I Kissed Courtship Goodbye

The title of this blog post may come as a surprise to many of you, considering I wrote a five-part series on why I believe in courtship over dating. Well, I’m here to tell you that I was wrong. I have tried dating, and it’s awesome!!!
– 
Actually no, that’s not what happened. Everything I said in my courtship series still holds true.
 –
Huh?
 
Let me explain. During my series on courtship and dating, I mentioned that I believed even betrothal was better than dating. “I also want to be clear that I don’t think courtship is necessarily for everyone, but I think it should be the go-to method, rather than dating. There are certainly other tried and true methods for finding a spouse. Betrothal is one example. Before you start choking on your scoffing, betrothal has worked for centuries and still works today. In ideal circumstances, I think betrothal is actually much better than dating. I could say more, but that would be beyond the scope of this article.” – Dating Part 3: Courtship – What is it?
I was planning on writing this blog post to explain why I think even betrothal is better than dating (but not as good as courtship), but this post did not go as planned.
– 
I did a little research on betrothal to get a better understanding, and during my search, I came upon an interesting article. According to the definitions presented in this article, I probably actually believe in something closer to betrothal than courtship after all.
– 
Below is a description of courtship presented in the article:
– 

Courtship is much more conservative than dating, and almost always mandates the blessing of the parents. The young couple usually meets at the parents’ home, or with a group. There is little physical contact, and usually you would never court anyone who wouldn’t be a serious candidate for marriage. Courtship is considered the interim between just being friends, and being engaged. During the courtship stage, the family tries to determine whether the relationship should progress into an engagement. The parents are usually heavily involved with each stage and often have complete say as to when and if the relationship moves into engagement.Courting means “wooing, or seeking the affections of another person.” One dictionary even uses the term “flattery.” Unfortunately, if you are trying to gain someone’s favor (as you do in courting and dating), you may put on a false front, and not really act in a normal way. Therefore, couples who have no commitment for marriage, often have a difficult time getting to know the true personality of the person they are courting. This provides many surprises after the honeymoon has ended!I know many young couples who have been brought together, by the Lord, through courtship (or even dating for that matter). I don’t want to imply that their relationships aren’t legitimate or God-ordained. God can choose to bring two people together using any one of these options, but some are more risky processes than others. – Israel Wayne

I don’t believe there should be any “wooing” or “flattery” in courtship. That fell into my definition of dating. However, if this is really how courtship is being done, then I don’t agree with it. Interestingly enough, thinking of courtship according to this definition suddenly brings clarity.
– 
I know several homeschooling Christian families who say they believe in courtship, yet when they actually start to go through the process, what they practice more resembles dating than courtship. The courting pair enter an exclusive relationship before one or both are ready for marriage, or they talk with a lack of structure, or interact by doing “fun” events, which don’t help make the question of marriage any clearer. Perhaps, though, I am wrong. Maybe they really are doing courtship, and what I thought of as courtship was really betrothal.
– 
The article I quoted above went on to describe betrothal, which I copied below:
– 

In a betrothal model, there is no intermediate courtship stage. There is friendship and then there is betrothal or engagement. The two young people initially get to know each other as friends, in a non-romantic setting. They may do this at family get-togethers, or in church or group functions. Ideally, in a betrothal setting, a young man will evaluate a potential wife based on an objective set of Biblical standards and criteria, and if he feels God wants him to marry a certain young woman, he submits this idea to his parents.If his parents affirm that he should propose to a certain young lady, he then talks to her father. You may have heard the archaic term “pledging your troth.” It sounds funny, but it means that you are pledging your “loyalty, faithfulness and devotion.” Thus the young man makes a binding commitment to the young woman, and pledges to be faithful to her as long as they both shall live. If the father rejects the young man’s offer, the young man should have the integrity to move on with his life, and not hurt the emotions of the young lady. She should never know he has even proposed.


If the young woman’s father feels that this young man is the one who should marry his daughter, he and his wife talk to their daughter, and the decision is left with her. Her reply to the young man must be one that is approached with sobriety and prayer. If she says no, the father tells the young man, and he respects the young lady’s wishes. (A betrothal is not in any way a prearranged marriage which leaves the young people with no choice in the matter of who they marry. Even the Biblical Rebekah was asked if she would go away and marry Isaac. The decision was hers.) If she is in agreement, they become betrothed, or engaged, and set a date for the wedding.During the betrothal stage, they have the freedom to become emotionally bonded with each other, since both have committed to marriage. Betrothal is similar to courtship in that it insists that the young people must avoid inordinate physical contact. In fact, my wife and I kissed for the first time at the wedding altar.In Biblical times, a betrothal was legally binding and in order to break off a betrothal the young man had to give his betrothed a certificate of divorce. They were considered legally bound and committed to marriage. – Israel Wayne

– 
I like this description of betrothal. It’s serious, safe, and responsible. This is how I would go about courtship if/when I do. I definitely think there should be “criteria” that your spouse must meet in order to be considered—the most essential characteristics–but meeting everything on the “list” does not necessarily mean marriage is right. There are other considerations that must be made, such as personality, desires, and if the potential husband’s vision is one the potential wife can follow.
 –
This definition of betrothal also dispels the major myth of betrothal: you have to marry a complete stranger whether you like them or not. According to the above model of betrothal, this is clearly not the case. The young man and woman are friends first. By being friends in a non-romantic setting…you are likely going to have an accurate understanding of compatibility (or lack thereof.) By interacting, you can see if your personalities mesh or clash. You’ll find out if you have differing beliefs or not. So if the young man and women are both mature Christians and would make good spouses and parents…then there is really no reason to have a long drawn out courtship. Indeed, there may not even be a need for a courtship at all—or rather—the courtship would only exist to help further prepare the couple for marriage, but they are already committed to each other. By following the betrothal method, you will know—or at least have a pretty good idea—that the two of you are a good match (if not then some extra time can be taken to discuss possible problems, whether they be differing beliefs or personality faults). From that point, it’s just a matter of establishing an emotional connection, which in my experience, isn’t hard to form if you have the same beliefs, and personalities that mesh.
– 
Another way betrothal seems to differ from courtship is that you MUST be ready to marry to be able to be betrothed. In my courtship/dating series, I highlighted readiness for marriage as a must in order to court; however, I have witnessed others who support the courtship model begin courtships before either one or both of the young people are ready to marry. So either these families really don’t believe in or courtship, or I actually believe in betrothal.

