One common trap that I have observed in courtship, is the trap of a wrong focus. I don't mean the most obvious trap of focusing more on each other than on the Lord. This trap is much more subtle. It is a trap that is common for both the couple and their families to fall into. It is difficult to recognize because it disguises itself as being holy. In fact, depending on the culture and belief system the couple was raised in, the more tangled in this trap they are the more praise and respect they will get. What is this trap, you ask? It is the trap of rules.
Before that February evening when my Knight first spoke to me, I had a lot of ideas about the way courtship should work. I had read a pile of relationship books, and many more "courtship stories" on top of that. I'd carefully observed my peers in their relationships. With this extensive study I had formed quite a lot of opinions on how courtship should be done. There were good things that all couples ought to do, and wrong things that couples should never do.
When a dear friend of mine confided in me one afternoon that she didn't want a lot of oppressive rules hanging over her when she started courting, I was convinced that she spoke some sort of "courtship heresy." After all, the point of rules is to be loving--not oppressive. A common theme of these rules is that a courting couple will, when given an opportunity, throw all caution to the wind and do something they will later regret. Even though the rules seem uncomfortable a good Courter will accept them, because the rules are there to protect them from themselves.
In the last 6 months I've had plenty of time to examine those assumptions, and I find that there is no Biblical foundation for them. There is no biblical example of a relationship conducted based on so many rules. In fact, there is no "Biblically based" method of conducting a relationship. Isaac and Rebekah's relationship was very different from Jacob and Rachel's relationship, which was very different from Joseph and Mary's.
If a couple is not mature enough to conduct themselves in purity and to choose wise standards and stick to them, they are not mature enough to be married. If a couple isn't mature enough to handle themselves in a God honoring way when they are alone, they are not mature enough to be courting. If a couple isn't mature enough to wisely use the amount of time they have to prepare for marriage together, they are not mature enough to be in a relationship.
The assumption that rules set and enforced by siblings and parents equal purity is a faulty one at best. Some general thoughts abut how well "the law" worked out for Israel, and how well Jesus received the pharasees and their rules proves that. God does not smile upon those who add to his word, even something as seemingly insignificant as extensive lists of courtship rules. Is purity important? Yes. Of course it is. Are rules necessary to maintain purity? No. Remember, "the Law killeth, but the spirit giveth life." (2 Cor 3:6) Creating long convoluted lists of rules just creates a very stressed couple that will take what they can get. The emphasis is moved away from a heart attitude of purity and onto outward performance.
If God had intended there to be a yoke of rules on those who are about to be married He would have spent more time describing the rules. Instead He just told us to strive for purity. What exactly that looks like in each time and culture will vary. God knows the heart, and He knows if it is pure.
Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. 1 Tim 4:12