With over 50% of marriages ending in separation and divorce, it is important that one prepares for a successful marriage by following God’s guidelines for courtship.
In modern society, a lot of people base love on feelings, on looks, or drama, which they misinterpret as passion.
Some men will deliberately provoke drama in order to cause emotional distress or feelings of jealousy within a woman ……by the way, this is a form of emotional abuse.
Modern dating and traditional courtship are two very different things.
Modern dating is usually done as a recreational thing i.e. spending time with someone to have fun, engage in sexual pleasure and then see where it leads.
Whereas courtship is an intentional and purposeful process carried out with marriage as the ultimate goal.
It implies being in an honourable, exclusive, chaste, respectful, committed and loving relationship with a person of God’s choosing.
The main purpose of courtship is a process of looking to see if the person who is courting us has sufficient virtue to be a good husband and father – and vice versa.
In essence, you are auditioning him for the role of husband and father to your future children.
As a result, courtship is never done for an extended period of time or you increase the chances of falling into sexual sin.
Anybody that claims to be dating you or courting for 2 years or more is simply wasting your time.
It does not take 2 years or 6 years to know that this is the person you wish to marry and have a family with.
Courtship is of a short period with a definitive end.
It ends either in an engagement or in the dissolution of the relationship.
You do not date or court because you want to be someone’s girlfriend; you do so when you are ready to be a wife!!
If you are not ready, ie still in education, between jobs, involved in other commitments, you should not be dating. Period.
Fulfill that need for companionship by having female friends and engaging in other social activities or groups.
Unless courting, unmarried persons have no business in keeping company (ie spending lots of alone time together) with a member of the opposite sex.
Building a chaste, holy marriage begins before you get married and the only legitimate reason for company-keeping is courtship, which is a preparation for marriage.
Before embarking on a traditional Catholic courtship, you need to ensure that both you and your intended are prepared, spiritually, financially and mentally.
Catholic Courtship is the period after spiritual, mental and financial preparation has been completed.
You have to have it right with God, have it right with yourself and have it right with your finances (ESPECIALLY the man) before you begin considering courtship and marriage, if you want a life-long, healthy, happy and fulfilling marriage.
Proverbs 23:27 says, “Complete your outdoor tasks, and arrange your work in the field; afterwards you can establish your house.”
There is a proper order and time for all things including romance.
The true man of virtue, who is mature and responsible, will ensure himself and his finances are in order, to properly care for his prospective wife and family, before embarking on courtship.
Otherwise, it is like a pilot planning a flight with insufficient plane fuel.
A man who is unemployed or not gainfully employed has no business courting.
If one is sure that one has a vocation to marriage, but is not yet able to court i.e. due to age, or still in school or not able to provide for a family, then one has no business keeping company with the opposite sex. You do not want to be an occasion of scandal or sin to the other person.
It is a sin of presumption to place yourself in the danger of sin before you are able to provide for a family.
In summary, there are two main pre-requisites for courtship:
- You must be prepared financially, spiritually and mentally
- He must be in gainful employment and financially able to fulfill his prospective obligations as a husband by providing for his family
So now we know that courtship itself is a process, but what does this process entail?
Here are the stages of a traditional Catholic Courtship.
In this stage, you are primarily looking to see if
- you have things in common
- there is some physical attraction
- if he is able to take care of his marital obligations to protect and provide.
Highlights of this stage include:
- It should last no more than 1-2 months.
- You should avoid being alone together.
- You should avoid emotional intimacy.
- There should be no signs of physical affection between you.
- Any dates or time spent together should be within a group setting or in the company of others.
- You get to know each other in a very casual manner via a few short telephone conversations and socializing together in group settings.
During this stage, you need to be completely detached in order to have clarity of judgment to determine whether he/she has virtue or not.
Regardless of how handsome or talented he may be or of how much money he has, if he has no virtue, you will be absolutely miserable in the marriage and will pay for it for the rest of your life.
Once you two have determined that you intend to court, he needs to approach your father or male head of the home to ask permission to court you and then you two move on to the next stage.
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So you have decided you wish to court her, if you are a guy. Or you have decided to accept his request to court you, if you are a woman.
In this stage, you are primarily looking to see:
- if he has enough virtue as well as if he is able to practice moderation of his sexual desires towards you.
- if he able to sacrifices for you by showing self-denial and self-control in his sexual urges. If he is not man enough to make these sacrifices now, when you marry him, you will receive the nasty surprise of him being an adulterer or porn addict
- if this person will give you the best chance, as well as your future children, of getting to heaven.
- if he loves you. His love for you will be evidenced by his ability for sacrifice and the self-denial of his urges towards you, by his respect for your honour and your reputation, and also by his ability to do the hard work of providing for you.
Lose him if he is pushing for intimacy. He does not respect or love you; has no intention of marrying you and he simply wants to use and then discard you, like trash.
Highlights of this stage:
- It should last between 3 – 6 months.
- There should be no sign of physical affection between you as you need to be detached so you can objectively discern if you should marry him
- You should avoid being alone together; this shows respect for God and respect for the person that you claim to love
- You will be spending a little bit more time together in this stage, but you need to avoid late night dates and ensure that your time together is spent in public or in the company of friends or family members – this way, the public acts as a chaperone.
- You will, at this stage, also get to meet and know each others’ families
A truly virtuous and honourable man will defend your purity, your honour, and your reputation. If he is not doing this, he will not make a good husband or father as he has no clue on protecting and defending his family.
The engagement is when you make the decision to get married.
It generally begins with him asking your parents or family elders for your hand in marriage and then proposing to you.
In ancient times, the Church did not consider a couple actually married until they underwent the rite of Betrothal.
Although, the use of this rite has fallen to the side, a lot of traditional Catholics are bringing it back into practice.
So after the proposal and engagement, you should both go to the Priest to get betrothed
Once you get betrothed, you are both bound to marriage unless it is a grave cause.
During this period, there should be limited and very moderated signs of affection, as you are still not married yet.
The length of this stage should be between 3-5 months and it culminates with your Nuptial Mass.
Highlights of this stage:
- To avoid near occasion of sin, any signs of affection should be very limited and in small doses.
- Avoid alone time together.
- Yes, you can hold hands occasionally or give a slight peck, but definitely no French-kissing. For reasons why, read my article on The Perils of Passionate Kissing for The Unmarried.
- You can now begin to show signs of submission to him ie deferring to him on major decisions and so on as you both plan for your coming wedding and marriage
- You should still be practising self-control and he should still be showing self-denial towards you at this stage. If he is unable to deny himself now, he would be unable to deny himself after marriage and he would indulge in porn, adultery and sexual affairs with other women.
By adhering to the above guidelines for a holy courtship, you can look forward to having a happy, holy and faithful marriage
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ad Jesum per Mariam