It’s too hard to know if a young man and woman are compatible before they are ready to marry. They’re both going to change, so there is no reason to even start a romantic relationship. They may think they are compatible, but in a few years they may not be, or the reverse could also be true. Of course, the circumstances of individual cases will always result in exceptions to the rule, but in general, it doesn’t make sense to start a romantic relationship unless both the man and woman are ready to marry. Since it seems betrothal is the only system that actually holds this up as a key facet, I must actually believe in betrothal.

– 
Betrothal is clearly better than dating. Physical contact is limited and even non-existent in betrothal, whereas physical contact is a key aspect of dating, and it seems even many courtship followers accept some forms of physical contact and affection. Betrothal doesn’t mess around, so losing your purity, either physical or emotional, is unlikely. Betrothal is a serious commitment, which should weed out anyone who isn’t seriously considering marriage. Betrothal shouldn’t drag on for years, which also results in a safer and less emotionally difficult situation. The young woman is protected, and it’s the young man who must take the risk, which promotes leadership on the part of the man going forward in the relationship. All of these aspects of betrothal I described as courtship in my previous blog series, but it seems I was actually describing betrothal.
Before you start listing all kinds of ways betrothal would never work, please understand that I acknowledge exceptions will exist, and betrothal isn’t realistic for everyone (I’m sure you can think of some scenarios where betrothal would be unrealistic). It’s not the only way, though I do believe betrothal (or courtship, whatever you want to call it) is the safest way to go.  

Quotes acquired from: http://www.biblicalbetrothal.com/shouldwekcg.htm

54 Comments

  1. Dude, I gotta be honest. I think you’re way out of your depth on this stuff. I mean, no offense or anything. But you kinda don’t have any experience in this stuff, right? So you really have no way of knowing what you’re talking about, except your own intellect and the opinions of people you talk to/read. I think you might find that you’re trying to apply a formula to something that needs wisdom, not rules. Again, no offense.

  2. Cool I always thought betrothal was well, just like you said two random people being picked and told they have to marry each other, now you point it out I see that in the bible the women were asked!
    That definition of betrothal did sounded exactly like what you were calling courtship. But with courtship and dating there do seem to be so many different definitions. A lot of different definitions, or the same things with different names and different things with the same names!

  3. I don’t see myself as trying to create a formula. I simply am describing a method that has worked for a long time, seems sound to me, and is a methodology I would rather try than dating or trying to /get/ someone to like. I’m not espousing anything new here, just rehashing the old. And as I say at the end of the post, betrothal isn’t realistic for everyone, and exceptions will exist. I don’t think that sounds like much of a formula to me.

    Thanks for your thoughts!

  4. Right, and so did I! Of course, labeling can be deceptive. Someone can say they believe in dating…when they actually believe in what I consider courtship or betrothal. The words get tossed around so much, they barely mean anything. You have to really look at what people are doing. Like you said, a lot of different definitions or the same things with different names. Very confusing! So what really matters is sticking to sound principles.

  5. Hi Reagan, I am a mother with 4 children, one a 14 year old, currently thinking and praying through a lot of these issues. I truly appreciate your thoughts on commenting on girls’ appearance, hugging girls (I see it all around), and now this post has given me much more to chew on.
    I don’t believe someone who is having to formulate his beliefs is ‘out of depth’ , but rather, very much in his depth.
    So I just want to assure you that your desire to be wise and principled in all of this is admirable.
    A question….
    Do you think that a long-distance relationship (emailing/writing/skyping) can adequately reveal the character of each potential spouse, if they have only met on a few occasions?

  6. Reagan, I am sorry. But, you really do not know what you’re talking about here. The fact alone that you have never been in a relationship disqualifies you from putting a solid opinion out for everyone to read and learn from or for you to “arm” people with.
    All I see in this article is that you found two definitions formed by one man on a personal level who wrote them with no scientific method to them whatsoever.
    The fact is that there /is/ no courtship method. If you look in the Bible there is not one place where is says how courtship is to be done. It simply states the hearts people should have. It’s motive over method and I see your posts as being more method than motive.

    And as far as people courting before they are ready for marriage…you seem to know a lot better than many men older and wiser who have more experience than you in these areas. Or seem to think you do. There have been many young couples who have gotten into committed relationships before they were “ready” for marriage and they have ended blissfully. In fact, a relationship /can/ be stronger if the two young people have to “grow up” together through the situation if handled with care and oversight. Not always…but often and when the hearts of the two people are focused on Christ and doing it right. And if they grow and find out that the are not right for each other…they can go their ways. A successful courtship does not always end in marriage. it ends when two people learn enough about the other person to make a good, solid choice about them.

    Also…what about Jacob in the Bible? Didn’t he work /fourteen/ years for his bride? That seems to be a pretty big Biblical example that you missed.

    And I am not saying I am an expert by any means. But I am in a family who has been through three “courtships” and is currently in two. And yes, as you know, I am in one of the two current “courtships”. I say courtship as a loose term. Because there has been no one method for any of them. They are all unique and different. So, I do have a bit more inside knowledge. And I say that as fact not as pride. Because i still know next to nothing compared to what there is to know.

    I won’t argue for courtships side based on what the quote that you found said because, honestly…that is simple one of tens of thousands of “courtship methods” and should not be set as what courtship is. And who knows? Maybe I don’t agree with the mainstream courtship methods anyways.

    And two people can make an unwavering, unbreakable commitment to each other without betrothal while still in a “courtship”.

