selfish.
> …Remember that this man would have become your father-in-law, and controlling people tend to control everything they can. So avoiding women with those kinds of fathers can save you a lot of heartache down the road.
Maybe some have done it and experienced heartache the likes of which I do not know. But my gut reaction to this is if as a man you can’t handle the in-laws after marriage, you’re not a very strong man.
If the controlling parent in question has other means of influence beyond a normal in-law (employer, politician, pastor, etc), then I’d say you have a point. But those are the exceptions, not the rule.
Thank you for addressing this point. I happen to feel that it is just plain respectful to ask a father if you may take his daughter out for a date. I know that may be old fashioned, but sadly, many forms of respect, etiquette and manners are considered old fashioned now.
Respect is taught. Respect begets respect. Dispite what some may think there is still room in this world for godly, respectful chivalrous young men.
That’s exactly the attitude that this article is talking about. It’s not respectful to ask a father for permission before asking his daughter out to grab a slice of pizza. It’s weird and unnecessary. That’s the kind of thing one should do when asking for a woman’s hand in marriage, when you’ve had time to build up a relationship with both the daughter and the father. It’s really not helpful or necessary for the kind of casual dating this article is advocating.
No, no, no. If a girl wants to go on a first date with a guy, it is HER responsibility to ask her father if she can go. It would be appropriate for the father to ask her basic question such as who she is going out with, if he is a Christian, how they met, and where they are going. Then he should give permission unless there is a huge red flag. That promotes trust all around. It is not polite to force a boy to talk to a father he doesn’t know, to ask out a girl he doesn’t know. That just throws up unnecessary barriers. If you want to know why the guy is, meet him at the door when he picks your daughter up, say hello (be friendly) and ask him where they are going and what time they will be back. THAT IS ALL. Once your daughter expresses more interest in him, and wants to “go steady”, it would be appropriate to invite him for Sunday dinner or another family event and really get to know that guy. Chances are, your daughter will go on a date or two and decide he isn’t the one for her and all that will be unnecessary. But if he is the “one”, let your relationship develop organically and the relationship will be all the better for it.
I have to agree with the young man meeting the girl’s parents, even for a first date. It doesn’t need to be a formal interview, just a very casual meet and greet. Our daughter is 16. She hasn’t been asked on any dates yet. When she goes out with friends, we ask her the usual questions– who, where, when, why. Up to this point, we have met and known all of her friends, male or female. I don’t let her ride in cars with friends we’ve never heard of. I appreciate the conversation this article brings up, and the thought-provoking discussion. I haven’t been a strong believer in courtship, but not a fan of modern dating either. In this day and age, I’d err on the side of caution and say parents NEED to know first and last name, identify a face and physical appearance, and get a look at a vehicle before allowing their teenage daughters to go somewhere. If my daughter was asked on a date by a guy who was UNwilling to even meet her father and me, I’d have some real red flags. We are not ogres. We’re regular people who happen to be nearly 40. I think it is sad if a young man is so insecure that he can’t say “hi” to adults. I don’t think meeting the girl’s parents is too much to ask, if he just plans ahead and comes to the house 5 minutes earlier.
I also enjoyed this perspective, but think that it would work best in an ideal world, and maybe not so much in reality. I have known and observed many “Christian” young men and women, who are not at all the kind I’d let my children go out for pizza with alone. Without knowing them in the slightest, how could you determine if they are trustworthy enough to be alone with your child? When I was a young girl, I had very poor judgment, and could have used a bit more input from a discerning parent. I think that asking your son or daughter to meet the parents of their friends or prospective date is completely reasonable in today’s culture, because there are many wolves in sheep’s clothing. Yes, some of those dads may turn out to be jerks, but isn’t this all part of facing reality? Learning to deal with difficult people? Meeting difficult situations and learning how to handle them? When I was in middle school, I had a boy who came to my home and met my dad, and had his approval to take me out (I believe it was to the park). Once alone with me (though in a public place during the day), well, I’d rather not go into the details of how he wanted that time spent, and the horrible predicament I found myself in. Needless to say, I never wanted to see him again! If my Dad had taken even a slightly authoritative role, rather than that of a more laid back parent or “friend”, I think he might’ve been able to bring this young man’s intentions to the surface. I would NEVER let my child out of the house with a person I didn’t know from Adam. I don’t have to know them well, but just in general terms. Just because someone says they’re a Christian, doesn’t make them someone I’d want my kid alone with. My husband and I are responsible for their safety, and if that means that guys/gals who refuse to meet us (and we’re very friendly people!) decide to look elsewhere, then so be it. I trust that there will be enough opportunity amongst reasonable Christian people who are willing to casually meet us, to give my children the interaction they need. We are also willing to get them into situations that more readily allow them to meet others if our church isn’t proving a sufficient resource. God can direct the parent in how to handle these things with each of their children individually. Just as it was remarked that some kids don’t do well in group settings, some may do better with the “one-on-one” pressure off. I don’t believe there is a one size fits all here, as it comes to the methods to apply to meeting people. I do think blanket statements like refusing to bother with girls whose parents want to meet you is pretty radical. Also, group settings can help to encourage quiet type personalities to engage if handled properly, and given some guidance when the child is ready. I am definitely an introvert, and I met my husband in a group setting. He did approach me (I was new to this small group), and invited me to a Christmas party. I took my sister along, and the rest is history. God’s hand in these matters cannot be discounted. I still believe that He will ultimately orchestrate opportunities as we seek His will with a heart ready to obey. I do think that allowing fathers extreme authority can be a slippery slope. I know my husband would love to protect our daughter especially, as would I, but we also want to know what she thinks and feels, and especially how she believes God is directing her. We want to encourage her to search the Scriptures and seek the Lord for his guidance as she embarks on this exciting time of life. I don’t see that being very easy if the father has ultimate control and the daughter no input. Those, for me, are man’s rules, and not God’s ordinances.
@ Bryan Rhodes,
It is one thing for a dad to desire a dating “interview” for a 16 year old daughter. It is another thing when the daughter is 26 and shows herself to be intelligent, wise, and capable of making responsible decisions in every other area of her life.
I completely agree with Margarett and with Jonathon on the points that they made. I am Sixteen and I would rather have a guy who wants to talk to my dad and have a good relationship with him, than one who avoids me because he’s afraid of what my dad will say or that my dad will be mean. After all, the role of protector is passed from Dad to the husband. How is the dad supposed to pass that role on if he never even gets to talk to the guy?
I also agree that chivalry is becoming hard to find in this world, but I have guy friends that are legitimately trying to bring it back. Just to put a little hope into a bit of a bleak situation…It is not quite dead.
I agree with Lily. The article is geared towards single adults- not your 16 year old. I’m 27 and self-supporting. For me to ask my mother or father for permission for anything would be ludicrous.
While I haven’t read every comment (and won’t), there seems to be a lack of experience with parents whose judgement is not trustworthy. I was raised by shallowly Catholic parents with very secular world views and didn’t become a Christian until I was in college. My mom actually encouraged promiscuity while my dad is so passive that he’d never say no to anyone who came to the door. Courtship only seems to work well when godly, meek, assertive parents are involved.
It took so long to figure out Christian culture as an adult. However, the Spirit guided me through many misunderstandings and built me into the woman I am today- one who has discernment, one who guards her heart and body, one who is respectable. To trust my parents’ judgement and example would have lead to ruin and shame.
There are wise women and men in the church that I go to for advice about relationships. They are all married, they are in different life stages, they all love the Lord and rely on Him. Those are the people I want to sign off on a potential husband.
Thank you, Cait. I think your reply rounds out this discussion and I appreciate reading a 27 year old’s opinion.
When I was a teenager in the 90’s there was a boy at church who, apparently, wanted to date me. I had no clue until one night my dad said to me “Boy X asked me if he could take you out on a date.” This confused both of us as there was no culture of “ask the father first” at our church.
I did not date this boy. I felt it was awfully rude of him to ask my dad if he could date me before even inquiring if I was interested in dating him.
I find it is more respectful to verify the girl is interested first. Had he shown interest, then asked me if he could ask my dad if he could ask me out.. (Wow, that’s a convoluted chain) Well, I would have told him that wasn’t necessary and my dad wouldn’t even know where to begin to respond as I was 17 and allowed to make my own choices as to saying “yes” or “no” to a boy.
As a Baby Boomer, I was strongly influenced by the “free love” of my generation. I grew-up in a single-parent home where my Mother worked tirelessly to invest good things into myself and my three siblings.
But because of that hole in my heart created by the abandonment of my Dad, I had a girlfriend continuously from the age of 11. These were mostly unhealthy and utilized as a crutch for me to feel better about me!
Having the privilege to then Counsel Teens from Families of Divorce years later, I discovered many things:
* the highest goal of Dating in America is to find your future mate
* most Dating in America is to not be a “loser”, not be “alone”, to hook-up and for sexual exploration or conquest
* You are Dating Your future Mate or someone else’s
* Dating is a tremendous training for Divorce
* Dating is a temporary situation that sets up One to inherently take that “temporary mentality” into the “forever of Marriage”
* The “Whenever” of Dating clashes with the “Forever” of Marriage
* Dating is an experiment, only in America since the 50’s never seen in all of History previously!
* Divorce rate in America in the 50’s was nearly Zero
* Today the Divorce rate is 50+ – how is this experiment going?
Paul, your make believe statistics are amusing.
Thomas bases this article on the instruction of his grandmother, who was dating in the 30s and 40s. No tradition of dating prior to the 50s? Give us a break. Modern “courtship” culture can only trace its traditions back 200 years. Prior to that time marriages for the rich were matters of political and economic unification, and both parties would take lovers if they felt the urge, and the poor simply married (or not) someone close to the family, and even among the Puritans women sometimes came to the alter with a bun in the oven. You might like to believe that you represent a return to a more pious time, but that time never existed.
Frivorce (frivolous divorce) is indeed growing, because the worthless baby boomer generation created the institution of no-fault divorce. Marriage 2.0 as it’s often described. Making divorce easier increased its frequency? Who’d have imagined that?
Thomas also documents that the “courtship group” are also divorcing, something that seems to have escaped your trivial analysis. If daters are divorcing, and courters are divorcing, then perhaps the problem lies elsewhere.
[Thomas also documents that the “courtship group” are also divorcing, ]
Where is this ‘documentation’? You confuse anecdotal evidence with facts.
You mean like Paul does?
Our daughter just turned 15, so this is in our very near future. We are a homeschool family as well, and I found your article very intriguing. However, I believe that it is a sign of respect for a guy to ask the father. If the girl is under 18 it is an absolute must. I also agree that going out to dinner with someone does not equal a marriage proposal.
If my husband of 40 years would have had to ask my father before asking me for a date, we would never have dated. First of all most 15 or 16 year olds are too unsure of themselves to ask a girl out on a date, much less have to find her father first.
I think that you raise an interesting point– what is appropriate for daughters under the age of 18 vs over 18. I didn’t date in high school, but it seems like if I had that my parents should have played a larger role. Being in my mid-twenties it can be impractical for my parents to be involved in my dating. A few years ago, I was living across the country from my parents and I started dating a young man. He very much wanted my parents “blessing” on the relationship. When I spoke with my parents they were like ‘sure…’ because they were in no position to judge the relationship because I was living so far away.
If we are talking about an underage couple going out… to me, the question is why doesn’t the girl ask her parents if she can go on a date with this boy? If the parents haven’t met the boy, then introductions can be made before they go out. I know many “secular” families who have this rule (their child has to have their permission to go on a date… pretty simple).
The pressure of a boy having to go ask the father all on his own can be a lot. While it can be polite, requiring this as the only means of getting permission is steep and may not work (the boy may be timid for example). Plus, the girl can feel completely uninvolved , like being are talking about her but not including her.I guess I don’t see why it is just the boy who is “allowed” to date the girl and not the girl being “allowed” to date the boy. Is it not mutual?
I totally agree with you.
I’m a father of a daughter.
But as a former “requester of dates”, I can say that asking a father before a first date is too high a barrier. It serves to keep our daughters (and sons) dateless. I can’t tell you how many times I hung up the phone when calling to ask a girl on a first date but then her father answered. It took hours to get my courage up enough to even talk to the girl, much less her father.
It’s easy for us as adults to say how these kids should overcome obstacle and deal with difficult people. That’s all true. But they have a lifetime to learn that – I’m still learning.
In the meantime, it would be nice to go on some dates.
My daughter will ask me if she can go on dates. Not the boy. We will talk about him. If she wants to go, I’ll encourage her to do so. I’ll meet him casually when he comes to pick her up. I’ll play the naive dad and ask him where they are going and when they will be back. Then I’ll tell them to have fun!
Some day some young man will ask me for her hand in marriage. Until then, traditional dating as described in this article seems to be the most appropriate way to ensure the success of that future union.
PS. I really like the “no two dates in a row with the same guy” rule. I’ll have to use that when she is younger.
I am nearly 15, and I completely agree with you! I will most definitely meet a girl’s parents and get to know them before asking her to a dance. I think parents have a right to know who is interested in their daughter, even if it’s only a dance.
