Skip to comments.The Evil of Dating (Dating vs.Courtship)
Posted on 06/19/2003 8:29:45 AM PDT by Korth
On April 20, 2002 I married Stephen W. Carson after a 4-month courtship and 4-month engagement. Our marriage date marked for me almost five and one half years since I stopped dating, a decision I made at aged 23. Now I date almost every night my husband!
Dating became a rather disheartening and shallow way of finding a mate, and so I made a rather unprecedented decision to stop. I say unprecedented because, while I am not the first one to do this, I am one of the only people I know, except for my husband who had independently also stopped dating almost one year before I did. During my abstinence from dating I received offers from men to go out and much to the dismay of my mother, turned them down. "How will you find a husband this way, Heather?" she asked, pining for grandchildren. With all vocabulary about courtship having been disposed of, I had no way of explaining that my hearts desire was for exactly that courtship, and so I usually said nothing or explained that I would be praying for God to provide. Now before you deem me a holy roller, allow me to elaborate on what brought me to this place.
During my undergraduate studies I wo rked as a Resident Advisor in a freshman dorm to help pay for school. My campus was rather unusual in that all of the dorms were still same-sex since the school was private and relatively conservative. At the beginning of the year I would sit down with the girls and go over dorm rules and answer any questions they might have. Many of these girls were away from home for the first time and welcomed the help. Each year, I would learn that many, if not most, of the freshman girls were virgins. One by one these girls came to me, after only a few months at college, wrestling with the desire of their new college boyfriends to be physical with them. One by one I counseled them to wait to have sex. Unfortunately, by the end of first semester, nearly all of them had become sexually active and were now nursing broken hearts, unplanned pregnancies or STDs, and were left with the question of how to cope with dating experiences gone awry. By the end of second semester these boyfriends had already broken up with the girls whose virginity they had taken and were pursuing other girls. Even as I look back, I am amazed at what I advised them since I was, at that time, actively dating and certainly had not been taught any rules about proper courtship.
My own dating experiences started out innocent enough. I began in high school around aged 14. I remember feeling uncomfortable left to make my own decisions about whom I would and would not date. I was asked out by a senior during my freshman year, and timidly turned him down feeling like I was making a major social blunder. I recall one date when the guy didnt want to take me home right after the movie, which ended in a minor physical struggle before he finally agreed. My dating experiences in college were less traumatic, at first. But after a while, the lack of parental protection, and seeing so many of my peers going hog wild with their new sexual freedom, I grew rather cynical and began treating men worse than they treated me. My self-esteem plummeted. Finally, at aged 23 I decided to call it quits.
I see two main problems with dating as it is now. One is its purposelessness. Ill illustrate this to explain. As a professional counselor, Ive been asked to speak on the topic of dating numerous times at church youth groups. Youth pastors, church leaders, and parents are desperately trying to impress some kind of moral constraint on their youth by bringing in a "professional" to reconstruct the definition of dating. At these speaking engagements I look out into the faces of bright, eager youth and begin by having them think and rethink about their definition of dating, to somehow mold a definition that does not imply getting emotionally and physically involved without the proper protection that marital commitment brings. The lingo from the teens goes something like: "Dating means .being in a relationship". Or "having a boyfriend/girlfriend." Or "playing the field." Or (my personal favorite) "getting to know each other."
What does all of this talk about relationships and boyfriends and girlfriends really mean? When I venture to ask those bright, eager faces they simply have no idea. This is dating: the act of being in a relationship or playing the field or getting to know each other for the purpose of .the act of being in a relationship or playing the field You get the idea.
