Amish & Dating: Do Girls Ask Boys? Do Amish Date More Than One Partner? & More

In this video, I answer some questions on the Amish and dating (or “courting”, though that’s not quite the same thing), thanks to info from Karen Johnson-Weiner’s book The Lives of Amish Women. I share a couple of excerpts from the book, which provide answers to the following:

  • Can Amish girls ask boys out for dates?
  • What do Amish feel is the purpose of courtship?
  • Can Amish marry non-Amish?
  • Do Amish youth have relationships with multiple dating partners?
  • What do Amish women look for in Amish men?

Of course practices and thoughts on the matter can vary among Amish. Some communities (and families) are going to be more strict when it comes to their youth’s dating practices, while others may trend closer to the English way of doing things, where “dating around” is more permissible.

Photo: Don Burke

Many Amish will feel that dating is meant to be for the purpose of marriage. That said, Amish young women and men aren’t necessarily going to marry the first person they go on a date with, as noted in the video.

As far as how practices vary, I’ll re-share a couple of excerpts from Rich Stevick’s Growing Up Amish: The Rumspringa Years. First, a description of how things look in communities with a more conservative approach to dating:

In small settlements, among conservative youth groups, and in New Order settlements, couples almost always begin dating or courting in the context of Sunday-night singings, when the boy goes to pick up the girl he has asked out, or their meeting may occur afterward, when he takes her home, depending on the local tradition. In all settlements, however, the boy takes the initiative in dating or courtship. He may show his interest by writing a letter, or by going through a mutual friend instead of directly asking the girl for a date. She will typically respond through a third person. Having a mutual friend who prepares the way or relays the response to the invitation reduces the likelihood of public rejection, shame, or teasing.

Photo: Don Shenk

Compare that with the approach in “faster” groups:

Formal dating is much less common overall among older teens in these faster crowds. Also, they are slower in joining the church, beginning serious courting, and giving up their youthful pleasures. Many of these youth would regard the kind of courtship described earlier in this chapter as quaint, if not amusing. For many, their goal is to extend the relative freedom of the Rumspringa period, so they can expand rather than restrict their worldly experiences. Few of these things lend themselves to the traditional view of courtship, where a young man seeks to find God’s will in choosing who will become his lifetime partner.

In an upcoming post and video I’ll share more on dating practices, including one which understandably gets a lot of attention – the practice of “bundling” (aka bed courtship) – as well as one related practice. You can also check out the post “An Amish First Date” for more. Runtime: 5:12

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    3 Comments

    1. You can say "no."

      I love hearing of a mother telling her daughter, “You can say ‘no.'” That speaks volumes.

    2. Jeffrey C Masters

      New to us

      I will never ever forget an experience that happened to my wife on one of our many trips to visit our close Amish friends. I was out in the barn with the men looking over some horses after lunch, and the wife was inside with the women. There were several girls of courting age in this family at that time, so we had a lot of company at the table for lunch, and I always enjoy seeing the nervous tension in the couples as you can see they want to be alone, but know they need to spend time with the family. Pretty soon, most of the little ones were napping as were several of the women in the recliners. My wife was awake and reading. One of the dating age girls and her beau went into her bedroom and closed the door. My wife was kind of taken back, and did not know what to think. She told me later she didn’t know whether to wake up the mother, or just keep quiet. She reluctantly chose the later. That evening, after she had told me what happened, I couldn’t wait to bring it up, and needle the couple a little. COme to find out, that practice is totally accepted, and commonplace in this community. As in all budding relationships, the couple just needs a little time to get to know each other without 20 eyes staring at them. Now, several years later, that couple is married, and she is carrying their second child, and making a home for their small family! We talk about this quite often when we visit, and it always brings smiles and laughter. Different isn’t always wrong. In fact, I would say if you look at the success of most Amish families, their ways of courtship must be doing something right after all!! I do love my friends.

    3. Amish Dating

      Rumspringa is a great deal but are young people really ready to make any major choices at that age; granted life spans were shorter a while back and times were different. In my part of the country the times were late changing so the old ways were there. Now days I look back and ask when is one really able to make sound life choices. To be honest modern online dating brings no better results in finding a suitable partner any better then the old way where one really got to know a potential partner; the old ways were good in that aspect. Now add in the concept of same gender dating and it does occur in every group. I am glad I am at the distal end of my time line, I am more over the hill and headed down, dating will not be a part of my life but never really was, I chose the Confirmed Bachelor life and much against the wishes of my family both sides Mennonite and Non-Mennonite but my choice was best for me.