  7. Funny, we’ve been practicing Betrothal without realizing it.

  8. Thank you very much for your support! It’s my desire to get more people thinking on these issues. Whether or not they conform to my beliefs is less important than that they are motivated to think more about what it is they do believe, and what their reasoning is, and is it good reasoning? Everyone’s background and situations are different, so that influence behavior, but what shouldn’t change are the principles.

    As far as your question, I haven’t given that issue a whole lot of thought, so I’d rather not speculate. However, my gut instinct tells me that would not be enough. You might be able to determine a person’s character to a pretty accurate extent…or you might not be able to. The problem is it’s hard to know for certain. Online can only get you so far. It’s much better and safer if you can actually see them in person, and see how they live. Online you’re mostly just receiving a person’s words, when actions are what reveal character. I could be wrong. There may be a way to make it possible to discover compatibly from just online communication, but who you marry is one of the biggest decisions you’ll ever make in your life, and personally, I want to tend toward caution, which is what I think has been the overriding theme to all of my posts. I take the very conservative approach. There certainly are other methods which can work, you just may be taking a little more risk.

  9. Wow, that was an eye-opener. Betrothal sounds a lot better than courtship.

    And I have to agree with how the definitions of dating and courtship have been blurred. My parents didn’t have what most people would call a courtship, but they didn’t do what most people would call dating either. And yet their marriage has been very successful.

    I always thought the “two complete strangers have to marry one another whether they like it or not” definition of betrothal wouldn’t be too bad, though. And no, not because I couldn’t get a girl any other way. I think it potentially could lead to a stronger bond, because the couple would have to learn to get past each others differences. But of course I have no idea.

    Really good article, Reagan. ‘Preciate it.

  10. I believe you’re making the logical fallacy of ad hominem here. You’re disqualifying my arguments based on my personal attributes, rather than judging the actual merit of the content.

    Also, Israel Wayne is a pretty well-known homeschool graduate and speaker on Christian living. And according to your qualification of experience, Mr. Wayne has it! In fact, he actually followed the exact method he described, and it worked for him. In other words, I’m forming my opinion on the experiences of others, as well reason, and my own understanding of Biblical love. I don’t have to break my leg to know it hurts, yet I can tell you a broken leg hurts because others have experienced it and say it hurts. Plus, if we understand why the body feels pain, we can reasonably conclude that a broken leg hurts.

    Also, the experience I do have observing both Christian and unChristian relationships…good motives aren’t always enough if the methodology is flawed.

    And I am not claiming to know better than older Christian men and women. On the contrary! It is their opinions that I used to get the idea that you should not court before you are ready to marry. And as I explained in my post, there are exceptions to what I said. I agree with you that there are situations where a courtship can be entered into before one or both are ready. However, the vast majority do not pan out. I also agree with you that a courtship can be successful without ending in marriage. But don’t you agree that it’s preferable to only ever have one courtship?

    Jacob was ready to marry, though. He was mature, and he could support a family. His father-in-law placed conditions on the time in which he could marry, that’s all. In other words, Jacob was following a betrothal method. He was committed to his wife, he was ready to marry her, he just had to wait longer than is preferable, but that was out of his control. Also, Jacob was a polygamist, so I don’t know that he’s the best example to follow.

    And I agree with you on the terminology. Like I said in the post, what I described as courtship, Mr. Wayne described as betrothal. What one person calls “dating” might be what I call “courtship”. The terminology doesn’t really matter, but the principles you follow, and I believe the important principles are the ones I outlined in the article.

    And again, please recall (or read if you skipped over it) the last paragraph where I explain that betrothal won’t work in all cases, and that exceptions can exist. I left in a lot of wiggle room, because like you said, I don’t think there is /one/ way.

  11. I don’t want to get into another internet debate. Had too many of those lol.

    So, instead of giving all of my “arguments” to your points…I’ll just clear a few things up because I really don’t want to have an argument with you or anyone else. I’d rather see the body of Christ unified and God glorified. Plus, I’ve hardly ever been an any internet debate that either parties really came away changing what they thought in the first place.

    What I really want to say is that I think it’s great that you’re thinking so much and trying to do things right. That can be rare and is commendable. More people should put greater thought into such large issues in life. So really…keep up the critical thinking and pondering what would best honor God in life through your actions. It’s something I try to do a lot of, even wrestle with regularly, and I know it’s not easy to figure things out all of the time. You are my friend, my brother in Christ and I care about you as such…I don’t want to seem like I’m always going for your jugular in all this.

    That being said…I think that since, as you said yourself, you are drawing your opinions and writing these teachings/articles based on what you read from older, wiser men who have put this stuff out there…perhaps it would be best to leave the teaching to them on most issues. Posting links or something you agree with could be great. At least until you have some experience in matters like this. I mean…if they are writing things and they have the experience to back them up, it seems to make more sense for them to be the ones who do the instructing/teaching instead of younger people teaching younger people what to do without any experience at all. Again…the thinking and even writing it out is great. But putting it out to the world as a way of teaching and arming Christians could be harmful in more than one ways.
    (Writing things like…how to get through school and handle those struggles for Christ could be great since you’ve been through that. Or how to relate to siblings or parents or something like that. Since you actually have experience in those issues.) So…like I said…maybe it would be best to leave the teaching on big, later in life issues to the people who God says to leave it to…the older, wiser and more experienced. At least for a few years until you are one of them yourself. 🙂

    Those are my thoughts and I do hope there’s no hard feelings. 🙂

    Keep up the hard thinking and seeking Christ’s will, bro. 😉

  12. I always enjoy reading your thoughts here : )

    I’m a middle-aged wife & mother, btw.

    I know many people who have had apparently happy *arranged* marriages (People born in other countries where arranged marriages were the custom). And, the bride and groom nearly always have a choice in an arranged marriage – just as Rebecca did. So, perhaps what you are describing is actually more like an arranged marriage than like a betrothal.

    I was betrothed – but only for about 10 minutes. Because in our Church (Greek Orthodox) betrothal is a part of the Wedding Ceremony – as it has been for millennia. I think that it’s very important to keep in mind that once you are betrothed, a *divorce* is what is needed to call off the relationship – with all that entails Spiritually speaking. So, tread carefully, with all the caution you would have for entering an actual marriage if you are going to be betrothed.