What is particularly heartbreaking about all of this nonsense is the aftermath. As a counselor I have seen numerous teens and young adults wrestling with the consequences of this kind of dating. They are bewildered by their emotional reactions. Dating is, after all, supposed to be casual. One girl, I recall, felt so bad at the end of a dating relationship that her parents sent her to me for counseling. She was depressed and confused about her response and not sure how to handle it. Young girls are taught that something is wrong with them if they experience longings for commitment. After months of being led on by her boyfriend with talk of marriage she began to realize he had no intention of following through. Her biggest need at this time was permission from an adult to break up with this young man since she wasnt getting it from peers or parents. Once armed with this permission, she ended the relationship, her depression ended, and she became a much happier young lady. Another teen girl I counseled was not so fortunate. She was very pretty, and had no idea how to handle the attention from her fellow male classmates. Her parents gave her no real guidelines for how to conduct herself, and yet she had somehow managed to preserve her virginity. Nonetheless, her low level of emotional maturity often led to putting herself into compromising situations, not to mention the morally chaotic excuses she used to justify her own behavior. She stopped attending our sessions without any real change in her behavior, and I often wonder how shes doing now. One thing nearly all of these cases had in common is that their fathers are not providing the protection needed.
"Isnt our daughter cute isnt she popular shes dating now!" parents proudly proclaim. What the above girls really needed were protective fathers to help ward off unwanted physical advances honeyed with deceptive talk of love and marriage.
But its not just young women who are heartbroken. I have heard from young men too who have no idea about how to go about courting a young woman toward marriage. If a teenage boy shows interest in treating girls properly, with respect and gentility he is made fun of mercilessly. One particular young man comes to mind who, when his last relationship ended, was crushed. He had wanted to marry her, but he really had no idea how to do anything but date and so avoided the topic of marriage. The relationship ended with the young man feeling empty, depressed and confused. Our young men do not know how to initiate commitment, or pursue a woman toward marriage. The cultural message is that this is not a quality valued in a man anymore.
Some may object and say that dating does have a purpose, citing the definition I gave earlier (getting to know each other, etc.). But what does this getting to know each other ever lead to? How long does it actually take to "get to know each other," and if you finally do reach the level of "knowing each other," what then? Usually this aimlessness leads to the dating couple becoming lovers, and many times bringing an unwanted child into the world. Or acting as if they didnt know sex was procreative and killing the poor baby, calling this the merciful thing to do as we have now deemed the greater tragedy a living child who is unwanted. I hear complaints about the shame and annoyance of unwanted pregnancy without any attempt to address the true cause: irresponsible, unchaste behavior and no boundaries to how men and women ought to be relating to each other. Dating provides no structure for male and female relationships, and our endorsement of this kind of coupling is only enabling the very social ills we complain about.
The above examples lead me to my second problem with dating. Where are the parents? With regard to the college campuses, the answer is easy: nowhere to be found. Year after year parents send their youths off to get an education with no authority figures in sight to bring some kind of restraint to their sons and daughters. In an effort made by our parents to destroy convention another convention has arisen to fill the void dating, instead of courtship. Dating views each possible eligible (and many times ineligible) person as a mate not for life, but for right now. Ive heard it said, "Im looking for Mr. Right," but this is passé. I have actually heard women say, "Im looking for Mr. Right now." Im not fooled. I saw these same girls crying and depressed about being dumped after a one-night-stand.
But permissiveness about dating starts long before college, in junior high and high school. I was amazed at the number of freshman girls who were still virgins in college since at my own high school the talk in the girls bathroom indicated that the sexual revolution was alive and well. Any girls who claimed chastity were promptly deemed prude as if they were lepers. So where are the parents? Well, they are allowing their sons and daughters to date at ages 12 and 14. If the parents are really "uncool" they make the teen wait until age 16. But wait for what? What does age have to do with it if the parents will provide no guidance, no purpose, or responsibility? Its simply not enough to hear it at their church youth groups from a professional counselor. So off these kids go without parental protection to embark on "getting to know each other," "being in a relationship."
