Courtship…or Something Like That

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Several years ago, I was introduced to an extremely different approach to dating: courtship. My first reaction was something along the lines of when the moose meet Kenai in Brother Bear. Essentially the one moose “coughs” in his hand hoof as he says, “Crazy!  You’re crazy!

Of course, my introduction to the idea of courtship came from the same family who introduced me to the idea of homeschooling and my initial reactions to the two were nearly identical.  Crazy!

Now you see who’s homeschooling.

It wasn’t until I read the courtship story of Steve and Terri Maxwell’s (Titus 2 Ministries) son, Nathan, that I began to realize that courtship isn’t just an outdated way for a young couple to meet and marry, but rather a different outlook on the dating relationship.  I began to consider the possibilities of courtship, but I knew I didn’t particularly want to be responsible for choosing my children’s spouses.

Then, God began to put people in our lives: a friend whose daughter chose – on her own, at age fifteen – not to date because she knew she wasn’t ready to be declaring her undying “love” for anyone at that age.  Then, we met Rebecca Ingram Powell and her beautiful daughter, Danya.  Rebecca writes in her book, Season of Change about “drastically different dating.”

That’s when I began to see that this didn’t have to be some “all or nothing” thing.  I, along with my husband, didn’t have to assume sole responsibility for choosing our children’s mates, but we could encourage delayed dating until our kids were more mature and ready to make the choices that go along with dating because, let’s face it, no matter which side of the fence you find yourself on, there are some serious choices, and often serious consequences, that go along with dating relationships.

Yes, I dated in high school (not much, but I dated).  Yes, I faced choices I was not mature enough to make and made decisions that were clouded by immaturity.  Yes, I made it through okay, but certainly not unscathed and not without bringing dating-related baggage into my marriage.

So, what do I want for my kids?  Delayed dating.  A different outlook on dating and the dating relationship.  Purity and saving themselves for their future spouses.  Not expecting commitments from someone else that should really only be expected in a marriage relationship – or having those commitments expected of them.

What are we doing to accomplish that?  Talking.  Believe it or not, our kids do listen to us.  I started talking to Brianna about courtship/delayed dating several years ago.  Her first reaction was just like that moose.  Crazy!  Then, she met the friend I mentioned above.  Later she met Danya.  Then, she started seeing the merits of what I was saying.

I started having her read some books last year.  We started with And the Bride Wore White, by Dannah Greesh, because, ultimately, whether she (and, eventually, our younger children) dates or not, her purity is our main concern.  We followed that with I Kissed Dating Goodbye, by Josh Harris, because I wanted to give Brianna a different (than society) way of looking at dating.

Next on the list (summer reading) is I Gave Dating a Chance, by Jeremy Clark, so that she can have a balanced perspective and make an informed decision.  Yes, the decision is hers.  She had a boyfriend recently – for a few days.  Then, she came to me and told me that she really wasn’t ready for a dating relationship.  The things that her role models had said to her made sense.  The things she’d read in I Kissed Dating Goodbye made sense.

I was so glad that I had left the decision up to her because I know, if I hadn’t, the mysterious appeal of dating and having a boyfriend would have been that much stronger.

I was so pleased to see that she really has been listening to and praying about what we’ve been saying.  I don’t want to keep Brianna, or my younger kids, from any normal, “rite of passage” aspects of growing up – but I would like to see them waiting to enjoy those parts of growing up when they, hopefully, have the maturity level to make decisions that aren’t going to cause them to carry unnecessary baggage into their future marriages.

I encourage you to talk to your teens – and pre-teens – about their dating (or future dating) relationships.  Courtship or delayed dating isn’t as *cough* crazy as it may seem initially.  I like to think of it as Rebecca Ingram Powell puts it: drastically different dating – just a more balanced and thoughtful approach to dating relationships.

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Kris Bales is a newly-retired homeschool mom and the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest founder (and former owner) of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. Kris and her husband of over 30 years are parents to three amazing homeschool grads. They share their home with three dogs, two cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and seven birds.

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  1. Great post! We have a daughter turning 11 soon and feel the same way. Of course right know boys are still yucky. lol. But soon I want to start preparing her and talking to her about the same topics. Thanks for sharing the book choices.

