The Difference Between Dating and Courting

“Courting” is a very old fashioned way of expressing a serious relationship with the intention of marrying. In today’s vernacular, “dating” is a much more prominent term than “courting”, but dating in it’s the truest meaning is the act of two people meeting and assessing each other’s suitability for a committed relationship. In short, dating is what you do before you get to the courtship phase.




These days the word ‘dating’ has taken on several different meanings. One could say casually “Oh, I’m just dating around. Nothing serious.” Or another could say, “I’ve been dating someone seriously for a while now.” Both of these situations are expressing different stages of the romantic journey. Dating could be a casual thing or it could be something more serious, but there is that inevitable gray area. Because dating means different things to different people. So, in order to unpack this word, for our purposes we will describe it as the beginning of a relationship journey. That means you may be dating multiple people at a time, whether on a matchmaking website or from other platforms, hoping to find a romantic partner that could potentially lead to marriage.


Telltale signs that your dating companion is turning into something else:


  • You like spending time with them and want to see them more
  • You are seeing them more frequently
  • You see yourself settling down with that person


Dating is fun way to get to know yourself better and what you want out of a relationship. Since dating is not all that serious you don’t have a lot to lose by putting yourself out there.




Once you have found that special someone and has been dating him or her for a while, the conversation may turn to exclusivity. This means that both people start a monogamous relationship, and move away from the more casual dating phase. This is where the courtship period begins. The word courtship dates back to the 16th century when it referred to a man paying ‘court’, or paying flattering attention to a woman, in order to win her hand in marriage.


Today, while many rarely use this word to describe their relationship (well, anyone besides your great grandma), and “winning” marriage is a very odd concept; the intended outcome is still along the same lines. There is a certain level of expectation that goes along with a progressing relationship. Nobody wants to waste his or her time, especially when so many are looking for that permanent partner.


Still, we would be remiss to not mention how often couples rebuff old fashioned decrees though and move forward with living together and even children without being married, or at least marriage is not performed in the “typical” order. Should we consider a couple in a committed long-term relationship, but not married, still in a ‘courtship’ phase? Well, at some point they have reached a more serious stage.


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