"Courtship" is a rather outdated word used to describe the activities that occur when a couple is past the dating stage and in a more serious stage of their relationship. It happens before the couple becomes engaged or married and is usually meant to describe when a man is attempting to woo a woman, with marriage as the end goal. Dating has a more informal connotation and implies that the couple is not necessarily exclusive.
Dating may be fleeting and occurs when two people take part in an activity, such as seeing a movie, having dinner, cooking a meal together or going to a concert. They may talk on the phone and exchange text messages, e-mails, flowers and letters. It doesn't have a set time frame, but a couple may go on as few as one or two dates before they decide to stop dating. Both people in the dating relationship know that it may not last long. Couples who are courting, however, know that they will continue to see one another for a longer period of time. They engage in the same activities as a dating couple, but their courtship doesn't stop after just a few dates.
A courting couple intends to become engaged and get married. They know that their relationship is intended to be long-term and permanent. A couple that is dating may not have any specific expectations for their relationship. They may or may not see engagement or marriage as possibilities for the future, but are just having fun and seeing where the relationship goes. They may intend for the relationship to be short-term, or they may leave the possibility for it to become long-term open.
Deciding to court the person you are dating is a serious commitment that is considered a pre-engagement. The couple is exclusive and monogamous. They do not go on dates with anyone else. A couple that is dating may see other people or they may be monogamous, but the more casual nature of their relationship signifies that either person may decide to start seeing other people at any time. Such a decision may be acceptable to both parties, but if not, it may mean that their relationship is over.
When performed by teenagers and young adults, courtship usually requires the permission of both people's parents. A young woman may even be chaperoned by an older sibling when she sees her suitor. If a teenager's parents do not approve of the relationship, the teen may choose to continue dating the person, but face friction at home if she pushes for the relationship to enter courtship. If the couple decides to go forward and begin courting, they may have to make the arrangement a secret one in the absence of parental approval.
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