Broken Daughters

Picking up the shattered glass of fundamentalism

Courtship – engagement – weddings (1)


It’s time for another courtship – engagement – wedding post.

There is something weird about courtship I realized. I never read anything about this particular issue and it doesn’t exist in every family, but in some (or many) it does.

Why do so many families keep it a secret when a daughter is starting to court? And it’s not like that for men – at least, not that I know of! When a man starts courting, he will say that he “has a feeling” or that “he thinks God is showing him something”. He might not directly admit “Yes, I’m courting”, but he won’t say no either. With girls, it’s different. A lot of fathers tell their daughters not to talk about it until the biggest deal breakers are out-of-the-way. Why is that?

I think it’s got a lot do with 1. the image of female purity and 2. submission of the female part in a relationship.

About the first: While evangelical circles deny that there is such a thing as a difference between purity in women and in men, we all know these differences exist. It’s got a lot to do with the image of how each gender “loves”. While women tend to get emotionally involved very quickly – and therefore give pieces of their hearts away – men love more on a physical level, physical attraction and sex are the major things a man will crave when he is in love, and not the emotional aspect of a relationship. Hence, once a courtship starts, the woman is much more likely to lose her purity and pieces of her heart while the man is only looking for sex and by that, won’t give away pieces of his heart. The emotional attachment comes much later (if it ever comes!).

And I see this as a major reason why so many families are eager to hide a new courtship of a daughter. This might go on for just a week or two, it might take months for the parents to allow the daughter to admit to it, depending on a large number of circumstances. But it is done on a regular basis.

I think for many families there’s a huge fear of  their girls being “damaged goods” as soon as she enters a courtship relationship. To avoid this, the rules on courting seem to get stricter and stricter, and likewise, the girls seem to pick up a “holier than thou” attitude that wasn’t there before.

While holding hands or even kissing wasn’t “as bad” a few years ago – many fundamentalist couples admit to kissing before getting married – the younger generations, particularly the girls who are just getting into the age of being eligable for marriage. Kissing seems totally off-limits these days and the view of holding hands before marriage is changing as well. There are plenty of people who do not hold hands these days but instead hold a stick on each end to “imitate” holding hands. If you look around in the blogosphere of this group of girls, you will find an awful lot who are against any form of physical contact before marriage – we’re talking actual marriage here, not engagement. It goes as far as even the man not putting the engagement ring on the woman’s hand – he will give the ring to her father, who then will put it on her finger – to avoid physical contact.

I find this behaviour to lead down dangerous streets. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with purity, but the fact that you would avoid every form of physical contact in a way like this goes beyond my understanding. While only acts of sexual sin made you physically impure a few years ago, we’re already at physical impurity when it comes to sliding on that engagement ring.

But back to the discussion of keeping a courtship a secret. The second reason why I think it’s kept secret was submission. This might sound strange to you at first, but –

If a women went out to tell any of her friends, anybody really, about her courtship with a man, and even if that’s all she would tell them, she would put a sort of pressure on him. We all know about expectations from your environment and as soon as you’re in a courtship, certainly thing are expected from you. While many say that a courtship might as well fail, this is hardly ever the case. A courtship is typically only allowed once the father of the girl has already thoroughly inspected the suitor. The biggest deal breakers after starting a courtship would be coming from the girl or the boy, such as not getting along or wanting totally different things, feeling different callings. But that almost never happens. Most courtships are broken for reasons such as sexual sin and rebellion.

Now, once a woman goes out to talk about her courtship, the environment expects them to get along, to make it work. A courting couple in the mind of the people is almost engaged, and engaged is almost married. The simple act of telling others about it might be understood as a way of pressuring the man into taking further steps. But, as we know, that isn’t allowed. Even in courtship, a woman is expected to submissive – let him take each and every step in the relationship, the only thing you’re really allowed to do is follow quietly. Every form of trying to push a man are understood as a sign of a lack of submissiveness. And this, in fact, can be a deal breaker for young men.

Due to the fact that my next issue differs greatly from this one, I’ll split it into another post.


6 thoughts on “Courtship – engagement – weddings (1)

  1. The whole courtship movement makes me ill.

  2. My hubby and I did the OPPOSITE of the courtship model while dating, and I wish we had used more discretion in our physical relationship, mostly because we found that some of the unhealthy expectations about physical relationship from our dating followed us into marriage and had to be dealt with later. But WOW, what you are describing sounds like it would bring even unhealthier expectations and patterns of physical relationship into a marriage. To have so much guilt, reservation and even dread surrounding the physical relationship has to carry into a marriage and bring awful inhibition to something meant to be free and comfortable.

    Seriously, they each hold a STICK?? That would make me feel like I was playing with the family spaniel, not my future soul-mate. Very strange. I do think it is important for dating/engaged couples to actually put some thought into their goals and wishes as far as their physical relationship goes to make sure they are on the same page and to stave off any future regrets. I only say that because of some regrets I have. But like anything else, one method cannot possibly fit every couple. Next thing you know, these ultra-fundamentalist websites will be selling stylish, customized hand-holding sticks! And after the marriage, you can use it to play fetch with the dog LOL! Would be funny if it wasn’t so sad.

    • I laughed out loud at the holding sticks for sale! That would humor me and to be honest, I can already see them selling that… It’s just a matter of time I’m telling you. “Now with silicone coat for natural-skin-feeling.” Oh gosh.

  3. The whole idea of courtship done by the father just makes me ill. I know exactly what I would have ended up with–if Dad had bothered to look for anyone at all! No way would I have been happy. There’s a lot more to forming the relationship to make a marriage work than what fundamentalists put into a courtship.

    Holding a stick. Honestly, what happens if one or both drop it? The whole idea is just ludicrous.

  4. It’s interesting to read your post, I had a similar experience but with a Muslim friend of mine. Her family is fairly liberal and although her parents had an arranged marriage, it didn’t come with all the strictness of traditional ones, and they have always maintained that they wouldn’t arrange a marriage for my friend but let her choose. She had several boyfriends at school and university, so it was a big shock when she told us (while out shopping for bridesmaid dresses for another friend’s wedding) that she was about to get engaged. A friend of the family had decided to match her up with a distant cousin of hers but everything had been kept silent (for 9 months!) until everything was sorted and the engagement could be made official.

    I went through several emotions after that revelation, as you can imagine! Shock, hurt that she hadn’t told us, her best friends since age 11, about something so important, fear for her, sadness as she explained that she hadn’t expected to have an arranged marriage but she was “already in her 20s and hadn’t met the right person yet” so she’d decided to go with this guy. We met her husband for the first time at their wedding, not the way I’d envisaged being a bridesmaid for her!

    My friend explained that she couldn’t say anything until it was all settled in case something went wrong and they decided to part ways, and they were quick into the engagement and wedding so they could talk to each other without being frowned upon and having rumours spread about them by the community.

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