    *I hold that NO ONE can speak as a marriage authority strictly from their own experience* – whether it’s courting, dating, betrothal or marriage – because you’ve never been me, and you’ve never been married to my spouse – and we are each unique, unrepeatable persons made by God. So, I don’t see Israel Wayne’s experience any more valid than yours – because even without meeting him, I can guarantee that he is nothing like my husband, and his wife is nothing like me – by virtue of the fact that all four of us are human (I’ve never heard of him, BTW) My marriage experience is going to be DRASTICALLY different from that of any person next to me.

    And, because of that fact – “don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young” – the fact you’ve not dated doesn’t *at all* mean that you are lacking in wisdom! In fact, the very fact that you have not dated (or been betrothed, or courted) – may make you *wiser* that the young person next to you who has so-called “experience.”

    Keep thinking these things over, I’m enjoying your insights : )

  13. Huh!
    I found this blog encouraging. While I attended school for two years out of state, I attended a church that had this betrothal standard for their young people, and it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. :)God even used it to heal my heart from the wounds of my parents’ divorce and restore my hope for marriage and family someday.
    Anyhoo, the community there encouraged their young adults to pursue “Undistracted Devotion,” which pushed both genders to focus on Christ and to build healthy friendships until a young man was interested in something more.
    Once the young man talked to the young woman’s father, (and after a lot of prayer), and the father gave the go-ahead (and after talking to his daughter, I think) there would be a sort of ‘proposal’ (to pursue further) that was rather creative and done in the presence of family. The woman has a choice. And upon her ‘yes,’ to enter into the process of seriously considering marriage with this man, they’d go through a prayer-covered, family-involved season of seeking the Lord and learning about each other on a deeper level (I guess it could be termed as courtship..this church celebrated and announced courting couples, actually)
    I was blessed to attend two weddings of couples that went through this process–probably the most lovely weddings I’ve ever attended.
    I really like the process of betrothal as you’ve laid it out, as its pretty similar to what I observed, but I sometimes wonder at the ‘realisticness’ of it in today’s culture (even church culture). How many young men my age are thinking about questions like these? I dunno.
    And then I remind myself that God is pretty big and He knows where I live, where I go in my dailyness. It’s not rocket science for Him to do this in my life. 😀
    Thanks for your thoughts.
    -Katie Jo O.

  14. Actually, your thoughts on this issue have been very helpful. Thank you, Reagan.

  15. Read Song of Solomon.
    ~Emily

  16. You’re quite welcome!

  17. I found out about this post via facebook. We have a daughter who found her husband after her daddy and I met his parents–it was an “accidentally” arranged marriage, but we made it clear that our daughter could shut things down at any time. They have been married now for 8 years, and they dearly love each other and are wonderful parents to their three children. We have received so much flack from this situation–someone even tried to get my husband fired over it, we couldn’t figure out why so many people would become so angry over something which, quite frankly, is none of their business. While we are still not formulaic, it is good to be open to God, and if your children are open, it’s a wonderfully exciting thing to be included!

  18. I don’t see you as attempting to speak with authority on this subject Reagan, but attempting to walk the path you believe God has called you to. The title of your article is “I Kissed Courtship Goodbye”, not “You Should Kiss Courtship Goodbye”. As with so many things in our lives, as Christians we walk a path with the light of God showing us with His word where to step (Ps 119:105). This is what I see you doing. I have been grappling with the same subject for answers but approaching the questions from the opposite side of the fence(a mother with a daughter approaching marriageable age). The thought of courtship always posed more questions than answers whereas betrothal is such a straightforward path.
    God bless you for seeking His best for your life!
    -Jackie A.

  19. Thanks Anna, I appreciate it! However, I don’t see why it’s wrong for me to explain my own thoughts on the matter while sharing the thoughts of others. I’m not making a formula or claiming that everyone has to follow this model. I’m just trying to point out that there might actually be something here, and people shouldn’t hate it so much.

    I also believe that you can’t disqualify someone because of age and their lack of experience. As 1 Timothy 4:12 says, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”

    All I’m trying to do is get people thinking about what they do, and why they do it, as well as what I personally think is the most attractive way to go about courtship. I’m also gambling that my tastes aren’t horrid, and that maybe some others will find this model attractive. I’m trying to break down the cultural stereotype that dating is the only way or that courtship is the only way you can do things, as well as point out what I think are flaws in those systems.

    And I’m not saying anything different from what I said in my 4-part series on courtship and dating. All I really did was slap a different label on it, which was more for the sake of making a point, rather than trying to advocate a new system.

    People are free to look at my arguments and logically disagree with them if they so choose, but writing me off just because I haven’t personally experienced dating, courtship, or marriage, is a genetic fallacy, and isn’t a fair treatment of what I’ve posted.

    I definitely did not make up my thoughts and opinions on my own. My views have been heavily shaped buy people like Eric and Leslie Ludy, Paul Washer, Israel Wayne, and my parents. So if I’m wrong, please blame them for brainwashing me. Haha!

    I think you would have a point, Anna, if I was being dogmatic and saying everyone has to follow what I believe, and if I was saying every other way is sin. No where do I come close to saying that, though. 🙂

    God bless!

  20. Song of Solomon is irrelevant to this post, as it deals with actions appropriate for a married couple, not a courting couple. The Bible does not approve such behavior for people who are not married. That is a kind of love reserved exclusively for marriage.

  21. I agree! Sort of…. My fiancé and I didn’t actually date, court or become betrothed. We were family friends for 11 years and now at 19 and 22 he sought my daddy’s permission to ask my hand in marriage, was granted it, and proposed to me and are now engaged 🙂 So we skipped the parents talking to the daughter and let the guy go ahead and ask. My parents knew me well enough to let me make that decision without discussing it with me.

