Courting versus Dating

     What's the difference between courting and dating?  Other than courting being the old pattern and dating being the new invention?  Dating presupposes a wide open field, outside the context of family and without any assumption of aiming for permanence.  Dating assumes a long string of single dates, and then some "mini-marriages"  in the form of "steadies" that can't last and aren't really expected to last, and even a few big breakups before stumbling on "the one".  Who after all, not too surprisingly, may only be "the one" for a brief while.  Basically, dating teaches us to approach our most sacred relationship (other than to our children) as consumers, and sets us up for divorce.  Dating is all about fun and image, with the emphasis being on image-sound byte relationships.   No wonder it's a poor fit with finding a marriage partner.
Courting is all about finding that life partner.  No, that doesn't make it boring-but that thought should indicate the problem with dating.  Wouldn't you want to share as many fun times as possible with your true love and best friend?  That's what courtship is all about.  No more blind dates, no more nasty surprises…just people serious about finding someone true.
     Won't this make one socially inept?  Not ready for the real world?  Forever unwed, because no one wants a social wallflower?  How would one know what's out there, or possible?  How would you ever learn about the opposite sex and how they work?
     First, socially, how applicable is dating, outside of dating?  What part of it is invaluable for knowing how to get along with friends and family?  I can't think of one either.  Forever unwed?  Well, many dating people remain unwed;  indeed many people are turning to dating services to try and make it work better.  ( An interesting move in the direction of courting while trying to keep family out of it.)  As far as knowing what's possible, dating might give one a very skewed idea.  And simply living in a family, amongst friends and your community ought to give one an idea of what to expect with the opposite sex.  For one thing, there's one's family as a source of information-a startling thought in today's society.
      So, how does courting work?  First, you need to know what's important to you.  What do you want in marriage and family?  What are your abiding interests?  What are your beliefs?  Do you want to raise your children in those beliefs?  These are things that should be on your list.  You should have an idea on what you feel more flexible on and what you can't budge on. 
     (An interesting thought is that dating is a deliberate attempt by certain factions to weaken families.   How?  By having no criteria before you date, and by demonising any criteria your parents might have, you are far more likely to marry someone outside your belief system.  Indeed, at the time of marriage, you might still honestly not think that religious beliefs are all that important.  Then as children come, a point at which many people finally realize the importance of religion in their lives, you and your mate find yourselves on divergent sides.  Very awkward for you and your marriage and your family-but very helpful to those that want to encourage certain behaviour patterns in your children and family that no religion anywhere has ever thought were good ideas.  But who would want this?  Indeed, quis bono? ) 
     Next, can you offer someone who meets these criteria a decent relationship?  Are you ready to wed this person? I would urge extreme caution if you feel you'll "get ready" while courting.  The tendency is to down-play how much one needs to do in order to really be ready to marry-so get ready first.
     When you're ready, let the Gods know.  Ask for them to lead you and your true love together.  Spells here are very touchy.  I would urge extrememe caution-especially if you think you already know the person.  Leave things to the Gods and your own more mundane efforts.
The ways of first meeting are as various  as the ways of meeting anyone, but now you're looking with different eyes.   And your first tool  will be your list and talking.  If you can tell this person doesn't match up to one of your "must haves" then it's a no go.  You can try discussing it, but remember people will often romantically offer to change, but then revert back once the initial glow has backed off, or when faced with a milestone, ie., marriage, birth of child. 
     When you think you may have found the one, divination could be appropriate before taking it further.  Use a method that has already proven effective for you.  This is not the time to try something new.
     At some point it's going to come up that you're working off a different relationship model than dating.  You should be able  to easily explain that you prefer courting for certain reasons.  If it hasn't come up before, you'll need to explain now!  If they're offended or anything at "I'm very interested in you and I'd like to see more of you with the possible intention of becoming engaged,"  then they're not ready, or simply the wrong one.
     Obviously, if you're a man and your interest is taken by a young woman still living at home, then you are going to need to talk to her parents.  You will need to work out the parameters of what they feel comfortable with also.   
