What's the difference between Courtship and Dating?


Can someone explain to me what the difference is between “Courtship” and “Dating”? Also, what are the roles of the man and woman in each case? Thank you so much for your help:thumbsup:!!! If I decide to open myself up again for a possible relationship I want to do things right and I need to be cautious. So your help will be greatly appreciated on this matter:D.


The simple answer is that dating is going out on a one-to-one basis with someone, as an end in itself, to enjoy the other’s company…and it may possobly lead to courtship. Courting indicates intention to form a deeper relationship, towards marriage. God be with you in your efforts to proceed…in I imagine you mean… friendships conducted according to Christian values and discernment.
All the best! Trishie


You wouldn’t enter into a courtship if you didn’t have intentions of marrying the person. Accountability is a huge part of courtship…family life and family togetherness is a big part too…boundaries on phyisical intimacy…truthfulness…more commitment.

Read Arms of Love and Surrender by Carmen Marcoux, they’re amazing for courtship!!!



Dating was developed as a way of finding a compromise between marrying a near-stranger, arranged marriage, long-term serious courtship and just fooling around until the woman thinks she’s pregnant and then rushing to the altar. It was an Industrial Age phenomenon to respond to increased mobility. Near-stranger marriage was usually unhappy, a result of men moving west before women did (by and large) and neither then knowing anyone to marry. People put personal ads in papers and got engaged by post. Women got their train tickets to the west and got out of the slums, men got wives. But they didn’t really know anything about each other.
Arranged marriage worked if the people making the matches were wise and caring and well-acquainted with both parties and their families. Sometimes these things were true and sometimes they weren’t. But when people moved more and farther, it was a lot to expect a matchmaker to know anyone very well.
Long-term serious courtship worked if the single pair had a chance to know each other and themselves and each other’s families well. But this also was hard.
The fooling-around method, which had been celebrated and cautioned against in song and story for centuries, stopped working when the man could get away and not be found.
So people in the lower and then the middle classes started trying a kind of accelerated, lone courtship. They tried to find situations in which to quiz and watch each other when the real context of a person’s ife wasn’t possible. Youc ouldn’t go to his/her house and see how the family interacted because they didn’t live together. you couldn’t see how he/she dealt with work becasue peopel worked in factories and mines etc. and there was no room to visit. Watching each other respond to food and entertainment became the closest to a real preview of someone that you could arrange.
So, courtship includes dating but dating is just one, fast, uncertain form of courtship. The range of ways to court is vast. It’s not a formula, it’s an attempt to investigate someone while being investigated. Look for contexts that can tell you how a person relates to others, especially intimates, what the person’s longest-standing friends think of him/her, how he/she works in a team and
what deferred gratification does to his/her moods/ temper. Look for what you do and don’t see eye to eye on. That’s what I would do if I were looking to get married. But I’m not. All I like about dating or courtship is the first few hours with someone, before an actual date is even happening.


Dating is just going out with someone you may or may not marry. Courtship has marriage as its goal – you actually make an effort to learn about each other’s future goals, learn and spend time with their respective families, and actually are in preparation to merge your lives as one.

From my response, you can see my obvious bias towards one over the other.



I can’t really accept the idea that it has to be one or the other.

Dating is a flawed concept because it presupposes or at least makes room for romantic interaction with multiple people.

Courtship of the kind that is most frequently described (strictly speaking, dating is a kind of courtship) has its own flaws as well. I don’t like the stiff air atmosphere of it or the fact things happen so fast and so seriously between practical strangers.

So all in all, I’m in favour of normal, natural interaction between people. I strongly dislike ideas of gender segregation and if I were in a situation with 19th century rules in place, I’d simply skip it.


So then…is dating a way to get to know the person…the potential boyfriend/girlfriend? Sort of like an interview process for both parties? After dating for a little while (not sure what would be an appropriate amount of time?) and both people feel that they have enough in common and like each other’s company is this where the courtship phase starts?

I’m not sure if I have this down yet:shrug:…because it just sounds like dating then you become exclusive at which point you meet the parents/family etc. I’m sure courtship is much more than this modern notion of being in an exclusive relationship…or at least I thought there was a difference, am I wrong:confused:?


Dating is a type of courtship that adapts to the lack of natural context by allowing both people to watch each other in special situations that are supposed to let them see how they deal with common decisions. It usually means eating out, watching entertainments and driving around town, then going to the woman’s home and saying goodbye.
But it has a big flaw. Many personality traits don’t show up in those situations.
So a lot of people are giving up dating for other kinds of courtship.


Ok, this makes sense…and the big flaw makes tons of sense!!! What are the other options for courtship then? It seems that in the world we live in today, like you mentioned before, we don’t live close to our families therefore interaction with them while the other is present is very difficult.

For instance, in my case, I live 3000 miles from my family, because I’ve lived here for a short period of time I don’t have that many friends…much less close friends. I received a decree of nullity and I have a child, so I’m not the typical single female. How could a person like me be courted in these circumstances? How does one get to know the other without those key people around? This is a hard one, I suppose traveling would have to play a key part wouldn’t it?


It could really only work if both people were interacting with old friends and family and the people at work while they were both present. Visiting on holidays (tricky given the distances) and dropping in at work (also unlikely) come to mind. Basically I think any realistic courtship in today’s world is difficult.
If I were in the market I might treat it like choosing a place to live: make a checklist of things that matter to you and watch carefully whether the other person has these traits.