    Well done on the article Reagan 🙂

  22. I agree with you! I don’t think the “complete stranger” model is as bad as everyone thinks it is. Not only for the reason you mentioned, but it also alleviates any kind of pressure that would normally be on the couple were they courting. There is no doubt. They’re getting married. Of course, this would only be feasible if the parents had a close relationship with their children, and were of the same mind. That way, whomever the parents choose, it’s highly unlikely their child would disapprove–and even if they do, they should be able to accept their parents’ superior wisdom in the matter, and it’s highly probable that the couple will grow on each other as the emotions eventually come.

    Not the method I would personally want, though I wouldn’t be opposed to it, and I think it can be a very beautiful thing if done right.

  23. Thank you very much for your support and the encouraging comment!

    Yes, it could be I am more accurately describing an arranged marriage. I don’t know, there are so many definitions for each term, it’s really hard to objectively say what is what.

    And yes, that’s how it was in Biblical times. Once you were betrothed, there was no going back (unless you have a divorce). I like that level of seriousness and commitment. As I say in the post, this method would weed out all of those who aren’t really taking the relationship seriously. You really have to commit to marriage. If you can’t commit, then why even have an exclusive relationship in the first place?

    And you are so right! Everyone’s experiences will be different. That’s why you have to use more than your own experience when making an argument for something.

    Thanks again for the intelligent and supportive comments! I’ve been thinking about doing a “collage” kind of post interviewing others who have married using the betrothal/arranged marriage/courtship models, just to get a variety of real examples out there all in one place. Could I use you as contact if/when I go to write that post?

    God bless!

  24. I think this may work beautifully for some. Especially if you are in a community with many potential suitors. If you’re not, however, it’s difficult to meet such a young woman (or to be pursued by such a young man). I think God’s basic concepts of purity and respect for the other person, mentorship and guidance in relationships leading to marriage apply to everyone. But the specifics can vary from person to person and place to place while still being godly.

  25. I agree! However, I am personally not personally in a community with a lot of potential suitors, and I don’t think we should lower our standards just because there appears to be a lack of prospects. All things are possible with God, and He can bring people into your life, and you into the lives of others. But I do agree with you that specifics can and will vary from person to person and situation to situation and still be godly.

  26. Whoa! Dude, you’re not alone! That description of betrothal is pretty much the same thing that I’ve believed of courtship for a long time. Wow!

  27. This I know, my brother was courting a girl from Texas, and we live in Illinois. They did do long distance for awhile, but then he moved down there so that they could see each other on a daily basis so that they would be able to better evaluate each other.

  28. Thank you for sharing your story! That sounds wonderful!

    Yes, you are right though, this method is rather unrealistic, considering, most will not want to try this method because of the stereotype it has of being deary and burdensome, even though that’s not the case. This method also sort of requires a strong family relationship, especially between the parents and the children, and those kinds of strong family relationships seem few and far between, even among the churched.

    I have not met very many other young men who hold the same beliefs I do, but as you point out, nothing is impossible with God. You don’t need to fear the lack of available prospects. God DOES know where you live! And He can/will bring a man into your life if it is His will and is good for you. Your odds are not diminished, so don’t do what may be tempting to do and what many have fallen prey to, which compromising your standards. I believe if you stick to your guns, God will bless you. What that blessing will look like, I can’t say, but it will be for your good. 🙂

    Thanks for commenting!

  29. Thank you for that great testimony! It’s unbelievable that someone could want to fire someone else simply because of the way they got married. They’re not hurting anyone else, yet for some reason, showing support for this method makes people very upset. Whether that’s out of fear, jealousy, or something else, I don’t know, but it’s kind of interesting.

    I totally agree with your approach and openness to the plans of God! Thank you for being an example and for sharing!

  30. I linked over from the Modest Mom blog.
    After reading the descriptions of courtship and betrothal, I’d say my husband and I did “betrothal”. We met through a Christian singles’ site. He’d decided after we met in person New Year’s 2007 (we’d talked over the phone, emailed, and “chatted” for a couple months prior to meeting) that he was going to marry me before the end of the year. I agreed! We were married in October ’07 and now have 3 children. I’ve always compared our “love story” to Rebekkah and Isaac.
    Looks like you’re on the right path. Keep God as your Guide! =)

  31. I think you are a very thoughtful and wise young man. There is no way create a one-size-fits-all definition of these matters and you are smart for questioning some of the currently accepted definitions and making sure they fit with your beliefs. I think this post will help others who are trying to navigate this part of life and might feel bound by other definitions or expectations. If we didn’t take the time to question ideas, where would new ideas be born? Keep it up!

  32. Wow, a real eye opener! Thanks so much for sharing. I’m gonna have to reevaluate some things. I thought the courtship model was solely the way to go but now…
    Anyway! 😉 Thanks so much for sharing!

  33. You’re welcome! But really, terminology is less important. Like I say in the post, my views didn’t really change. I was more pointing out the fact how Betrothal isn’t what people think it is. What’s really important is following the principles: involving family in the process, being serious about pursuing the relationship to determine compatibility for marriage–which involves being ready to marry. Whether you call it “courtship” or “betrothal” doesn’t really matter.

    All of these principles can be boiled down to love. Are you loving the other person? Are you willing their good and the good of others?

  34. Agreed. But I didn’t mean to imply that we should lower our standards in terms of quality of suitor only that we may need to change our methods. Be it online dating, blind dates or even courtship via skype with someone you met at a church conference – as long as there is a common Savior and a goal to respect one another, with guidance from mentors – I think any “style” of dating or courtship or betrothal can work in a Christ-centered and Christian context.

  35. Ah, okay. Yes, I agree with you, so long as the principles are maintained. I think other methods can work, though I would not say they are ideal. It’s better if you live close together and can interact and observe in a “real” context, but sometimes that’s just not possible. It can be hard to find possible candidates, and if you happen to find one who lives in another state, I don’t think it’s impossible to conduct a long-distance courtship via skype or what have you, if there are parents/mentors involved, and they are seriously looking to respect the other person by trying to determine if marriage would be a good outcome or not.

    But I still think you would have to have some in-person contact, as I think it might feel kind of odd for the couple if one of the few times they’ve met in person is on their wedding day.

