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Courting vs Dating – 12 Differences You Must Know

Courting vs Dating – 12 Differences You Must Know

Updated on Nov 03, 2023

Reviewed by Julianne Cantarella, MSW, LSW , Certified Relationship Coach

Courting vs Dating – 12 Differences You Must Know

Courting Vs. dating is one of the most debated topics among people. Many singles struggle with dating and are often confused with the concept of courtship. While the two are closely related, they are very different.

The word “courting” gives the feel of an age-old custom that people used to follow about a thousand years ago. Dating feels like a modern take on the same idea.

Though these two terms are often used interchangeably but as you read through this article you will get a clearer picture of how these are different from each other.

Let us start with the basic understanding of the term “dating.”

What is Dating?

Dating is a very ambiguous term, and its meaning depends on a person’s perception of the experience. People date other people to find their most compatible match.

The term “dating” means different things to different people, particularly across generations. Nowadays, the word dating and its connotations are extremely ambiguous, and at best, it is used to loosely define an open relationship, or togetherness, with no relationship.

Dating goes on for a period where both people enjoy each other’s company, but are not sure about the future or the feelings they have for each other.

Dating is a way through which two people explore their romantic or sexual interest in each other. It is like a taste test, in which individuals decide whether they want to continue this relationship or not.

What is Courting?

When young men and women engage in a romantic relationship with the intention of getting married, it is called courting. It is more of a traditional arrangement and is still quite popular in our society.

According to Wikipedia, “courting” or Courtship is the period when couples get to know each other prior to a possible marriage. Courtship traditionally begins after the engagement and concludes with the celebration of marriage.

A courtship may be an informal and private matter between two people or maybe a public affair, or a formal arrangement with family approval.

In most situations, it’s the man who woos the woman, and this is the time when you spend hours on the call and go out on cute dates and have those flirty conversations. It’s the best time of your relationship. The anticipation of what is to come in the future leaves you feeling all tingly.

Courting involves a lot of discovery between two people who are trying to find out whether or not they are a potential marriage partner for each other.

Courting vs Dating – 12 Differences to Know

Though the two terms have an almost similar meaning and are used interchangeably, there are a lot of differences between them. Here is a small table to give you an overview of the stark differences between courtship and dating.

Basis of Difference  Courting Dating 
Definition A romantic relationship with the intention of getting married.Dating means getting to know a person casually without any commitment.
Marriage  Courtships mostly lead to marriage. It is a very casual thing without an expectation of a committed relationship.  
Physical intimacy  It does not involve any physical intimacy.Dating usually involves a lot of physical intimacy.
Role of emotions Courting or courtship helps two engaged people form an emotional and romantic bond with each other. Since it is a very casual form of love, it may or may not involve emotions.  
Involvement of parents  The family may or may not be involved in the couple’s decision to court each other. It is an individual decision, and no family is involved in this whatsoever. 

Now that you have an idea about the basic differences between dating and courting, let’s dive a little deeper into the factors that add to the list of dissimilarities between them.

1. Couples seek parental permission for courtship unlike in dating

Traditionally, in courtship, male suitors seek the permission of the girl’s family to court her. Young women and men cannot just decide to go out with each other. They are restricted by the rules of age-old traditions.

Contrary to that, dating is a very casual approach where young people go out with each other to enjoy some time together. No parental permission or societal restrictions are involved in dating. People are free to make their own choices and act upon them.

2. Man takes the lead in courtship but in dating both partners play an equal role

Courtship, you can say, has a hint of patriarchal notes in it. In courtship, it is the man’s responsibility to approach the woman and woo her and impress her.

The woman’s role here is a bit subdued and they merely observe and determine if the man can be a good match for them.

In dating, both people are equally responsible to make it a success. Either of the partners can take the lead to ask the other out and both of them engage in flirting and try to impress each other.

3. Commitment is a must for courtship but not for dating

This is a major difference between courting and dating.

Courtship is more of a formal arrangement compared to dating. Courtship is usually the pre-matrimonial period where the couple gets to know each other and engage in a romantic relationship.

Dating on the other hand is a casual affair and there is no commitment involved. Dating partners may not even get into a relationship later on.

So, marriage is definitely not on the cards when it comes to dating.

4. Courtship leads to emotional attachment while dating is devoid of emotions

Courting fosters a strong sense of emotional connection between the couple. They spend time with each other and share their beliefs and ideas.

If they are compatible enough, they grow fond of each other over time which is essential for a happy marriage.

Dating however is mostly devoid of any emotional connection between the partners. Dating lasts for a very short period of time compared to courtship. So, the partners do not really get the opportunity to develop any feelings or emotions for the other person!

Also, people date for fun and prefer to keep emotions at bay so that nothing ruins their casual romance.

