Dating Vs. Courting

Dating vs Courting: What’s The Difference?

by John Santana

There are many layers in a relationship. Different stages of life can lead to different expectations. In dating terminology, dating and courting have tremendously opposite meanings. When you enter a relationship, you don’t want to get them confused.

Are you dating or is there something more? How can you tell about the intentions of your partner?

Read on to find out.

What Is Dating?

Generally speaking, dating has a looser definition than courting. Any couple freely spending time to get to know each other can be labeled as dating. It does not involve serious commitments and both sides can pull out at any point if the relationship goes awry.

Dating does not have to lead anywhere. It refers to the process of evaluating the prospect of someone being your potential partner. Hence, dating does not need a clear end when it is not working out. It can fade away without heartache.

What Is Courting?

Courting refers to the process of pursuing a committed relationship. When you court someone, it means you want to be with them. Seeing a future together makes the foundation of a courtship. It is a serious commitment with the intention of marrying each other.

Before the courtship, it is assumed that you have taken the time to understand the person. There are attractive traits that make them marriage-material. That’s when you lock in the commitment by offering strong promises.

In essence, courting happens after dating. You can be attracted to someone for whatever reasons initially, but it does not mean you want to be with them. After the dating process, you can decide if this relationship is worth it.

Differences Between Dating And Courting

  • Physical Intimacy

Boyfriend Carry his girlfriend

In both cases, physical intimacy is usually present, especially in modern dating. Physical intimacy is no longer reserved for married couples. However, there is a significant difference between dating and courting in terms of physical intimacy.

Physical intimacy is often the main focus in dating, whereas it is a supplement in a courtship. Dating is more physically bound to satisfy your sexual needs. But a courtship hints at spiritual bonding and a deeper connection beyond physical touch.

Sex does not have to be involved in a courtship because the person is more interested in establishing a stable relationship. They care about your personality and want to nurture a long-lasting marriage.

When you are dating casually, the need for physical intimacy becomes apparent. The other person is here to fulfill your sexual needs. You are attracted to them physically more than mentally.

  • Marriage

Marriage is the main point of courtship, but it does not have to be present in dating. Dating someone means you enjoy spending time with them without much thought about the future. During the dating period, you discover traits in the person. Their characteristics will tell you how likely they fit your relationship goals.

Or if you are casually dating someone, you merely enjoy their company but you do not want them here forever. Perhaps you are after their physical attributes or you are simply bored during this time.

A courtship takes into account the future seriously. Courting someone means you are ready to offer your loyalty. You promise to solely have the other person as your faithful partner and nothing more. By entering a committed relationship, marriage is the ultimate goal. You want to start a family with this person.

  • Cheating

Being labeled as a cheater is the worst crime in the dating world. Unfortunately, misconceptions often arise due to varying expectations. Cheating has a loose definition because every lover dissects it differently. Therefore, it is important to look at the stage of your relationship.

Dating gives you more freedom to explore opportunities. You are not morally bound by anything to only see one person at a time. For example, if you are active on online dating apps, you could be dating several people at the same time. This is not a problem as long as you are not promising them exclusivity. Dating allows you to expand your reach until you have found that special one.

Seeing multiple people when you are dating does not make you a cheater. You are evaluating your options. No one can tie you down to a relationship. Unless you deliberately avoid discussing or labeling the relationship. It should be understood that it is casual dating unless something else is said.

Courting is not as lenient in that sense. It implies the strict exclusion of other competitors. You are not supposed to be talking to others when pursuing a relationship. At this point, you should be severing ties with other dates as you have already found your mark.

Once a relationship is confirmed, any act to date others is considered cheating. You should not be exploring more opportunities further.

  • Emotional Attachment

Man Carrying Woman Beside Shoreline

Attachment forms as you bond with someone. It is inevitable as you spend more time together. A courtship implies a deeper emotional bonding, whereas dating can be purely physical. Dating means you are having fun with someone without thinking about sharing the emotional burden.

When the other person is upset, it may not affect you as deeply because you do not place the person as a priority. Their emotions are independent of yours. You do not share the same feelings, regardless of what they are going through.

However, emotions are particularly strong in courting. You have developed a sense of emergency for the other person. When they are upset, you will naturally want to drop everyone at hand to be with them. Their emotions influence you.

