How To Stay Emotionally Pure In Courtship

Okay, so you’ve been pure and now you are courting. What role does spiritual purity play in courtship? Most would agree you should still be physically pure, but should you still strive to be spiritually pure? I say, yes! This is because there is still a chance a courtship will not end in marriage, and should that happen, you still want to be free of baggage.

Whether or not you seek emotional intimacy in courtship, of course, depends heavily on your definition of courtship. When I refer to courtship, I am talking about a time to evaluate whether or not two people would make a good match for marriage; however, there shouldn’t be any pressure or expectation that the courtship MUST end in marriage. Even in a courtship, you should seek to remain faithful to your future spouse.

Courtship is discovering whether or not you have found your future spouse. Maybe you have found them, maybe you haven’t. Since there is a chance you haven’t, you can’t jump all in yet.  Your heart shouldn’t be set on the presumption that you will marry this person, because the courtship could be stopped prior to marriage. You must still seek to be spiritually pure for your future spouse. If a courtship does not end in marriage, but those courting have both acted with purity, then the courtship is still a success.

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That being said, it’s ideal to only have to court one person, so you still only want to court someone you strongly believe you should marry. But, you could still be wrong, so don’t think just because you are courting someone that you must marry them. All you are committing to in a courtship is to explore the possibility of marriage, and since this is as far as your level of commitment goes, you should not be emotionally or physically intimate in a way that requires more commitment.
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But how can this be done? When you are pursuing the possibility of marrying someone, how can you possibly be spiritually/emotionally pure? How do the emotions not overwhelm you?
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It is definitely possible, because Paul tells us it is (Phil. 4:8). How it’s done depends on how you go about a courtship, and it can be summed up in two guideposts.

