Behind the Scenes of Courtship

by lora on October 2, 2009

Many people have plans to practice courtship in their families but aren’t sure how things will be implemented once the time arrives.  You can plan for courtship to a degree, but in reality each one will play out differently.  Gene and I had heard many courtship stories over the years, read many accounts, and saw several courtships that didn’t work out.  We have attempted to learn from the mistakes of others, apply the beneficial things we have observed, and striving to do our best on this road less traveled. In my previous article I told a little of the back story of Ryan and Lindsay’s courtship. There are many things that brought the two of them together. I would like to share a little of that here and hopefully in future posts.

Gene and I decided to follow a courtship model 19 years ago when Lindsay was 5. We received a great deal of criticism along the way, but we continued on, following our convictions, and trusting the Lord to work out the details. For the last several years we have made a conscious decision to make sure Lindsay was able to meet various young men in different circumstances. Not with the necessary intention of “matching” her with one of these young men but with the realization that if she doesn’t meet anyone, the chances of her finding a mate are pretty slim. Some parents seem to believe that if they are going to practice courtship their daughters should be closed away and never allowed to talk to young men. This thought process befuddles me, because how is a young man supposed to develop an interest in a girl if he never meets her? I have also heard of parents who want their daughters to marry through courtship, but don’t do anything to help that to happen. As parents who are following this model, we have a responsibility to our children to help them find a mate while also not trying to play matchmaker with every young man that we meet. I look at our role as that of a gate-keeper. We are to protect our daughters and keep undesirable young men away, while letting the desirable young men in the gate. Young men who are appropriate are allowed to become friends with our daughters with the hope that the right man will eventually find our daughter.

As to the courtship of Ryan and Lindsay, it seems that we were all working toward the same goal, and finding out some of the back stories has been a lot of fun.  In June Ryan met Lindsay for the first time. It happened that Lindsay was walking by as Gene was talking to Ryan and another young man, so Gene took the opportunity to introduce her to them.  This was purposeful on Gene’s part.  Not that at that time he knew that Ryan or the other young man would be “the one”, but with the intention of Lindsay developing a casual friendship with them.  After this initial meeting there were things that Ryan also did to get to know about Lindsay (for several weeks she was not in church due to sickness, which allowed us to get to know Ryan better).  He would eat lunch with Gene at church and after lunch he would spend time talking to one or both of us. In the course of conversation Lindsay’s name would come up, sometimes naturally and sometimes in a contrived fashion.

On the day that Ryan came over to our house for the first time, I sat Lindsay beside him at the table. Partly so they could talk, and also because she is the only one close to his age.  I felt that letting things develop naturally was the best approach. Their first conversation was about computer languages and operating systems.  Isn’t that romantic??? In reality, it was a great place to start because it was something casual in which they both share an interest. That night we ended up sitting around the table talking for 7 hours. After this time together many important questions had been answered, which told us a great deal about Ryan and told him a great deal about Lindsay.

One of the difficulties of having only daughters is how to expose them to young men without scaring the young man to death because he thinks you are trying to “get” him for your daughter. You don’t very well say, “Please come over for dinner, and btw, it’s only a casual dinner.  We aren’t trying to get you to marry our daughter. . . yet.” After the first time Ryan came over, we ran into the dilemma of how to get him here again.  Then inspiration struck!  We had talked to him about coming over to play Boggle with us.  Boggle is our family’s favorite game, therefore this seemed like a good plan to us.  Gene called Ryan and asked him over to play, and Ryan quickly accepted.  We found out later that Ryan didn’t know what a Boggle was, nor did he care, it just got him in the door. He stayed another 8 hours with us that night, and we all had a great time.

During the weeks between Ryan’s visits he would talk to Lindsay after church, often bringing something to “show” her.  The first week it was an interlinear Bible, then a camera . . .  and on it went.  The Sunday after the game day, Ryan asked Gene to come over to his apartment “to work on a project and eat lunch.” We were pretty sure what was coming, and during that week Gene, Lindsay, and I had many conversations about our “plan” for courtship.  Gene and I did not have a written out checklist or questionnaire for potential suitors, but we did have a mental checklist, as did Lindsay.  We felt her checklist was the most important, because, after all, she would be the one marrying the young man. Our desire is to train our daughters to have discernment and be able to determine if a potential mate is a godly man and has the qualities that she sees as important in a spouse. Over the years Lindsay and I have had many conversations about what is important in this area.  She also has many young men as friends which has helped her in this area as well.  These friendships have allowed her to refine what is important and to see different character qualities and preferences worked out in the lives of her friends.  This also helped her to see that while she can be great friends with a young man, that doesn’t mean he would be a suitable mate for her.

When Ryan and Gene had lunch, Ryan also told Gene about the job offer in Colorado.  This development would change things a little, but not greatly. Because of Ryan’s work and travel schedule, we gave him the freedom to come over when it worked within his schedule.  He was also given the freedom to e-mail and call Lindsay whenever he wanted to.  Some people raise their eyebrows at this and seem to be confused as to why we would let their friendship develop in this way.  Some say that if it didn’t work out that they would be “hurt” and that is the reason to keep their distance.  I would argue, if this is a period that they are supposed to get to know each other well and see if they are right for each other, they need to be given the freedom to do so.  It seems that some within the courtship movement want to create this false paradigm that is emotion free.  It doesn’t exist.  You have feelings and emotions about it in some way, even if you are still just friends. I would hope that my daughter could find out that someone wasn’t right for her, without being devastated over that realization.  I think many parents forget that we are asking things of our children that we ourselves didn’t do, and some put unrealistic expectations on their children in this area. They seem to think that because they desire this to be void of emotion “until they are sure”, that it will be.  That is truly an unrealistic expectation.

Courtship is not an exact science and there is no math equation to make it work out just right.  This process involves people who have emotions, and we need to always be cognizant of that.  The way we work courtship with Lindsay will not be the same as we do with our other daughters.  As parents we need to take the responsibility of how we guide our adult child through this process, not making unrealistic and unnecessary demands upon them or their future spouse. If we have fulfilled our responsibility to our children in raising them in the ways of the Lord, we need to allow them to be adults and to listen to their thoughts and feelings throughout this whole process. We also need to be willing to consider that our thoughts and plans may not be totally realistic, and have open communication with all parties to work out the bumps that will surely arise. The courtship model is workable and beneficial if done with respect for all parties and with the common goal of helping our son/daughter begin a strong marriage.

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