“What should be accomplished during the courtship period?” New Era, Dec. 1971, 41–42
Answer/William Rolfe Kerr
Successful marriage is not a matter of two faultless or perfectly matched people marrying. It is a matter of the mutual adjustment of two people possessing good qualities who are willing to work together for success. This process of working together for success begins during the courtship period.
The courtship period needs definition. Some consider courtship to be the period between engagement and marriage. Others view courtship as a process of involvement, running from the time a couple begins to sense a mutual love for each other on through engagement and marriage. My response deals with the latter definition.
Ideally, courtship is a time when a young couple establishes a foundation for a celestial relationship. This involves, of course, working together in worthiness toward temple marriage and all that goes with it. Celestial courtship provides an opportunity for the young couple to build a common bond of trust for each other. This is the time to look beyond physical feelings and superficial impressions. There ought be an acquaintance with and acceptance of individual interests, personal habits, families, friends, ambitions, plans for the future, outlook on life, and commitment to important values in life. A couple will want to identify and discuss together their reasons for being in love and also develop that bond of love that goes beyond expression.
Courtship is a time when a couple will want to learn to communicate openly and freely. Ideas, attitudes, and feelings should be discussed without hesitation. If communication is difficult before marriage, it is not likely to improve after marriage. A married couple must be more than man and wife; they must have developed a common bond of friendship. Ideas on everyday clothes, interests, and attitudes ought to be shared. Learn all you can about each other’s thoughts and attitudes.
Courtship is a time to consider other possible questions. What are your feelings toward children and family size? Where do you want to live? What occupation will the husband engage in? Will the wife work, and if so, for how long? What are your recreational interests? Do you share a commitment to be totally active in the Church? If so, are you prepared to lend support while meetings are attended and duties accomplished? Will family prayer and family home evening be a regular part of your family life? How well do you handle money? Do you share ideas on how it should be spent? Do you believe in arguing in front of children? How do you handle arguments that arise? Are you both ready to face and accept the responsibilities that marriage will place upon you? How well do you know each other’s family? Will there be a good relationship there?
These and many more questions need to be considered.
Determining the most desirable length of courtship is similar to determining how long a piece of string should be. Both should be long enough to accomplish the purpose for which they are intended. The courtship period and the engagement period provide a time of transition from single to married status. Therefore, it follows that the courtship should not linger on indefinitely. It is my opinion that couples should not get engaged until they can see far enough ahead to set the approximate date for their wedding. Being engaged with no end in sight often creates difficult problems. And a very short engagement often interferes with the completion of the necessary functions of the courtship.
Length of precourtship acquaintance, one’s age, emotional maturity, financial security, and many other factors may affect decisions about the length of courtship. Just bear in mind that time is needed to adequately test your compatibility by checking such matters as those discussed above, to prepare yourselves for the acceptance of the responsibilities of marriage, to plan your wedding, and to fully initiate your celestial relationship.