Boundaries:
In order to remain spiritually pure in courtship, boundaries are necessary. There shouldn’t be any romance, and all communication should be done with a third party present.
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The reasons for these boundaries are that they make it easier to keep one’s thoughts, and therefore emotions, in check. Logic and reason are easier to come by in this setting, and both the ones courting and their families can mutually seek to determine whether or not a marriage would be good. This time period in the courtship would mostly involve answering questions pertaining to lifestyle, worldview, and personality.
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Those courting should also be able to interact in casual settings, but not alone, again, to help maintain purity should it turn out they are not meant to marry.
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The details will change depending on individual people and circumstances, but there should be boundaries put in place if the courtship is to uphold purity. Only once the courtship passes out of the “evaluation” stage, and both people can and do commit to the prospect of marriage, should they be free to emotionally connect on a deep level.
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There isn’t a formula. Wisdom should prevail depending on the specific variables in a given situation. We are only human, and if you wish to seek purity, then there should be boundaries.
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Love the person you’re courting:
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This point may seem counter-intuitive to the notion of spiritual purity, but truly, the best way to avoid being overwhelmed by emotions and feelings is to actually love the person you’re courting. Love them, not in a romantic or “eros” kind of love, but with the “agape” love of Christ—willing the good of another person.
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When you seek to will the good of the other person, you put what is good for them ahead of what is good for you, or what you want. You’ll seek to honor and respect them, and understand that you are not yet married, and they do not yet belong to you. You have no right to think of them in such a way, or act in such a way.
By loving the one you’re courting, you’ll be open to the possibility that you might not be the best person for them. You won’t seek (even unconsciously) to put your best foot forward to manipulate them into “liking” you more. Love always protects.
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Loving thoughts and actions will help keep the emotions in check, and your spiritual purity will remain healthy. It is only when boundaries are not put in place, or when selfishness creeps in when emotions threaten to take over. In such situations, it definitely can seem impossible not to become emotionally entangled.
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But how could you marry someone you are not emotionally close to?
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As Paul David Tripp points out in his book,What Did You Expect?,” too many people today aren’t marrying for love, but selfishness. Of course, they feel like they’re in love. They have warm fuzzy feelings and all that jazz, but it’s not really love. Maybe they love the way the other person looks, or the way they make them laugh, or the way the other person makes them feel…but that’s not real love. Certainly, it is a kind of love, but it’s not the kind of love Jesus tells us to have for one another, or the kind of love a marriage runs on.
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Many people enter relationships and get married today because of what the other person offers them. As long as both people are getting what they want from the other person, all is well. But we are imperfect people. This equilibrium will not last, and if emotion is the foundation for a relationship, things will get pretty shaky very fast.
Certainly, it is important to have this kind of romantic love in a marriage, but it cannot function as the foundation for a marriage. I think many people understand this…but if so, why then do we base relationships, pre-marriage, on romantic love?
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Many believe that you cannot even begin to date/court unless the fireworks are already there. The idea is you fall in love, and then you pursue that person to claim them as yours.
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I’m proposing a method that approaches from the opposite direction. First you decide you would be a good match, and then you choose to love them. You use your emotions as servants, rather than allowing them to be your master.
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When it comes to making big decisions in life, we are always advised to be logical, to use reasoning, weigh the pros and cons, but not when it comes to finding a spouse. I find this rather odd considering the decision of who you marry is potentially the biggest decision you’ll ever make in your life, short of following Christ. No, today, when it comes to finding a spouse, we are advised to let our emotions guide us.
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Some believe emotions are all you need. “Love is all you need,” they will say. They’re really talking about emotions, not the solid foundation of agape love. Others start with emotions, and then, once they are already drunk on emotions, they try and make logical choices, but their decision making is impaired, and so they become blinded to possible problems or incompatibilities. When it comes to making the decision of who you will spend the rest of your life with, I think it’s better to be sober.
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Therefore, I think it’s perfectly fine to start a courtship even if you don’t have a deep emotional connection and don’t feel “in love” with them. You definitely should be attracted to the other person, and have a great deal of admiration and respect for them. You also should enjoy their company, and have a good understanding of how you would be a good match, but the “feelings” are not necessary, in fact, it’s better to leave them out. Then, once you do decide that you should get married, and you commit to that, then you can begin to love them in a romantic sense, and the emotions will take care of themselves.
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For those that think this can’t work, I say to them, all you need is love. Yes, this is cliché, but properly understood, it is exactly correct. Love, agape, is all you need.
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Courtship will look different for everyone depending on their situations.
Personally, I don’t think courtship is ideal. As I describe in my post, “I Kissed Courtship Goodbye,” I think it would be better if the young man and woman got to know each other well enough as friends that there would be no need for a courtship, and instead they become betrothed. With them already being committed to each other, there would be no need to fight the battle of trying to stay emotionally pure. Since they are engaged, they are free to emotionally connect. If they decide to court at all, it would only be to help prepare them for their future marriage, rather than to decide if marriage is the correct option.
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However, everyone won’t have this scenario, and will instead have to follow a similar route to what is described in this article. The details of every situation will be different as well, and those details will dictate what actions should be taken. There may be more or less stages and/or boundaries to a courtship depending on the situation and the people involved.
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Purity is not obtainable on your own, so don’t put that pressure on yourself. It might seem impossible at times, and that’s because it is—for you—but not for God. Lean on God and trust Him. Satan will lie to you and tell you that it’s too hard, or that you’re missing out, or that it’s pointless, but don’t listen. God knows what is best for us, and we should trust that His way will lead to the best kind of life we can possibly live, come what may.
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Unless I missed something, this will be my final post in this series. Please leave any questions you may have in the comments. Thanks for reading!

Other posts in this series:


Part 1: What Are Your Thoughts?

Part 2: What Is Emotional Purity? 
Part 3: The Struggle for Emotional Purity
Part 4: Is Emotional Purity Harmful?

16 Comments

  1. “When it comes to making big decisions in life, we are always advised to be logical, to use reasoning, weigh the pros and cons, but not when it comes to finding a spouse. I find this rather odd considering the decision of who you marry is potentially the biggest decision you’ll ever make in your life, short of following Christ.”

