Courtship Prevents Bad Marriages?

Courtship Prevents Bad Marriages? August 12, 2019
Josh Harris on social media enjoying a delicious looking rainbow pastry at Vancouver Pride.

One of the things we’re seeing happen lately is more attempts by various people to climb up the heap to be the alpha cultural enforcer. Now that both Debi Pearl and Nancy Campbell are getting older and Lori Alexander isn’t far behind them a crop of younger ladies are vying for the position atop that precarious peak. This one recently popped up on our notice by attempting to promote her blog by a) defending Roosh V, an admitted rapist, and b) promoting her blog as the answer. Meet one Kathryn of Joy for the Journey.

Whatever happened to Lori Alexander’s notion that only older ladies were to teach? I hate it when people of little life experience try to tell everyone else what to do. When Kathryn came to NLQ she linked to a piece that was basically just her ripping into Patheo’s Libby Anne from Love, Joy, Feminism.

In this piece Kathryn is busy trying to tell everyone how not to divorce, how to divorce proof your marriage. She spends reams of words on it when it actually boils down to one simple thing. Learn to communicate, talk, express your feelings like an adult. There’s really  no fool proof way to divorce proof your marriage but you can cut the odds by talking.

I’m not going to take on all of her misstatements on how to keep a marriage together, just this one rather glaringly wrong subject.

Instead Kathryn goes right to the most recently proven to be a wishful statement at best, or a patent falsehood – courtship.

Another way to prevent a bad marriage and avoid divorce is to be sure we marry wise, mature, God-fearing men. Don’t just take a man’s word for it that he is a Christian – actually observe and analyze his life. All too often we ladies get carried away by our emotions and we ignore the very obvious red flags about a man’s character. This is why it is so, so important to have a wise, God-fearing man (hopefully your father!) be involved in your courtship!

A father (or if that is not an option, another God-fearing man) can get to know a young man in ways a young lady cannot. He knows what red flags to look for and he won’t be wearing rose-colored glasses (so to speak). He will be able to see the good, bad, and ugly and can warn his daughter. A wise young lady will listen to the counsel of her parents and wait for the right man.

In the wake of Josh Harris renouncing his own book on courtships, the failure of his marriage, the failure of all the marriages outlined in his other books I would say courtship has been proven time and again to not hold any greater record of preventing divorce than any other man-made method. Make no mistake, it is a man-make method, not Biblical mandated. In fact, if the divorce rates by Pew and Barna are anything to go by there are more divorces in Evangelicalism than in any other people group.

Why would that be? Hmm, let’s see, you have very sheltered young people with no life experience expected to morph into fully functional sexual adults at too young an age would likely be a contributing factor. It’s not their fault, they just have not had the chance to change and develop into adults. No matter how ‘wise’ their fathers are. Their fathers will not be living in that unique partnership that is marriage. They are the ones that will ultimately pay the price for their young marriage.

If brain development does not complete until people are in their twenties, it’s folly to expect teenagers to marry successfully.  You might as well demand  your cats do the laundry, or your toddler cook dinner. They aren’t capable of it. That’s to say nothing of physical development, social skills, education or the many other things you must develop and navigate to be fully an adult. Why handicap your kids before they even have  a chance?

The thing about all these cultural enforcer want to be’s is that their advice, like this advice, harms others. It has a body count, and that body count keeps rising as good Christians attack those that leave to save themselves.