Now, while I am upon the subject of a dance, I do want to mention something. I asked a helpful Junior at my highschool if I ought to ask a girl’s parents BEFORE the dance. He said no, because doing so would almost force her to go with me, which would be most discourteous. What do you think as a parent?
I agree, though I don’t think it’s of the utmost importance for the boy to ask permission from the girls father. I think the parents should certainly meet him, but the boy asking the father almost indicates the girl’s dating life being controlled by her father and the boy.
I agree with Jonathan. Urging boys to avoid girls who actually respect their father’s authority is too black and white. I know of several happy-marriage stories where the father’s permission was vital to helping a young woman make the right decision. There are many wise fathers out there. Lumping them all in the courtship-is-flawed category is not very open minded, as you claim to be in this article.
You also advocate disrespect when you say to young adults, “Share this post with your parents and talk to with them about why courtship is flawed and why you are going to start going out on dates.” Again, lumping all courtship-supportive parents into a one category of overbearing parents is just wrong.
There is a middle ground that can be taken between courtship and dating, and I think it all starts with removing these dad-gum labels! Teach your daughters what to look for in a mate long before they are marrying age. Each of your children will be different, so your rules for one daughter may be different than your rules for the next. Teach them about purity, and WHY purity is so important. Get to know families and invite them into your home. Groups are good! Kids actually CAN get to know each other in groups, and will generally zone in on their favorite in the bunch.
My last comment: traditional dating worked great in a time when pre-marital sex was the exception, not the rule. Unless you know for a fact that your daughter will be dating a boy with strong character, you can’t assume that there won’t be kissing (and more) on the first date. Unfortunately, this is NOT the 1930’s.
Nikki, I think in the part about sharing it with parents and such, he’s getting at the crowd who are long since legal adults. I do think parents no longer have that level of authority over their children once their adults out working on their own and so on. Which is not to say that I believe that it’s wise to come along and say “hey parents, I’m not doing courtship anymore”. On the other hand, parents forcing their 30 year old to submit to their methods of romantic pursuit could justify a strong response of independence.
I’m always curious if those people who encourage courtship actually tried it. I’m happily married to a man that really dated me but we called it courtship. I watched my best friend’s courtship and I knew that many things would be different when it was my turn.
I think some great thoughts here Nicki. I do agree with Thomas that the whole courtship thing is based in fear and that although it has been done with good intentions, it’s actually backwards from the way God wants us to live. I also think courtship causes young men to see women primarily as sexual objects. They can’t be alone with them for a split second or they might not be able to control themselves. In the body of Christ the idea is to see one another as brothers and sisters, and out of love and respect honour one another. I let my 15 year old son date at 15 because he shared where his heart was at. It wasn’t him agreeing to my rules or standards… it was me agreeing that his own heart and standards were in a good place. He dated mainly one girl through high school (3 1/2 years) and according to him never found themselves sexually tempted. They are both engaged now to different people but both would say their dating relationship was very important in their development into Christian adults. To me it comes down to open communications between kids and parents, grace, patience and allowing kids to make mistakes, the way we did growing up. Thanks for posting.
I think a balanced approach would be to ask the guy to meet the parents before going out, not necessarily to ask permission, but just to be friendly and polite, and give them a chance to see who she’s going out with. I don’t think I’d let my girls leave the house with someone I’ve never met. Male or female.
I agree with your comments!
If we are raising our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord to see themselves as He sees them and to know who they are in Christ Jesus they will seek His wisdom when deciding who is appropriate to date. I feel there are non-negotiables for dating and friendship: equally yoked friends and dates only!
In Deuteronmy we are instructed to teach our children when waking, before bed, when we are sitting and when we are walking along the road. By taking the time to teach our children what God’s Word says we are helping them to not only understand it but own it and that with God and prayer will equip them to make wise choices about who they choose to spend their time with.
I think you’re right that the author seems to be saying “too bad” for those girls who are respecting their father’s authority. Also even if you have an overbearing father- you’re single for the rest of your life? The author is urging boys to avoid those girls? It’s not their fault.
I think as far as the traditional dating thing the author is assuming that they’re talking to fellow Christians with Christian morals. Yes people out there in the world are having sex after their first date. But Christians don’t have to follow that example. Anyway why is it all on the boy? If I went out with a boy who wanted to kiss on the first date I would say NO. And I wouldn’t expect my parents to interview this boy to find out whether he had expectations of kissing on the first date. I would expect them to interview ME to make sure that if he asked I would say NO.
You wouldn’t let your daughter date a boy whose “moral character” would let him kiss on a first date but you don’t have any faith in your daughter that she wouldn’t do the same. I see a double-standard here. If you have no faith in her why are you letting HER date?
I feel that a lot of this will depend upon how both children/young adults are raised. If a young man is taught that asking permission to “date” NOT “court” a young woman’s father is a sign of respect and great honor who are we to discourage it?
I appreciate Ileata’s comments. I, too, know of a specific friend that did courtship. They are going strong still in a happy, healthy marriage. Perhaps there is a bigger heart problem here that needs addressing, and not throw “the baby out with the bathwater” (courtship=baby). My husband and I both met young, in highschool, we did not do courtship but knowing the issues we both dealt with I wish that someone had taught us this because we would have possibly made far different choices than we did PRIOR to meeting each other. My husband says that the moment he saw me, he “knew” that I was the girl he was “supposed” to marry. We had exclusivity with each other and my Mom did not let us “date” but we were closely watched in a “sort-of” courtship fashion at the house only we didn’t have a signed contract with written rules. It was mostly just conversation and “unwritten rules.” Most of our relationship was long-distance, which was probably a good thing. We corresponded via phone and mail (before Skype and email).
So we made it, we are 19 years married (with more years added if that would include the years that we were together before marriage). We have one daughter and we feel that it is important for her to see how special it is to save herself for that ONE person that God has already picked for her. We know that God is the perfect matchmaker. Inevitably she has had crushes on boys and we don’t discourage that, we don’t discourage boy-friendships either. We just request that she not confine herself to a “boyfriend” relationship with exclusivity at this point. My husband and I PRAY for her future husband, that he too is finding it important to save himself for his future bride, our daughter. We hope that she can be spared some of the heartache that my husband and I had with the other relationships we shared besides ourselves, prior to us being exclusive.
I hope that makes sense, in this day and age kids are so quick to take things “to the next level.” It is EXPECTED in many cases and I have heard so many stories of kids losing their virginity at such tender young ages. The parents are flabbergasted “how did this happen?” they wonder. Well I personally plan on being pro-active. I like what Kent Hovind said on one of his seminars, “Boys, don’t TOUCH the girls unless to married to them.” In this day and age, you add dating and touching will come a lot sooner than later. This is my concern for my daughter and she has been given to us to guide, nurture and protect. I will teach her to abstain and wait and make sure that she understands this. She may not fully appreciate this now, but when she is happily married years from now to the man that God picked for her, she will understand my “why.”
I agree. Something just feels “pendulum swing-ish” about this article. I think balance is crucial!! What hinders are the boxes and labels.
It may not be the 1930s, but I would still recommend traditional dating. That’s exactly the way I dated in college. I did not believe in fidelity until one is engaged – no matter how much I liked the guy. Of course, I never persued a sexual relationship. Boys understood and I pretty much had that reputation. I still got a lot of dates and the vast majority of them were gentlemen. Because I was dating different guys, they could not take me for granted and, if they liked me, they had to decide the level of commitment before another guy did. I got 5 marriage proposals before I graduated college. I must’ve picked the right one because we’re still married almost 30 yrs later. I occaisionally see the guys I dated at social events and they have become fine husbands and fathers. We give each other a big hug and share warm memories.
“Unless you know for a fact that your daughter will be dating a boy with strong character, you can’t assume that there won’t be kissing (and more) on the first date.”
I find this statement kind of appalling. Do only the boys have a say in whether kissing (or ‘more’) happens?? Why does it only matter if the BOY has strong character? Of course you should counsel your daughter on the type of character she should look for in a boy, but teaching HER good character – and trusting her character – is equally as important. This might not be the 1930s but most Christian teenagers are NOT out there sleeping with their girlfriends or boyfriends, and NONE of my friends kissed on the first date when I was a teenager (which was the early 2000s). If you don’t trust your teenage daughter to say ‘no’ to kisses on the first date or to choose a boy of good character, perhaps she shouldn’t be dating yet.
I also don’t think Thomas was labelling all courtship-supportive parents as ‘over-bearing’ when he suggested children who want to date share this article and talk to their parents. They might be perfectly moderate parents who just think courtship is the best process until they read something like this.
I agree though that the labels are confusing and misleading. To me, growing up, ‘courting’ was just an old-fashioned word for ‘dating’ (or ‘going out’ as we say in Australia – we thought ‘dating’ was quite an American term, although we did go out on ‘dates’) and they both meant getting to know a boy who you liked and might want to marry one day. This can be done well or badly.
I would agree with Jonathan’s recommendation for a slightly broader context on this point. My family and I were on our journey out of various legalistic mind sets and practices when my later-to-be-husband showed up. One of the things we were still figuring out was how to transition to, as you well described, *traditional* dating (not hippie dating, not hook-up dating, etc–all the truly scary and sinful methods). Sensible, old-school dating. But it can take time. My parents were still gaining their footing, as was I, so there were elements of how we approached things that were still very tied to our old courtship ways. Nick had enough wits and grace and wisdom about him to be able to chart his own waters amidst our mucky need for further growth–a manliness and maturity that is hard to come by in any situation. He’ll tell you that in God’s grace, it was a good growth experience for him too. Had he not been *willing* to try–to give ME a try–I don’t know where I’d be. (Probably not married to him!) And we certainly made things hard for him in a number of instances (unintentionally, but still our fault).
For me, Nick’s example was exactly what I needed to help me reach that next step of understanding true Biblical interpretation and application, rather than the made up ideas I’d grown up with. He loved the Truth, spoke the Truth, lived the Truth and interacted graciously with me and my family–with ultimate loyalty only to Christ (verses an ideal or person). And he put a lot of leadership into steering our dating towards being predominantly traditional in nature, and didn’t coddle our weaknesses towards legalism. He respected where we had come from, understood where we needed to change, and gave us space and grace, but didn’t let that ruin things. Because, in our case, it didn’t have to. This was soo refreshing to me (and us), and was one of many things that demonstrated to me that Nick was a humble leader by example, and was a patient individual who operated on a level far below the surface. This was very good for our relationship.
To give one example, Nick did go ahead and meet with my dad early on. He did so out of respect, and a *general attitude* of Biblical submission (think Phil 2). In no way was Nick going to let my dad run the relationship. Dad wouldn’t have wanted to anyway, but had he, Nick probably would have talked to me about it, and if we were really staunch and obnoxious, then maybe he would have moved on. But he heard my dad out, they dialogued, came to an understanding of expectations, shook hands and all was cool. Nick was his own man and Dad, as it turns out, respected that. Rather, he preferred that! I knew this ahead of time, but Nick didn’t. But he found out by meeting with my dad. (He also discovered areas needing improvement on our end!) He could have witnessed that in other ways–which is why talking with a girl’s dad should not be considered morally obligatory–but because my dad asked for it, and because Nick was willing to meet my dad out of basic respect and genuine interest in *me*, this proved an insightful meeting….not a show-stopper. The meeting, in this case, wasn’t the issue–whatever attitudes surfaced were. Meeting my dad was just one of a thousand stepping stones in the process of getting to know me….and I him. It wasn’t the foundation of our relationship (as some treat it), but it was helpful. For those more fearful or domineering parents, such meetings end differently, I know. But I’m glad Nick didn’t run from the request itself, but rather took it in stride, and went one step at a time. Had he run away “just because”, we wouldn’t have continued dating.
The example in your article is clearly about those still deeply entrenched in strict courtship beliefs, and unhealthy parental relationships. And so yes, those folks may not be ready to handle a sensible young man respectfully yet. They may need other friendships and discipleships first. One would not want to enter a super-difficult situation unless they were ready for it and the couple knew they were willing to deal with the in-laws long term. I’ve seen it done. It can be done. And sometimes it’s the right thing. But it comes with a price and a couple has to be ready for that. Most though, should avoid those situations. And I don’t believe a young man should feel the need to “rescue” an entire family via their daughter–obviously he needs to prioritize his evaluations and efforts on the girl herself and the potential of their own relationship.
But/and so, on that point, I concur with Jonathan, though, that the caveat should probably be made that there are instances where ‘entering the ring’ IS the healthy thing to do. If the girl in particular is more willing to continue stepping away from the courtship model, or might be, it’s worth giving her a shot. Potentially worth it for her, for the couple’s relationship, and worth it for the guy. Maybe even the family. Clearly, the guy has to know *something* about her–somehow lol (we’ll leave those details to God ;))–that tells him she’s worth looking into. The guy and girl involved obviously need to seek objectivity and wisdom to know when, despite efforts, it’s not working out. But applying the old-school method of get-to-know-you dating to a girl who is still a bit uptight might be just the thing needed to help her unwind and reveal who she really is. To your overall point in the post, God’s grace + God’s wisdom + traditional dating is exactly what’s needed to help break the cycle. I’m so glad my husband stepped in and had the patience to pursue me even though I wasn’t completely free of the courtship ideas yet. By God’s grace, I am grateful to be past them now, AND to be very happily married. 🙂
And by the way, LOVE your resurrection of and distinction between the terms dating and “going steady”!! Beautiful, frankly. As we went along in our relationship, I eventually found myself wanting to use the phrase “going steady”, but no one says that any more! Lol Now hopefully that will change. Thanks for encouraging a simpler, more sensible view on relationships. It is much-needed.