    I agree with your point though. Every “courtship/betrothal/dating” relationship will look different, but they should stick to the principles.

  36. I understood what betrothal was from the time I was a teenager. My parents were not close enough to me to encourage a betrothal of sorts. I hope my children will chose Christian betrothal so that we as parents can help them weed out the ikky problems like pornography, alcohol, gluttony, gambling and such that we can see in potential partners and or in immediate family relationship. I ended up thrown into the dating culture and basically am married to the first man I dated. In some ways its as if I betrothed my self to him in some way. I’ve had to face some ikky in-law problems and such. I definitely encourage betrothal to help women get protection from moral problems in potential spouse. If it doesn’t work and the woman falls for dating pattern, she best marry the first man she dates so as to avoid lust problems and more dangerous STD problems. Only Christ understands the problems of Adultery that our human minds mistake and display our selves incorrectly.

  37. I couldn’t figure out how to use the reply button above (I think it’s not working today) so posted the end of your reply to me below.

    I appreciate the kind comment – I’m afraid I’m a little too private a person to tell my story online – but do appreciate the request. I always enjoy reading your posts! : )

    Thanks again for the intelligent and supportive comments! I’ve been thinking about doing a “collage” kind of post interviewing others who have married using the betrothal/arranged marriage/courtship models, just to get a variety of real examples out there all in one place. Could I use you as contact if/when I go to write that post?

    God bless!

  38. Hi Reagan,

    I appreciated reading your article. I totally agree too. At first I wasn’t going to read it because of the title… I thought it was just “another one of those”– I’ve recently seen many liberal homeschool graduates go for a dating lifestyle.

    Did your family do the Botkin Family’s “Marrying Well” webinar? That was a great resource. I think it’s still possible to get the recordings. Also Biblical Betrothal by Capt. Brett Smith is a another great resource.

    I appreciated your article. Thank you!

    ~Shiloh

  39. Hi!

    Thanks for reading! Yeah, a lot of the homeschoolers I know have been turning more and more liberal, especially when it comes to dating/courtship practices. It’s been really sad and troubling.

    And yes! My family listen to the Botkin family’s “Marrying Well” webinar. I thought it was really good, but also frustrating because they were very careful to avoid creating a “formula” since people probably would have burned them at the stake if they had (people already want to do that–mostly other Christians). Yes, I understand each situation will be different, but I think it would have been nice to have some more concrete advice. Regardless, it was still pretty good. I’m not familiar with Brett Smith. I’ll have to check it out.

    Thanks for the comment!

  40. I gotta admit that, in the right situation, I don’t have an issue even with an ARRANGED marriage. But I don’t have a problem with “wooing” taking place during a courtship, either. From that false, “flattering” sense you describe, yeah – I’d have a problem with that. But I think there comes a point when it is good and right for a man to seek to win the heart of the woman he hopes to marry. When else would that happen? You don’t want it to happen *before* courtship. And if you’re heading straight to betrothal, then in a sense the woman *doesn’t* have a say, and it’s just an arranged thing. Because he hasn’t won her heart YET.

    Ultimately, though, I don’t think it really matters what we call it, or how the details fall out. The underlying *principles* of all of this are what really matter. Are we seeking after something that will guard our hearts until the proper time, glorify God, and build lasting Christian marriages? Or are we seeking something that will gratify the flesh, keep us entertained, and/or encourage a pattern of starting/ending relationships?

    –a mom who has now been married 13+ years after…well, we’ll say “not dating,” so as to avoid any semantic confusion 😉

  41. These are some really excellent thoughts. We’ve got a 14 year old daughter and an almost 13 year old son and are trying to navigate this new time in their lives. I’ve always said we’d practice courtship but, like you, it sounds like what I’m wanting for them is more of a betrothal. I found you on A Wise Woman Builds Her Home this morning and would love it if you’d link up to my Homemaking Party!

    Blessings,
    Mrs. Sarah Coller

  42. Thanks for reading! I’m glad you agree and are putting thought into how your children will go about getting married.

    And thank you for the offer to link-up. I would be happy to!

    In Christ,
    Reagan Ramm

  43. First of all, I commend you for being a young adult who is striving so hard to honor God. It really seems like you want to honor God and honor your future wife. I know how hard it is to go so far against culture. It is hard!! I commend you for being willing to do whatever it takes.

    That said…..I do disagree with you. Please know that I am not attacking. Honestly a few years ago I would wholeheartedly be nodding my head in agreement with everything you said. I could have pretty much written this post myself. It took a friendship, courtship, engagement, and marriage to make me come to believe differently. I have tried hard to look at courtship/betrothal honestly though, and not just let the pain and difficulty we went through color the truth.

    One of my biggest problems with courtship/betrothal is that it denies offspring as adults under the control of the Holy Spirit. Young adults are raised to be adults, but as soon as there is marriage interest, they suddenly are compelled to become children again. Father’s word goes and if Father doesn’t like the young man, it would be rebellion to pursue the relationship. I think there is a problem with that model. The Bible says that in the multitude of counselors there is safety, and God makes it clear that children are to honor their parents. It seems that if parents have done their job and raised their children to love and honor God, then the need to control and dictate won’t be there. They will have the relationship with their child that allows for discussion and asking for guidance and counsel. But the parents should also trust their child. Trust that they did the best job they could before the Lord to raise their child. Trust that their child, who has proven their love for God throughout the years, is not suddenly throwing God out the window when it comes to romantic relationships, but they are still seeking the Lord and seeking His will for a mate. And trust that their child is truly in God’s hands, not their own.