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NLQ Recommended Reading …

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement by Kathryn Joyce

I Fired God by Jocelyn Zichtermann

13:24 A Dark Thriller by M Dolon Hickmon

About Suzanne Titkemeyer
Suzanne Titkemeyer went from a childhood in Louisiana to a life lived in the shadow of Washington D.C. For many years she worked in the field of social work, from national licensure to working hands on in a children's residential treatment center. Suzanne has been involved with helping the plights of women and children' in religious bondage. She is a ordained Stephen's Minister with many years of counseling experience. Now she's retired to be a full time beach bum in Tamarindo, Costa Rica with the monkeys and iguanas. She is also a thalassophile. She also left behind years in a Quiverfull church and loves to chronicle the worst abuses of that particular theology. She has been happily married to her best friend for the last 33 years. You can read more about the author here.
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  • Tawreos

    I would think that if one is looking for red flags in someone else, they should probably do all they can to extend the period of time that they have to find them. Courtship seems to be a relatively quick process and anyone can fake good christianity for a short period of time. Oh, and unless the relevant part was left out she seems to be leaving the door open to blame the father if the man he picked out doesn’t turn out to be a good christian man. The other people in her group will not like the suggestion that a man could be blamed for anything at all.

  • Jim Jones

    Honesty is essential. Lack of it can be tragic.

  • a-mckeown

    I wanted to shoot my ex-in laws. They really interfered with my marriage with finances, taxes, even having sex. Dating is definitely a superior way to get to know some one before marriage.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    If fundangelical marriages fail at a higher rate than others, I suspect they simply don’t know how to “do” marriage. Bear in mind they have achieved this higher divorce rate despite both people involved thinking divorce is a grievous sin that will send them to hell and vicious cultural enforcement in a close-knit community against it, which you would think would make it an extreme and last resort.
    And this quote I think demonstrates why:
    “A father … can get to know a young man in ways a young lady cannot.”
    That “a young lady cannot” is a lie, and the true problem with everything Quiverful. It should read (in Quiverful) “a young lady may not”. It’s simply absurd to say that a “young man” will open up to his girlfriend’s father in a way he won’t to her herself. What they mean is that it is nice, Christian “young ladies” are forbidden from any kind of frank talk or discussion with their “young man”, may never question a man or challenge his opinions and are denied thoughts and feelings of their own. Their father can “get to know” their young man better than they can because they are expressly forbidden to get to know their “young man” at all, and basically also forbidden to get to know their husband either in any meaningful sense once married to him either.
    Fundangelicals ‮gnab‬ on about “courtship”, but that, too, is a lie. “Courtship” is the process whereby a “young man” and a “young lady” actually do get to know each other before they commit – and that includes finding out if they actually fancy each other and want to have sex with each other, even if for religious reasons they don’t actually do it until the wedding night. Fundangelicals expressly forbid “courtship” in any meaningful sense as rendering the woman (and obviously only her) “impure” or “unchaste” because she will have had icky pelvic feelings for a man.
    (Ironically, although fundangelicals decry a modern culture where people may have sex with each other who have only just met, fundangelical marriages are also in fact two people having sex with each other who have only just met, just with a lot more complications if it turns out to be a disaster.)

  • Catherine Spencer-Mills

    How does s/he/they treat other people? Wait staff, cashiers, you know, all those “little people” who have to put up with whatever nonsense you dish out. That tells you more about them than anything else they or you may do. One date is all it takes.

  • Jennifer

    Oh Lord have mercy. At least you caught the new termite in the early stages.

  • Mel

    No, it’s never the father’s fault. If a divorce happens, it was because the woman didn’t satisfy her husband sexually – and that’s the ONLY reason people ever get divorced.

    – Love, the simplified worldview that is CP/QF

  • AFo

    My dad has never had any interest in helping me to find a husband. He sees it as my business, and quite honestly, has no interest in anything to do with that part of my life because I’m in “casual mode” at the moment. I can’t imagine burdening him with this responsibility that he really doesn’t want and is not suited for.

  • Polytropos

    About this claim that fathers know what red flags to look for: I don’t believe this is always true, especially not in fundie families. When we’re talking about fundie families we’re talking about people enmeshed in a toxic cult environment, where all kinds of abusive behaviors are normalized and where young people of all genders grow up very adept at telling adults what they want to hear. Fathers in this subculture may have the best intentions, but I doubt most fundies have the ability to consistently recognize red flags in a potential spouse.