  2. It's funny–I've been pondering nearly an opposite post: why we are NOT doing courtship. I like your explanation; it is the clearest I've ever read. Delayed dating to me is a much better phrase to use than courtship.

    But I am in the midst of navigating a relationship between my son (who is allowed to date) and his "not" girlfriend, who isn't allowed to date but whose parents want them to spend time together. Now THAT is confusing to teenagers. But it's a long story.

    Unfortunately, I have only seen the negative results of courtship. I see girls sneaking behind their parents' backs, lying, deceiving, and putting the boys in a bad situation. I've seen girls whose parents held them to courtship who ended up going wild at 18. And I have seen young women who married through courtship now miserable in their marriages after several years. In other words, my personal (and admittedly, limited) experience in our own homeschooling community has not been any different than the dating world.

    As an interesting side note, I realized that all my references are about girls. I can't think of one single family that I know who went through the courtship process with their sons. In these same families that I referred to above, the sons went the route of traditional dating. I don't know what that means, but I'm somewhat intrigued by it.

    Anyway, I don't mean to criticize your choices. I really, really like your explanation and see it as different than the courtship route I was talking about above. Communication is certainly key, and listening on both ends.

  3. I like that. I, too, am just recently on board with Courtship. I ALSO thought it was crazy to begin with. After years of "thinking about it" and listening without judgment, I came to realize, courtship simply made the most sense. I also think it does and can appeal to young Christians. I know with my experience with dating, I came out of it MORE than just a little scarred. Thanks for posting this.

  4. @ SmallWorld — That whole sneaking around, rebellion thing is exactly why it will always ultimately be my children's choice with regards to dating. I will never tell them that they aren't allowed to date.

    When Brianna came to me and asked if she could have a boyfriend (in other words, if she could say yes to the boy who'd asked her to be his girlfriend), I told her that she knew that we would prefer the courtship (or delayed dating) route for her, but that I wasn't going to tell her that she couldn't have a boyfriend. The decision was up to her.

    She said yes…and four days later, decided that she wasn't ready for that commitment. He was already expecting declarations and commitments that she wasn't ready to give.

    I think you're right. No matter which route you choose, communication is the key — communication, prayer, and guidance. We want to guide our kids to make the best choices possible, but still allow them to make their own choices. That's part of becoming an adult.

  5. Another wonderful resource that made my 14-year-old daughter make those same decisions is the book "Before You Meet Prince Charming – A Guide to Radiant Purity", by Sarah Malley.

  6. We have read the books above and got to meet the wonderful Maxwell Children in Central Oregon. The book – I gave Dating a Chance was actually my favorite – it was just a bit of a twist, a delayed dating – and what to expect when you do start dating, pros and cons. It gives permission to meet other people, learn about them intimately, but does not give permission to go forward physically. His main thought I enjoyed, if you are only dating to have permission for physical affection, you are not ready. 🙂

    But it starts young, in the mind set of going through these years, and we started with Every Young Man's Battle, and The Squire and the Scroll, by Jennie Bishop. These two books and attitudes are our conversation starters in the car and as we watch others.

    We too have seen the good and the bad of courtship – it needs to have more conversation and direction and passion than – you can't date til you meet your mate. 🙂

  7. Great post! We encourage courship, too. Only we expect it, and do not allow dating while they live at home. What they choose when they move out is up to them, and we support their adult decisions. (though sometimes we have to speak our mind, but only once, lol)
    Our first child messed it up a good deal, but he is now getting married to a sweet girl in a couple of weeks.
    Our second child took on courtship because she agreed with us. And despite our families adamant protestations that she wouldn't find someone like her and that the couldn't find a mate without having sex first, my daughter is being courted by a young man who will not kiss until his wedding day! God provided someone even MORE committed to courtship than she was!
    God is good!
    We still struggle, especially with the boys, they want to date, but we hold strong in our decision that dating isn't for fun, and if they are too young to support a wife, they are too young to date.

  8. I love the book Unsteady: What Every Parent Absolutely Must Know About Teenage Dating by JeaNette Smith. In our church teens are asked to not begin dating until age 16 at the earliest, and at that point to start with group dating, keeping things casual. This book explains why teens so easily move into inappropriate relationships too soon. God designed us to become emotionally intimate and then naturally to want to become physically intimate. Teens who begin dating seriously naturally want to follow the same pattern.

