Courting Amish Style
What Rose and Noah face when they begin courting.
Yes, there still is a place in the world where the process of a boy and a girl getting to know each other is called ‘courting.’ In Amish communities throughout the Midwest and stretching into other regions of the United States, dating is called courting and breaking up is referred to as ‘quitting’ each other.
Because of my years of contact with Amish teens coming to my farm to participate in horse-back riding activities, babysitting my children or hanging out with my own teenagers, I’ve come to understand their secretive world of courtship very well.
First, Amish teens do get to pick their partner, contrary to popular belief. But they must choose another Amish member or they’ll get into heaps of trouble as seen in TEMPTATION where Noah, an Amish teen, falls for Rose, an outsider. The boys and girls of a community spend their entire lives together; meeting as toddlers, going through school together until the eighth grade and participating in church and weekly youth activities, such as singings and volleyball or softball games.
By age sixteen, many of the Amish have already decided on their future spouse. Courting is serious business for the Amish. ‘Dating around’ is not acceptable behavior within the Amish society. A person chooses carefully who they will commit to courting, because they know that they will be expected to stay in the relationship due to problems that can arise within the community when couples ‘quit’ each other. Also, divorce is almost unheard in the Amish world, so teens tread lightly with the opposite sex until they decide on the right person.
The Amish youth are encouraged to begin romantic relationships, because it helps insure that they will remain Amish. Since the teens aren’t allowed to court until they’ve officially gone through the ceremony to join their church, many young ones who might have reservations about living their lives the Amish way, will commit to it in order to be with the person they’re fond of. With courting, comes the prospect of marriage and a jump into adulthood, which satisfies the hope of more freedom.
Each community has its own set of courting rules. The community I live in for instance, has a-hands-off courting policy. This basically means that a couple will get in HUGE trouble if they get caught holding hands, kissing or going any further physically within the relationship. Punishment includes reciting their sins before their entire community on Sunday and possibly being ‘shunned’ for a length of time, usually lasting one to six weeks, depending on the conduct. Shunning is especially painful to the couple, because it means they won’t be able to see each other until the time is up. Other communities are a bit more relaxed on the matter, but Amish teens are always held to a high standard when courting. This doesn’t mean that couples aren’t getting a kiss in here and there or even going much further into a physical relationship, but they are watched carefully and learn early on to either abstain or be extremely stealthy in their liaisons.
Although, the courtship rituals of the Amish society might sound harsh to those of us on the outside, there are many positives to their strict structure. Most couples will begin courting at the age of sixteen and marry by the time they’re nineteen or twenty. Because the teens have a deep sense of responsibility and meaning about entering a relationship, they don’t play games, and there is much less drama and heartbreak involved. They enjoy support from their families and community and begin their lives together on solid ground.
I’ve witnessed many teens go through the process of courting and each couple eventually married. In the end, they were in love and happy…and isn’t that what we all strive to achieve?
You can read firsthand about Rose and Noah’s courting experience in TEMPTATION, where they meet secretly and struggle to find a way to be together. Their story continues in BELONGING, when they finally have the opportunity to court in the Amish way, but are torn apart again when Rose’s family puts a stop to it. You will find out once and for all if Rose and Noah find their happily-ever-after in FOREVER, which hits bookshelves on January 28th, 2014.
Learn about a fascinating culture while taking an emotional roller coaster ride in the TEMPTATION series! I love to hear from readers! You can contact me on my FB page (Karen Ann Hopkins) or the Temptation FB page.
Karen Ann Hopkins