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What Is the Difference Between Dating and Courtship?

What Is the Difference Between Dating and Courtship?

The conversation about dating and courtships is one people frequently have. Many singles struggle with dating and are often confused with the concept of courtship. While the two are closely related, they are very different. Let's start with dating. Dating consists of so many things and is multifaceted. It can also be very tricky. For starters, the purpose of it is for two people to get to know each other to gauge their compatibility. While the initial purpose for dating is compatibility for companionship, there are other reasons people choose to date. Some people indulge in fun dating where the goal is not commitment. They meet new people and enjoy their company with no expectations. Then you have experimental dating. This type of dating consists of dating out of your comfort zone. Taking a chance and seeing people who aren't the typical people you would date. People also choose the option to engage in casual dating. This type of dating consists of people getting to know each other by spending one-on-one time with them.

Casual dating is not to be considered a relationship. This is the stage of dating where a person has the option of dating other people but may consider dating one person. Another kind of dating people engage in is monogamous dating. This dating consists of two people coming together and agreeing that they are suitable for one another. As time goes on, the couple may decide to transition into a deeper commitment. However, if two people decide they are not suitable and want to explore relationships with other people, then they are free to do so. This is often the repeated cycle in the world of dating. It's a constant push and pull of meeting and interacting with people to see who will be the best person to have a committed relationship that could lead to marriage.

Courtships are defined as the traditional period before a couple gets engaged then married. This is the season in a relationship where two people have decided to have an exclusive relationship. Couples who decide to court have consciously committed to honor God with their bodies and abstain from physical intimacy until marriage. In this stage of the relationship, couples have in-depth conversations about marriage, raising a family, meeting each other's family and friends, and discovering more about each other. Courtships are rooted in biblical principles because they ultimately lead to marriage.

Although the Bible does not discuss dating or courtships, to be successful in both, there are some things one should keep in mind.

1. Keep God at the Center of Your Thoughts

Whether you're dating or courting, keeping God at the center of your thoughts will help guide your actions. Before you go out on a date with your partner, casual or committed, pray and ask God for guidance on what to do, say, where to go, and even what to wear. Doing this can prevent you from spiraling into uncomfortable or unwanted situations.

2. Establish Physical Boundaries

The purpose of dating and courtships is to get to know a person's spiritual, mental, emotional, and intellectual aspects before you know them sexually. Communicate openly and honestly with each other about what triggers thoughts of intimacy. Discuss if you're comfortable holding hands, long embraces, or any kind of physical touch. If you desire to know and understand the person you're with and establish relationships of any kind that honor God, you must create physical boundaries that both of you are comfortable with.

3. Commit to Effective Communication

In any relationship, it's important to be honest about expectations. Be clear about what both of you want and what direction you want the relationship to go. Tell each other what you need from one another, ask questions you want answers to, actively listen to your partner, and always keep an open mind.

4. Respect Your Partner

Mutual trust and respect in any relationship are necessary. Always value your partner's views, morals, and values. Speak to them with kindness, support their interests, and always hold them in high regard.

5. Trust Your Partner

Trust is an element in relationships that must be earned. If you're dating or courting in order to have a successful relationship, you must establish trust. Some ways you can do this is to be consistent with them, prioritize quality time with them, respond to their needs without neglecting your own and practice discretion with your relationship. Trust is a fragile thing. If you don't have confidence in your partner, then it's safe to say that you don't have a quality relationship.

6. Understand There Is No Perfect Partner

No one is perfect. Both of you will make mistakes. There will be many misunderstandings. There will be things you don't like about your partner. There will be things your partner may not like about you. You are not perfect, and neither is your partner. You cannot change someone into who you think they should be. Learn to be okay with each other's imperfections, accept who they are or aren't, and move forward with the relationship as you see fit.

7. Embrace Reality 

If you're in the dating stages and notice some things you are uncomfortable with or the person you're engaging with does not meet your expectations, move on. Don't paint a different picture of who you want your partner to be. If you're in a courtship with someone and you've identified red flags, discuss them with your partner before you take the next steps toward a more profound commitment.

8. Have Uncomfortable Conversations

While communication in any relationship is key, some conversations may be harder to have than others. When facing a difficult discussion, always begin positively, stay focused on the matter at hand, listen attentively and keep an open mind.

9. Be Clear about What You Want

Many people date for different reasons, and that's okay to do. However, with each dating stage, you must be clear on what you want. It's also helpful to know what stage of dating you're in. Not only this, but you must be able to clearly communicate what you want to the people you're involved with. Always communicate your expectations to yourself and the people/person you're involved with.

10. No Pressure

Do not pressure yourself with dating or courting. Do not allow others to pressure you either. Many people fail to have fun during their dating and courtship stages because of unsolicited pressure to get married. Don't fall into this. Whomever God places in your life for whatever season and reason, ask Him for the purpose and listen to Him for guidance. Putting pressure on yourself can ruin your relationship and your partner's views on them. Take your time and enjoy the person you are with no matter how long you are with them.

Dating and courtships go hand in hand. You can't get to the stage of courtship without going through the process of dating. Whether you're dating or courting, always remember to keep God at the center of any relationship you have. Enjoy the journey He's placed you on and ask for guidance for you and your partner every step of the way.

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Crosswalk Contributor Liz LampkinAuthor Liz Lampkin is an experienced writer, teacher, and speaker. She is an advocate for singles who encourages them to live their best life God’s way. Follow her on Instagram @Liz_Lampkin.