What It Means To Court Someone & How It's Different From Dating

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couple laughing on date

In the world of modern dating, many people are finding it difficult to connect with other people, especially in the times of online dating.

If you’re one of those people who find themselves giving up on dating, maybe courting is more your style.

What does it mean to court someone?

Courting someone usually refers to the activities that happen when a couple is past the dating stage and in a more serious stage of their relationship.

Historically, courting involves a man pursuing a woman by seeking her affection with the end goal of becoming engaged to marry.

But, in this century, a woman can very much be the person who is trying to court someone she likes.

RELATED: 3 Reasons Courting Works Better Than Any Modern Dating Strategy

During the 1800s, courting was the standard way of pursuing someone with the intent to marry.

It usually consists of exchanging gifts, getting to know one another, and keeping a respectful distance with little-to-no intimacy, much like the depiction of courtship in the hit Netflix series “Bridgerton.”

What is the difference between courting and dating?

Many people would assume that courting and dating are one and the same, but they are actually very different.

“The main difference is intention. With dating, you don't know someone's intention, and even if you ask, you might not get a true answer,” says Ronnie Ann Ryan, a Love and Cosmic Coach. “Plus, not everyone is aware of what their own intention is! Some people are casual and don't want anyone to have expectations of them. Others are seriously looking for love.”

Courtship is all about getting to know each other and developing a deep and lasting relationship before getting married. It’s about discovery and building a good foundation for marriage while also trying to see whether or not you are compatible.

Dating is a lot less serious, and usually, people aren’t dating around to get married but to simply have fun and meet new people. It's usually categorized as self-serving with no real purpose of driving into a relationship, as well as being more physical than courting.

1. Courting involves gaining permission from the family.

Taking the traditional route, courting usually involves talking with the family about pursuing the woman you want to be with.

Usually, before beginning a courtship, the man has to seek permission from the woman’s parents to date their daughter.

2. Traditionally, men initiate courtship.

When it comes to dating in modern times, gender roles aren’t assigned to anyone. If you like someone, you are at liberty to go up to them and ask them out.

For courting, the responsibility strictly falls on the man to pursue the woman, while also asking her parents for permission.

Of course, it is a dated rule, and if you attempt to court in modern-day times, it shouldn’t particularly matter.

3. Courting is understood to lead to marriage.

The end goal of courting is to get married, unlike dating where there are no specific expectations on the relationship.

Both individuals involved in courting must be mature and ready to spend the rest of their lives together. 

The main motivation of courtship is to discover whether or not you and your partner are compatible for marriage.

4. Courtship doesn't involve physical intimacy.

Being physically intimate while courting is heavily frowned upon as the couple is supposed to wait until their wedding night to have sex.

People in courtships don’t believe intimacy to be the defining factor of a relationship, and instead, want to spend more time getting to know the other person’s personality and habits.

5. Courting lasts for a year.

Usually, the act of courting someone lasts for at least a year before getting married.

There is an agreement between the man and woman involved in the courtship that they are to be seeing each other for an extended period of time. During this time, they go on dates and outings as a couple.

Dating, on the other hand, has no timeline and gives couples more freedom to go out for a few dates and ultimately decide if they want to keep spending time together or not.

With the timeline in courting being a year, it makes it a much more serious and committed relationship.

6. You can only court one person at a time.

Exclusivity in courtship is important to the serious commitment within the relationship.

It is a monogamous relationship from the start, and neither the woman nor man is allowed to date anyone outside of the courtship.

If they choose to see anyone that isn’t their partner, the courtship is promptly over.

RELATED: 5 Old-School Reasons Men Should Start Courting Women Again

6 Tips for a Successful Courtship

1. Explain your intentions to the person you want to court.

Everyone has different expectations when it comes to courting. The best way to make sure that you are being respectful and considerate is to talk to the person that you want to start courting.

It shows initiative and that you genuinely want to know what you can do as a potential partner to find out what is allowed and what is not allowed, and what boundaries to respect.

2. Get to know them.

When it comes to courtship, it is important to get to know the person you are in a relationship with.

It can be a good idea to plan fun dates that are in public, like going to the zoo, having a picnic in the park, or even going to a nearby amusement park.

Some courtships are done solely around other people, meaning you would only be spending time in groups, maybe consisting of friends or family.

In that case, it’s not hard to plan fun group activities that could include a movie night or even hosting a game night.

It’s also important to pay attention to what the other person likes so that you are incorporating activities that they would also enjoy, which can create settings in getting to know them.

3. Implement physical boundaries.

Courtships are extremely strict about not becoming involved in any physical intimacy before marriage, so it should be an important part of courting to discuss physical boundaries.

Talk to your partner about what they are comfortable with, as well as what you are comfortable with. 

You don’t want to overstep and make them feel uncomfortable, especially if you really like them and want to make sure it works out.

4. Become friends with their friends.

With some of your dates likely consisting of other people and couples, it’s important to make sure that you are taking the time to get to know your partner’s friends.

It shows interest in their lives and lets your partner know that you want to have a serious role in their life. 

Ask their friends about what they like to do, their favorite hobbies, and maybe even find some commonalities between all of you.

5. Romance and woo them.

Everyone loves to be traditionally romanced while in a relationship. 

Just because there can be some strict restrictions on courtships doesn’t mean that you can’t think of creative ways to show your partner that you care about them.

Compliment them and show them the things you love about their personality and character.

Writing them letters, buying flowers, gifting them with their favorite trinkets, or even making them a home-cooked meal, can be creative ideas related to simple things that will truly make them happy.

6. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice.

Courting someone is a serious decision to make, and involves a lot of hard work.

It is always a good idea to seek advice from either other people who have gone through courtship or maybe even talk to your partner’s family as well.

Having someone around to voice your concerns and questions can help you make sure that your intentions are never taken out of context, and that you are being held accountable for the ways in which you are courting your partner.

RELATED: Why Courtship Is Better Than Dating And How To Let Yourself Be Wooed

Nia Tipton is a writer living in Brooklyn. She covers pop culture, social justice issues, and trending topics. Follow her on Instagram.