  44. Sorry, it wouldn’t let me comment all at once. So this is the second half. 😉

    The formula for a perfect relationship troubles me too. A few years ago those words would make me cringe. I truly believed it wasn’t a formula and I didn’t think that I thought there was a “one size fits all” model. By “formula” I mean a set series of rules or goals that most, if not all, relationships should generally follow. In that formula is the idea that physical contact should rarely happen, if ever. I have come to realize that physical contact is not always bad. Obviously some contact would be crossing a line (such as sleeping together or touching of genitalia), but I find it interesting that all physicality is typically not allowed, whether it’s hugging, side hugging, or holding hands. It turns out, some people might be aroused and stumble and be led into sin by that. Some people might be able to hold hands without lusting, but instead stumble and be led into sin by prayer sessions. Some might be fine with hugging and praying, but a deep, heart-to-heart conversation would arouse them.

    Rules don’t make you holy. The goal is to pursue Christ and honor Him with your relationship. That is one of my biggest problems with courtship/betrothal….it denies that God made the man and the woman as individuals. Individuals with unique needs, desires, and goals. Individuals who are seeking God.

    All the rules in the world won’t make for a perfect relationship or marriage.

    What are the greatest commandments? Love God and love people. God is the One who makes a relationship perfect. Not a formula. Not a goal. Not boundaries.

    A few years ago, if I heard somebody say what I am saying here, I would shrug it off thinking that they were yet another person trying to get as close to the line as possible without sinning. Or trying to adopt the world’s methods instead of truly pursuing the honorable way. Trust me. I get it. It is only through several years of very painful experiences and searching for the truth and looking at the Bible and reality that I have come to believe differently.

    God bless!
    -Bonnie

  45. Thank you for your thoughts, Bonnie! I appreciate you taking the time to thoughtfully write out and communicate your concerns in kind and considerate manner. Many people who disagree seem to feel an obligation to do so unkindly, so I want to thank you for your attitude and approach, even though you disagree with me.

    However, I’m not totally convinced we disagree–or at least–not that much. I went and read the story of how you became married on your blog, and it sounds to me that you did something similar to what I would call “betrothal.” I probably would have done somethings differently as far as the details are concerned, but I do acknowledge at the end of my post that exceptions will exist, and that I don’t think it’s the only way, or the only “formula” one should follow.

    In your story, correct me if I’m wrong, but it sounded to me like you were committing yourselves to marriage when you started your courtship, and your courtship was really more like marriage prep than anything else. In my mind, committing to marriage without a courtship is a betrothal. You were fortunate in that you and your husband grew up together and were friends for a long time so you knew each other well and didn’t really need a courtship. I think that is ideal. You should be good friends with the person before you enter any kind of serious relationship leading toward marriage.

    You expressed concern that courtship makes young adults children again because the parents dictate everything. If that’s what happens in courtships, then I don’t agree with it. I don’t believe I ever said that parents should wield all the power in a courtship. We’re not really improving anything if we move from the emotions of the children to the whims of the parents. I think courtship should include a lot of people and have a lot of input. I don’t think whether or not two people get married should be left up to any one person. It’s just not wise. On the other hand, ultimately, it is the young adults who are getting married, not their parents, so they ultimately have to make the decision.

    I think rules and principles are good because they keep us safe. You seem to have a lot of personal experience in this area, well I also have quite a bit of personal experience, and my experience has taught me that even when two mature Christians have good intentions and desires, emotions can cause them to compromise, or blind them to the truth. That’s why rules and guidelines can help keep them safe. I definitely do not believe in a “one size fits all” model. If you look at the last paragraph of my post, you will see I am open to other models.

    Also, the problems I have with touching in a courtship go beyond the potential for lust or sin. Even if lust wont be an issue, I have problems with touching in a courtship for a couple reasons.

  46. 1) Assuming you are courting to find out if you are compatible for marriage ( meaning you’re not sure if you’ll marry them or not) then the person you are in a courtship could potentially end up marrying someone else. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my future wife to have gotten all cozy with another man before marrying me. I don’t want her to be engaging in romantic touching, even if it isn’t sexual. Since this is what I want, I think it’s only fair I hold myself to the same standard. So I’m not going to be touching a woman romantically who is not my wife, and if I am courting her, she is still not my wife, and could end up marrying someone else.

    2) Physical touch is powerful, and could lead to the formation of deep and powerful emotions. Emotions cloud our judgement and make it more difficult for us to objectively determine if you and the other person are compatible for marriage. I believe the point of courtship/betrothal/dating (whatever you want to call it) should be to determine if two people are compatible for marriage, and physical touching which could lead to powerful and clouding emotions distracts and takes away from the whole point of the relationship.

    Like I said in my post and in this comment, there will be exceptions, but I think it’s a good idea to have some guidelines to help us as we navigate this tricky area.

    Hopefully that made some sense. Again, I thank you for your thoughts, and I appreciate your words of caution. Courtship certainly isn’t perfect or fool-proof, and it can certainly be undertaken wrongly.

    In Christ!
    – Reagan

  47. I appreciate your thought out response! You are so right…it can (unfortunately) be hard to have loving, productive conversations on this topic.

    Yes, our courtship was in many ways what you call betrothal. That is the mindset in which we were raised growing up as well. However, what I wrote on our blog is only part of the story. Our story has elements that are so deeply personal and painful that I did not include them. The aspects that were so painful? They were the rules, goals, guidelines, ideals (whatever you want to call them) that I so heartily espoused for years. Yes, our courtship was a success because we ended up madly in love and married, but it was through our courtship or betrothal that I realized that so many of the ideals that I grew up believing in…simply do not work. Yes, they CAN…but to hold them up as the ideal or the perfect or best way….does not work.

    You are so right…emotions and physical touch can definitely cloud the voice of reason. But what clouds one person’s voice of reason may or may not cloud another person’s. To say that none of our children will be allowed to hug or hold hands with the person they are committed to marry is unfair. We cannot decide for our children what their struggles are. We will definitely tell them the cautions and how physical touch can often lead to a snowball effect. But ultimately, they have to answer to God. Not to us. If they can hold hands with the person they are going to marry, then great! Praise God! If they can’t, well then great! Praise God! We will be there to support them either way, not holding them to some “ideal” that is not in the Bible.