Agreed. Fantastic article, but the “avoid meeting the father” issue seems bizarre. Coming from an unchurched background, and now as a saved Christian parent, the idea of courtship seemed like an ideal to me. A nice, clean, safe way to find a spouse, while guarding my children’s hearts and keeping all the worldly dating baggage out, yet I had no idea how that played out in real life. I started reading online, and came across story after story of the legalism that coincides with courtship. All my great plans for maintaining my children’s innocence while “helping” them choose a spouse went out the window!
I like this idea of keeping dating casual by not going steady too soon with the same person, however, I think the authoritative presence of a Father is a must. I hope my daughters will introduce any potential suitors to my husband from the get-go. First, any young man who is too weak to shake my husband’s hand and look him in the eye does not deserve my daughter’s affection. And second, I want him to know that our family is invested in each other, that we care whom our children are spending their time with, and that we know what the guy looks like and can describe him to police should anything awful happen. Seriously.
It sounds like the level of control involved with parents in the courtship process comes from a place of fear. No doubt, trusting young adults to make wise, life-altering decisions is scary. But that is where God carries the load. If I am training my child to seek God’s will for their life now, by the time they have reached adulthood, they will be equipped to make those decisions for themselves. Just like I can’t save them, I can’t keep them from sinning either. It’s not the world that is out to get them, sin is in their hearts too. Nothing can guarantee that there won’t be any heartache along the way. Relationships are messy.
A couple years ago, when I approached my husband with the idea of courtship for our daughters, this was his response- “That’s stupid.”
I love that man.
If I could do it over again, I would have left the “ask my dad” step out of the whole process. Why? It was just premature — by its nature, it made “just a date” into a huge deal.
I was in college when I got asked on my first date, a school dance. I lived far from home, but I was convinced the only way to date “safely” was to make the guy call my dad. When I brought it up, though, the guy was very skittish … not because he was afraid of my dad …. but because in his mind I was taking the whole thing much too seriously. He just wanted to go dance with me, and I was acting as though he was asking for my hand in marriage. Because he is a trooper, he did call and talk to my dad, but my dad was just as perplexed. He didn’t know what he was supposed to ask, or how he was supposed to be a judge of character from 2,000 miles away.
The whole thing was just silly, in retrospect. Though I wouldn’t tell a guy to run from any girl who asks him to ask her dad — after all, that’s not really proof of being controlling or even courtship-minded; it’s just something we’re told is a good idea and sign onto without thinking — I would tell any girl NOT to put a casually interested guy through this. Even if he isn’t driven off by it — which I wouldn’t blame him for, why would he go through all that trouble for a girl he barely knows? — by its nature, it makes what should be a casual get-to-know-you thing into a much bigger deal.
When you’ve been on a couple dates and want to get more exclusive, that’s a good time to bring the guy home. Or just have him pick you up at your house when your dad will be home and introduce them. Don’t make it this huge “marriage interview” type experience; it puts pressure on your relationship to move faster than is natural for it.
Soooo…. wait…. Women need a man to give them permission to date?… So does that mean that men also need a man to give them permission to date?…. And if a woman wants to give that permission?…. Or a woman wants to give that permission to herself?…. I think we’ve got a sexist alert going on here. If I were to ask a young lady out on a date, I would expect that if she has has permission from her parents to date that she is old enough to talk with her own parents or to choose for herself. If she’s that stuck in the mentality that she needs a guy to control her life for her or needs THAT much “guidance” that she can’t even say whether she can go on a date, then yeah, I would pass that by. Not because of her parents, but because of her. I don’t want somebody who wants to be controlled or under another person. I want a partner, an equal. Call me old fashion, but I sorta like having an equal, not a puppy or small child. Anyone who can’t recognize that they are being discriminated against is not going to help me in the long run other than recognizing what I DON’T want in my life and I hope that that mentality of “you’re a woman, so you are incapable of making intelligent decisions alone” fade away. That mentality is what keeps women feeling incomplete and incapable.
God is clearly states that we are to submit (love, honor, respect and cherish) to each other. However, as for the specifics – women are to be subject to their own husbands, the example Paul uses is Sarah who revered Abraham even calling him lord (lower case l). We as women are called to respect our husband’s. Husbands are called to not only dwell with their wife with understanding as being the weaker vessel (we think most often with our hearts so we need our pragmatic husbands to guide us), but husband’s are called to love their wife as Christ Jesus loves the church (humanity) in that He gave His life up for her. We were never created to be equal except in the life liberty and pursuit of happiness kind of way; God created man to be a protector and created woman with the need of security and protection. Not sure how such strides have been made to emasculate men and empower women… but I ecstatic to be not only a confident and submissive wife but my husband’s helpmeet.
Thank you, Me! I really do wish folks who knee-jerk answer with Bible verses about female submission would actually study them deeply, within the context they were written. God does not mean that females need a male authority to be in His will.
Also, what about the thousands of teen and young women who don’t have a healthy father figure in their lives? This model really only works for (predominantly) white, middle class American folks. And by “works,” I mean “is even possible to attempt,” not “generally functions well.”
And if the goal is to equip our kids to walk closely with Jesus, hear and respond to the Holy Spirit, and trust the Father with their lives, we need to lead them into the ability to make their own decisions. The choice of who to date seems an excellent place to start, assuming they’ve been raised as Bereans, not blind followers.
I say all this as a homeschooling mom who initially thought courtship sounded great, for all the reasons listed here. Growing up in a non-Christian home, I made all the wrong choices and had many regrets. When I became a Christian when my oldest was a baby, I was determined to steer her in a better direction. I don’t agree with absolutely everything in this article (like the definition of Grace, for example), but overall I think it’s excellent.
We did’t allow our minor chid to go out alone with young men who lacked the courage and respect to speak to her father first. We told her that if they weren’t willing to take that extra step, they must not want to spend time with her very badly. Dad never said no, even when I wished he had, because he trusted her to figure it out if the guy was not a keeper. The guys always knew Dad was looking out for her. Combined with her total ability to look for herself kept her from harm. And no, that didn’t mean she needed permission to have relationships. It meant that young men needed permission to be involved with a very special young lady whom God had entrusted to our care.
Even as a minor, I did not need my parent’s permission to be in a relationship. I suppose I did need their permission to leave the house, but they could not control my relationships. My husband never asked my father for my hand in marriage. He didn’t need my father’s approval; he needed MINE. My father did not “give me away” either because he never owned me. If anyone had a claim on my life, it would be my mother since I came from her womb, but even still…I own me.
I am not submissive to my husband. We are complete equals. He nags me to get a job and learn how to physically protect him because he sees me as an equal partner. Which just makes me love him SO much more!
He is religious, while I am vehemently not, but he expects equal work on my part as his spouse. He doesn’t try to use religion to make himself feel powerful. The reason I am an ex-christian is because the bible spoke against what logic and compassion told me was right and moral (initially in any passages that spoke about women). Even as a christian I never for a second believed that a benevolent god would curse me to second rate status to a man because of my genitalia.
While I am still a spiritual person (in my own ways), I feel free from the restraint of organized religion. I feel comfortable in my sexuality. I am so much happier than I ever was even at the happiest moments of my life as a christian. My husband and I actually did not date. We went from being best friends to engaged, which, for us, worked perfectly.
This article doesn’t really seem to have a healthy mindset about women, so I felt I needed to comment.
The Bible is all about submission! Your comment seems to miss this point.
Christ submitted Himself to the will of the Father, demonstrating a choice to obey. If you have a daughter who is choosing submission to her parents -obedience- and wanting you to meet her father, that is a really good characteristic, for both of you! It speaks volumes for any future relationship, marriage or otherwise.
Also, the article seem to make a big leap from “asking her father” to “a controlling father”, equating them. I think there is a huge difference between CONTROL and INFLUENCE.
Preach, “Me”. I really enjoyed this post, but would tweak it in the following ways- 1. Forget about the “guy pays” or “guy initiates” stuff. that’s just weird. 2. Make a distinction between teen and adult dating, in the sense that adult women do not need their parents’ involvement, much less permission, in their romantic life. Courtship, as well as many other ideas and practices common among conservative homeschooling culture, deprives women of agency in their own lives. If the lady in question is over 18 (and hopefully a bit before, depending on her maturity level) she does not need permission from anyone to date. I grew up in courtship culture, but I never went out with a guy who wanted to ask my dad for permission,because that would be implying my dad’s ownership of me, or some need to protect me. If a young lady is being harassed and wants to enlist help in dealing with it, that’s great, but it’s her call. I realize that a lot of young women in this subculture have been taught that they need dad’s permission for dating and marriage, and I would never seek to be harsh with them, but it we would be remiss not to gently remind them that, as adults, they are the only ones ultimately accountable and responsible for their lives, romantic and otherwise, and that it is not healthy for them to shove that off on someone else, no matter how good their motive.
Our daughter is only 12 and hasn’t had anyone ask her out yet, and as of right now, has no desire to date. We have set the standard that if a guy asks her out, he needs to ask me. His first time out with her will include us. That doesn’t necessarily mean that we will all go on the date together, but I need to meet him and learn a little of who he is. Part of that is because I see it as my place as her protector (for now). I don’t expect the guy to be excited or even necessarily comfortable meeting me or calling me, but he should at least be willing to let me meet him if he’s going to date my daughter. I’m sure some adjustments will be made since we will learn as we go, but for now, that’s the standard I feel like I need to hold. I didn’t date until college (not a moral standard, but I just wasn’t good/confident with girls), and the only serious relationship I had was with my bride. I’m not legalistic by any stretch of the imagination, but I like the idea of chivalry and respect and try to instill that in the students I minister to at the church: respect for ladies, holding doors, ladies first, etc. It is just about respect, not inequality. My bride of 19 years deeply appreciates the way I try to take care of her, and we just want the same for our daughter.
‘Me’ – seeking your father’s advice isn’t discrimination. Chill. Keep in mind a lot of girls are minors when they begin dating, even like 13 or 14, not necessarily ‘women’. (This article kind of advocates that, actually). Their parents are legally responsible for them. It really isn’t terribly extreme that the parents might expect the girl to chat to her parents first when asked on a date. I was asked on my first date when I was 17, and when I told mum about it, she told me I had to ask dad. At that age, I had to ask my parents for permission to go out virtually anywhere – although mum’s permission was normally sufficient, this time she deferred to my dad. If my friends invited me to the movies I’d ask “is it ok if I go to the movies with Katie on Saturday”. In the same way, when a boy asked me on a date, I had to run it past dad first. I told dad, and he was a little uncomfortable with the fact he had never met the boy before (he had met plenty of my other male friends and probably expected one of them would be the first to ask me out), but he said as long as he got to meet him first it was fine. So when the boy (now my husband) came to pick me up, he came inside, met my parents (in fact met my entire family because my siblings were about to head out at the same time I was), and then we went off on our date. To be honest, from that point onwards my father was hardly involved in my relationship. Sometimes I wish he had been a little more. My boyfriend spent a lot of time around my family though so maybe that was sufficient for my dad to form an opinion on things.
Please note that I have never been a fan of what this article refers to as ‘courting’ though. I value a father’s advice (and, in the case of minors, permission) in dating relationships, but constant control and decision-making? No way. That sub-culture never reached our church (I don’t know if it ever became a big thing in Australia at all).
Amelia, I think it is kind of insulting to imply that if you’re not white, middle-class, or American, you probably don’t have a loving, caring father, and that this scenario would not work for you.
And saying it’s a sign of respect? No. That’s a sign of a hierarchy that is rooted in sexism. Respect? Respect your daughter enough to raise her with a competent mind and trust her to use take advantage of all the years of wisdom you’ve passed down to her. Respect her enough to not treat her as incapable, somebody that needs guidance and permission and she’s passed off to the next man. If you want to respect your daughter, teach her how to respect herself, then let her do it.
I completely agree!! As a woman who grew up “dating,” got married early, had babies and joined the homeschooling world–I totally got sucked into the whole courtship idea. Didn’t this insure that my kids wouldn’t make the same mistakes as me??? I now have six kids, and the oldest is 17. Thankfully, he has a very smart mind of his own and was pretty frank with me about his thoughts of courtship. He hasn’t even started dating because he doesn’t think he’s ready, but communication is one of the things I value greatest in my relationship with my kids. So I’m thankful that he talks to me. He has changed my mind about courtship, and I loved this article. I agree totally with what you are saying here as well–that a young lady given the freedom to date should be mature enough already to make the decisions that are God honoring and self honoring. I, myself, am a very independent woman with opinions and thoughts of my own. My husband loves this and treasures this about me. I want my daughters to know that they are free in Christ (and under the headship of a man who loves them as Christ loves the church) to be strong and independent–starting with their own choice of dates!! Kudos to you for this piece!!
