The Almost Forgotten Rituals of Courtship

“A froggy went a-courtin’ he did ride. . .”
~ From a 16th-century English folk song

Courtship. It’s such an old-fashioned word that some might find its use today to be quaint. Over the last few decades, courtship has gone the way of scented love letters and rotary telephones. In the push for more freedom of choice in relationships, courtship rituals have almost disappeared from American culture.

Yes, people still like romance — as in candlelight dinners and walks on the beach – but the structures and traditions that led from initial attraction to marriage have fallen by the wayside. Many couples move from attraction to renting a truck and moving in, no genuine commitment required. Going “a-courtin’,” the slow wooing of another person and the gradual development of closeness and affection, seems to have all but disappeared.

The result of this hurried intimacy is a great deal of confusion. When sharing a bed, a life and maybe even a child comes before the sharing of long talks about values and goals and deep explorations of each other’s personality and history, couples often are set up for heartbreak. When things don’t turn out as expected, some couples are able to recognize their mistake, wish each other well and let the relationship go. But others, not at all sure what true commitment is about, fight with each other and with themselves to hang on. Cheating becomes the substitute for the dating and sorting out that should have occurred before moving in. Trust becomes yet another issue to fight about.

Everyone is a victim in this scenario, especially when the couple has had children. The kids end up without the stable home and loving family that every child deserves. The women often end up single-mothering and struggling. The men may end up paying child support for children they may seldom see or becoming burdened with unanticipated responsibilities. Sometimes the couple manages to co-parent responsibly and remain friends. But even in these best-case instances, both parents now are looking for partners who may not want to deal with children or continued involvement with an “ex.” Those without kids are not unscathed either. They have wasted years in a relationship that left them with trust issues and heartache.

All this can be avoided by bringing courtship back into style.  Not  “courtship” as defined by the Christian right, where couples remain chaste and parents are fully involved in every stage of the developing relationship, although that is certainly one way to go about it.  But a period of time during which a couple who is attracted to each other takes it slow and gets to know each other well before deciding they are exclusive …

Read more: Psych Central

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