But the real problem with all of this purposelessness and lack of parental control is the false perception of human nature that is the driving forces behind it. Human beings need constraints to guide our behavior. As it is now, we call our weaknesses strengths. We praise our lack of self-control and restraint and call ourselves "liberated." We talk about the innate goodness of mankind and then fail to make good on our promises. "I promise Ill love you if youll just sleep with me." We elevate predatory sexual behavior calling it "playing the field" and say we are following our animal instincts. I have yet to see an animal mate out of anything but an instinctual drive to procreate. As it is, we have sunk lower than the animals since we dont even want to discuss that sex is procreative anymore. This is dating. "For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools ."(Romans 1: 21-22)
If I have made any kind of case against our current dating practices, I know that was the easy part. The solution is not necessarily obvious, and our current cultural atmosphere simply does not provide any support for a return to old courtship practices. In the past, these practices were the backbone of any community since it was mostly through courtship that new families were begun to become productive members of a community. This simply is not the norm anymore. But, there have been a few of us, disheartened by current practices that have stopped dating altogether in exchange for abstinence, and courtship, and those that are interested in doing so. Just this past weekend, for the second Sunday in a row, I had a teen girl approach me and express a desire to meet with me and talk about alternatives to dating. Some of my friends have begun to forsake the dating scene for a more respectful and less predatory way of interacting with the opposite sex, and are the happier for it. While the effects of the sexual revolution have been devastating, I am seeing a flicker inside the hearts of many youths that indicate they are beginning to desire something more, something deeper, which is a real cause for hope and rejoicing.
I began this article by saying I recently married after a 4-month courtship. This was both a bewildering and exciting experience for Stephen and me as we grappled with the resurrection of a ritual that has long been dead. Leon and Amy Kass define courtship as "to woo with a view toward marriage." I believe our courtship was a success. We avoided the purposelessness of dating by setting boundaries on our time together and made it known that marriage was the overall goal, whether it would be to each other or someone else. We made sure our actions protected each other from the embarrassment and awkwardness of getting too emotionally involved too fast by each having the accountability of our parents and elders in our life. No talk of marriage was made until an actual proposal was given, and there was no kissing until the ring was on my finger, (how exciting that night was!!). We remained physically chaste until our wedding night. I am so thankful that our courtship was a wonderful and memorable process that I will want to share with our children some day, and without all of the embarrassing mishaps and broken promises that a lack of structure and purpose brings.
While I cannot, at this time, give a concrete and historical dissertation on courtship, I can recommend several books that I have read and two that I am currently reading on the subject. Starting with the ones I have read:
Passion and Purity, Quest for Love both by author Elisabeth Elliot. The first book deals with her own courtship experience with her late husband Jim Elliot, and the latter focuses more on general courtship practices and answers specific questions for how to proceed in our current atmosphere.
I Kissed Dating Goodbye written by Joshua Harris. This is a great book for young adults interested in learning how to pull back from dating.
I am currently reading: Wing to Wing, Oar to Oar written by Amy Kass and Leon Kass. This book is a historical anthology of writings on courtship. I am so excited to have been directed to it by my husband. I am nearly finished reading A Return to Modesty by Wendy Shalit, which addresses the effects on our culture of losing the virtue of modesty, a key aspect of historical courtship.
So, go ahead
stop dating!!! Liberate yourself from the baggage that dating relationships always leave you with. Read up on courtship and enjoy the mystery and excitement that modesty and self-restraint bring.
I have a daughter and 3 sons, each are learning how to have long term relationships, that it is a slow process to learn about someone, but even if you just meet someone, you can marry and make a relationship work.
Love is what you do, not how you feel!
We just had our 18th wedding anniversary, and we have been together 24 years! We are only 37 (38 this year)years with our birthdays 16 days apart (same year).
Relationships are a work of art and need time to produce.
Now to give the writer credit, she did try to talk the girls out of having sex, but at the end of the day, after these girl lost their virginity (by free choose), she blamed the boys and not the girls themselves for losing their virginity.
These women were way too stupid to be going to college.
I hasn't been the easiest, but I know I could never be with out her.