Girl to Girl Talk: What’s the Difference Between Dating and Courting?
Written by Christi Given | July 13, 2015
Every week, I go through the “Girl Talk” section of Project Inspired and look for those seeking advice and counsel. I want to help answer some questions you may have about living out your Christian life and walk of faith! We want PI to be a safe place where you can ask questions.
A PI Girl recently asked what the difference is between dating and courtship. Her parents want her to wait to be courted until she is at least 18 years old. She wants to know the appropriate age to court, and also whether people are supposed to date or if they court. Click here to read the full post.
First, let me define the meaning of dating and then explain courtship. Most of you may know both terms, and we have addressed this on PI a couple years ago. But let’s refresh your memory first, then proceed with the questions regarding age, and so forth.
First off, dating is defined as: “…the series of social engagements shared by a couple looking to get married…” (Merriam-Webster’s dictionary).
This is interesting because they are essentially saying that dating is with the intention of marriage, but the funny thing is that people speed date, and sometimes don’t always want to get married.
Here’s another definition of dating, which is likely more accurate to those not of faith, but of a more secular mind-set: “an engagement to go out socially with another person, often out of romantic interest” (The Free Dictionary).
Now here’s a definition of courtship: “…the activities that occur when people are developing a romantic relationship that could lead to marriage or the period of time when such activities occur…” (Merriam-Webster).
Dating just to date is a very different approach in a relationship verses a courtship.
WHY should Christ followers court? Courtship is similar to dating except you have the intention of planning on becoming married eventually. It can be a more Christian approach to dating, but I assume you could technically date someone and then get married to them. Courtship is really just basically defining the line and the fact that you won’t just date for experience, but that you will date with intention, hence the term courtship.
You may ask, “How can I jump into courtship without dating first?” Well, great question! Actually, what’s wise is for you both to build a godly friendship first, then to give the man the space he needs to properly pursue you as a woman of faith and with respect to you. If a man loves you for you (after building that solid friendship on Jesus and His Word), then you have laid the relationship on a firm foundation. Then, once you realize you want to take the relationship from friendship to a relationship leading into marriage, he can lead you to that place. If a guy pressures you sexually or makes you uncomfortable, he doesn’t truly care about you and your purity. Sure, there are emotions, but he should be pursuing you and loving you in a godly manner prior to being physical at all, even regarding kissing. At the proper time (Ecclesiastes 3), God will reveal to both of you if you are meant to be together and you will have peace. He can then ask your parents or guardians for your hand in marriage.
I love what a PI Girl wrote about dating, courtship (God’s best for you) and boundaries even in kissing:
“I grew up with the thought of ‘courting’ inculcated into my brain. For me, dating and courting were the same thing…but now I understand that it is so much better to court! Not only are you saving yourself from most heartache, but you are keeping yourself pure as well. My friend put it this way, ‘If you go around kissing other people, then you are kissing someone else’s husband.’ She worded it well and definitely knows that God should be the head of a relationship, not personal gain.” —Project Inspired Girl (Anonymous)
God is a God of order, and doesn’t want you to get your heart broken. If you speed-date or jump from boyfriend to boyfriend, not only are you confusing your own heart and mind, but you are doing exactly the opposite of what God’s will is for you, which is to “guard your heart…” (Proverbs 4:23). The man of God who is right will WANT to protect your heart and will want to plan your future together. He won’t string you along, play games, manipulate you or break your heart. He will be a whole person, and God desires you to be a whole person, too (not depending on a guy to fulfill your happiness). God wants to be number one in your life, and wants your heart to be rid of idols before you can commit to a serious relationship.
Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. (Proverbs 4:23)
You may want to date and don’t understand why you need to wait. Your parents are protecting you from heartbreak and also from temptation. Not to be over the top, but if you have a long-term boyfriend or are with someone who has no intention of dating you long-term, you could be risking being physical, regretting not setting boundaries and could even be putting yourself in compromising situations. Trust your parents’ instincts to protect, not to harm you.
PI Girls, do you think you should court or date as a believer? Comment below!