Yes yes yes yes yesssssss
“Call me old fashion.” First off, it’s “old-fashioned.” Hyphenated, past-tense. Secondly, there’s nothing “old” about the idea. In the Bible, there are many verses that tell us that the husband is to be the leader of the family (e.g. “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.” [Ephesians 5:22-33]). The “sexism” in the sense of which you speak stems from the ideas of the more modern feminist movements.
“I don’t want somebody who wants to be controlled or under another person.” Submitting to authority is part of life for everyone. No matter where you are on any chain of command, you still have those in authority over you. You are called to submit to Christ, to the church, and to the state. Those who does not allow themselves to be under authority are called rebels.
Also, you speak as though receiving guidance is a bad thing. I recommend Proverbs.
This may sound as if I am “sexist,” or in some way think that women are less valuable than men. This is not the case. I do believe, however, that God created men and women differently and has called us to different roles. Volumes can be, and have been, written on the subject, but I end here for the sake of relative brevity.
Thanks, Me! As a mom of 3 beautiful, smart, talented daughters, you have given me hope that people like you do exist.
Interesting… I know an elderly woman who is unstable because she was never taught to be self-resilient, only to use her beauty to be an adored Southern belle.
Thank you for pointing this out. Another point is that fathers who believe in courtship hold that their authority over their daughter ends on the day she gets married. So unless the parent is controlling aside from their authority over the relationship, you shouldn’t have to worry about a controlling in-law long-term.
I escaped courtship in the midst of pursuing my first relationship… and that relationship turned out to be my husband (I got my idea of what I wanted in a man just by being friends with a lot of guys). He put up with being put through the wringer by a dad who frankly didn’t deserve to have any authority over my choices… because he thought I was worth it. When you move on from a girl just because she’s still caught in the lies of courtship, you are telling her that she’s not worth the effort. And who knows? She might be that special.
Just 2 cents, if my mother-in-law had maintained a say over my husband, we would have never married. (Some parental involvement can be good, and some can be destructive…) Thankfully, my husband did not consult his controlling, judgmental mother who remains a strong critic of me… Just remember, a lot of in-law problems can be real issues…. Why start early with in-law complications?
Good points, I concur.
CC – I think Ally is trying to distinguish between ‘courtship’ parents and plain old controlling parents. I think most ‘courtship’ parents view it as their responsibility to protect their daughter until she marries, then after that point it’s the husband’s job and they back off. Sure you probably get over-controlling parents in that category, but I don’t think a ‘courtship’ parent is automatically over-controlling. You can’t be sure you’re ‘starting early with in-law complications’. Most of them are probably very nice people who make perfectly acceptable in-laws. You’re just as likely to get nightmare in-laws even in a normal dating scenario.
Well said, Mr. Hill!
I know where he was coming from though. Some fathers can be overly controlling and eager to push away any and all suitors just for the sake of it. Personally, when I have interest in a girl, meeting her father terrifies me. His words meant well, even if they were a bit vague in not explaining the context of his words.
Thanks for noting this too! I agree with everything you said, and would add a note;
the author seems to assume that if a young lady asks a young man to talk to/get to know her father before she’ll go out with him, it’s the parents who have instated that rule. Nobody ever seems to consider that maybe the young lady herself has put that out as a guideline to keep her heart safe. My father, for instance, has never made a single dating/courtship rule in his life. And I would still consider it basic, common courtesy for a young man to have to become acquainted with my dad before I would go out with him. It’s not a rule, there’s no verse in scripture to back it up, I don’t know of a study that proves/disproves it, etc. Regardless, no decent young man would dare borrow a man’s car for an evening without asking him first, would he? How much more does he have an obligation to establish some kind of relationship with a girl’s family?
Pearl, I imagine you’re not seeing it this way… but you just compared a young woman to a car. And herein lies the entire problem with the “ask the father” idea. It equates a daughter with being a man’s property. And in this paradigm, the day the father gives up his control over his daughter is the day she marries, presumably to become another man’s property, her husband’s.
A young woman is not property, as WAS the case in Biblical times, where these ideas come from. A young woman needs to develop the decision-making ability and the confidence in herself to navigate these waters, hopefully with the love, support and advice of her parents. But without their control.
I think the author would absolutely agree that a suitor would speak with your dad about his intentions if he wanted to go steady with you. But, my grandma in the 30s-40s went dancing, got sodas, went to the picture show with boys who her dad knew but they didn’t ask for “permission”.
You are not a car. You don’t “belong” to anyone except Jesus. You are a human. You decide who you want to eat with…not your dad.
Jonathon.. Thank you!! Because I was one of those girls with a controlling father and would have never married my husband had he not pursued me (and my father), obeyed my father’s commands, and stuck it through to the end. Sadly.. we had to go against my father’s wishes to carry out our marriage that we believe the Lord brought about and has blessed abundantly now for 9 years and 3 beautiful children later. To this day, my parents have chosen not to have a relationship with us, but I praise God and am so very grateful that my husband felt I was worth the trouble.
Thank you — in this situation —the “permission to date”— we have always felt respected and approachable. Daddies and daughters have a special relationship. And, the father as a covering for the family delights in doing well for his children. Another man, who may end up taking interest in marrying one’s daughter, will have a good experience in the “leaving and cleaving” process if he has a good foundation relationship with the father of his wife. There will be days that come and go where the relationship between the families (in-laws & kids) will be tested. But if the respect and love are there, it will endure. It also goes in the opposite direction, too. Our sons often talk to my husband about their interests, and “How should I handle this, dad?” So — it goes both ways.
When I was dating (the term courting was more for engagement; we also had “going steady” as well) — I was much older, and away from home, but somehow my dad “knew.” There were times he would call and say, “I don’t think this is a good idea,” or “Beware – ” And then, I remember the day he said, “If this is what you, in your heart and before God, want, I’m okay with that.” He also said, “If you have any doubts, even when we’re standing at the entrance to walk down the aisle, don’t go. Just tell me, and I’ll walk away with you.” My brothers were a little tougher to get “approval.” (HA!)
I married that guy. We have been married almost 30 years. We “went steady” for 3 years, and for that time, one year, I wore an engagement ring. It was because we paid for our own wedding, and had no debts walking into marriage. It’s not the perfect example. But, I’m thankful my dad was sensitive to letting me know – even though he wasn’t around me, he cared, and was praying for me.
Thanks for pointing this out. Not all fathers who want to have a say in their daughter’s future are ultra-controlling. Some are just being godly dads and gatekeepers for their daughters (and sons).
Thanks for addressing this issue, which is basically one of respect and good manners. I totally agree a young man who is unwilling to to talk to the father is acting selfishly and weak. If the young man doesn’t think a girl, who is honoring her father and submitting to his authority, is worth his time and courage in asking her father, he is just playing around. He is being selfish and is not worthy of that young woman.
I appreciate you bringing up this point. When I was in high school my dad was one who wanted to meet my dates before we went out, especially if he did not know them. It wasn’t that he was being controlling, but he was protecting me!
Jonathon Hill, I really agree with not encouraging boys to give up–both from a feminine perspective and a parental one. Tenacity is attractive, but you also want men to conquer rejection and rise against struggle so you know they will be capable of providing and protecting in a very unfriendly world.
The part about an overbearing father-in-law was a good point, but since you need to leave parents and cleave to your spouse–the father-in-law should not be a deal-breaker unless the girl is not willing to leave her parents, as commanded.
Oh, I agree so whole-heartedly with this!!!! Our girls’ father–my husband–is NOT a controlling person. At the same time, our sons-in-law showed their respect to him as our daughter’s father by asking him first. Of course, I realize that this is our personal experience and doesn’t make it right for everyone, but I don’t like the insinuation that a girl is wrong to ask an interested guy to talk to her dad before she gives an answer!
My personal opinion is that there are too many people out there wanting everybody to agree with them that THEIR way of doing things is the only right or correct or best way. It seems to be a way to get God’s personal approval over how I do things! We as God’s followers need to be open to HIS direction for the children and family He has given us and not be taking the direction of any writer or author–of books or blogs. Having said that, I don’t mean that the author of this article is guilty of that, it is us who read and think and digest it who err. It is so easy to swing back and forth from one extreme to the other. So, courtship was a reaction way back then–will we now swing back the other way??? Traditional dating is a term for “back then” and I do not think it’s a healthy alternative today. God would love to clearly guide us if we care to listen!!
I agree completely. When asked out on a date, I have always referred the guy to my dad first; by my choice, not Dad’s, haha! My dad is not controlling in the slightest, but he is a fairly good judge of character. I remember my older sister going through a series of jerks in her dating life before finding the right guy; by referring a man to my dad first (even though he always says yes), it gives me a chance to have someone older and wiser than me do a brief character assessment so that he can advise me later on whether he sees some deep character flaw that the guy hides when he’s around just me. It’s not a control issue; it’s just a way of getting a second opinion to prevent future heartache.
My wife sent me to her dad when I first expressed interest in dating her. From the first time I met with him until our engagement, he became the greatest asset for me in our dating relationship. He would occasionally meet with me and ask me how things are going, and then give me room to talk. Being able to share my heart for her to a man that was closest to her, being able to bounce ideas and concerns off of him, and to have accountability from him was an amazing gift to me. He only enhanced our dating relationship (courting relationship… whatever you want to call it), which was an incredible season of joy before the Lord. I am, and always will be, grateful for my father-in-law’s shepherding.
I so agree with you Tish! That’s how it is with me too. My Dad is an excellent judge of character and I believe that he has saved me a lot of heartache over my 29 years because of his wisdom. I respect and value my fathers/parents’ opinion, advice etc…. My parents are my best friends really.
Agreed. I wanted my dad to meet the guy before we essentially started “going steady” – not necessarily first date. My dad didn’t make me, but I valued my dad’s opinion and I thought highly of the guy I was interested in being willing to approach my father in that way. I think it’s a case by case scenario, not a hard, fast rule.
My Father in Law required this, and he said no to me the first time around. However, he did offer to get to know me. He is neither controling nor a problem for my family. He is well respected as an advisor and fellow man.
I think different people require a different “touch.”
That was the part of this post that bothered me, too! I agree with you completely! The author makes it sound like as soon as a girl requires effort, you should move on because she’s just not worth it. What kind of message is that sending? And that’s not to mention the hurt that kind of action could cause.
Good points and well said! @Jonathon Hill
Well said 😉
This was my disagreement with the piece, also. Some of the girls who are from ultra conservative home-school courting families are worth it!!!
Obviously, if you are not allowed casually date that girl, but you are interested in her (but you don’t know if you want to court her (i.e. marry her) then be creative in other ways to get to know her.
She might be worth getting to know. She might be “the one” for you.
Jonathan, thank you for your comment. You almost took the words right out of my head.
One thing I’d like to add is that just because a father requires that you ask him to take his daughter out does not mean that he is controlling. I have seen controlling. I have also seen caring, trusting, and protecting from an almost guaranteed train wreck. Just because someone expects that you will ask them before you just take their daughter out on a date does not mean that they are controlling.
Totally agree. With two teens, we are watching others closely. After seeing a few disastrous courtship marriages, I also turned off that option, BUT completely agree with bringing in a guy and having a talk, particularly when “going steady” starts to happen. Dinners with “the fam” help everyone know what they are getting into, as well. Nicely said, Jonathon.
Great article. Good comment Jonathan. Good discussion. And certainly “discussion” is part of the desired outcome for the original article. As a parent of a daughter (19) who has been somewhere between the traditional dating scene and the courtship mentality and a son (17) I struggle with both ends of the spectrum. Of course the answer lies not at either end of the spectrum but somewhere in the middle. It often takes two hands to think Biblicaly (on the one hand – on the other hand).
I pray. I ask God’s direction. I listen. I do. And His loving-kindness covers all.
You bring up a great point, one of many that I found troubling in this blog post. However, I do not think that Thomas’s tone was “gentle and non-judgmental.” The very title of his blog invalidates any opinion but his own.
Coming from a homeschooling family myself I find that I actually agree with what the author of the article has said. My parent’s form of “courtship” included the rule “you cannot speak to a boy, even in a public setting.” It was indeed a matter of if the boy was interested he told HIS father who told YOUR father and if the two of THEM agreed then you begin courting. Thankfully I have a father who would have asked me my desires before just telling me I’m going to be courting so and so but the fact remains once entered into a courtship I was going to marry the boy with in a few months. No matter what. I know girls that accepted “dates” with boys and were basically disowned for not “following” the proper steps. I do not believe that any young man should have to ask a girls father for permission simply to take her out to dinner. In fact I felt that my parents didn’t trust me to make the right decision and be able to follow the Lord’s guidance because I wasn’t even allowed to talk to a boy much less be friends with one. If my parents had been willing to allow me to make my own choice when asked then I may have been more willing to follow the “rules of courtship” they were demanding that myself and my four sisters abide by. I wanted so bad to be noticed by a boy, to be asked on a date, but all the boys I knew also knew my parents rules and I was avoided as if I had the plague. I found myself bitter and resentful of the expectations my parents had, however lovingly they meant them, and moved as 1,200 miles away from my family. I found a church that had a thriving ministry to young people of my age and went out to dinner with several different young men. It was light-hearted and fun without pressure and I felt that I finally learned what I wanted in a husband.