Your emotions are codependent on each other. Their emotions are contagious. You are becoming the same unit as you begin to feel the same toward something.

  • Breakup

Initiating a breakup when you are dating and courting is not the same at all. Casual dates do not require a clear end. If something does not work, both sides can let it fade away by not contacting each other. It is not condemned to start pursuing other options during this time.

On the other hand, a courtship requires a clear termination. Whether the courtship is accepted or not, both sides should note it when it ends. If the other person does not want to enter into a serious relationship with you, they should let you know by stating the acts. Leaving someone hanging without an answer is frowned upon.

Ending a committed relationship is rather black and white. This should never be a grey area such as a semi-relationship. Dating does not make the relationship official but courting does. That’s why it requires an official breakup.

How To Confront Your Partner About It?

Even if you are well-versed in the difference, it does not mark the change unless you and your partner put a label on it. The characteristics of dating and courting give you room to think about what you are looking for in a relationship. You can have a deeper understanding of your needs.

After knowing your own expectations, it is important to discuss them with your partner. For example, if you want an exclusive relationship, you must raise your voice. Otherwise, your partner could well be dating three others without telling you and it will not be their fault.

You should not wait for them to initiate the chat. They could be figuring it out or too shy to raise the issue. Once you are sure you want the commitment, bring it up to your partner. Start by telling them how grateful you are to have met them and how they make you feel. Let them know their importance to you.

Ask if they feel the same way. Bring up the possibility of an exclusive relationship. Usually, if they have been behaving like they are courting you, they will jump on board immediately. Alternatively, they might want a bit of time to decide. Give them the space but reinforce your boundary by asking them not to date others during this time.

Compromise and discussion are secrets to a healthy relationship. You may not always be on track with your partner. An honest discussion saves you lots of trouble.

Is Courting Better Than Dating?

Romantic young couple bonding on street

There is no rule on that as it is highly personal. Depending on what you are looking at at this moment in life, you will find joy in either courting or dating. If you are not ready to take responsibility, forcing yourself into courtship will only add to the unbearable burden.

Dating casually can be the solution for those looking for a company without the corresponding responsibility. You could be too busy to maintain a full-time relationship or it is simply not what you are looking for. Seeing others casually gives you the freedom of switching partners anytime and the fun of dating.

Courting suits those looking to start a family. Whenever you are looking for stability, casual dating no longer seems attractive. You are sick of meaningless sex. Hence, having one person next to you all the time feels incredible.

It is hard to judge which one is better because it all comes down to your needs. Most likely, your preferences will change during different stages in life as well.

How Long Is Courtship Supposed To Last?

Again, there is no rule on the duration of courtship before moving on to the next stage but the benchmark is three years. After three years, you should have decided how you want to proceed with this relationship.

Jumping into a commitment too soon may result in a nasty divorce. You can’t really know a person until you have spent enough time together. Courting is a brilliant stage to fully digest how compatible you are.

That said, you should not be perpetually stuck in courtship. It should be an intermediate stage with prospects of getting promoted. Courting for an extended period of time can be draining for both sides. You may lose patience and start checking out other opportunities.

Statistically, courtships that last between one to three years work out best for happy relationships. The duration gives enough insights into their personality and your life together. Still, it is not rocket science that every couple is obliged to follow. Consider the specific details of your relationship and make a judgment accordingly.

What Should You Do In Courtship?

Courtship signifies a transition period from casual dating to a bright future together. There are things you need to look out for. Sex is still a determining factor but it should no longer be your only focus. Don’t let sex blind you from other signs. Take a step back to see how the relationship performs in other aspects.

Stay faithful to your current partner. It is time to close the window until you have decided whether this is the right person. This is an exclusive relationship from this point on. Communicate well so you are always in tune with expectations and relationship goals.

Both sides must settle on boundaries. If there is something you are not willing to accept, you need to consider how this impacts your romance. You should not use courtship as an opportunity to alter your partner.

They should stay true to themselves. It is up to you if you can accept them for who they are. It is all about merging two souls into one. You have to learn to live with them as it is a lifetime commitment.


It kills brain cells to process all things in romance. From not getting a text back to talking about kids, you need a book to master every stage. It is only temporary if you have been feeling uncertain. With the guide above, you now know exactly what you need to give a fresh look to your relationship.

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John Santana

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