Courting: What it is and how it's different from regular dating


Last Updated: November 16, 2023

Dating Tips

Courting may sound outdated in modern-day dating. But the fact is, this traditional practice is still alive and well! And, it just might be the thing that makes you fall back in love with romance.

In this article, we’ll talk about where courtship started, what it looks like today, and how you can make it work for you. Whether you’re interested in marriage, finding the right friend-with-benefits, or even sugar dating, courtship can lead to more satisfying relationships!

What was courting, originally?

Courting is an umbrella term that explains the dating practices of many different cultures and historical moments. According to etymologists, the term dates back to the 1570s and derives from the word courtier, or a man who pays particular attention to the woman he wants to marry. But even without the specific term, the practice has been around for centuries!

The Western world has a long history, for instance, of highly structured and controlled courtship practices. That’s because marriages were high stakes back in the day! Allowing your children to marry just anyone could put your entire family in financial ruin, while negotiating for the right coupling could catapult your lineage into a higher social class. For this reason, courtiers needed to seek approval from the father of the young lady they wanted to meet and could only see their crush under supervision.

Additionally, many cultures have considered and continued to view marriage as a deeply religious and spiritual rite of passage. For this reason, the courtship phase has often included the influence or guidance of religious leaders or even astrology readings to ensure the cosmic compatibility of the couple.

As you can imagine, in any culture that includes marriage, you’ll find some form of courting. That being said, as marriage becomes less influential in today’s landscape, the idea of courtship continues to evolve!

What does courting look like today?

One of the wonderful things about dating today is that it’s much less rigid than a few hundred years ago. In most societies, there’s freedom to choose what kind of relationship you want and how you’ll go about finding your match.

But that doesn’t mean that courting has gone away completely! In fact, while the term may have dipped in popularity during the early part of the 20th century, it has rebounded since then. According to current trends, people are talking about courtship more now than they have during the last hundred years.

When it comes to defining modern-day courting, though, things can get complicated.

On the one hand, some consider courting to be different from dating in that it focuses more heavily on the intention to marry. In this variation, there are specific rules about only courting one person at a time and holding off on physical intimacy until you fall in love.

Others have a more broad view of modern courting. In this alternative definition, courting is simply the practice of getting to know someone with the intent of pursuing a romantic or physical relationship. It is not gender specific and it may include a range of activities, such as going on dates, talking about the future, and exploring physical compatibility. This definition appeals to anyone who may be looking for a coupling that is not focused on marriage but still feels more intentional than casual hook-ups or swiping through dating apps.

All of this is to say that you can choose how you define courting for yourself. Getting clear about what you’re looking for and what you expect from a partner is a great way to start pursuing a courting process that works for you.

What do you want to get out of courting?

The first step of courting is deciding what you want. Traditionally, this would be limited to finding a husband or a wife. But today, you can use a courting process to find all kinds of partners, including:

  • a long-term partner
  • additional members for an open relationship
  • a sugar partner
  • a travel companion
  • a friend with benefits
  • a platonic companion
  • and yes, a spouse!

Once you decide for yourself what kind of partner you want in your life, you’ll be ready to start courting!

Courting for your ideal relationship


Nowadays, courting is a much more balanced practice than it used to be. Whereas courtship used to rely on a man wooing a woman, being a courtier in the 21st century is available to anyone! Here’s how you can level up your courting game:

  • Be proactive. A true courtier doesn’t wait around for the perfect partner to notice them. They take initiative and go after what they want! No matter if you’re looking for a boyfriend, a mentor, a sugar partner, or other, it’s up to you to make the first move.
  • Be honest about what you’re looking for. One of the benefits of traditional courtship is that there wasn’t a lot of gray area. If a courtier showed up with flowers, that was a clear sign of his interest. Today, it’s best to simply say it straight. Tell your potential partner what your intentions are so you don’t waste time courting the wrong person.
  • Say goodbye to the dating games. Most people agree that courting differs from dating in that it’s slightly more focused and intentional. Instead of relying on dating tricks like playing hard to get or waiting three days to call, courting is based on showing up authentically. This will require you to get vulnerable! Wearing your heart on your sleeve is scary, but it’s an important element of courting.
  • Remember important dates and details. A key part of courting is making your potential partner feel special to you! You can do this by inviting them on dates and giving them gifts, of course. But even making an effort to learn more about them and remember important details, such as their favorite foods and whether they enjoy reading, also shows that you’re listening and invested. You might even rely on things like your notes app or an online calendar to help you remember important dates, names, and any other relevant info.
  • Understand that not everyone is interested in courting. Although courting is back on the rise, it’s not for everyone. Many people are not ready or willing to put in the specific effort that comes with courting, and that’s okay! If someone doesn’t respond well to your efforts, you can simply move on to a potential partner who will appreciate being courted.
  • Enjoy the process. Courting can be enjoyable both as a courtier and a courtee. So, no matter which role you play, make sure that you have fun!

Is courting right for you?

Now that you know more about courting, will you try it out for yourself? No matter if you follow traditional rules of courting or put your own modern spin on it, this way of meeting a new partner might be just what you need to get excited about romance again!

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