Great question! I don’t think it is possible to give a one-way-or-the-other type of answer to it. What is important to remember is that every situation is unique. What may be best for one couple might not work for another at all.
One of the most important elements in a courtship relationship is the emphasis on discerning marriage. One way a courtship differs from dating is that the couple has chosen to use this time together to discern whether or not marriage is their calling. It is not just a series of dates without direction.
Some couples will have a fairly good idea early on in their relationship if they are called to marriage. A courtship should still give them time to allow them to grow in a Christ-centered relationship. Time spent wisely in a courtship can greatly bless the marriage that springs forth from it.
For some couples, it can take a long time to be certain that marriage is for them. There may be obstacles to overcome – distance, career-challenges, family matters, etc.
What is important in both short and long-term courtships is that a couple needs to commit themselves to purity in their relationship if they are to live out chastity. They need to set realistic guidelines to help them stay on track. They need to keep in touch with at least one mentoring couple who will challenge them, guide them and be there to support them through the difficulties.
Courtship is a time to grow in a relationship. A couple gets to see each other in a variety of settings: family, work, leisure, church, service. This helps them to identify potential problems in their relationship and address these before entering marriage. It also helps them to mature as individuals through practicing self-discipline and right judgment.
A long-term courtship can be more difficult, because the couple, once having determined they are called to marriage, may grow frustrated with the wait. Sometimes life calls us to be patient and wait for a long time for the things we desire most. Though this can present challenges, it doesn’t make it wrong. We need to always trust that God has a perfect plan for our lives and that He will give us His best if we allow Him to, in His time.
A quick courtship can have its pitfalls as well. Just because a couple knows early on that they want to get married does not mean that they should skip the courtship stage all together. The danger here is that their decision to marry might be based more on emotions than on prayerful discernment. There are valuable lessons to be learned along the path for a courting couple. A hasty courtship that does not allow proper time to discern has the potential of leading into difficulties in marriage . . . but not necessarily.
A courtship should be an exciting and fun stage in life. It should be a time of growth both personally and as a couple. It should be a time of coming closer to God and to each other.
But don’t keep the courtship going on indefinitely just for the sake of the courtship itself. If the relationship really does not seem to be going toward marriage, be honest, step back and call it off. This allows both persons to move on in their vocations with less baggage. A properly done courtship should allow a couple to break up if they so discern without regrets. If the couple has reserved their physical affection they will find it easier to go separate ways if that is God’s will.
Don’t rush it . . . but don’t drag it out unnecessarily! The key in all of this is prayerful discernment.
Thank you for your question. We remember all our readers in our prayers daily. We ask that you remember me, my family and the apostolate work of promoting courtship in your prayers as well.
In His Most Holy Name,