While assisting at a Marriage Tribunal, I was opportune on several occasions to hear marriage suits of couples seeking annulment.[i] On one of such suits I encountered a case that was very controversial: a couple that have just been married only for a month was seeking divorce! The matter was controversial because the lady claimed she was deceived by the man into the marriage. The man (who had been married before) claimed that he informed her that he was married traditionally but they divorced because the bride price had been returned. The Father to the groom claimed that he wanted to inform the bride (supposed daughter-in-law) a night to the wedding (because the traditional marriage and wedding was celebrated same day) but she was so engrossed in the euphoria of the celebration. And the controversy continued.

Some time ago, I went to visit a priest working in one of the parishes in Lagos, Nigeria and he invited me into his office while he was conducting pre-marriage counseling and registration. As I came in he was with a lady who was pleading that the compulsory 6 months marriage preparation mandated by the Bishop, be reduced for her because she was tired of waiting as the time (6 months) for marriage preparation is soo long and cumbersome! These and other similar issues point to the causes of early wreckage experienced in marriages and necessitates courtship before marriage.


At this point there's need to delineate dating and courtship. Even though both words are sometimes used interchangeably they are NOT the same. For me, Dating can simply be defined as "sampling process"- it involves spending non-commitment time with the person in order to see if there is an all around attraction to that person enough to move on to courtship". Hence it is a relationship with someone to know if he/she suits one's taste or desire. To be candid, dating may or may not necessarily lead to courtship because it is a non-commitment relationship. Dating ought to be the first stage in the marriage process (dating- proposal- courtship- introduction/betrothal- wedding) since at this stage the two persons "sample themselves" like one on a window shopping- they encounter themselves and learn their temperaments, learn about each other, etc. But on a sad note many have thrown the “responsibility and caution” expected during dating to the wind. Some people never stop “sampling”; they continue showing themselves off as always wanting to sample but never purchasing! Some even further demean themselves by also sampling the “marriage-only goods”-sex as well.

Courtship on the other hand is a deliberate process of "knowledge and understanding" of the other person in order to arrive at a closest conclusion possible that you are in love, and want to spend the rest of your life with the person in marriage. At this stage, intimacy should center on 'character formation' and adaptation with the other person. Truth and openness to each other becomes key, and interaction should be open to core values of marriage and family life. It is at this stage that intending spouses encounter themselves properly; but on a sad note many have allowed sexual intimacy, cravings for material things and the euphoria of wedding preparations to blindfold them and end up rushing into marriage only to rush out later.

When you talk about TRUE LOVE in relationship, it is not about you but the person you want to express it to. All you want to do is in the interest of the person in line with godly standards otherwise one is being SELFISH or is LUSTING. Intrinsically LOVE has four elements: The Spiritual, Intellectual, Emotional and Physical. And connecting in LOVE with another should follow this sequence above. The spiritual and Intellectual connection ideally should happen at Friendship phase (Dating). The Emotional connection should happen at the Courtship Phase, while the Physical should happen only in marriage.

For these and similar reasons the Vatican II fathers encourage Pastors (and family members) to help young people learn the values of marriage and family life so that intending couples will value the time of courtship as a preparation to entering marriage. (C.f Gaudium et Spes 49; CCC 1632) Consequently, courtship shouldn't be so short; a considerable time (at least a year) should be given to it. During this time intending spouses should spend more time of visits to the family of their intending spouses because there are more things to learn about the other person as they interact within the family. Private time-outs should be minimized (as this is presumed to have taken place during dating- as they get to know each other). What this mean is that you should have concrete knowledge of who you want to marry. Therefore, accepting Marriage proposals from someone you have not seen or known for a long time is placing your future happiness at risks. What is prevalent these days is that many invest time, energy and resources on "virtual relationships": ('I met him/her online' or 'he stays or is based abroad') rather than on "concrete relationships": (I met him/her in school or in a bus, on the train, in church, etc). Many marriage consents these days are "money driven". When the money bags go dry, the marriage scatters! Many marriages are contracted these days as means to ends- sexual gratification, wealth, connection, affluence, etc.


One of the greatest challenges facing relationships today is a disordered human sexuality.[ii] A woman reported recently that her husband demands for sex indiscriminately- without control; like a maniac. She now avoids staying at home when he is back from work and on weekends! According to her, her husband mounts her up to 1 hour without resilience and she seeks help because she is no longer comfortable as her vagina walls have become sore thereby making conjugal love no longer enjoyable but painful. This experience is threatening her marriage and she needs help. These aftermaths show that the period of courtship was faulty. In another case, a gay got married and after the marriage, never touched his wife, until she discovered he was gay. Disordered sexuality is prevalent these days as different groups advocate for legal rights of  these anomalies in the society, and  is the cause of many ruined marriages. It is not limited to the LGBTQ circles but includes other perversity such as pornography, bestiality, masturbation, rape, pedophilia, etc.

Courtship is also a period when intending couples learn chastity and countenance in marriage. A lady complained to priest that she wants to quit marrying her fiance because his "thing" is too small for her! That if she marries him, she would cheat on him in the marriage. This kind of choice can only be informed through experience and nothing else. If she is a virgin or have not had rough or active premarital sexual experiences, she would not have had knowledge of her preferred "choice of size" to get sexual satisfaction. If a man does not learn chastity during courtship or before marriage, he also is bound to cheat when situations requires his chastity in marriage: like when his wife is sick for a long period of time, or after childbirth. 

What about the rising number of procured abortions in marriage? Just to mention but a few!  The high rate of abortions in marriage show the level sexually irresponsibility in marriage. Many women are still ignorant of their ovulation circles, and many couples see marriage as the avenue to loose guard to sexual continence. Marriage is not a licence to sexual irresponsibility but sexual responsibility. Many irregularities experienced today in marriages are evidences of poor courtship. I am not saying there are no good marriages out there without courtship, but they are only a trace value!


The intention of this write-up is to help catholic youths better manage love relationships and trigger in them (most especially those preparing for marriage) a proper understanding and appreciation of courtship before marriage as it equips them to enter into marriage successfully and helps them to persevere in moments of crises in the marriage.

[i] Annulment/nullity is the Catholic practice of declaring a marriage null and void- meaning that there is/are evidence of invalidating conditions before the actual marriage celebration that renders the marriage invalid.

[ii] By disordered human sexuality I mean all forms of sexual orientations and other perversions that are unnatural as God ordered and intended human sexuality to be- Male and Female with dignity. Hence sexual orientations such as LGBTQ-Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Queer/Questioning- and perverse provocations such as orgies, masturbation, pornography, indecency, promiscuity, prostitution, etc are forms of disordered human sexuality.

▪︎Fr. SimOne Madu, OSJ 

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  1. Interesting article. Thanks for the write up father.

  2. Let's spread this article..this is truly what we face in out society today. More grace to you padre

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. hanks for finding the work relevant. Please keep sharing

  3. This is the exact article our youths need to be groomed for a successful and right marriage life. Thanks padre Sim1

    1. hanks for finding the work relevant Winnie. God bless you. Keep sharing

  4. It is a case of lost values and norms, misplaced orientation and the likes as a result of jet age(civilization) May God help us to live by good values and not to misplaced priority even amidst the changing world. Amen.


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