Before the 20th century, courtship was only conducted in the family parlor under the watchful eye of a chaperone. It was customary for the courting couple to use a speaking tube in order to say anything privately to one another! Eventually courtship, which took place in a home setting, turned into what became called “dating”, taking place in public at dance halls, movie houses, restaurants, and often involved “parking”. It went from courting one partner with the intent of marriage to dating many different partners for a period of time before going “steady” and then getting married.
In the 21st century one could say that dating by the world’s standards means “hooking up” and living together. Why get married when you can enjoy the benefits for free? Somewhere along the way, courtship lost its original intention.
This blog post is not about courtship vs. dating. The world will never go back to ancient dating practices. That time is lost and done. Therefore, this post is for followers of Jesus Christ who seek to have Godly dating relationships. I do believe that the current state of courtship in our circles needs to have some changes made but that is a discussion for another time. The reason I share a brief history of courtship is to shed light on the old-fashioned practice we call “hands-off courtship”.
It amazes me how few people have heard of a “hands-off” dating relationship. People listen to my story with interest and then admit that is something they could never do. They don’t get it. I understand. In today’s world, by today’s standards, it IS laughable, ridiculous, and legalistic.
Yes, we were laughed at when Gene and I greeted each other by shaking hands. In this day and age, guys and girls hug each other when saying goodbye and hello. In my Calvary Bible School days we wouldn’t have dreamed of hugging the opposite sex. Now, it’s a common practice. So there’s that. Physical contact is definitely more casual and expected now.
I recently learned how some of my parent’s age and older played “Walk a Mile” where the guys and girls walked together in pairs, holding hands. After a while they would switch and walk with someone else! I’m not sure what the point was except to get to know each other a little differently? I know most of them didn’t have a hands-off relationship. My parents didn’t. They didn’t have much physical contact, but I remember them telling me that they wouldn’t advise doing what they did. When Gene called to ask if he could date me and he asked for hands-off, they were very pleased and supportive. I was willing to go along with it. Which is surprising.
I am an avid reader and as a young girl I read everything I could get my hands on. Mom tried to protect me from reading too many romance novels, but I got carried away. I lived in a world of mushy-gushy love and fairy-tale romance. I dreamed of the day I would find my own romance! So when my real-live prince came along, I didn’t expect to have a hands-off relationship, but because he was so strong on it, I agreed and decided to make the best of it.
There were times I dreamed of us holding hands as we went on walks, or when we prayed. And as our love grew, I wanted to kiss him and hug him. It was hard. But not too hard. It wasn’t impossible at all, like many believe it to be. Because we were limited in physical contact, we developed a very fun, teasing, flirting relationship as a way to express our feelings for each other! There were lots of sweet looks, water fights, romantic cards and notes, and long phone conversations. Believe me, there are plenty of ways to show your love for each other without it being physical!
After we were engaged I was surprised to realize that I had been protecting a part of myself during our courtship. There was an “awakening” within my heart after we committed to spend our lives together. I tend to think I was protected physically; therefore we didn’t get too deep too soon in our emotional relationship. The physical and emotional are very intertwined and are hard to separate! We began to give each other side hugs when saying goodbye and hello, but stuck to no other contact.
Then the big day arrived. Yes, you can see some stiffness in our wedding pictures, because we were new to contact! (We do wish we would’ve taken after pictures as well!) Yes, our first kiss was far from perfect (we still laugh about it) and it didn’t light sparks like in the movies. But, we sure caught on fast! And when we held hands and embraced…there was electricity!! I had never experienced anything like it, and I will never forget how amazing it was to hold my husband’s hand!!! I think I will remember the magic till I’m old and gray…We were over the moon to finally be able to be together the way we had been dreaming of…
Three times Song of Solomon warns of not awakening love until it is time;
Song of Solomon 2:7, 3:5, and 8:4: “Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.”
In her blog called Lies Young Women Believe, Paula Hendrick Marsteller shares:
“What surprised me most was that this lovesick bride urgently warns her girlfriends over and over not to arouse or awaken love until it so desires (until it’s time). Why would she want them to be so careful when she had found such an incredible gift? I wondered.
Whatever the reason was, Song of Solomon 8:7 explains why she felt so strongly about this: “Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away.” And as the verse before it says, “It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame.”
Can you imagine a blazing forest fire that several rivers worth of water cannot put out? That would be one intense inferno! See, this woman was experiencing the mind-blowing beauty of love and sex as God intended it. Within marriage its heat and intensity was welcomed, but this bride knew that if her friends didn’t wait for God’s gift of marriage, they would get severely burned.”
What’s wrong with holding hands, hugs, and sharing a few chaste kisses? We can handle it! It won’t lead to anything. We have self-control.
I’m sure many of you do have admirable self-control and that you have gone into marriage with no regrets from your courtship–that is wonderful! But what about those who had previous dating relationships?? I am so grateful I do not have memories of physical contact with a man other than my husband. (It makes me wince to re-read that last sentence because even though it is stating the truth it sounds a bit “holier-than-thou”. My experience doesn’t make me better than anyone else!! I was blessed because it could have been so different.)
But to the ones who aren’t dating yet, let me tell you something the romance novels, movies, and your peers don’t: lots of physical contact leads to kissing, and kissing leads to much, much more. Kissing is always the beginning. And once you start, it’s very hard to stop. You are setting in motion a natural God-given gift that is only meant for married people!! It is awakening love before it is time.
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing.
I have read and heard testimonies of girls who felt pushed into physical contact by their boyfriends. It made them feel immensely guilty, but they didn’t know how to say no. They took those feelings of guilt into their marriage where it caused scars and hurts. I firmly believe that the guy must be responsible to set the hands-off plan in motion because we as women are wired to please. We can be strong on our position, but unless the guy respects us enough to not push, it doesn’t work. He must lead, and she will follow.
In today’s age we are surrounded by romantic novels and movies that encourage physical affection. We are surrounded by peers who are doing it. We don’t want to be made fun of. We don’t want to be different. We live in an age of self-gratification. Pleasing ourselves.
Doing what WE want to do.
Whatever happened to sacrifice, honor, and devotion? To chivalry? To respect for ourselves and our partner? We need to put our loved ones ahead of ourselves–be unselfish. If we can’t do this in dating, how can we do this in marriage?
We were old-fashioned. And we would do it all over again. I pray that the young man who comes calling for our daughter someday will desire a hands-off relationship as well!
-I will not judge you if you didn’t have a hands-off dating relationship.
-I will not judge you if you choose not to have a hands-off dating relationship.
-It is not right or wrong. Black or white.
-I wanted to share our story for the people out there who would like to do this but don’t know how or if it’s even possible.
-I encourage you parents to seriously and prayerfully consider what you want to teach your children. You may not have struggled with the physical part of your dating, but maybe your children will. Think about their future and what you want for them!
-For those of you in a dating relationship or if you will be someday think about it this way: you have the REST OF YOUR LIFE to hold and kiss your spouse!! Dating is but a short time in the wide span of your life.
-Guys: women will have incredible respect for you if you show your regard for her by your self-control and having a plan that you stick to!
-Live a life with no regrets! As James Clear notes in The #1 Regret Of Dying Patients, far too many people spend their final stage of life regretting their youthful choices. “Live a good, honorable life which you can enjoy a second time when you are old.” Of course, we need God to live an honorable life!
**Disclaimer: this doesn’t mean that we had the perfect dating relationship or have had the perfect marriage! We had and still have things to overcome–God is still at work in our lives!! For now we are diamonds in the rough.
I would love to read your comments and testimonies on this! Please share!!