    Right on. Marriage isn't taken seriously in the mainstream anymore. It's all about drama. Thanks you for sharing this 🙂

  2. I found you on Wise Woman link up & plan to read all your emotional purity posts, along with praying for wisdom! I am thinking of Jesus, Who boldly began a conversation with the woman at the well, even though many would have considered that conversation to be very unwise. The important thing I see was that Jesus approached the woman solely to minister to her spiritual needs…something we all need sometimes. It seems to me that this should be an example of agape love between brothers & sisters in Christ for us. But we must be careful to examine our motives. This topic interests me greatly as an older divorced woman. I am seeking the Lord's wisdom regarding our older singles at church & what is a proper relationship. Perhaps a one on one conversation would be proper if the Holy Spirit initiated the conversation & it took place in a public setting….church fellowship for example. Fellowship, in my mind, should always focus on the Lord & how we can draw closer to Him. Blessed to read here today…love & prayers, in Jesus, Cynthia

  3. “In order to remain spiritually pure in courtship, boundaries are necessary. There shouldn’t be any romance, and all communication should be done with a third party present.”

    I would never ever ever ever ever ever ever allow my daughter to court someone who didn't have inherently romantic intentions, and who wouldn't be willing to have deep discussions with her alone, as an individual. Your requirement here makes it impossible to have an emotionally healthy courtship.

  4. That quote was describing the beginning stages of a courtship, when the two courting aren't sure they are to get married. If there is no commitment yet, then you shouldn't be engaging in intimate activity with the person you're courting, such as romance. That is just like dating. I sure hope your future daughter won't be engaging in romantic activities with men who are not her husband. That wouldn't be good for her.

    However, once the courtship progresses, and both are committed to marriage, then the boundaries to emotional connection can be let down. I say this in the post. I also say in the post that I don't even think Courtship is ideal. I think it would be better if two people were good enough friends first that they don't even need a courtship to find out if they should get married. They already know they should get married, and so they get betrothed, and there is no need for emotional boundaries since they are committed to each other.

  5. Yeah, the whole, “follow your heart” mindset has become deeply ingrained in the culture.

    By the way, I love your name. It's the name of one of my main characters in the current novel I'm working on.

  6. Right, context and circumstances also play a big role, and there will be exceptions to everything. However, even when we have good motives, we can still harm others sometimes.

    But yes, church fellowship with others would be a good context for people to get to know each other better.

  7. My husband and I called the process we went through “courtship”, though it was more like we were friends for a few years and then within the space of about two weeks, after receiving approval from my parents, decided that we wanted to get married. I'm glad to hear you say that you support emotional connection when a couple is engaged. And a touch of romance too–the simple fact is that handwritten letters don't come too often as a part of married life, since you live together, they don't seem practical, so something as “romantic” as actual written communication other than a grocery list is a treasure to me from our short engagement.
    I do know some who believe that engaged couples should have no unsupervised conversations/communication pre-marriage–I am VERY glad that my parents did not believe that, as our relationship is honestly based on the fact that we can talk for hours, it's very important to us, and it would have been hard to find enough people to sit and listen to us talk constantly. Plus, pre-marriage we found the need to have some serious conversations–for example, about my biggest fear in marriage, which was that I'd marry a man with the same problems with anger that my father has. Now that would not have been a conversation I'd have wanted to have supervised by my parents because it would have hurt my already tender relationship with my dad, but I needed to talk about that with my future husband. My husband and I were already planning on getting married and picking out my ring before we ever told each other “I love you”–but I'm glad we had the chance for communication and a tiny bit of “romance” before what has been an awesome and very practical marriage. We were so logical in our choice of spouse–I wrote out a list of reasons why I thought he would make a good husband before I made my initial decision.
    In my opinion, it's most definitely possible to move from plain old friends who talk about pre-destination and multi-lingual education to an engaged couple planning out where they want to live and when to schedule the wedding, but that's how it worked for us. Everyone's story is a little different.

  8. Interesting thoughts! It is often not realised that love can come before romance. My husband and I 'courted' for 2 weeks (we knew each other for 10 years prior but didn't realise God was saying the same stuff to both of us:)). We both knew it was God's will, and their was no doubt. We didn't hold hands until he proposed (not that we had to wait that long for that) and I don't believed I had even said 'I love you' by that stage. We managed to keep our first kiss for our wedding day 7 mths later and are blessed with a very romantic marriage… you can choose to love and let the eros etc follow:)

  9. Wow, that sounds like a great courtship! And yes, once the couple is committed to marriage, I think it is good and right to form a strong emotional connection. If you know you are compatible, and you know you want to marry, and are both able to marry, then I believe unsupervised communication is good. Obviously, it also depends on the individuals.