     Courtship should be enjoyable and fun, but the emphasis should be on getting to know each other, each other's lives and expectations and trying out  acting as partners.  There should be time spent together working on projects, visiting important places, discussing hopes for the future, meeting and spending time with family (esp. if a younger couple) and such like.  I do not think one on one dates, at night, alone together, are a good idea until after actual engagement.  Hormones and pheromones are important, but if they say yes, you'll know.  You don't want them in the driver's seat.  They don't care what's on your list!
     Speaking of hormones and pheromones-let's have a little digression about sex. 
     Why doesn't a full sexual relationship belong here?  Indeed, why am I intimating that it doesn't belong outside of being wed?  Well, how could it?  I realize that paganism is equated in many peoples minds with "sexual freedom", but my idea of freedom and theirs is different.  My idea of freedom is no fear, no guilt, no worry, no regrets.  If men wanting sex put up a large monetary bond against the likelihood of a baby being born, to ensure that the child should at least not want materially, even if abandoned by its father, it might be different.  As it is, there can be no equality between a man and woman having sex outside of a legally defined relationship, unless both are past childbearing and know it and tell the other.  Indeed, I will go so far as to say, no gentleman would put a woman he cared a penny for through such a thing.  Yes, sex is wonderful, incredible, amazing.  But a woman, not even affianced, who finds herself pregnant is one of the loneliest and most vulnerable persons possible.  And even more vulnerable is the quiet new life within her.  For people who consider themselves responsible and enlightened to put momentary pleasure, no matter how great, above the well-being of not only one of the participants, but above the needs of their own possible child, is horrendous.  There is no reason to countenance such a thing, and every reason to speak out against it.  Remember, the only thing that makes modern birth control methods look as reliable as they do is the grim and bloody abortion rate and the willingness now to let women become quietly sterile before they realize what has been done to them.  It is my experience that most females going in for abortions do not even tell their partners.  Obviously some do-but I truly believe most do not.  What a position to put someone in-anyone, let alone someone you supposedly care for. 
     Remember, monotheists misunderstood (to put it politely) sexual openness and acceptance as perverse licentiousness, and this basic misunderstanding has stood largely unchecked.  Many societies have had women be topless-because they quite properly see breasts as being for babies, not titillation.  Likewise having celebrations of the start of the sexual relationship with being wed also was seen as perverse.  The monotheistic mindset twists so much.
Then later, though not much, we had humanists come in  and put their spin on things.  Sex is a physical act like any other and there's nothing special about it.  Especially with proper controls-ie, birth control, disease protection.  This was largely an unbalanced male viewpoint, although many women desiring intellectual respect bought into it.  Unfortunately, by the time a pagan revival was getting underway, this viewpoint was being actively promoted in schools, media, everywhere.  Post-pill, post 12 year old abortion rights, pre-aids, pre-paternity suits.  A heady time for the libertines, and a very confused generation setting new senseless relationship rules based on false information.  At this time especially, it was common to assume that if you were pagan, you were sexually "open".  Many teachers and others took advantage of this and their students to fulfill their own fantasies.  This was very wrong.  And more recently there has been an effort to put a stop to this.  But I'm afraid the underlying problem is still there.  Too many pagans are operating under a very false idea of what sex is and what it's for.  And they still have their heads full of a confused mess of humanist propaganda and monotheistic lies and misunderstandings.
     It is vitally necessary to an understanding of life to remember that sex makes babies.  Sex is where babies come from, nowhere else.  When you have sex, you are potentially making a baby.  It really cannot be said too often, because people have a hard time grasping this nowadays.  So when you say, a full sexual life is every human's right-you are saying that a full life of making babies is every human's right.  If young girls of 12 are being oppressed by not being allowed to have sex-then they are being oppressed by not being allowed to have babies.  If it's just natural for guys to want sex-then it's just natural for them to make babies.  Babies ar not a side effect-I don't even believe in side effects with drugs;  babies are  the intended  consequence of the act.