I am currently engaged and planning my wedding to my best friend. A man I got to know and came to love by simply going to dinner or the movies as friends. By having private conversations in public places and by going to events that we both enjoyed. We went on ‘friendship dates” as we called them for 9 months before “going steady”. It is the most fun I’ve had getting to know the man that I am looking forward to calling my husband. And it all came about because he asked me, not my father, if I wanted to go to dinner sometime.
I’m not saying that its wrong to ask a girl’s father if you can take her out to dinner and if that is something you do then good for you! But in my experience it wouldn’t have worked out for me.
I agree– my brother in law, who didn’t want ANY parental involvement (not even advice, which I don’t agree with), pursued my sister, he did help my parents realize how much we needed to have less of parental control and more of parental advice. My parents have grown a lot through that experience (my sister is now happily married) and are actively in the business of matchmaking. 🙂
Hello Jonathon. Its important not to get too serious too soon, because then if it doesn’t work out, there may be temptations to stay because you’re already too emotionally invested, even though its not a positive relationship. Having to go through the father day-one will almost certainly cause you to be too emotionally invested to think clearly about whether this girl is the one for you, so for your own emotional and spiritual safety, it is probably wise to stay away.
Long-time reader, first-time commenter here. I’m not sure why going dutch violates biblical principles and fairly sure that earning money to attract the opposite sex does, but setting that aside, why do you limit your advice to be open-minded to “hidden gems” to women? In my own Evangelical community, I’ve observed homely girls routinely passed over for their their lovelier sisters. In these circumstances it is disingenuous to reassure them, as you have, that “the reason guys are not asking you out is NOT because you are unattractive.”
Thank you., Margaret. “interested Dad” does not equal “controlling dad”. I think besides good manners, in our society it is important to meet the young man. It also lets him know you value your daughter, and implies you expect he will also. She is much less likely to find herself in a situation our of her control if the young man has talked with her Dad f
ace to face first.
You must know your daughter has good character and will turn the boy down if he goes too far.
So true! We should marry someone to whom we are attracted to But, the fact that attraction can grow, and may not be at first glance, should apply to both the guy and the girl.
Guys, why not give the plainer girl a chance? She may be a total gem.
Heather, you’re correct to say that looks do matter more than some people like to admit, however a positive spin on that is that we tend to end up marrying people in the same looks range as ourselves.
A plainer woman isn’t going to marry a Brad Pitt, but the good news is that there are a lot of good men who don’t look like Brad Pitt. Likewise the less handsome man isn’t going to marry Angelina Jolie, but again there are a lot of good women who don’t look like Angelina Jolie.
We should always be realistic in our self-assessments. If we’re not 10s then we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be romantically interested in 10s. Treat the beautiful people like expensive artwork. Nice to look at, but not for us. Instead we should make the best of what we do have, keep hair clean and neat (long on women if you can live with it), dress as well as we can afford to, maintain a reasonable level of physical fitness, and above all cultivate positive personality traits. Be kind, patient, thoughtful, loving, gracious. Looks fade with time, but being pleasant company never gets old.
Once married we should not neglect those things either, of course. Nor should the intimate side of marriage be neglected. Children may come, but remember to cultivate the married relationship. After all the children (hopefully) won’t be there forever.
That WAS interesting.
We began with the idea of the courtship model with our sons (now 20 and 18), and have slid to a gentle dating approach. The general idea being that you don’t keep dating a gal once you’ve eliminated her from status as a contender for the wife position. But I’ve noticed that some of the gals who clearly are never going to make it to the alter with one of my boys do occasionally show up for what appears to be a shoring up of self-esteem.
It seems to me that the biggest problem that this generation has is that the elitists and a lot of the culture wants to pretend that sex is just a recreational sport, when every adult who “played the field” knows that it absolutely is not.
Thomas, this is excellent! Well thought out, well reasoned, and told in love. Bravo!
I really agree with a lot of what was said here. I see this not only as a problem in homeschool communities but as a problem in my church. There is so much pressure put on relationships that if you don’t marry the first guy you date there is a problem. I don’t necessarily agree with your grandmother’s advice for older (18+) singles. I think to get to know someone you need to go on dates with them and talk to them for a while.
I also think there is a lot of pressure on young people to finish their schooling before they get married. Some of this pressure is mis-placed as some people go to get master’s/phd’s. People need to know that it is ok to get married while you are in school. It’s ok to be poor, happy and married. You will have a lot of fun and it may save you from a lot of regrets! This is just my two cents… Hope everyone reading this finds true love!
I agree. Don’t wait until you have finished higher ed to marry. If you have found the right one, it’s OK to be struggling students together.
This push for young marriage is really disturbing. I dont think you need a lot of money to marry , I do think you need a level of security and maturity. The economy is bad. you need coping skills. Furthermore, the college crowd 18-22 is at the highest risk of divorce.The human brain isnt fully developed until 22 which is when most finish college.
@A. Roddy The brain isn’t fully developed until age 27 on average. But that doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t get married before that time. I agree that it’s unwise to get married before you know what you want out of life, or before you know that your spouse will still be around when it’s hard to pay the bills (or that you will). I’ve got plenty of strong Christian friends who got married at 22 or 23 and are still doing great after 8 or 9 years. I’ve got strong Christian friends who got married in college and feel like they don’t know each other anymore because they’ve changed so much. I’ve also got plenty of strong Christian single friends in their thirties who thank God that they didn’t get married young. I know young single girls in college who pine for some kind of Disney romance (they will be shocked by actual relationships). I really see it as a case-by-case issue, not a generational one. Please don’t lump so many varied people into one box.
Thanks for this thoughtful, breath-of-fresh-air post! I’ve been in the h.s. community for over twelve years and am finding many things that were held onto so tightly crumbling. I’ve asked God a lot of questions lately and felt the Holy Spirit leading me to this conclusion, not only does God not like control, he will not allow it to prosper. Not even He choses to control us, but asks us to submit in obedience so he can lead us. Very different from control. Isn’t the courting thing one more attempt at control? I can’t help but believe this control is then taken into the marriage which cannot lead to a healthy relationship between a man and a woman. Thanks again, may God give us eyes to see and ears to hear.
I have two questions.
1. At what age are you suggesting that dating is appropriate? We have kids as young as 12 in our youth group who “going steady” or moving from person to person every few weeks. These are kids of very consistent church attenders. Are you thinking 14ish, 16ish, 18ish…?
2. If my boys (15 and 16) were to “date around,” they would be labeled as “players” or “ladies men” at our church. As a mother of a 13 year old girl, I can understand that perception. Do you have any thoughts on this matter?
Oh, also, does courtship mean that parents have such a strong “say” in the matter? I thought that courtship had more to do with not allowing your kiddos to start pursuing romantic relationships till they were of a “marriageable mindset,” out of high school, with a steady job, etc.”
I agree with you Jennifer. I don’t feel it’s appropriate for children/teens to be “dating around” or even really courting. I don’t believe they are mentally or emotionally ready for this. Being together with friends and getting to know them? Absolutley. I think the concept of courting or dating should be when one is considering the idea of getting married, not that they are necessarily READY to get married. Does this mean I’ll never let my children go to a movie or dinner or a formal with someone? No, but they will go with their friend who happens to be a member of the opposite sex and they will go with a group of other friends. We teach our kids that there is no reason to have a boyfriend/girlfriend until you are ready to consider marrying that person. I didn’t say ready to marry, just considering it. My concern is that children of any age should not be left alone with a member of the opposite sex. Too many times physical touching (and way more) happens b/c the opportunity is there and “no one will know.” If a girl doesn’t want to be kissed, it makes it much easier to avoid if there are others around. Can they spend time in private conversation? Sure, there are plenty of picnic tables at the park or other areas to spend time talking with one another to get to know them. In our culture, many guys are often pressured into “getting to 2nd base” (or farther) by their peers and sometimes even the girls pressure each other in this day and age. However, when there are other people around, the pressure is off. I’m also a firm believer that if a guy wants to kiss a girl or even hold her hand, he should ask her. Some girls will respond to a kiss or a hand b/c they don’t want to hurt his feelings. Asking removes all doubt or confusion.
Though I find a lot true with this, part of the reason we encourage youth to date is to meet new people in a personal way, and I suppose the ultimate goal is to find a spouse. If you date a person with the mindset “I want to marry him/her” it is difficult to see the flaws in that person that may be discovered later and lead to a troubled marriage.
I think that we ought not to call it ‘dating’ in today’s culture. My husband and I started off hanging out in a group, but we really discovered our connection when we started hanging out one-on-one. However, it was all as friends. We’d meet after work for tea, or go get pizza because we both had a craving for it. The end result was a year as friends who did a lot of things together, then dated (went steady!) for about 5 months before getting engaged. We’ve been happy together for many years now. 🙂
This is very similar to my experience. I read “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” and loved it, but I had a very small group of Christian friends and the only ones to ask me out were non-Christians. Finally, a guy I’d know for a while asked me out and we ended up “hanging out” for a year. We always went dutch, usually with friends, & I usually drove myself. After a year and some serious spiritual transformation in his life, we made the step to actual dating with my parents’ blessing. At that point we were very intentional and had a short dating and engagement period before getting married. I know the Lord was working through it all– I never could have planned the way it happened. And now we’re about to celebrate our 11th anniversary!
I’d be careful about making decisions based on what church people think. It’s better to teach our kids to focus on what pleases God and leave other’s opinions in His hands.
I don’t think Thomas is really telling you to encourage your kids to pursue “romantic” relationships. Rather he wants them to be OK with hanging out with opposite-gendered folk one-on-one, *with* the intention of learning what they need/want in a mate, but *without* the implication that hand-holding, kissing, sharing of deep-dark-secrets, and exclusivity are required. If your kids go to a public school, this is indeed very different from their friends idea of “dating”! So you do need to be careful about the messaging.
I think one thing that could be very helpful is to get the other parents at your church in on the deal. If all the church-parents have the same concept of dating, you could have a safe community for your child to date in.
As someone who was a teenager only 10 years ago, I can tell you (anecdotally) that the all-or-nothing “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” approach is not so healthy for teenagers. At my church the result was that kids were split into more or less two groups – those who didn’t date at all, and those who dated in an entirely secular manner. I was in the former group, and by the time I finished highschool my personal requirements for who I would be willing to date were basically nil, in part because I felt unattractive but even more so because I was *extremely curious* about what it would be like to be dating someone. I got lucky that I met a wonderful Christian guy during freshman orientation of college and was able to reset my self-esteem. Meanwhile my brother did date during highschool, mostly because non-Christian girls more or less seduced him. He thought that Christian girls were unattainable and never bothered to ask them out, while these non-Christians showed up at his band’s shows, complemented him, massaged his shoulders, and even asked him out. It was too easy – he didn’t resist that temptation.
The fact of the matter is you’re not going to escape “dating culture”. It’s fine to tell your kids to kiss worldly dating goodbye, but you need to offer something more than “wait until you’re ready”. They feel ready now, and it’s better to give them healthy guidelines than to let someone else define them for you.
I agree Jennifer, I don’t think middle-schoolers should be dating in any sense of the word. I agree with Thomas that young people should feel free to date a few people before choosing someone to start a relationship with, but I sure wouldn’t make it a requirement and I wouldn’t be advocating it for people under 15 or 16. Dating, however you do it, is ultimately with marriage in mind at the end. It shouldn’t have the pressure that Thomas describes in courtship, but that’s the ultimate goal. Kids under 16 really don’t need to be thinking about that IMO. I know kids who have got into ‘steady relationships’ at younger ages (my brother was one!) but they never actually went on dates – they basically just hung out at school, held hands, and chatted on instant messengers online. *Actual* dating – spending time together alone – at that age, is unnecessary I think.
They CAN be getting to know members of the opposite sex in group contexts. I understand Thomas’s concern for people who don’t open up well in group contexts, but as an introvert myself, that is only applicable in large groups, or groups containing people you do not know well. If it is a group of friends, an introvert will be just as out there and willing to chat as anyone else. In fact in group environments, groups often break up and smaller conversations begin.
The age where it’s ok to date is 13 of course. The bible explicitly says so. If you date when you’re 12 or wait till you’re older to start then you’re just a pagan.
In high school, I dated around at my church and school, going on dates with probably around 15-20 girls. I already had a career as a software engineer started in high school, was going to college already, and had a vehicle, so in that respect I was a little ab-normal. Most of the time I would just go on 1 date (maybe 2) and if there was no spark, we would both move on without a great deal of emotional connection. During dates, it was more like we were just friends getting to know each other, not super “serious” or “emotional.” There were a couple times when one of us was interested and the other wasn’t, but because it ended pretty early, there wasn’t a big emotional heartache.
I kind of got a reputation as being a little creepy at some point because girls at church thought it was weird to go on “non-serious” dates with a bunch of girls. I was in no way promiscuous (no sex, kissing, hand holding, snugging, etc). My wife ended up dating me anyway and we ended up getting married 3 years later, our junior year of college. I’ve been married 3 years now.