    My own father is a decent, caring man and is not remotely fundie, but I wouldn’t necessarily trust him to identify red flags, because he grew up in a time and place where the concept of red flags, as we understand it, did not exist. That problem must be exponentially worse with families involved in fundie cults.

  • Martin Penwald

    Besides, not believing in any deity would be a red flag when it’s not.

  • Shwilly

    It makes me so sad to see young women regurgitating this nonsense. I don’t know how old Kathryn is, but my guess is too young to have been failed by the courtship model YET, or at least too young to recognize it. While I would suggest that seeking council from someone older and wiser can be a valuable tool in making an informed and important life decision, it is foolish to encourage one to rely on the “wisdom” of another for all major choices for her life, especially choosing a partner. In fact, doing so robs a person of choice! But I guess that’s the point since control seems to be the motivating factor when it comes to girls raised under patriarchy. Telling them they are too emotional to think straight is simply a tactic of coercion. Sadly, so many of these young women believe it to be true instead of recognizing it as a form of manipulation. How about getting out there and growing your own wisdom and confidence through relationships, dating, education, travel, employment, and life experiences, in general (mistakes and all). Be your own captain! And trust yourself in choosing who you partner with in life. No one knows your mind and heart better than yourself!

  • Shwilly

    I don’t think people in these types of marriages even consider honesty as a component to a good marriage because the woman’s thoughts and feelings are of no significance in the marriage. What is the point of communicating something that you are brainwashed into believing is nothing more than sinful “emotional” distraction that’s best ignored? So sad!

  • Shwilly

    But yes, in normal and healthy relationships, honesty is of utmost importance! Wish women like Kathryn could see that.

  • SAO

    “Don’t just take a man’s word for it that he is a Christian – actually observe and analyze his life.” Ah, yes, observe and analyze his life when you are only on chaperoned dates, never allowed alone with him, and expected to take your father’s opinion as gospel.

    Just another impossible hoop to jump through.

  • otrame

    One date won’t necessarily do it. People show off how “nice” they are at first. In the long term, yes, the way someone treats the little people is a HUGE tell about who they are.

    I really recommend that no one get serious about another person until you see how they fight, how they behave when they are genuinely pìssed. And of course that is unlikely to happen until you’ve been spending a lot of time together for quite a while.

    And lastly, of course, I strongly recommend that people not marry until they have spent some time in bed together. There are, quite simply, differences in sexuality. There is no fault in it if you are not sexually compatible with someone you care about, but it is important, and the only way to find out is to hop into the sack.

  • Shwilly

    I agree with you, especially about fundie dads!

    I’ve gone through deconstruction over the past 8 years, and at some point in the first couple of years, after the Doug Philips’ implosion, I came across this blog and also Love Joy Feminism. I found a post, either here or by Libby Anne (I’ve been a lurker for a long time) in which the author told a story about when she was in college, and shared with her roommate a list her father had made of necessary criteria her future husband must meet in order to gain his approval. The list included things like be a Republican, anti abortion, yada yada yada. I can’t remember them all, but it was long and encompassed a bunch of fundie beliefs. Her roommate’s response was that her dad only had two questions in regard to her fiance’, which were “Does he treat you well?” and “Does he make you happy?” That really stuck with me. My kids were teens when we left this movement, and I guess my kids and I have gone through deconstruction of religion together in a lot of ways, but these two questions are what I’ve asked them when they have entered relationships. I feel like they have pretty good heads on their shoulders for identifying red flags. But the other blessing about leaving this movement is to know that divorce is an option if the relationship doesn’t work.

  • And I’m Cute, Too

    He knows what red flags to look for and he won’t be wearing rose-colored glasses (so to speak).

    No, but he might be wearing patriarchy-coloured glasses. And that won’t make things any better for his daughter.

