February 23, 2008, 10:37 am
Filed under: Leadership, Roles and Relationships


By Walt Alexander

Well, my day has changed. I am now posting on Saturdays!

Now, if you are anything like me, you may have read I Kissed Dating Goodbye and wondered how in the world relationships actually happen. I mean, if we are to kiss it goodbye and to guard each others hearts in every interaction, how do I get to know someone? Do I just dive into engagement and marriage and hope you don’t make the wrong choice?

As a single man, this is the way I often – conscious and unconsciously – thought. I assumed that my job was to select the one I love (in my heart, of course) and to wait and long for the day we got married. I assumed this was the way I was supposed to do it. But over time I realized that I was actually planning my marriage before I even planned my courtship!

This leads me to what I believe is a major misconception of courtship. It is: Courtship is not engagement. Now, that seems perfectly obvious, right! Of course you can’t be engaged before you court. However, I don’t think it is always that easy.

I think the assumption is often that courtship is engagement for several reasons:

We can begin the courtship too late! We can assume that because we like someone for a certain, golden length of time, they must like us and, therefore, courtship/engagement/marriage is just around the corner! Then we begin the courtship with the wrong goal of setting the wedding date and not finding out whether you are to be married. Therefore, courtship becomes engagement (though the other may be far from ready!).

We can begin the courtship too early! We also assume that we must confirm our compatibility by striving to get some “quality time” together before beginning a courtship. You know I mean guys…we have to test the waters to see if they like us before we’re going to take the plunge of asking her to court. This springs from a wrong view of courtship, assuming that courtship is engagement therefore I-must-do-my-undercover-research-and-choose-wisely! This also, in effect, robs us – and the other – of the joys and protection of getting to know someone within clear, defined goals.

What do you think?
Do you see yourself in these misconceptions?


12 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Yeah Walt,
I see the misconception in myself with the “too late” phase. I tend to think I have to have everything ready and when I do, I find a girl and we get married. That was a view I held for many years. But being a man who is FAR from being ready and able to provide for a family I saw this was foolish (by the Grace of God). I think it is so easy for men to think that when we have feelings for a girl, she in turn also likes us. I tend to think like this “selfish” thought. I think we need to act like Mike said “We need to stop looking for the right and start being the right one.”
Any thoughts?

Comment by Sagraves..

I believe I lean towards the “too early.” However, is it not important to establish a friendship before entering a courtship? What should that pursuit look like, if it should exist?

Comment by Varnell

Varell, Yes I believe it is good to establish friendships before entering a courtship. But they should not be exclusive and should not be different from any other relationship. I think the best way to pursue these relationships is to pursue impartiality (not singling out one person or one group of people to hang out with) by cultivating relationships with everyone. Also, I think that as we keep our relationships Godward, this naturally happens.

Comment by walt

I want to echo that last statement by walt. If we keep our focus on God and pursuing him, the rest just falls in place, or at least that happened to me! It’s not about finding the right one. It is about striving to become the right one for someone else, and I believe God honors that. I was spending a lot of time in a large group with many people from my church, and focused really hard on not giving anyone person/girl too much attention. I did not want to send signals that were false to a sister in christ, and wanted to be able to serve them at the same time. I was able to develope some awesome friendships with multiple brothers and sisters in christ, but one that stood out to me more than the rest. Not that I spent more time with her, but that we connected on a different level in our time together as a group. I pursued courtship with her to truly get to know who she was and what her passions in life were, and how I could serve her/ God could use me. We got engaged last week after 3 months. It happened quick, because we were able to cover so much ground as friends before we ever even entertained the idea of a courtship. There was an attraction there as friends that we just looked past towards christ until he called us to pursue more. I am a big supporter of courtship

Comment by Mark

I see that it is near impossible to shirk the side of it being pre-engagement when one can’t clearly define what courtship is. You are right that it isn’t…. but it becomes that.

Comment by Dave McCarthy

It is those terms like courtship that give clear goals to a relationship. Courtship is a continuum in some sense. How can you get clarity from something that is not spelled out? I am not wrangling over terms but they just aren’t clear.

Someone else could jump in and say that courtship isn’t a system or process but a firm commitment at this point and confuse everyone once more.

Comment by Dave McCarthy

In this context, one’s view of courtship would be responsible for the confusion for too late. Too early means that it is probably based on externals.

Comment by Dave McCarthy

Dave, did you read any of the earlier post on courtship? In those posts, I did try to define some of the terms of courtship in them. You are right though that courtship cannot always be “spelled out”, since it is developed in human relationships. Therefore, it must be walked out in wisdom – which sheds light to every relationship.

Comment by Walt

Dave, I do however disagree with you about not being able to shirt the idea of courtship being pre-engagement. In fact, I think if this idea is even present in a dominant form, idolatry is right around the corner. With clear intentions and a desire to please God, courtship can merely be where two single people get to know one another and see if they are fit to be married – which obviously comes before engagement!

Comment by Walt

Hmmm, I know pre-engagement view is idolatry but that is how the world views it and the term isn’t adequately divorced from that. You can’t rewrite words to mean different things. Let’s not go postmodern, words mean one thing to me. The issue here is defining this initial commitment more by in legal terms than principles. I think that those things should be spelled out in a commitment since there is no prior firm/solid relationship to base courtship on. Courting is suppose to develop that. Make any sense? Should Courtship be more of a commitment to something in a legal sense or rather in principles? I see it as more of the first.

Thanks for getting back to me.

Comment by Dave McCarthy


Courtship can’t be set-up in legal terms. We are not looking for a contracual relationship with another person in the context of a relationship. One thing about courtship is that there is no binding commitment. Either party can end the relationship at any point. When Cris and I started our courtship, it was based on principles.

First, we were committed to look prayerfully if we were called to be husband and wife. This was especially significant, because Cris had no romantic attraction for me for the first six weeks of our relationship. She believed (perhaps wrongly) that I was a man of sufficient character to be a godly husband, so she looked past emotions and we pursued the Lord together. Gradually he revealed that we should get married.

Secondly, we were committed to honor God. A theme verse for our courtship was Psalm 34:3, “Oh magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.

Thirdly, we weren’t going to act in any way to cause the other one to sin.

Dave, these are principles. The third one changed very much from courtship to engagement to marriage. It changed within courtship after our relationship became romantic. But these are principles. We tried to live by grace. These things were not laws to us. They were ways that we could act in a manner to have a God-honoring relationship.

I don’t know if that answers your question or not. Let me know.

Comment by psteele

Realize that some authors out there promoting courtship aren’t sharing some of the defects with their system. They are quick to knock dating but present courtship as defect free.

Comment by steve240

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