Well I could be wrong but here’s my take on it.

Dating is the playing the field, going out with different people one on one, party scene, bar scene, one night stand scene (not that you would ever do that), but generally being with different guys in a one on one social situation as part of the weeding process to see who you might want to pick as THE ONE.

Or maybe even not as part of the weeding out process. Just dating for the sake of something to do on a Friday night, or a quick bootie call, with no intention of getting serious.

Courting is not really being with a guy one on one until you have already done the weeding process by seeing guys in group situations, with other people, getting to know them well and then taking the relationship to a different phase by deciding to spend time with each other one on one. By the time this happens, you are pretty sure he may be THE ONE, but the one on one time is to make sure.

Of course, I could have it all wrong. Which is part of the problem. There is no set definition for either of the words, and each person will have their own definition. No wonder why relationships are so hard.


:crying: :crying: :hypno:My gosh…I’m so confused:crying: :crying:…I thought I was done with this whole being single thing…why oh why:banghead:!!!


Why? :shrug: Why not? Everything happens for a purpose, and all things work for good. God is in control, and He’d never put more on your plate than you could handle.

So take heart–What is it the Angels always say? “Fear not!”

For the most part, I don’t think any real Catholic or Christian, or moral person for that matter, would have anything to do with the sinful aspects of the dating scene.

So as long as you walk the straight and narrow, I don’t think you need worry. Do what’s right, don’t bother with semantics or titles.

Just my :twocents:


Thanks!!! I needed that:tiphat:. You’re absolutely right, He hasn’t abandoned me yet so He will continue to guide me down the path He wants for me. And you couldn’t be more right, a good, moral Catholic/Christian person will respect what my definition is of dating/courtship.

I do wish to walk the straight and narrow and whoever wants a relationship with me will need to understand and respect that. I really don’t think I could attract a man who wasn’t somewhat moral…I would totally turn off a sinful man:p :smiley: :thumbsup:!!!


Here’s my take on it. Courting is looking for marriage. When I first started “dating” my boyfriend, we talked about marriage on our first “date.” We had been friends for six months first, moving in the same social circles and spending time together in groups. When we became a couple, we both stated that we were looking for a serious relationship leading to marriage. We still haven’t gone on a dinner and movie date, but we’ve spent time with each other’s friends (together and alone), met some relatives (difficult when our families live overseas), and spent time talking about hopes, dreams, and plans for the future.

Other people tell me that it’s bad to talk about marriage on the first date. Don’t say the L-word. Don’t say the M-word. You can sleep with the guy on the second date (first if he’s cute) but don’t even think of saying “love” until you’ve spent at least six months sleeping with each other and you’re ready to move in together. :rolleyes: THAT’S dating, as far as I’m concerned. I want no part of that.

It seems to me that dating can be kind of dishonest sometimes. Play hard to get. If you don’t know which guy you like, date a few until you can decide. Take the guy for a test-drive before you commit. Nah.

I’ve found a guy who doesn’t want to “date” me. He wants to court me, and that’s the kind of man I need. He’s honest about his intentions, and I’m honest about mine. :thumbsup:


I think we operate on different premises. You seem to put an emphasis on when it becomes exclusive. I put an emphasis on what goes on between the people.

The moment it becomes decidedly romantic and especially when it has become physically romantic, it simply cannot be non-exclusive. I just cannot fathom the idea of taking one girl out on Monday, another on Tuesday, yet another on Wednesday and hugging and kissing all of them. That’s simply not right.

I dislike the word “courtship”, to be honest, and I could go on about the absurdity, stupidity and ethical questionability of mediaeval ideas of courtly love. I would much rather talk about engagement here. Engagement is an exclusive affair.

Obviously, before engagement there is something. Perhaps it’s not bad if that stage is relatively informal. We don’t really need strict guidelines in it, at least not ones which are not directly moral.

The other meaning of “courtship” is something close to “mating customs”. That’s a whole different story. Again, I would much rather not see it in the “courtly” fashion of the middle ages or especially the times which followed afterward… let alone the 18th century.

Of course I’m biased. I just want people to meet each other and get to know each other instead of luring and bartering.


I’m totally with you on the “exclusive” thing, I’ve never been one to “date” and what I mean is that I never liked the idea of out to dinner on Monday with one guy, out for drinks with another on Wednesday and dancing with a different one on Friday. This was my feeling even before I became closer to the Faith, now it definately holds true for me.

I think that I’m so concerned about doing things right if I get into another relationship that I’m over-analyzing and over-thinking this whole thing. I’m realizing that it’s actually pretty simple and that if I follow His path without deviation then I just may find the one He wants for me, and he will recognize me as the one He wants for him…if that makes sense:confused:.


I have the same problem. I need to make a conscious effort to stop analysing. Socrates said, “a life which is not examined is not worth living,” but how much life can you have if you examine it all the time?


My courtship is neither swift nor stiff, so it depends. I’ve known my boyfriend for six years, four of which were lived in just a friendship with no thoughts of marriage of even being with one another.

Sure, you feel like a dork when you say the word (“courtship”) but it’s really not this medieval trap it gets portrayed as.


Of course, but why insist on calling it “courtship” then?

These days it feels like a narrow mating convention is being elevated to the status of a religious tenet…

I think it has a feel of snobbery to it, too. It’s the charm of the 19th century and the implied rigorism.

I think we’re much happier without labels. Just doing our thing instead of trying to fit into a convention.

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