5. Sexual abstinence is an important criterion for courtship, but casual sex is common in dating relationships

Abstinence is a subject of debate in courtship. While most religious groups believe in complete abstinence during courtship to honor God, modern non-religious groups believe in different levels of abstinence. To some, it means no sexual intimacy before marriage, while for others, kissing is the limit.

The dating scene is very different in this regard. There is absolutely no rule when it comes to abstinence. It is an independent choice of the partners – they can either indulge in intimacy or choose to completely stay away from it.

But it should be mentioned here – because this is such a casual arrangement and people date each other for fun – sexual intimacy is quite prevalent among dating couples.

6. Family compatibility comes into play for courting couples while dating relationships are devoid of any family involvement

Courtship is a formal approach for a man and a woman to get to know each other. The families are involved in the matchmaking too.

So, the close members of the family interact enough with each other (along with the couple) to make sure both the families are compatible too!

However, in dating, since no one else is involved in partner selection and the decision to date – family compatibility is not even in the picture! Only the partners need to be compatible with each other for a happy dating experience.

7. There is a lack of privacy in courting compared to dating

Courtship is an old traditional practice. So, it involves a lot of conservative rules like this one. While courting, couples are encouraged to go out in groups to prevent premature emotional attachments that may lead to physical intimacy.

Dating, on the contrary, is a completely different affair, and partners can choose to meet in public or in private- the choice is upto them.

After going out for a couple of dates, a couple usually meets in private to spend more intimate time with each other.

8. Courting lasts for about a year while dating relationships are short-lived

Time is very limited when it comes to courtship. Usually, a couple courts for about six months to one year.

By then, they develop an emotional bond and fondness for each other. After the courtship period is over, the couple may go ahead with marriage.

Dating is a more of a frivolous affair and is all about “testing the waters”. This way, the couple may get tired after a couple of dates and move on with their respective lives.

9. Couples seek marital advice while courting but you are on your own while dating

Courting a woman involves a lot of learning about life and marriage from other people. People emphasize on the importance of marital wisdom more than feelings. So, the couple mostly seeks advice from parents, pastors, and mentors about various topics related to marital bliss.

On the other hand, there are only a handful of people who seek dating advice. Once the couple gets bored with each other, they part ways.

But if a couple wants to take the dating situation to the next level (a relationship), they may seek advice of more experienced people among friends and family.

10. Courtship is monogamous while dating can be polyamorous

You are supposed to court only one person at a time. There is exclusivity in courting because it is a serious commitment for finding a mate.

The couple is exclusive and monogamous, and neither the man nor woman can go on dates with anyone else. If they do, the relationship is over.

In the case of dating, then you can date one person exclusively or choose to date as many people as you want. Though the choice depends on the individual, dating as a trend is mostly polyamorous.

11. Couples are accountable to their family and mentors in courtship but completely independent in dating relationships

A couple courting is accountable to their parents or other mentors. These mentors ensure that the couple stays faithful to each other and their religious beliefs.

Each person is encouraged to save their raw emotions for their one true love.

There is no accountability for the couples in dating relationships because of little or no interaction with family members. They are independent and responsible for the choices they make for themselves.

12. Courting couples may have arguments on serious topics while dating partners fight over trivial issues

Arguments and fights in courtships involve serious topics such as kids, involvement of the parents after marriage, and of course, finances!

People dating engage in silly fights over trivial things such as not replying on time or eyeing someone else or maybe the color of the shirt and anything under the sun, really!


People have a lot of confusion when it comes to dating and courting. Here are the two most commonly asked questions regarding the two… along with their answers.

1. What comes first, courting or dating?

Courtship is all about commitment and accountability; it is a commitment to honor God’s will as you seek a partner for life. In contrast, dating is a strictly no-commitment policy but with little chance of long-term relationship.

Both are completely different concepts, so one cannot precede the other. However, courtship may involve a little bit of dating, but the reverse is not true.

Courtship involves a serious commitment and dating is a very informal affair. Courtship includes spending time and getting to know each other while dating can be just hanging out or casual sex.

Though courtship can involve some of the activities common to the dating scene (like movie dates, visits to famous places around the city or just a walk in the park); courting can never be a part of dating.

2. Why is courting better than dating?

You cannot really compare apples and oranges. Since courting and dating are completely different concepts, it would be foolish to try to determine which is better.

Courting and dating are two different ball games. It depends on the individual’s interest in what they want. If you want something serious and more formal (with all the old school vibes), you may very well go with courtship.

But if you are looking for something fun, something that is less demanding than a relationship, hop on the dating wagon without a doubt!

A word from ThePleasantRelationship

Courting and dating are similar acts with very different motives behind them. Courtship is all about commitment and accountability; it is a commitment to honour God’s will as you seek a partner for life.

In contrast, dating has a strictly no commitment policy but with a little chance of long-term relationship. Everything depends upon the individual’s interest and choices they make for themselves.

Here’s hoping that this think-piece gives you a better picture of the two and helps you to make the right choice for yourself.