Religious parents insist on courtship and a six-inch rule

Lefty Graves
Six-Inch RulePixabay

** This article is a work of nonfiction based on actual events as shared with me by a friend who experienced them firsthand; used with permission.

My friend was raised in a very strict religious family. Her father was the Dean of a Bible College, and he had a strict six-inch rule for her courtship. According to his rule, no one was allowed to sit or be closer than six inches. It didn’t matter if they were dating or not. The rule was six inches.

These rules extended to all of the youth in the church. At no time were the boys allowed to touch the girls. There was never any hand-holding. If a boy tried to slip his arm around a girl and the man saw this, the boy would be called into his office for a reprimand.

No youth in the church were allowed to date; the only way that the youth could be with other youth was at church functions or if they were in courtship. A courtship could not occur until the man and woman were old enough to live independently and manage a household. For most of the youth, this was around age 18 for the woman and 21 for the man. The man had to have a driver’s license and a job and be able to support his wife. The woman had to know how to cook meals properly and care for her home and children.

The Dean of the Bible college didn’t allow my friend to date; she could only be in a courtship. This meant that she would never be alone with a man until the day she was married. Her father was very firm on this, and if a guy asked her out, he had to be referred to her father. They had to have a chaperone. Her father had a short list of approved chaperones.

The goal was to have the intention of marriage. Otherwise, there was no reason to see one another and forge a relationship. Her father had to know exactly who she was with and where they were going at all times. My friend was taught that her time was valuable and she shouldn’t waste it on people who weren’t worthy of her.

If a guy wanted to see my friend, he had to go through her father and get his approval. Upon his approval, then her father would ask her what she thought of the guy. Would she be interested in a courtship with the guy? If she agreed, then the relationship would proceed, and the guy might be invited to dinner where the entire family could get to know him better.

Over the course of a year, if the relationship made it that long, the goal would be for there to be a marriage. The couple would meet weekly and enjoy an activity with either her family or his family. They were never allowed to be alone together, not even for a moment. By the time a year had passed, the couple would be getting a marriage license and planning their wedding.

I used to feel sorry for my friend, but then I realized that she was saving herself a lot of heartache by only following courtship. At no time were guys taking advantage of her. She could have left her father’s rules and covering and gone off on her own, but she didn’t. She felt that when the right man came along, she would know it and feel it in her heart.

When I was feeling down and out after being dumped by a guy, my friend sat with me and held my hand. She reminded me that the guy wasn’t worthy of me and that a relationship was a lifelong commitment that I deserved.

As we talked, my friend reminded me that if I chose to date, that was my choice, but to not date someone that I wouldn’t be willing to introduce to my parents or marry. That changed things a lot. I was no longer looking to go to the movies or bowling. I was planning who I would spend my time with and how we would do it.

When I first met my friend, I felt like she was missing out. What I found out was that I was the one really missing out. I had wasted my time on people who didn’t care about me and valued me for who I am. Dating should be done with intention. After I was married with my own family, I sat each of my children down when they were dating age and told them my thoughts on the subject.

If he or she is good enough to date, he or she should be good enough to marry. I reminded each of my children how valuable they are to me and that they deserved to be loved and treated with respect at all times.

I know not everyone will agree with this, but those are my thoughts on the subject. Changing my mindset to a modified form of courtship vs. dating really helped me to feel better about myself. It helped my children to make wiser decisions than I did when I was their age. It’s one thing to go out and have fun with friends; it’s quite another to date with intention.

It’s fine to disagree; however, please be respectful in the comments and remember that everyone is different. Please be polite. Rude and inappropriate comments will be deleted. Thank you!



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Lefty has been writing online since 2000 on various topics, including youth mentoring, addiction recovery, parenting, gardening, advocating for seniors, sustainability, farming, and an eclectic mix of other topics. She resides on a farm with her family in Northeastern Washington state.

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