Wednesday, April 23, 2014

My Daughter Thinks She's Courting

When I got home last night, hubby and our eldest were watching "19 and Counting", the episode I've heard a lot about lately where one of the daughters is starting to court and they're setting up all the rules for that.

Courting is something I'm familiar with now that I've been a part of the homeschooling world for a decade or so. I haven't experienced it, but I'm familiar with it. I've known families who have done it, in a variety of forms, with their kids. But I had other friends who saw this episode and were astonished at the idea.

For her part, my eldest was horrified. She said, "If you ever made me do this, I'd probably leave home." Her biggest beef was the fact that this couple never got to talk alone together. She'd go crazy if she could never talk to her boyfriend alone, she said.

It all led to an interesting discussion, though, about dating and courtship. Because my daughter believes that if you set aside the ultra-stringent requirements about never being alone so there's little temptation to impurity, she thinks dating someone and courting someone is about the same.

Hubby and I disagree with her strongly. Dating is casual. Dating is not focused on a future goal of marriage, at least not by definition. Dating is a form of entertainment -- at least, that's what it has become in our society. People date folks that they would have no intention of marrying, and might date them for years, even getting very physically serious with them.

But apparently, that's not how our eldest thinks of dating. Sure, there are people out there who misuse dating that way, she says. But dating is supposed to be about finding a mate. She's had a couple other boyfriends before this one, and she says that once she realized this was not a guy she was interested in being with forever, she ended the relationship. Essentially, she said, she's always been "courting". She's "courting" her boyfriend now.

First of all, I'm impressed that my daughter has such a mature view of relationships. But secondly, I'm surprised she doesn't realize how unique she is in looking at relationships that way.

I also need to explain to her today (because I couldn't think how to explain it to her last night) what I see as the major distinction between courtship and dating. One doesn't start courting until you are ready to be married. She and her boyfriend are quite aware that they are not ready to be married right now. They have not completed their educations, they have no income, etc. etc. If she was really courting and not dating, they would have held off having any kind of romantic relationship until marriage was an imminent possibility -- because a romantic relationship that goes on and on for years and years without tying the marital knot puts you in a position of being seriously tempted to go too far physically, for one thing.

Plus, it's kind of "playing" marriage. You're "committed" to someone, but not really. You expect a kind of faithfulness from each other without the maturity or intention to be genuinely faithful as faithfulness is defined. Your faithfulness ends when your interest ends . . . and that's not faithfulness at all: that's training for divorce. You really have no right to make claims on another's heart until you're ready to give them a permanent claim on yours.

So, no honey, you're not courting, you're dating. But really, I'm not big on the courting vs. dating debate, mainly because there's a lot of semantics involved. I don't care what name my daughter gives to the current relationship she has with her boyfriend. I care most that she is willing to talk to me about it and take my advice about how to do this relationship in a wise and healthy way, whatever she's calling it.

Parenting . . . if we knew how hard it was before we got into it, the race would die out.

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