    She has this great relationship model that equates the level of the relationship with the appropriate physical behaviors for that stage.
    1. Acquaintance – Handshakes are normal.
    2. Friends – High fives.
    3. Casual dating (pairing up with a person for one activity)- brief hug.
    4. Serious Dating (both people have the expectation of not dating others, being exclusive) – Kiss on the lips.
    5. Engagement/Courtship (couple chooses to marry, this is the period before marriage happens) – Kiss.
    6. Marriage – Intercourse.

    She then talks about how teens often cross the lines, doing a behavior such as kissing in a relationship at a lower stage of intimacy, such as casual dating, and how that can be emotionally devastating.

    Anyway, it's a great book. You can read a longer review of it here:

    I wish my parents had been able to explain it in this way when I was a teen, and younger!

  9. @ Pebblekeeper — Yes, we have The Squire and the Scroll, The Princess and the Kiss, and the workbooks that go with them. I bought them at the curriculum fair last summer and never read them! Ugh!

    Reading them and going through the workbooks with Josh and Megan is on my list of things to do this summer. I totally agree that you have to start the conversations young — the world certainly does; it's just not the same conversation.

  10. Way to go, mama! Talking, talking, talking – that is the key. I remember HOURS of talks (with my dad oddly)about relationships, how people should treat each other, why you shouldn't give away pieces of yourself that you can only give away once….

    Mine are little, but I have already begun adding small things to certain conversations. Like babies happen after you get married, etc. I will definitely write down all these book recommendations for the future.

    Any book suggestions for telling a 5 year old how babies are made?

  11. @ Deb — We have a wonderful book called, The Wonderful Way Babies Are Made, by Larry Christenson that I've always enjoyed sharing with my kids. It has big bold text to read to younger kids and smaller print with more age-appropriate details for older kids to read (or for you to read to them when they're older).

  12. What a great idea. i loved how you included different books from different perspectives.

    I want this to be our children's ideas too and not just something crammed down their throats!

    Thank you so much for mentioning those other books.

    Have a blessed week!

  13. We are already walking down this road with our 16 and almost 15 year old daughters.

    Our oldest has made the decision to not date now (she can't go out on dates until she's at least 17 anyway).
    She has decided to fully rely on God for her man.

    Our family was introduced to two books that helped our daughters tremendously, "Stay in the Castle" and "Seven Royal Laws of Courtship" both by Jerry Ross.

    I only wish that I had this kind of guidance growing up!

  14. Great post!

    We have tried to not set hard and fast rules for our children. I think our older dds followed more of the "delayed dating" route, with a strong influence of Josh Harris' books. I can't say that things have been perfect, but two daughters are married and one more is about to be. Our 16yo has a boyfriend that she has join us for family activities and she joins his family– the restrictions were put in place by his family, but I think it is keeping the relationship healthy.

    We do allow our children to begin dating while at home as opposed to restricting them because we want to walk through it with them. That is easier to do when we are home waiting after a date or there when the young man picks them up (our boys are too young to date so far).

    There is a lot to think on with this subject, but I think talking (and talking and talking) to your children is key.

  15. You might find my blog of interest where I critique Josh Harris's book.
    I Kissed Dating Goodbye: Wisdom or Foolishness?

    Unfortunately Josh Harris is quick to point out the problems with dating but reluctant to share any of the problems with his approach.

    Hope this helps.

  16. Tommy Nelson also does a great study using the Song of Solomon for teenagers and young adults that is gr8!

  17. Thank you so much for this post. I've appreciated reading it along with all of the comments. My daughters are only 9 and 6-1/2, but we realize how quickly time passes and gets away from you, and we want to be ready for these discussions when they start!

  18. Love all the recommended books and blog comments. @Kela – I wish I had this kind of guidance too growing up.

    @Kris- It's totally on my list this summer too. Squire and the Scroll.

  19. Great post! As a once teenage mother I think laying this foundation will serve your children well in life. Have you read Dating With Integrity? It's on my bookshelf, I NEED to make time to read it, but it was highly recommended to me by a homeschooling family that goes by courtship.

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