  • Polytropos

    Wow, that sounds like quite a list, and it doesn’t seem like any of those items would really help identify a suitable husband.

  • Mimc

    I don’t think QF/CP has a good grasp on the red flags for abuse. For example of a man of a man demanded his fiance quit her job would that alarm them? How about making her stop hanging out with friends? Insisting on controlling the finances? If Dobson’s writing is any indication they don’t have a problem with beating pets. It would be interesting ( and maybe horrifying) to see a list of things they consider red flags.

  • Mimc

    Found one there of the six items are just “doesn’t Jesus hard enough”.

  • Jennifer

    Well, it wouldn’t make a good partner for a Christian, but the father WOULD likely freak out if the suitor didn’t fit his special brand of faith.

  • Person223

    On the other hand, people seem averse to marrying people they’ve known since childhood where they’ve seen them in different environments, situations, contexts, etc. for many years. Then they meet someone in adulthood, and even if they date for a few years, marry someone and find they don’t know them much at all. This is true for religious and non-religious alike. And sex should be delayed. Sexual involvement can make people blind to flaws and incompatibilities that will eventually manifest themselves in the long haul that is a marriage. There does have to be a basis in, as important as it is, more than sexual intercourse.

  • Jennifer

    Asking about his morals is certainly important, my third question would be how does he treat other people. It shouldn’t be a detailed list of what daddy or mommy prefers, but general questions about morality with the rest being filled out by the daughter or son’s own wishes.

  • alyssa_bean

    My father is on his fourth marriage and he has questionable tastes in women. I’m not sure having him involved in my spouse-selection process is a great idea.

  • Polytropos

    Agreed. It would be fascinating, and horrifying, to know what the average fundie thinks of as red flags. A while ago Girl Defined did a video on the topic and it was as awful as you’d expect.

  • NikkiofAmystika

    Yeah, I’m pretty sure that was Libby Anne.

  • Jenn H

    “Another way to prevent a bad marriage and avoid divorce is to be sure we
    marry wise, mature, God-fearing men.”

    Yup, just wait for the perfect man to come along then marry him. Completely foolproof plan there. I’m sure the huge amount of competition for the few eligible bachelors in church won’t be a problem.

    “Don’t just take a man’s word for
    it that he is a Christian – actually observe and analyze his life.”

    How is one supposed to tell the difference between a Christian and a closeted Atheist? This isn’t a subculture where people can be honest about their beliefs.

  • Friend

    What a nut! Lil Kathryn even blames women for mass sh00tings committed by fatherless sons… because women have the audacity to file for divorce:

    at times the percentage of wives filing for divorce goes as high as 75%! Imagine what our country would be like with fewer wives filing for divorce, especially in light of the mass sh00tings we have experienced recently. Not only are wives more likely to file for divorce, but they are thinking about it for 2 years before they act. Ladies, this is planned, contemplated sin.

    I’m not going to research her sources, but what a thing to say: A guy without a father sh00ts a crowd of people, so let’s blame his mother.

    And the corollary: To preventing mass sh00tings, stay in a h0rrible marriage.

  • lady_black

    If he’s a Republican, we would never get to the second date!

  • lady_black

    That’s the advice my parents gave me. Watch how he treats others, especially those of subordinate status. Is he ugly to waitstaff at the restaurant, etc.? RUN! If you marry him, you will be the new waitstaff (in his mind). Anyone can be on their best behavior for a short time.

  • Jennifer

    Excellent point.

  • Shwilly

    My daughters both worked as waitresses while in college. One of them still is (It’s where she met her current boyfriend). Treating wait staff badly is right up there with drowning kittens on their no-no list. Actually, a little off topic, but life experience is so important in developing skills with which to evaluate the character and compatibility of another person, and employment in job that put you in contact with people is so essential for that.