In any case, I agree that evangelical church girls are really weird about dating. I once had a girl turn me down who was not interested in dating until finishing college (ended up getting married in a couple years haha). I never liked the courtship thing, though I’m DEFINITELY a fan of godly dating. I think more people should be willing to go on non-serious dates with different people until you find someone with a real connection. All the while, you should approach it in a responsible, Godly way.
I agree with some of this, not quite all if it. I did find it helpful. I am 28, single, and was homeschooled. I have held to a relaxed form of courtship. I do want my father involved because he knows my heart. This post was helpful because now I understand why a couple of guys have reacted the way they did to my request that they talk to my dad.
I do want to make one comment. It may not be fair to suggest to guys that if a woman asks him to talk to her father he should just move on. You put all “courtship fathers” in the same category. They are not all the same. In my case, for instance, I am the one who wants guys to meet with my dad first for my protection. My father is not the type to send guys away. He is not controlling. All decisions are my own. I just want my dad to have an opportunity to get on a first name basis with a guy early on so that he has insight and can give me advice when necessary.
I think every relationship is different and should be. I don’t see any reason why someone who is used to one model or the other shouldn’t at least be considered by someone who prefers the other model. If courtship people aknowledge dating as valid and dating people acknowledge courtship as valid then there should be less problems all around.
I agree, Shaylene. So the parent doesn’t have to know the guy, at all?!? What if talk to my dad, just means he just wants to see you and not let his daughter just go with some random guy. It takes courage to do that and what’s wrong with that? Other than that, I like this article.
At 28, it is time you knew your own heart well enough to not need your father for protection. As a father of two faithful teenagers, I am raising them to establish in full maturity their relationship with their real Father. I would advise any young man in his 20s to steer clear of a woman who required at that age the young man meet her dad first. Many marriages we see in our community crumble because we have in the name of protection, kept our young people from reaching maturity. Too many have married without even understanding themselves well enough to offer themselves completely to marriage. Take the time to grow, gain complete confidence in who you are, and your own heart. When you know what you are offering to a potential spouse enough to deduce whether it can be received and reciprocated…you will be prepared, and desirable.
My heart exactly.
In the most loving way I can, I’d like to suggest that at 28, it is time to cut the cord and begin to trust yourself. Are you living on your own and being responsible for your own care and expenses? If so, then it’s ok to decide to go out casually with someone without making him meet your father first. Spending time with a man should not obligate you to marry him, which is the pressure that could be put on a gentleman if he is required to meet your father first.
I am from a Christian home and strict background and in my late 20s also. I have been raised with the courting idea, but now that I am an adult. I would like to pursue a relationship that my parents do not approve of because of a large age gap. I am trying to decide what role my parents should still be playing in determining who I want to date. Any suggestions?
I can’t reply to Mel below so I’m going to do so here in hopes she will see it. Late 20’s is too old to need your parents, but it doesn’t mean you are ready either. Adults get advice from friends who care about them, not orders from people who want to control them. I’m married to a man ten years older and it turned out wonderfully. But, coming from such a controlling environment, you may find yourself attracted to a controlling father figure that is not healthy for you. Please look up all you can about boundaries. There’s a lot to find online. Make sure you know your God personally and intimately, on your own and not only through what your parents say. Make sure you are not trading one controlling person for another. Read the bible and pray and trust your own word from God. He is your Father. You are an adult.
Mel, please listen to Romelle.
Can I wade in here with a bit of a rant?
Firstly, my biggest beef: why do people think that age necessarily dictates or defines the cut-off for welcoming the role that loving parents could provide in the life of their child? A single daughter is still a single daughter, no matter the age, or physical distance, or financial independence she experiences. If she would like the opinion of her parents, isn’t that a beautiful and likely (not to mention biblical) place to go for “wise counsel”, as opposed to the internet, or only people your own age? I don’t mean to be offensive toward thoughtful, mature young people, but there is much in Scripture regarding seeking our elders for wise counsel. On that note, fathers don’t always deserve their children’s respect, but the office of fatherhood is apart from the man, and we honour God by honouring the office of father; how that’s received is up to them, and though we don’t have control over their response, that doesn’t mean we don’t attempt to do the right thing.
People who’ve previously commented are quite right to say that, ultimately, we all stand alone before God; however, parents are stewards (not owners – that argument is a red herring) of their children, and, until a woman moves from under the covering of her father (not control…it is so much more than control!) to join her husband as his helpmeet (another great word to explore unafraid), she can, and quite possibly should, at least be able to seek her dad’s involvement, which would include her mother, as she is one flesh with her husband. I guess it’s up to the daughter if she then decides to honour their wishes or not. I humbly assert that these ideas are from the bible: do with them what you will.
Yet, I can’t but ask why in the name of the pursuit of life and liberty do we seem to rule out our parents? Why the castigation of the family unit? If we say we are for families; let’s walk that out to the logical conclusion: you are a child until your parents pass on to the next life. Your adulthood doesn’t of necessity make you entirely independent of family. Yes, leave and cleave (and that’s for sons, not daughters), but my point is that we would honour our parents, and seek them out in all stages. I wish to God we could simply make the assumption that people desire to come to maturity, and that asking parents their opinion doesn’t mean one doesn’t know their own heart, or trust the foundation their parents have built into them. On the contrary, I believe it could be argued that such consultation easily demonstrates wisdom, not immaturity.
It seems to me that the only rule for relationships is that there isn’t a rule. There are so many varieties of stories, and situations that we would be remiss to put God in a box and say: you must play the field to know who you want to marry. He is completely able to bring young people together in strange and wonderful ways. Of this we do not need to be afraid, so let’s not all get on the “go to a church that has a lot of young people” bandwagon, unless that happens to be where you already worship. And it’s nonsense to say that people imagine that someone is obligated to marry anyone simply by sharing a meal with them. Could we just lay to rest this idea of what these hypothetical young men will think if they are asked to meet the parents of their prospective companion? We shouldn’t have to assert that we’re very nice or very friendly (because maybe we’re human, like everyone else). It should just be civilized to be able to talk to people, no matter if you’re from the posh upper crust of society, from the hood, or from anywhere else. Since when can’t we just talk?
No one generation had it right, or wrong. God has it right, and He isn’t in the habit of keeping us in the dark when we earnestly seek Him. As to unresolved tension, and relationships being broken over whom our children choose to marry, we must remember that we are all pilgrims, praying: Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.
Thanks for hearing me out.
Please help me understand why an adult woman would want her father involved with a guy who asks her out on a first date?? He “knows your heart?” You’re just getting a cup of coffee or dinner!!
“This advice, when combined with the fact that “the purpose of courtship is marriage”, makes asking a girl out for dinner the emotional equivalent of asking for her hand in marriage.”
Exactly. Your “heart” shouldn’t be involved at all at that stage of the relationship. My wife didn’t have a “heart” for me when I asked her out for coffee. I was just some guy she’d met once or twice and she was a girl I found attractive. We went out a few casual dates and got progressively more serious as we got to know each other as people. If I’d waited for her heart to get involved based on group interactions or had to ask her father (who lives four hours away) for permission first, I’d still be admiring her from afar.
Amen to NANCY!!
Amen! My thoughts exactly. How do you know if you want the emotional investment of getting to know eachother’s families if you haven’t even figured out if you can carry on a conversation.
At 28, I would recommend streamlining the process. I would chat with your dad, but not require him to check out each prospect… It might seem weird to some good prospects.
Something for thought:
Perhaps the men who ask you out would like to get to know you a little before getting to know (‘committing’) to your family. What if you were to go out with a man for one or two dates (at least) and THEN introduce him to your father? It makes for a more relaxed atmosphere (without the dramatic ‘will you commit to me right away without knowing me’ feel).
Now I see why the author says skip on girls who insist you go through their dad. I’m a 39 yo woman married 7 years with a 3yo son and when he’s 14 and describes a girl who insists on putting dad in between, I’d advise him if he wants the date her to bite the bullet and talk to your dad. I’d say life is full of challenges and this is just the beginning.
If he were 30 and describes a woman who wants her dad’s take to accept a first date, and my son asked my take on the woman I would discourage him from pursuing a woman who insists he ask her father for a date. Why?
It’s reasonable for a 14 year old girl to have no clue and need her parents permission/advice/guidance on figuring out a person, their intentions, their mind their heart, what you like about them & what you don’t.
If at 27 you don’t trust yourself to make as basic a decision as if to accept a first date from someone, how can my son trust you with the lives of my grandchildren? If the grandkid chops off a finger do you collapse into a ball of tears, call your dad & have your dad tell you to put the finger in ice and rush to the hospital?
Asking him to ask Dad can mean lots of things but to me, it rings of insecurity and incompetence. These are not characteristics becoming of an adult woman.
There is a difference between unavailable, unattainable, uninterested and unfortunately in your response you are hitting high notes equally at all 3. Also, do you realize that there are 48% men and 52% women in America? That means there are more women than men. Why should he go through all the trouble of going through an intermediary when he could just ask the next lady?
If the guy is not your type (how you would know this without having much dating experience is beyond me) you are better off declining him directly and gently on the spot.
I know your intention is godly, but I mean this in the kindest way when I say that at 27 years asking a guy to ask your daddy, Christian or not makes you come off like a snob and a daddy’s girl. It’s the perfect attitude to have if your goal is to be a spinster and to scare off decent, kind, sweet men.
Your father might know your heart, but do you? My guess is that you may be relying relying on your dad because you have not much life experience with which to base your judgement of a man.
As for safety, for first dates of men you don’t know at all or have any friends in common, there is no reason for you to come to your house or know where you live. Meetup in a public place for coffee as a first date for an hour. Drop in casual conversation during the course of the date that you told your mom or dad or best friend where you would be or that you were meeting with a friend in 2 hours on the other side of town. I lived in a city and took the train to dates. If I were to get in his car (date 2 or 3) I’d ask to see his drivers license & I used to txt the info to my mom or best friend.
Women who (chastely) date around (and have a life) can begin to tell a man who is not really into women in a way that Dad’s… um, might miss. You don’t have to touch anyone to have sparks. The overly reserved behavior that a Dad might think is perfect husband material for his little girl might end up in a low-passion marriage for you… Forever.
Also, what if he’s not so much into you, you aren’t into him, but your dad said yes? You are limiting yourself to the guys willing to ask your dad which means you are missing out on a whole class of mature men who have no time for what they may perceive to be “games”.
You don’t need to act on anything (promiscuous) that you both feel. At 27 you should have some basic self-control programmed into you. If you don’t at 27 years old another reason to discourage my son to date you… weak will.
Advise early on from your Dad can mean AFTER the first date, you know. After you accept date 3 with someone you think might be worth your fathers time to evaluate, when the guy shows up, what is wrong with having your dad answer the door and them chat while you “finish up”?
This is a well written article.
One thing I certainly would have appreciated would be a slightly different tone on this one area, however: “Share this post with your parents and talk to with them about why courtship is flawed and why you are going to start going out on dates.”
Are you really advocating that children TELL their parents that they are going to start doing something that is/might be against the family rules? I’m thinking that underage, as well as adult children, will read your blog.
Perhaps in the future you might want to word your instructions more along the lines of, “Share this post with your parents and talk with them about why you think courtship is flawed and why you would like to start going out on dates.”
Again, I appreciate all the work you put into this article.
I once knew a girl whose parents didn’t want her to date yet (she was 14 at the time) and she wanted to date a guy (18 at the time). I advised her to obey her parents as she still lives in her home and is not yet an adult nor independent.
However, now that she is an adult, she now independent and must now obey god, not her parents. She does still need to respect her parents, but she has a right to make her own decisions.
So, if child, strongly suggest/beg parents to reconsider. If adult, tell parents, but respectfully. That’s my advise.
Thank you. As a twenty five year old girl who was responsible, godly, generous, and financially secure, I faced my parents’ wrath for going on a chaperoned first date; they carried on for months “evaluating” my thirty two year old financially secure suitor while checking my cell phone records to verify that we weren’t communicating during the evaluation period; they didn’t “click” in personality with him (he wasn’t determined to rule his house with an iron fist; my dad said I needed a “man who can tell you what to do”) so told him after months that he was not allowed to have a second date. How he stayed around, I’ll never know. We were married without their approval after drawn out months of drama wherein they kept insisting that it was their “role” to decide and that I had “promised” them they would be in charge of the process, and they told him I would certainly cheat on him if I would go out with a guy without my parents’ approval (thanks, Josh Harris). I only wish they had encouraged autonomy in their adult daughter: only I was qualified to know what I wanted, needed, and what direction the Lord was leading me. I am so sad that they forced me to choose between God’s will and theirs, and grieve that they considered me an apostate and doubt my salvation over choosing the best man I’ve ever known. I’m glad we got along after marriage: we had precious few dates (10?) and God somehow saw fit to be gracious to us. Many friends in courtship haven’t been so lucky. I have many friends whose dads vetoed so many guys, that the first guy who came along that he approved of, they snatched the chance to marry. Now, I feel that all of their marriages are ending in divorce, because the guys were better suited in personality to their parents than to themselves. Requiring a gentleman to be a chameleon, equally attractive to three parties instead of one, is harmful, and hardly a start for a healthy marriage. I do wish that you would encourage men to avoid controlling parents, but don’t forget that sometimes the girl has been waiting a really long time to know what is right, and sometimes, when it comes down to it, she’ll the right man, even if it means being hurt by her parents. I know I was willing. My husband was the first guy who came along that was worth fighting for, and I’m glad that we learned to fight together. However, we would never wish that sort of emotional manipulation or control upon our children, and we would never dare to stand in between our mature adult children and God as some sort of high priest. The courtship doctrine has completely wreaked havoc on my family, and after 25 years of respectful daughterhood, I was rejected as having betrayed The Code We Agreed On, when I did no such thing. To my husband’s credit, he does a great job with managing controlling in-laws, but I am extremely sorry for his sake that he does not have the luxury of receiving from them the respect he deserves for being so kind and good to their daughter. No parents should ever foist that sort of burden on their Christian adult children.