    I just don't think you should start with the romance and emotions if you don't yet know you should marry. Like your case shows, it's more than possible to get to know someone well enough just through being friends.

    Thanks for sharing!

  10. What a great testimony! It's very encouraging to hear real life examples of this concept being played out and succeeding.

    Thanks for sharing!

  11. What very strong advice. I wish more young adults would hear your advice and share your perspective. Our world would be healthier for it. The root is Christ.. and our trust and confidence comes from Him. That example of agape love, yes, indeed.

    Thanks for sharing and for linking up to the #SHINEbloghop.

    Wishing you a lovely weekend.

  12. I loved the whole article. I’ve been struggling with purity, always doing it by my strength and failing 100% of the time. The new perspective of agape love instead of eros has opened my eyes to a whole new life.

    The concluding statement, “God knows what is best for us, and we should trust that His way will lead to the best kind of life we can possibly live, come what may.” That sums it up.

    I can’t thank you enough for putting this article out. My life has recently felt pointless because of my spiritual weakness. Knowing I’m a child of God and that He created me to serve Him, but I use my free will to serve lust, and my selfish desires.

    I hope this message sticks in my mind and heart, and that I will find purpose in living for God, and trusting that He has the best for me.

  13. I’m glad you enjoyed the post! And you are completely right. If we try to just “do the right thing” under the power of our own strength, things are not going to go well. Haha!

    I hope this helps you moving forward!

  14. Thank you for sharing… your “ideal” mentioned for friendship to betrothal was my prayer for years which became reality…at least for a time. He was my twin brother’s best friend, a very G-dly young man and eventually we became very good friends as well, primarily based off of our mutual love for truth of Scripture and many discussions. We got to know each other as friends and were truly able to see the “real” person because we weren’t in a relationship. Over time it was pretty evident that we were being led to one another and entered into what we called a “relationship with the intention of marriage”. We didn’t want to date, or court, but we weren’t really betrothed either, although it was closest to that. We had our parents blessing in the beginning, but over time we hit many rough spots with either one family or the other; most of the time it brought us closer but after 14 months, the young man decided that we needed a break and perhaps it wasn’t really G-d bringing us together. Now he doesn’t believe that we are meant for each other – ever. Over that entire time we worked hard to not cross any lines; we didn’t kiss, but it was hard. We loved one another dearly and have a lot of memories that result from sharing all that time together. Emotional Purity is a very difficult thing to navigate when you are committed and truly believe that you are in a relationship with your soul mate. It’s hard to imagine at the time that it could ever end differently than marriage.

    I write all this backstory to help share a lesson that I have learned…hopefully my experience will help someone else and save the heartbreak: No matter how cliche’ it sounds, run after TRUTH with all your heart. Run and don’t stop! Seek G-d freely, wholly, entirely, steadfastly, with absolutely everything in you. HaShem is the one who satisfies us and until we can grasp that fully, then being in a relationship (even if it starts out beautifully) will eventually slip into selfish and unrealistic expectations. We started out running after our Heavenly Father together, but sadly because we lost focus, we are now apart. Speaking from a girl’s standpoint, we need to put our focus and delight in becoming the spotless bride of Yahweh. When it comes time enter into a marriage covenant, then we’ll be equipped and prepared because it is a physical level of the Divine that we have with HaShem.

    I always prayed for emotional purity and that I would only have eyes for one man. Sometimes I can’t believe what my story has turned into, yet it brings many opportunities every day to CHOOSE joy, and light vs. darkness, holiness vs. profane. G-d is good and HIS will shall prosper.

    May our minds be fully focused on the Father and may the we remain confident of this: “I will see the goodness of the L-rd in the land of the living. Wait for the L-rd; be strong and take heart and wait for the L-rd.” Ps. 27

    To all the single people striving for Holiness, take heart and don’t loose the vision.

  15. Thank you so much for sharing this story! You are so right, and I can definitely relate. It’s so easy to make concessions because think there is no way this relationship could not end in marriage, only to have it turn out that way.

    Like you said, we have to focus on becoming like Christ and doing His will, no matter how insane it might seem in a given moment in time.

    Thanks again for commenting!

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