    Another caution I have with the idea that emotions and physical touch can cloud reason is that I have seen countless times that the answer is to, in essence, run away from those emotions. Yes, they can cloud reason, but the answer is not to go to the opposite extreme. In some families, this plays out in not being allowed to say “I love you”, not being allowed to draw/doodle hearts or have heart jewelry from the intended, having limited time to talk, having no personal conversations but the parents are included in every text, email, etc. Emotions are not wrong. I would certainly hope that there are emotions if the two are heading toward marriage. Forcing your children to deny their feelings does not prevent them from existing. I know that may not make sense, because again, before my courtship I thoroughly believed it was not a denial of their feelings. It has taken quite a journey to realize it for what it was. We lived in a forced, fabricated world where we could look at each other with love but not admit it out loud. Our whole church could tell we were in love and make comments about our love, but we were not allowed to acknowledge it to each other. Obviously that was our personal experience, so that may not occur in every courtship/betrothal, but I have seen it many, many times.

  48. So do those rules and guidelines keep them safe? Yes, I suppose. But safe from what? From jumping into bed? Will acknowledging our love and saying “I love you” or holding hands in a public setting cause us to jump into bed? I think it’s safe to say that for most couples, no it would not. What is it that God requires of us? That is the question that needs to be asked. God is requiring purity of thought and action. God is requiring us to seek Him. We don’t need to be kept safe from saying I love you, kept safe from hugging….we need to be kept safe from anything that will cause us to lose sight of Him. And that will look different for different couples.

    I do not have a problem with choosing to not hug or hold hands with someone if you are not yet sure if you are getting married. Do I think that guys and girls can hug without sinning? Yes. But I do think that there are boundaries in how far to take that. In most courtships, though, from all that I have seen personally and read (I’ve read dozens of courtship stories), even after a commitment has been made and they know they won’t end up with someone else, they still are not allowed to hold hands or hug. The logic of “we may not get married” no longer applies, so I guess I’m a little confused by your reply, which indicated that your concern was with physical touch with someone you wouldn’t marry. You said that in a betrothal there is, ideally, commitment at/toward the beginning of the relationship. And you also still believe (or at least Israel Wayne believes) that physical touch shouldn’t happen until the wedding.

    You mentioned that if parents have all the control, you would be concerned as well. “I don’t think whether or not two people get married should be left up to any one person.” In the post when describing betrothal, it says that the young man should go to his parent’s first. If he gets approval there, then to the woman’s parents. If the father says no, the young man should back out quietly. That is control. The father is deciding on behalf of the daughter who he thinks would be a good match for her. So the decision at that point is left up to the father. I heartily agree with you when you said that it is the young adults who are getting married….not the parents.

    So yes. Our courtship was a success. But I would not wish that upon our children for a host of reasons that are too many to go into here. I am completely for taking relationships seriously. (Yes, you are correct that my husband and I were committed to marriage at the start of our courtship. 🙂 ) We will definitely be raising our children to take relationships seriously and not enter relationships just to date around or be flippant. Relationships are not to be taken lightly. People’s hearts are not to be trifled with. And marriage is the goal, not a fun time.

  49. But I will not raise our children to think that God is in a box (i.e., only one kind of “ideal” relationship [with room for a few variables] will honor Him). I can not protect my children from pain. I can not make decisions for them. I will not raise them to be independent, mature young people, only to reign them in again at the time of their marriage. I will not treat them as children who must obey, rather than the godly brother or sister in Christ that they are (Lord willing). I will not raise them that my voice is equal to the voice of God. God is their guide, not me. God is the One who ultimately knows what’s best, not me. God is all-knowing, not me. Read this recently and thought it was worded well, “Listening to any authority outside the Holy Spirit and scripture is idolatry.” Our goal is to raise children who love God and love people first and foremost. I am not suggesting a hands-off approach. Ideally, our children will grow up able to be mature, functioning adults and we will have a strong, healthy relationship that is full of openness and mutual guidance and counsel. We just will not be raising them to follow a “model” or the way relationships ought to go.

    I truly would have previously thought that anybody who thought or talked like I do now must be reacting to personal experience. Or that it was the rare case of a courtship gone wrong. Or that they had been rebellious. God has taken me and my husband on a huge journey. Yes, full of pain…but also full of so much searching, grace, humility, and freedom. I am sure our journey is not over…our son is just now 10 months old. We will be seeking Him and searching Scripture and wrestling through the next many years as we strive to raise him and any future children in the fear of the Lord.

    I don’t mean to take over your blog or start a debate, so this will be my last comment. Thanks again for the great discussion and I pray that God will continue to guide you as you seek Him!
    -Bonnie

  50. YES!!! YES!!! YES!!! Reagan, I am so thrilled by reading this I can barely contain it. I know that sounds dramatic, but you have to understand that I've debated about the subject of betrothal a lot. I debated strongly against the proposition that betrothal is a situation in which the child agrees beforehand to marry whoever the parents pick, and they do it that way (but the people probably do know each other). However, through the debates, I did see some problems with courtship pointed out that I agreed with. The problems you point out in courtship here, I believe, are problems that have crept their way into courtship, twisting it into something not-so-wise. The original form of courtship is not like that. However, with the original form of courtship, people might reject each other over things that won't have an effect in the long-run, which is the biggest problem I have with it. Here's an article I wrote after thinking about the debate more: http://justpaste.it/whycourtshipisnotbad. But I totally agree with the definition of betrothal presented here and think it is better than even the original form of courtship! I don't see how it could get any better! AWESOME!

  51. My wife and I did a courtship and then a betrothal (as we searched scripture for guidelines and examples).

    There are many, many bad ideas about dating, courting, and betrothal. However, from studying scripture there are some real “ah-ha!” moments about romance.

    You might want to look at our ministry http://biblicalromance.com for more explanations about the actual scriptural ideas behind these types of romance without all the man-made traditions and ideas.

  52. Very clarifying, indeed! I really appreciate your straight-forward approach; so refreshing after reading so many other beat-around-the-bush Christian bloggers who are too afraid to just say it (whatever ‘it’ may be!). So glad I stumbled across your blog for the first time today!

  53. Glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for reading!

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *