(Song of Songs 2:7)
What is the Difference Between Dating, Hooking up, and Courtship?
In this modern culture and age of dating solely for the purposes finding someone to ‘hook-up’ with on a regular basis, the idea of courtship, let alone chaste courtship, is an odd if not completely unknown concept. Therefore, it would best serve the purposes of this article if I begin it by drawing the bright contrasts between hooking up, dating, courtship, and chaste courtship.
In ‘hooking-up’, two or more people decide, for whatever reasons, to have casual sex on one or more occasions. The primary purpose of hooking-up is to fornicate. This agreement to be sex partners can lead to something more serious and, perhaps, marriage, but that would be the exception, not the rule. The general rule of hooking up is that it is a temporary arrangement which is entered into solely for the purpose of pleasing each other physically.
In regards to dating, as the word itself defines, this is a situation in which two people, for whatever reason(s), will set a date or dates on which they will find opportunities to get to know one another better by doing things that they both might enjoy, such as movies, sailing, concerts, theater, gaming, or any social activity. Outside of courtship, dating is always a casual situation, meaning that its purpose is to discover whether there is any valuable chemistry between to the two persons that can lead to something else. In our modern culture dating usually leads to (deteriorates into) hooking-up; that is, the only valuable chemistry that the two persons find between each other is a sexual chemistry. In contrast, true dating never leads to the objectification or usury of the other person for any reason, because the true purpose of it is to open up the doors to a quality friendship that may or may not lead to courtship.
In courtship, the two persons decide to commit to continuing to date each other for the purpose of discerning whether God has called them into holy matrimony with each other. During this process the couple moves beyond just enjoying social activities together to spending time alone, engaging in quality conversations about life goals, parenting philosophy, personal beliefs and values, experiences that have formed them, meeting each other’s parents and siblings (here the male may ask the permission of the girl’s father to court his daughter), and etcetera. Essentially, the purpose of courtship is to determine whether this is the person who you want to spend the rest of your life with on earth, and, if possible, to have children with. Courtship is dating with a purpose, rather than dating just to be dating with no end in sight. Courtship helps to answer the question that everyone who dates for a significant amount of time eventually asks, ‘What are we doing?’ It is true – if you are dating someone who you cannot see yourself eventually marrying, then what is the purpose of continuing to date them? Significantly prolonged dating outside of courtship may not always be a waste of your time and treasure – it could lead to marriage, but that is the exception, not the rule. The rule is that significantly prolonged dating outside of courtship leads to unhappiness, the feeling of unfulfillment, and breaking up.
How does chaste courtship differ from courtship with sex? Chaste courtship is true courtship because it dignifies, respects, honors, and values the created purpose of the individual – it is more concerned about pleasing God than self. It may be the case that God has not called those two persons to be married who are now courting each other; therefore, sex between them greatly inveighs against God’s will for their lives. Chaste courtship is unselfish and uninterested as the first principle. Indeed, the first thing that the man and woman in chaste courtship wants for the other is for the will of God to be done in the other’s life, and in this regard, the couple in chaste courtship has two prayers; first, that God will prepare and send the other their spouse; and second, that if it be them who God has called together that he will clearly know to both.
Having defined what chaste courtship is, below I have listed four of its universal benefits:
It Allows you to get to Know the Other Person
without the Distraction of Sex
The sensory feeling of sex is so satisfying that it oftentimes proves to be an overwhelming distraction to evaluating whether the person who you are in a relationship with is truly someone who you want to reconcile yourself with for rest of your life.
I even have to admit that even though my former wife and I had a good marriage and gave birth to three amazing daughters, we would not have married each other if it had not been for the sex. The gulf between us, the stark differences between our beliefs, values, and goals, were/are so radical that even today we have difficulty being friends on every level. There are just some things that we cannot have a civil discussion about. Indeed, that was always the case, but sex covered it up. The pleasures of sex forgave our irreconcilable differences.
There are any number of serious issues that sex during courtship may gloss over; such as anger issues, family history, harmful patterns of behavior, religious beliefs, and problematic in-laws. Whereas sex during courtship clouds a multitude of things, what chaste courtship offers is a very clear sky. It allows you to thoroughly examine every star and every planet that the eyes can see. Whereas sex in courtship confuses the issue, chaste courtship frees the mind from the allurements of the senses and sin. It affords clarity for you to make one of the more important decisions in your life. In plainer words, if something is a walking like a duck and talking like a duck, chaste courtship allows you the freedom to call it a duck and walk away.
In fact, the bright difference between the chaste courtship that I am engaged in today, versus the one I was in with my former wife, is that now I am actually having quality conversations with the woman who I can see myself marrying. And there is no overlooking the areas where we may have conflict. Sex is not making us smile and gloss over areas that need reflection and discussion. Moreover, it is refreshing and easy that sex is not the reason why we decide to come into and enjoy each other’s company. Chaste courtship allows the opportunity for the company to build a foundation stronger and substantive than sex.
It Tests Your Interest in the Other Person
The basic principle at work here is that we all feel better about where we are at when we are getting something out of being there. Inasmuch as people say that they love their job, the fact of the matter is that the reason why most people are able to climb out of bed on most Mondays is that they know that they are getting a check at the end of the week. As they say, everyone is happy on payday. You are happy that you paid $20 for a movie if it was good. You are happy that you took the time to watch your team play if it was a good game and you are even happier if they won.
Those are the same principles of satisfying accomplishing that apply to dating and courtship. After a guy has spent some money on a date, he wants a kiss at the end of the night, and if he gets the kiss it makes the telephone call the next day easier to perform and his request for a second date even easier. If a kiss has a great return value, how big a return value do you think sex has? If a kiss makes a guy want to see a woman a second time, how much do you think he wants to see her after a night of pleasurable sex?
There is such a thing as modest kissing and touching in chaste courtship, but there is nothing in it as alluring as sex to draw you back the next day. Therefore, what chaste courtship offers is the opportunity for you to test to see how much you are truly interested in the other person without reward. There is purity in this regard; that is to say, that if you are making the conscious decision to keep pursuing or allowing the other to pursue then it is for the right reasons – because you genuinely and honestly enjoy them for who they are and you can see them as your future spouse and parent to your children.
People are interesting and we have all of these personality traits, beliefs, values, and all sorts of things that can be annoying; so what chaste courtship allows us the opportunity to do is say, ‘I don’t really want to be bothered with this person anymore’, without having to deal with the dependency on the pleasures that sex with that person may have caused.
In that regard, I could write an article about the benefits of not allowing your boyfriend or girlfriend to pay your bills. You never want to be dependent on the person who you are trying to build and honest relationship with for any reason, because whenever you need a person for something it may cause you to compromise on the other things you need or want out of them for the sake of keeping the peace so that you can continue to get your dependent need fulfilled.
It Helps to Build Fidelity, Patience, and Trust between the Couple
Of all the concerns that people may have before they enter into marriage, such as, ‘Will he be able to provide for our family financially?’ ‘Will she be able to have children?’ ‘Will he get a bald spot?’ ‘Will she get fat?’; it seems as if the primary concern that most couples have is, ‘Will he/she be faithful?’
By saving their bodies for each other, what chaste courtship offers is the opportunity for the couple to prove that their bodies belong solely to the other. There is a comfort that comes in knowing that the person who you are courting is so serious about discerning whether God has called you two into the spousal relationship that they are willing to wait for marriage to engage in conjugal love. In other words, knowing that the person who I am courting is saving her body for me, gives me more reason to believe that she will always save her body only for me.
It is a fact that the majority of things that we are doing before we get married, we will continue to do those things after we get married. In and of itself marriage does not change who a person is. That is, if I am a jerk before I get married, then I will be a jerk after I get married, and I will continue to be a jerk until making a conscious decision to become something else. In regards to sex, if you are having sex with someone who you are not married to before you get married, chances are you might continue to have sex with people who you are not married to after you get married. Therefore, it is through a chaste courtship that we either continue to be who God created us to be or we begin the process of becoming who God has created us to be.
In chaste courtship both parties agree to wait for marriage to have sex; therefore there is no tension of one person trying to get the other to do something that they do not want to do. Therefore, patience is not learned through chaste courtship in the negative sense. On the contrary, by agreeing to wait for the proper time to engage in conjugal love, the couple builds the foundation to be able to agree to wait for the right time for others things in their marriage, such as one person finishing a degree, or to buy a home, or to have children. Patience is the chief virtue of marriage, and chaste courtship is one of the best ways for a young couple to get their practice in early.
Chaste Courtship is Low-Risk & High-Reward
People may say in response to all of this talk about the benefits of chaste courtship that they and their spouse had sex before marriage and they have had no problems in their marriage as a result of it. I answer that by saying that just because something seems to be working now does not mean that it was put together right in the first place. I’m a guy and I have put together many things without following the directions first, and they worked fine, looked fine, but eventually things starting leaning to the left, wheels came falling off, or screws fell out. The thing about chaste courtship is that it is the best foundation to build a marriage on because it the only way that respects the dignity of the other person and God’s will for their life from the very beginning. Chaste courtship allows us to cooperate with God in putting the marriage together right the first time.
Because sex outside of marriage does not belong to God’s natural order of things, it is always risky – it can always lead to unexpected problems. In contrast, chaste courtship is always safe – it will never lead to pregnancy before marriage, sexual dependency, objectification of each other, family issues that may arise when it is discovered that the couple is having sex before marriage, or any other host of difficulties.
Moreover, chaste courtship is always risk-free. That is to say, that you lose nothing and have the opportunity to gain everything by practicing it. Even if turns out to be the case that both of you discern that God is not calling you into holy matrimony with each other, that is still a tremendous upside because it would be the answer to your prayer that God would make His desire for your relationship clearly known to both of you, and from there you both would be free to walk away as true friends without having children together out of wedlock or with to the pressure to continue having sex.
In addition to these, the two best personal benefits that I have found with celibacy and chaste courtship are that they have helped me to weed out the wrong women. Because it has been rare to come across women who are seriously willing date a celibate man, this way of life has helped me to distinguish between women who just want to have sex versus those who are committed to finding the man who God has prepared for them. Secondly, it was one thing for me to save myself for my wife before I knew who she was, what she looked like, or where she lived, but now to see the face of the woman who I have been saving myself for all of this time has made the journey very much worthwhile.
If you are serious about wanting to find the person who God desires for you, then I urge you to commit to saving yourself for your spouse and you will be surprised by what God has for you.