  • Shwilly

    “but they are thinking about it for 2 years before they act. Ladies, this is planned, contemplated sin.” Or… they are trying for an extra 2 years in hope that the marriage can be saved, but ultimately realize it is time to move forward. So strange how the stuff that jumps out as common sense to most people doesn’t register at all to these folks. But then again, critical thinking skills are not encouraged, so….

    And mass shooting are Mom’s fault? Disgusting! I bet she didn’t come to that conclusion on her own. She’s parroting the “super wise” words or her father/husband, who is likely parroting the words or another man.

  • Mimc

    TLDR version: they list 3 different ways to say not fervent enough Christian. Then they mention honesty which I’d agree with. Fifth is no addiction, which I agree with except that their definition of addiction is basically anything he cares about more than church rather than actual addictions. The sixth one is sex outside marriage. It’s not a list that is likely to help avoid abuse.

  • persephone

    The idea that the father will know best is ridiculous. The psychopaths know how to manipulate people, especially other men, and will end up abusing the daughters. Having seen how my parents, JWs, not fundagelicals, dealt with various young men gave me absolutely no confidence.

  • persephone

    Dad only sees him at church, or maybe on some men’s group project. How is that supposed to tell him anything?

  • persephone

    I was with you up until “And sex should be delayed.” This can be an issue when people are brought up to equate sex with love, but it doesn’t have to be.

  • persephone

    I find the letters to advice columns from women who married as 9virgin9s sad. She wants se9x and he doesn’t. She wants a se9x life, but he’s demanding se9x multiple times a day and she feels like she’s a rabbit living with a wolf. She wants se9x, but all he wants are blo9wj9obs and an occasional P9IV9. And all the decisions are made by the men and the women just have to accept their place.

  • persephone

    That doesn’t seem to be working too well for the Botkin sisters.

  • Jenn H

    A man’s actions are always a woman’s fault, dontcha know?

  • Shwilly

    Kathryn’s latest piece is another in which she rips into Libby Anne on the issue of Modesty. And what does she conclude? She writes that Libby Anne is a bitter woman. Really? Is that all she’s got. It’s like the universal answer for when logic fails, or when the author simply chooses willful ignorance.

  • Shwilly

    And then she blames the women coming forward in the Me Too movement as being at least partially responsible for their victimization because of immodest dress. Just WOW!

    {edited to add) I contacted Libby Anne about this. The more I thought about it, the angrier I got. This blogger uses a post LA wrote back in 2015, attempting to gain an audience, I guess, and she {a.} misrepresents what Libby Anne says — claiming LA says immodesty empowers women ( which was not LA’s point) and then {b.} uses that misrepresentation to support her claim that “empowerment” didn’t protect women, as shown by the Me Too movement.

  • Suzanne Harper Titkemeyer

    Kathryn is also all over Lori Alexander, kissing her rump, flattering her, and me tooing every Lori statement at Lori’s Facebook.

  • Mimc

    I mean I guess never getting married also prevents bad marriages.

  • Ruthitchka

    Since the fundies want everybody to marry young, how is the male part of the courtship actually a “man” when he is around 17-1/2 years old? He’s definitely not the man he will eventually become.

  • Shwilly

    I noticed that. Seeing her there is actually what prompted me to read the above mentioned blog post I found so infuriating. Lori is a moron1, plain and simple. Oops… not meaning to personally attack. Lori’s beliefs are moronic.

  • Cynthia

    Agree with that last line.

    A number of my divorce clients come from cultures that do arranged marriage. Guess what – meeting your spouse on the day of your wedding doesn’t always end up with a happily ever after. Might be good for ensuring no sex prior to marriage, but not so good for ensuring a happy marriage.

  • Cynthia


    I know people who do the “date for marry only” thing and they ask for advice on how to know if the person is right and what magic questions will reveal the right answer. To me, you might as well read tea leaves.

    I knew my husband was right because we were together 8 years before getting married. I knew his entire extended family, we spent a summer working together, I knew his friends, we had traveled together and I had seen him during times of extreme stress and trauma.