Courtship May Not Be What You Think it Is

This article   on courtship is making it’s rounds among home educators on Facebook.  My goal is not to critique Mr. Umstattd’s article.  He makes some good and worthy points.  But, as I often do, I will use it to springboard to my own thoughts about the modern courtship/dating movement.

You may or may not know that Shane and I courted and married several years before Josh Harris wrote “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” before modern courtship was popular.

About 2 years into our marriage we were asked to speak at Families for Home Education conference in Kansas City, that was before Mid-West Parent Educators grew so big and  when FHE had a yearly conference.  We’re often asked by others about courtship and have mentored couples in courtship relationships over the years.

We told our story, but these (mostly) moms wanted hard and fast rules on courtship.

Well, our “rules” weren’t rules for everyone.  First of all, my Dad wouldn’t have known what to do had Shane called him and asked permission to “court” me.  I was 27 years old! And hadn’t lived at home for several years.  Courtship was also VERY different than the life I had lead in my worldly days where kissing (or more) equated love.  Before my days as a Christian, I was definitely not pure.  Even after, I wasn’t quite as pure as I wish I had been.  But Shane and I ended up being pure together, mainly because HE was committed to it.

I didn’t know any different…but I learned.  And today I’m a staunch supporter of being pure before marriage; whether you call it courtship/dating or some other name.

Shane and I were in college.  6 hours from my family and 11 hours from his.  It would have been VERY strange and nearly impossible for all of our correspondence to be monitored or to be completely chaperoned at all times.

Shane’s parents weren’t even sure about “courtship”  They heard about the idea, gave Shane some information and he came to conclusion that kissing “another man’s wife” was wrong for him.  I think they had heard a lesson from Tony Evans and that’s where the idea was bred.

Today, the people still want rules.

I think  that’s part of the problem.

“I Kissed Dating Goodbye” has become the courtship manual, the rulebook for courtship.  And it shouldn’t be!

I have written comments on these FB posts, but I would really like to expound on it here.

I believe courtship is the pendulum swing  response to traditional dating by those in the conservative homeschooling movement.  Now, 20 years later, it’s time to go back to center and find the balance.  Actually, it’s beyond time but better late than never.

First thing.  Courtship does NOT equal MARRIAGE.

Courtship should be a process to determine God’s will for two people that think they might be compatible for a lifetime.

I see a trend that I don’t like.

Just because you decide to court, shouldn’t mean you WILL marry.  I strongly believe the courtship period should be a time of visiting about future goals, dreams and expectations.   Couples courting should also be praying for God’s guidance about their relationship.  Just because you get butterflies in your stomach every time you see “your man” doesn’t mean he is “the one”  it means you are physically attracted to him, and is probably more associated with lust than with love.   Couples should be praying separately and together about their future.  As Shane and I felt God leading us more and more toward marriage, we also decided to fast and pray.  Meeting during mealtimes to pray together for those days that we fasted.

Seek wise counsel from those that know both of you.

If the people around you are seeing that it isn’t a good match, then chances are, it’s not a good match.  Sometimes when we’re in the middle of something we can’t see things clearly.  Please depend on those outside of the situation and those wiser.  Please weigh their input and take it seriously; especially if you are hearing it from many different people.  If people around you are saying it IS a good match,  then likely, it is.

I also believe accountability is VERY important.  Shane and I did spend time alone.  We had “our” swing.  It was in a public area but private enough that we could talk together.  It is also where Shane proposed <3.  (Doesn’t that just melt your heart?)  Shane had a friend that was in a similar relationship and they’d often ask each other “are you pure?”  I believe this is a GREAT idea!

I see couples courting that should NOT be married!  Yet, they marry nonetheless.  I wonder if this is part of the whole idea that homeschool families are perfect (yeah, we KNOW they aren’t but they LOOK so perfect, lol)  that if they break off the courtship, it somehow equals failure.   Let me suggest that this does NOT equal failure, it equals wisdom.  IF you marry when you KNOW you shouldn’t, and live a miserable existence together or divorce, THAT is failure.  Not unforgivable, but it definitely is not God’s plan and it definitely causes many more problems, than breaking off a courtship would.

I think sometimes couples call it courtship, but really it’s lust in disguise.  I fear for these type of couples.  Please don’t misunderstand; a man and woman courting SHOULD be attracted to each other; but it should not be the focus of the relationship.  But when anyone allows their feelings to rule, they are bound to make foolish decisions and end up in places they really don’t want to be.

The truth is, sometimes the end of a courtship is the beginning of a marriage, and sometimes it is not.

Let me also add (as a sidenote) that even when a couple is compatible, “in love”  and marries  there will still be times that are not all sunshine and rainbows.  Shane and I celebrate 20 years of marriage today and it has not always been easy.  BUT, we made the commitment, the covenant that we take very seriously.  Neither of us will leave.  NO MATTER WHAT!  We may yell and scream and cry and slam doors on occasion (ok, I may yell and scream and cry and slam doors on occasion) but we’re not going anywhere!  This is one reason why I think arranged marriages worked in days of old.  Separation or divorce was NOT an option.  Couples learned to love each other.

I can’t watch that scene without being moved in my soul.  Commitment is not talked about very much these days but it is the glue that holds all marriages together!

There are many committed to courtship that are still single.

This seems to be among young ladies, much more than young men.  The truth is there has been a decline among responsible, respectable young men for several years now.  I have read several books about this in recent years.  Unfortunately, with my head cold, I can’t remember any of the names of these books right now.  But we all know as women have risen, men have fallen.  Men have been portrayed as idiots for years on t.v. and in movies for decades (Home Improvement anyone?)  So, in theory, the dragon has won.  Many men have rolled over and given in to their video games, and have disconnected from society.   Let’s not even talk about the girls that can’t seem to let their man have any time to themselves.  They constantly barrage their man with texts at all hours and then wonder why the guy flees!

I believe the other contributor in the current culture, which Mr. Umstattd does not mention at all, is the modern day 60’s movement of hooking up, sexting or friends with benefits.  Pornography is a way of life for many and an accepted practice out in the world.  As is living together and making babies without commitment.  NO, I’m not saying our single young ladies would be interested in these type of men, but I am saying that when there is no stigma attached to sinful behavior people are more likely to participate in it, than when there is a stigma.

All of these things take eligible bachelors out of the running.

PLEASE, I am not giving ANOTHER list of rules for courtship.

What I’m saying is that EACH situation is different.

Courtship is NOT a one size fits all solution, as Mr. Umstattd pointed out.  It is not a list of does and don’ts but rather a mindset.  Much like I believe home education should be.  A lifestyle approach, teaching our children to love learning and how to learn, instead of a set of rules otherwise known as passing a test.

Hannah is now 18.  There are presently no suitors.  I’m not concerned.  She has plenty of time. And GOD will bring along the perfect husband for her in HIS timing, not mine.  We don’t expect that courtship will look the same for each of our 4 children.  In fact, we expect it to look much different for each of them.  I’m not willing to put my children in a box in the name of “courtship”.  Neither am I willing for my children to go play the field for the sole purpose of enjoyment and pleasure.  (swinging back to the other end of the spectrum isn’t the solution either).  Our children are 2 different genders, 4 different people, with different personalities, a one size fit’s all approach won’t work.  That would be as ludicrous as saying each homeschool child MUST use Saxon math.  CRAZY!
I KNOW this is a long post.  I pray that I have given some food for thought and a different perspective for you to consider.

How fitting that I write this post on the 20th anniversary of life with my Superman.

If you’re interested in that story, click here. 

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