     Yes, the Gods gave us brains and created our bodies in such a way that we can to some extent regulate the frequency of babies in a full sexual life.  But since the basic system is set up to make a baby, that's what our bodies will try and do anyway.  And it's good to remember that the Gods did  set it up this way.  They didn't set it up this way because they couldn't do anything else, or they were stupid, or failed to see into the future, or because they figured we'd finally get smart and stop fertility ourselves.  And they certainly did not also give us abortifacient herbs to act as a counterbalance!  They gave us brains so we could figure out a connection between sex and babies, and gave us hearts to not want to kill babies or hurt our loves, and wills so we could control and handle these desires until we and our loves had found each other and could then proceed to have lots of fun, with the occasional baby showing up as the greatest gift the Gods can bestow.  
     Sex is natural and wonderful.  That does not mean it cannot be perverted-anything can.  Even today, most would say an adult having "sex" with a toddler was wrong and definitely perverse.  Thus it is an action that can be perverted, no matter how beautiful and joyful the original intent of the Gods was.  Therefor, it is a vital matter to us as adults wishing to live in a human society, that we understand at what point it does becomes twisted.   And surely perversion has entered when harm to another is considered to be less important than the fulfillment of the desire.  
Sex is natural and wonderful.  We should think about in what situations it is most likely to be purely natural and wonderful.  Is it in ignorance of possible consequences?  How can it be, if those consequences later bring harm?  Simply not knowing at the time does not relieve later suffering attached to that action.  Is sex best when grabbed against "convention"  and illicitly?  Again, how can it be, in a situation where the likelihood of grief is very high?
     I am only one woman, but I have known many women throughout my life who have expressed great pain and regret over sexual encounters years later-and of course, grief over abortions never goes away, and I have seen it twist women's whole lives.  If this is angering you, I started out being very "liberal" on this topic, and had most of these experiences with liberal friends who just couldn't understand why they felt this regret, this grief, this loss.  After a while, you either change your viewpoint or you decide that the pleasure all these women had was worth far more than any amount of pain.  I decided to change my viewpoint. 
     Sex is designed to be just about the most wonderful, incredible thing you can ever experience.  To do this, it needs to be able to cut right through you into your very center and affect the core of your being.  (Yes, even with men.)   In other words, you are vulnerable.  No matter who you are-unless you have learned how to disengage from the act and dehumanise yourself-you are vulnerable.  This is the reason why a sexual attack is so devastating and difficult to recover from.  This is why a "consenting" sexual encounter between people not wanting to marry, just have fun, can be so upsetting.    Too many people do not realize what they are setting themselves up for until afterwards, and it can break your heart or make you terribly callous. 
     And particularly for the parents reading this, does it need to be said that we do not live in the heady days of the late 20th century anymore?  You thought that time was litigous!  As baby boomers have taken over the reins they have made our world far more regulated, censured and strictured than anything seen before outside of some depressing science fiction story.  Or communist countries.  And the ideas that inform this onslaught of new regulation and law aren't even consistent.  A girl under 18 can't get her ears pierced without parental consent, but she can get an abortion.  An 18 year old can't have a beer, but can join the  armed forces and die for his country.  In some states, you can't marry under 19, but they'll let you vote.  And of course this sort of thing varies greatly from state to state, but in general things have been growing steadily more regulated.  Most places have strict guidelines on age differences between dating couples in their teens; and to run afoul of these now means to be blacklisted for life as a sexual predator.  Those laws usually make no distinction between a girl's boyfriend being a month "too old" according to the law, or him being a serial rapist of small children.  And when people see that someone's on that list they assume the worst.  (As they well need to-there are  serial rapists on the lists.)  And yet our kids and especially our teens are being set up for a world of grief by everything they see on tv and in the movies.  Teens in the movies have freakish degrees of freedom and money no matter what the situation practically.  They so completely engage in adult behaviour that when the plot line calls for some age restraint situation it's jarring and seems to be the unreal thing.  This is a truly horrible disconnect.
     So, courting is a way of finding the person you want to spend your life with.  In it,  you make your intentions, or possible intentions, clear from very near the beginning.  You are probably not engaging in much directly sexual behaviour until at least being affianced, possibly not until the wedding/handfasting.  What you are  doing is spending time together and doing things together and talking.  You're meeting each other's families and learning about where you each come from.  You're discussing your beliefs and ideas on what is important.   You're finding out where you want to go-and if whether the most fun thing you can think of is to go there together.

©2007 Oak Hedge