Wise words, Nicole. Your situation is what has caused me concern about courtship for many years. If your child is old enough to marry and be a responsible adult, they are responsible enough to choose a mate. Sorry, you went through such a hard time and I pray that the Lord blesses your marriage and that you and your husband were able to keep going through such a hard time.
I’m so sorry for you, Nicole!! I have seen this sort of thing happen as well in the Christian, homeschooling community. It was these situations that made me start to question courtship in the first place. I’m so glad that your husband stuck around!! 🙂
Wow Nicole… 25 and still wanting to control you. That’s crazy. I came from a very conservative background but that’s way beyond reasonable. I’m glad your married the man you did and hope that you can reach out with compassion to your parents and hopefully one day God will open their eyes to the relationship you have. It’s sad that their fear was so great that it drove them to such lengths.
Nicole, your story mirrors my husband’s and mine almost completely. He too stuck it out, trying to win my parent’s hearts. However, my folks took our decision to marry as rejection and still to this day (9 years later) have no support of our marriage and family of 5. They had a previous close relationship with Bill Gothard during the time we started courting due to my sister sitting under his training and taking care of his mother before she passed. However, now they sadly no longer seem to be serving the same God I do. How I hope, that parents practicing the controlling type of courtship that this article talks about would come to the realization of the life altering damages to a family it can cause. Will be thinking about your family and keeping you in prayer, Nicole. – Ashleigh
Wow, God bless you and your family!
I agree with you Nicole! Beautifully written! Thank you for sharing the very real pain and suffering that overly-controlling parenting (fathering) creates. God bless you, Nicole.
Nicole – Thank you, thank you. I went through an extremely similar situation with my parents at the age of 23. I entirely agree with your thoughts.
Nicole, you are a strong woman who deserves every bit of happiness you have helped create for yourself. Your parents, unfortunately, until they can give themselves some perspective–which is unlikely, because they seem to be very sure of themselves–are condemned to be entangled in their own self-created web of judgment and parochialism and fear, which has turned them into people who are acting in a very un-Christian, inhumane way. I wish you the very best in your journey with your wonderful husband, and consider you to be blessed for having unchained yourself from a repressive way of existing which is not about living at all.
Thanks for this. The whole courtship model never felt quite right to me, so we never tried to use it with our kids (now aged 15-24). But my husband had an interesting standard for himself while in late-college that worked really well. His junior/senior years, he decided to ask out LOTS of girls — all kinds, just anybody he was willing to have a soda with. He must have taken out 40 girls on just one date. Occasionally he’d take a girl on a second date. His ONE RULE: never touch them. No touch at all. And it automatically freed him to take out as many girls as he liked, with zero expectation of commitment from them. He learned much about ladies and their personalities, and it helped him evaluate what kind of woman he was looking for in a wife. He asked me on one of those simple dates the summer after college. (He came to my folks’ house to watch me do laundry and he made me a chicken sandwich for dinner. They were out of town.) He was 22. We married a year later.
Wish this had a FB “Like” button.. because I REALLY “Liked” your short story! 🙂
This worked for me as well! 🙂
In college, I went out with hundreds of different “dates”–but made sure that each guy asking me out always knew we were only going out as *friends*. Then, when they tried to hold my hand, etc. I’d ask, “Would you do that with your guy friends?”
They always responded with understanding and respect and backed off. They also always wanted a deeper relationship… Which meant I could choose which ones I was interested in going on a second date with.
However, this “no touch” idea helped us to get to know each other as friends and people–instead of being overwhelmed with raging hormones.
Mary Kathyrn, such a delightful story you have. Not too much unlike my own.
I absolutely love that story; it shows that, even when he was younger, your husband had a lot of respect for girls and women.
That’s exactly what I did. Worked great! (I’m naturally not a touchy guy, so that made it even easier)
I think this is my first time ever commenting on a blog post. 🙂 I agree with many of your points. I do disagree, along with the others, that not asking out a girl who directs you to her father seems like an extreme response unless it it during a time of healing for a guy who has received multiple rejections from fathers. Why not test the waters and see what you meet up with? Their are gentle encouraging fathers out there. It is interested that as far as I know the only place the Lord speaks directly to the “choosing a life partner” debate in the Old Testament He says about the daughters of Zelophehad, “Let them marry who they think best…” except because of inheritance it needed to be within their father’s tribe. Who we marry is one of the most life altering decisions we make, no wonder we try and get a formula to make it safe. I am incredibly grateful for 27 years of adventurous and loving marriage. And he did ask my Dad first. But I also felt my parents had a deep trust in me and my ability to know what I wanted. In finding our way through these issues we sure need the wisdom and Grace of God to help us and our children.
I appreciated the fact that my dad and I worked together as a team. He told me when I went off to college – over 900 miles away from home – that he had raised me right, and that I should trust my judgment but that he would always be there for advice. Although he did not require that every guy who wanted to date me ask his permission first, that was always an option to save me from having to reject someone. You know, there are always those stalker-types out there that just make you uncomfortable. You don’t want to spend time with them, but you are also afraid of the consequences of turning them down. If I was asked on a date by a guy that I already knew I had absolutely no interest in getting to know for whatever reason, I could tell him that he needed to call my dad. My dad knew that if he ever got one of these calls, he was to say “no.”
Thank you for this article. It is a conversation that all Christian parents need to be engaged in. I’m glad you’ve brought it up, and from how it sounds, it is a conversation you’ve been involved in for quite some time. I do not despise your experience or the insight you’ve gained from it. The scenarios you present as failures of courtship are true enough. The failures of modern recreational dating are too numerous to mention. I’m also assuming that some sin took place when your grandma dated as well. While currently disagreeing with your overall thesis, I believe you make some good points along the way, and I’m thankful for your provocation for the several who have read this article.
However, I am the result of an extremely successful “courtship,” for lack of a better term. Without going into many details here, the success of our courtship was wrapped up in the decision by her dad to disallow any serious talk of “relationship” until he gave me permission. (I was 22. She was 16 when we became friends.) My then-future-wife and I were friends, very close friends, spending Sundays and several evenings of the week together at her home for nearly two years before we got engaged. Did everyone know why I was hanging around? Of course. Did she know? You bet. Did I know? Definitely. Did we talk bout it? Nope. Were we dating? Not in the common understanding of that term. Were we courting? Not in the common understanding of that term, but I needed the “courtship movement” to get my head out of the popular propensity toward “recreational dating” and to develop some iota of respect for the girl and her relationship to her father. Is it different for adult daughters? Sure. Is it different for men younger than I was? Sure. Is it different for everybody? To some extent, yes. Is it similar for everybody? To some extent, yes, but I’m not saying that everyone’s courtship has to look like mine.
Call it the “fundamentally flawed courtship problem.” Call it “dating like my grandma dated,” but at some point the rubber must meet the road. Involving a pig-headed patriarch in the “courtship” process will bring as many problems as involving a pig-headed patriarch in any process. Involving a young man, who lacks discretion, into the “dating like my grandma” process will bring as many problems as involving a young man, who lacks discretion, into any process. The dad who lives outside of the loving scope of biblically defined fatherhood is the problem, not the idea of embracing some notion of “courtship” as opposed to “recreational dating.” The young man who lives within of the loving scope of biblically defined manhood is a big part of the solution, not the idea of embracing some notion of “dating like my grandma” as opposed to “recreational dating.” We need terms to define things, and we need definitions for our terms. If “dating” has failed, then the new term “courtship” is welcome and can go a long way to doing something different than dating the way I did in high school. Do details need to be worked out? Yes. Does the reality of the father’s authority need to be worked out in real time? Yes. Does the reality of father’s authority need to be worked out of the scenario entirely? Not a chance.
Thanks again for the article.
Love your commentary. Thank you for your words! It is easy to see the flaws of courtship if that is what you experienced. It is easy to see the flaws of dating if that is what you experienced! Taking a step back and seeing the flaws of both and trying to create dialogue is so important.
“I’m also assuming that some sin took place when your grandma dated as well. ”
Wow, presumptuous much? Of course no sin took place while you “courted”, because of the magical sin-eliminating-courtship-formula.
You also seem to be under the impression that “courtship” and “patriarchy” are not necessarily synonymous, and I’m glad you had a positive experience there. However, the system of courtship is designed as to function best with a patriarchal mindset, with one of the common themes being that a woman can’t make a decision for herself who the best possible mate is for her.
Your experience may be unique being an adult involved with a minor. If you had both been 22, would you still have had to get her dad’s permission? Would she have had to get your dad’s or mom’s permission to date you? Why the different treatment?
My wife and I have just read many of the comments here and we agree that Marc Hays’ response to this article by Thomas is by far the most sensible. I would suggest that Thomas abandon the idea of writing a book about this, and instead allow Marc Hays to write the book. 🙂
While we agreed with some of Thomas’s arguments, there are a multitude of situations that could be presented in this discussion, and I’m sure if I read all the comments, I’d find many unique ones. To suggest that any type of courtship model is always doomed to failure, is unfair. Thomas himself identified the elements that “most conservative communities have in common” and that “after 20 years there still is no general consensus as to what courtship is”. To then conclude that courtship in general is “fundamentally flawed” seems like rather a leap, to our way of thinking, since not all communities are what he would term “conservative”. Hays seems to take a more balanced approach.
Good job, Thomas. Well written and said
I have yet to meet one couple who did any form of courtship get a divorce. I am not pro or against courtship. We have daughters who came to us in the 90’s, telling us about this new thing called courtship. We thought they had lost their minds. One daughter did full on courtship but her father did not call the shots she did using her father as a tool in a way. She wanted him to do mentoring on the young man that was interested in her. She wanted guidelines written down. She had a must have list with very little that she would compromise on. There was no need to date around because she already had a list of what she wanted in a husband and knew she would never settle for anything less. 13 yrs after saying I do they are still a very strong couple. My oldest daughter dated but not casually. She dated with intention. Neither girl dated while in high school because they were not ready for marriage and didn’t see the point except for personal satisfaction. My son has casually dated. He has broken hearts all over town. He has decided to stop dating and wait on the Lord because casual dating didn’t work out well with each girl falling madly in love with him. I see a lot of opinion and claims in your article but not much to back it up. I find it odd that you are claiming so many divorces among the homeschooling community when I only know of one and that was a couple that dated instead of courtship. I have homeschool family, friends and good acquaintances in California, North Carolina, Washington, and South Carolina so am not speaking from limited access of homeschooling population.
Pamala, I’m quite shocked to see that you don’t know of anyone who courted that is divorced. I’d say, “Just wait.” I got married to a wonderful man that I met at a Christian college just as the whole courtship thing was coming about (mid 90’s.) I’ve seen marriage after marriage end in disaster that was a courtship. There was so much pride in “We waited until the alter to have our first kiss” or “This is my ‘special friend'” (Not girlfriend) etc. It turned my stomach a little then. Now it makes me sad to see them falling apart.
This is me. I was the girl who first kissed my mate at the altar, ever dated, and now, nearly thirteen years later, am picking up the pieces of a shattered life with a husband whose true nature didn’t show until after we said “I do”. And I was left asking, “What did I do wrong?” THANK YOU for so succinctly pointing out the flaws and pitfalls of the courtship model. I had already determined to do things differently with my 6 kids, I just wasn’t sure WHAT, or HOW…thanks for some insight and thinking points.
“I have yet to meet one couple who did any form of courtship get a divorce.”
Talk to Bethany Patchin sometime.
(Sorry, that was in response to Pamala.)
I would add: let your kids go to college! There are so many great Bible believing schools out there! It is a great place to cultivate The gifts God has given them, and a “safe” place to meet a spouse.
Not all Christian colleges are safe havens any more. Our oldest daughter went to one where any form of dating was abandoned in favor of hooking up. And the cost of college needs to be justified these days, esp private Christian colleges. The huge debt they will have for years to come can be extremely detrimental to any form of missions work, let alone just normal marriage and trying to buy a house.
Not to mention the fact that there are plenty of Christian guys at secular, public colleges. I doubt there’s a college in this country that doesn’t have some kind of campus ministry to get involved in, a place to meet other God-seeking young people.
1. There are theologically sound communities of believers at otherwise secular universities. So attending a Bible school isn’t imperative. In fact, I’d advise against it for pragmatic reasons. The degree you get doesn’t provide the same bang-for-your-buck as one from a well-regarded secular university unless you’re going into full-time ministry.
2. The cost of college needn’t be so high. There are ways to mitigate it. Also, some costs are justifiable when they lead to a marketable degree.
Anecdotally, I attended to a large, public, secular university and met my wife in a Christian student group. My tuition and fees were waived by way of a merit scholarship; my parents covered room & board.
In the real world, you likely will no be in a Christian “bubble.” Going to Christian college can be good if you are not yet mature enough in your faith, but if you have been with the lord for several years or more, you really should consider a secular school as it will “toughen you” up for real life better. The testing of your faith WILL develop perseverance!
I mentored a group of young guys before they went off to college (Freshmen->Seniors in High School). I encouraged them to get involved in campus ministries, even had them research campus ministries at their schools of choice. Honestly, getting involved in a campus ministry was the single thing that separated those who stayed active in their faith and made wise dating decisions from those who didn’t.
I would like to throw my two cents in about Christian Colleges (as a graduate of one).
First is that it was the toughest time of my faith. This was after being a Christian in the Army for five years. It was all too easy to fall into the motions. Something to be aware of.
Second, is that it is the right choice for some, and wrong for others. I know that I went to the right college even as I am in a field completely unrelated to my studies.
And a bonus third cent is – there is no “safe” place. There are good and bad in every situation.
As a graduate of a Christian college, I am not an advocate. It may be a good decision for some, but overall (in my opinion) it is an overpriced education. It was not always a ‘safe’ place to meet a spouse. In my case, I found the opposite: I had a stalker one year, and it took several calls up the ladder of command and finally a talk to the president of the college in his office with a viable threat to leave the school without paying my bill if nothing was done concerning the stalker. Another example was going to a Bible study (first one of the new school year on a new floor), the topic for conversation was ‘how to give a blow job’. Being from a very conservative Baptist neighborhood, I hadn’t the slightest idea what that was- I stayed only long enough to figure out what they were talking about. I’m not saying these types of things don’t happen at secular schools, I’m just saying don’t think they happen less frequently at Christian schools. And I haven’t even mentioned the stories about the boys spending the night in the dorms (past posted curfew). In addition, your kids can’t live in a Christian bubble forever. Sooner or later, they will need to enter into society. In my opinion, I believe it’s best to do it gradually with wisdom of what to expect from firsthand knowledge.
Bravo, Thomas. Your sound, Biblical and practical reasoning is refreshing. Thanks be to God, two of our three daughters are now happily married, and both dated (in the traditional sense) before they found “Mr. Right”, who honestly won their hearts. I thank God every day for my two sons-in-law, who love God and are leading their spouses to love Him more. I trust these men, and they are as true sons to me. And yes, my wife and I are more in love than ever after more than thirty-four years in marriage, and we are still dating!
There are definitely some solid points of caution here. However, as a now married man who took a modified courtship approach, I find some glaring errors in your premise. First, you assume all relationships between adult members of the opposite sex should be some degree of romantic. Even in the case of “traditional dating”, where, as you suggest, there is less commitment and therefore less temptation, the very nature of the relationship is an attempt to “find someone to marry” and thus a small degree of romantic attraction exists in that relationship.
I would contend that the proper way to start any relationship with a member of the opposite sex is friendship. Friendship that is neither romantic nor intends to be. Friendship for the sake of friendship. I was friends with my wife years before we ever decided to get married. In this way, I was able to get to know her and her entire family quite well, all the while evaluating her as a potential mate without intending her to be one. We never had one-on-one time, which is, by definition, romantically inclined. But we weren’t group dating either. We were being friends and treating each other with the respect of brother and sister in Christ. An exclusive relationship follows on the heels of that. Call it courtship if you will, but we never actually had an official courtship. As you say, there are very few differences between courtship and engagement. That is, again, the fatal flaw of assuming dating or courtship as the starting point of a relationship. If you always start with friendship, the majority of the issues you raised will dissipate.
Another fatal error in the traditional dating mindset is its undeniably man-centered approach to finding a mate. A major tenant of my belief structure surrounding marriage and the path to marriage is the ideal of God awakening love in its season. This is what is meant by waiting until you are ready. Readiness entails that you are, first, capable of performing your Biblically defined duties as a husband and father. Secondly, readiness, rather than being some arbitrary feeling that most never fully achieve, is a sensitivity to the leading of the Spirit in your life. Traditional dating says to “try on” as many possible mates as you can until one sticks. Biblical relationships intended for marriage are a picture of Adam and Eve’s union. God put Adam to sleep and brought the woman to him, then He woke him up to what He had for the man. In the same way, we are to “sleep” romantically, until God brings the person He intends us to marry.
This is not to say we should be hermits and never proactively seek relationships with the opposite sex. On the contrary, if we truly see each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, being friendly and forging solid friendships, God will awaken romantic intentions in their season. This is a God-centered approach to “dating”. In essence, traditional dating contains very little trust in God. It places the responsibility of finding a mate squarely in your hands.
Start with the right foundation, friendship, and trust God to handle the rest.
Caleb, you’ve echoed a lot of my own thoughts. When I tell people that I met my husband when I was 14, they assume we were high school sweethearts. No, we were just really good friends. We went to public school, had parents who were not much involved in our “romantic” choices, and we each had a string of heartbreaking dating relationship. We thank God to this day that we *didn’t* date in high school, because that probably would have wrecked everything. Now, when we finally figured out that there was “more” to us than mere friendship, we probably should have gotten married when I was 19 instead of waiting until I graduated from college. Five years was plenty long enough to know what we wanted, and we gave the devil too many opportunities to plant temptation in our path.
I think the critics of traditional dating and the critics of the modern courtship movement have a lot of valid points. I sincerely pray that each of our children will have the opportunity to marry a dear friend as we have. That being said, God’s path to marriage is different for everyone (I agree we need to be careful about making the descriptive *prescriptive* when approaching the biblical narrative), and I also know couples who knew each other for mere months before marriage and are perfectly happy with each other. I have a 30-something single sister who has a job she loves and her own apartment in a major metro area. She has tried the “date a different guy every weekend” thing and is still alone. I personally think some fatherly involvement would be good for her. I also have a dear 30-something friend who was raised in the courtship model and has, as this post describes, never had a young man as much as express interest. Ever. That pain is real, too.
We homeschool our full quiver and are members of a family integrated church. I don’t think we need or ought to throw out the biblical principles that have become muddied with the bathwater of some of the leaders of the hyper-patriarchy movement. While there were points that I disagree with (especially those about eschewing most/all parental involvement), I think this article has gone a long way toward clarity and civil conversation on this very important subject. God bless.
It could your 30 yr old sister is happily single. It seems even secular society has a hard time fathoming someone could actually be single and happy.
I agree with you on the point that best friends make good marriage couples. I think you for sharing.
That’s great if being friends with your future wife works for you, but it’s not an option for everyone. Not every guy has a beautiful, God-fearing young lady with kind, understanding parents just waiting in the wings for him to pick her. Friendships develop organically and without pressure and when one of those friendships develops into a romantic relationship over time, that’s wonderful. I know many people who share your story. But I know many other people who haven’t had things that easy, who’ve had to make some effort to get to know a stranger in order to find their future mate. Saying “this works for me, so it will work for everyone” isn’t helpful.
There are a few flaws in your post. For one, the type of dating here is different than the one I see many young people trying today. THEIRS is the one where they go as long as they can, and when they run out, they just give up. They have quite a challenge coming up with a stable relationship in this mindset. They never learn how to work things through with a person of the opposite gender and have only the solution of running away when hard times come. These are surely the couples that end up in divorce. Second, not only does the above post assume that relationships including adult members of the opposite sex are romantically inclined, but even from the ages of middle school! This is completely ridiculous. You cannot look at every guy/gal as a potential spouse, but you CAN look at everyone as a potential friend. That is where I can agree with you. One of the most admirable qualities I’ve seen in married couples is having a best-friendship with each other, and I’m sure that this must be the path to that.
‘More league awareness’
are you aware of what you are implying? that we should abide by a social hierarchy, particularly as christians and that some people aren’t as good as other based on attractiveness etc etc.
seriously. i like most of this article. but that point is so degrading to all people. We should base our league. our value on who asks us out and who accepts the invitation? this then leads to girls saying yes to a guy because she thinks she has to, as he is in her ‘league’ and guys not pursuing some girls because they think they are ‘too good or out of their league’. most husbands i know think they are ‘punching above their weight’ with how incredible their wives are.
No way. come on man.
I understand what your saying in that Dad’s say no because no one is good enough for their daughter- but seriously….. you are actually making a point to say that some people are greater then others based on looks.
In my opinion, working with a lot of young people. That is not a valid point. That is not Christlike to say at all.
I would suggest a reframe or that you edit that out all together.
I actually thought this was one of the wisest points of the article. It’s essential to be realistic in finding a spouse. It’s not about how “valuable” you are as a person–everyone is priceless. But odds are, you are more likely to marry and be happy married to someone who is roughly similar in attractiveness, education, intelligence, spirituality, etc. There are things mitigating against such realism both in Christian culture (expectations of only marrying someone who is super-spiritual and meets your long list of standards) and in culture at large (TV and movies leading us to believe that there is someone amazingly hot and rich out there for all of us). Reality is: most people are average. If average people are all holding out for someone exceptional, they’re all going to be very disappointed.
I think you may be confusing two things in taking issue with the author’s comments. Those would be 1) The value of human life & 2) Attractiveness. The captain of the cheer squad is not greater nor more valuable than a girl who struggles with overeating and is overweight, but ask any guy and if he’s being honest he will tell you that she’s more physically attractive. While you may not like it, God designed us to be drawn to beauty. If someone consistently tries to date out of their league, they will quickly realize it and go in search for mates that are more comfortable with them. Also keep in mind that there are other components to attractiveness besides beauty – character, wit, intelligence, culture, etc. Also if you were to ask the wives of these husbands who joke about their wives being out of their own league, if they thought that their husband was out of their league, many would tell you YES!
Thomas–an excellent post!!! Thank you so much for your thoughtful insight on this topic, and for sharing what you have learned in such an accessible way. As a homeschooling mom with children just entering this time in their lives, I have listened to the messages over the years, and have found myself torn between the message of courtship proponents and the gut feelings I have had about exactly what you have described! I have seen some wonderful young people (from the courtship side) who haven’t found “the one” yet and are still single. I have heard stories (many, many stories) of both heartbreaking failed courtships as well as failed marriages which were rooted in courtship. I have wondered how we would even practically be able to encourage courtship–where would we as their parents even find “the one” for our kids? We once heard a speaker whose children had all grown up and, through traditional dating, found their spouses and were happily married. He said they didn’t encourage courtship but “KISSship”–Keeping In Step with the Spirit. I thought that was a good way to put it. Keep your heart open to the leading of the Holy Spirit, and of course, pursuing dating in a Godly, balanced way just as you have described here. I really love this blog post. Such wisdom. Thanks for writing this. I will be sharing with everyone I know.
I have two rules: I don’t take child-rearing advice from anyone who’s not raised children to successful adulthood (and I’m not talking about money). I don’t take marital advice from anyone married fewer years than I have been. Both of those rules factor in here.
I think you confuse the Patriarchal movement (of which there are sooo many fundamental problems) with the courtship movement. As you say, there are many different ideas about courtship out there. We consider our adult daughter to have courted. She chose who to court after getting to know him at work. We also knew him. He spoke to her father any time he wanted to accelerate the relationship. He spent a lot of time with our family and they went out on group dates. They are happily married with children. She is a smart, independent woman and was never a stay-at-home daughter, although she was homeschooled through high school graduation. She had other relationships through her teenage years, but she chose courtship as the model for marriage. She asked for our help and guidance because she valued it, but ultimately, it was her choice. Again, coursthip takes on many different faces.
I am not a christian but in light of the general content of the article and comments I’m guessing you are mia. I’m also guessing that you missed the memo on 1 Timothy 4:12. Christian ego is why I left the church so it may be worth taking into account before acting like anyone who isn’t up to your mark is wrong. Sorry if that sounds rude but I think its true as well
“Christian ego” is an oxymoron. Perhaps (likely) you ran into some human ego issues? I am a Christian by the grace of God (not the church) and sadly feel your pain on this issue.
So you’re saying that someone’s life experiences being a child aren’t valuable because they haven’t been a parent? Thomas may not be a parent to adults, but he clearly has a lot of experience with the courtship movement and has seen a lot of negative outcomes that have come from it. And Thomas obviously isn’t alone on this matter. If you look at the other comments, courtship has has failed a lot of people. If you have contradictory experiences, you’re obviously free to disagree or to ignore his thoughts. Maggie is right though. You shouldn’t look down on him for his youth.
So you wouldn’t take advise from Jesus?
Obviously those who have more experience in a subject are always more right than those who have less experience. Logic? Evidence? Facts? Please. Experience is all that matters.
Experience is not absolute truth, God’s Word is.
Lord David the Terrible, you’re a stinker! Kinda funny, but people get a little bent out of shape trying to figure you out. What do you really think?
We held to the courtship model. But as we’ve seen the problems, we’ve backed off. Now in the re-thinking mode.
Thank you for your gentle, well-reasoned approach. I agree with most of the comments.
And, by the way, we have two eligible daughters . . . ! ((Sheepish grin))