Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Amish and Bed Courtship

For a few years now I've been hearing conflicting stories about the Amish and bed courtship. Some said it didn't exist anymore and some said it was still being used. Finally, I went to the former Amish and asked them. I'm posting the many comments I received on Facebook about this topic. I will only use the first names of those who commented.


Read through all the comments below to discover what it is and who is doing it. Some of the comments are surprising, but they do answer the main question: Does bed courtship still exist among the Amish?


Dee
Quick question: Have you ever heard of bed courtship? Does it still exist, if you know about it?
It's a controversial subject among Amish and former Amish. Some say it still is used and some say it isn't. Some Amish disagree with it, some disagree in word only. I sure would like to know if it does still go on! (But this kind has no board down the middle like the bundling of old.)

Rebecca
I never heard of it, so I decided to look it up. What I found was quite interesting, although I am unsure if it coincides exactly with what you were talking about. They call it "bundling" where there is a separation between the couple so that they each have their own side of the bed where they can talk and become close through conversation (when times throughout the day is limited to speak with one another, due to work and such).

Barbara
Unfortunately Dee the answer to your question is "yes"

Dee
Rebecca, the Amish do not use a bundling board. Nope. They are in the bed with no board. Another name is "bed date". Usually, from what I've read and been told, it is a first date, too. (Is that right, Barbara?). The bundling of early America used a board...somehow, the Amish lost that part of the tradition. I also read kissing and cuddling are part of it--for some couples. Not what we expect from the Amish, I'm thinking.

Barbara
Yes, Dee, you are correct...definitely no board involved!

Dee
Barbara, I'm curious: if an English person were to ask an Amish person (who still bed courts) if they DO bed court, would the person admit it? It seems the former Amish are the only ones who will talk or admit it is still used. Hard to pin down!

Barbara
It depends on the person whether you get an honest answer or not

Dee
Okay. Thanks! I'm still trying to figure out if it is a thing of the past--LOL. Some say yes and some say no. I guess it depends on the church, too. (Old Order, maybe? Swartzentruber, maybe?)

Carol W.
Seems so unwise.

Dee
I think that's why it so controversial, even among the Amish, Carol. And not talked about much...

Lizzy
It is still practiced among the Swartentruber Amish, at least it was when I left 4 yrs. ago and I haven't heard anything that it changed.

Naomi
I heard from a former Amish, that it still goes on, that is why they left so that their children wouldn't get pregnant and then have to get married, then have to join the church and then make the VOW and then the religion has them. I've heard the parents don't really like it, but they look the other way, because they really want their children to stay Amish. How sad, but true.

Dee
Lizzie, were you Swartzentruber? Naomi, did you know if the former Amish was Swartzentruber or Old Order? Thanks for your input, Lizzie, Barbara and Naomi. ( :

Naomi
Old Order

Minerva
Dee my family is old order, and yes it is still the way of dating in the community "Danville,Ohio"

LeRoy
Ya, it is basically a rule in the Swartzentruber church where we grew up and if anybody didn't do it because of conviction they were considered strange! It is one of the many acts of deceit they think is ok because the higher up Amish do something different! How Ungodly!!

Lynn
Yeah, I've heard of it as bundling. A classmate did a report on it in our English class in college.

Dee
Thanks, Minerva. I heard the Amish in Lancaster PA no longer bed court. I wonder if it is just some Amish and not all? LeRoy, I wondered if it is still going on around here. Wow. Lynn, the Amish bed court without a board--just teens in a bed together--often on the first "date"--in fact, that IS the date.

Carol E.
It seems that a porch swing might have been better.

Dee
I'm still trying to figure out why parents don't stop it. It seems to go against all that the Amish would consider moral. Another Amish conundrum. I think LeRoy is right: tradition wins out over common sense and moral standards.

Marvin
Yes it still exists where I come from.

Naomi
Dee, the reason the parents don't do anything about it is, they are losing their children to the world, so if they get pregnant then they have them because they make them get married. then they have to join the church. I heard of a case where a girl got pregnant on her first date ever and had to get married.


Dena
Yes, it exists under the Swartzentruber Amish

Barbara
Dee, the differences you will find are as vast as the communities out there...the truth is it still exists all throughout especially Old Order which is where I come from.

Dee
I'm thinking it is very much a practice that is alive and well. Do you think it would exist in Old Order churches in the more touristy areas--like Lancaster or Holmes County? I'm guessing it is NOT a practice among the New Orders or higher churches--right?

Barbara
Again in Lancaster and Holmes and Geauga all I can say is it depends on the sect...and I can't really speak for the New Order or higher because I don't know that many people from those sects but from what I do know your assumptions are correct...it is less likely to be a practice among the New Order churches. Definitely very much alive, though, because unfortunately, I now have nieces who are old enough according to their standards to date, & sadly that is the practice.

Dee
Wow. You know, in the English world we also deal with teens who become active too soon sexually, but I can't think of any parents who would go to bed and let their teen daughter close her bedroom door, knowing there is a teen guy in there. We deal with the same troubles, but it seems like mixed messages to Amish teens would be SO troubling!

Barbara
The craziest thing in the world is they expect them even in dating this way to refrain from sex!

Dee
That's the most troubling part, Barbara. And from what I gather from Saloma's book, there is a certain amount of ...can't think of the Dutch word...cuddling and kissing expected from the girls, too. Even if it is their first "date", I would think, if she is naive, that could lead to some very sad situations for a teen girl.


Barbara
Dee, I promise if you continue to delve into this topic you will be appalled!! You will not like the truth....I have a feeling 'troubling' will be a very mild description compared to what you will feel.

Dee
I know you're right, Barbara. Sadly, many don't want to know there are these kinds of troubles among the Amish.

Thank you for being patient with my curiosity! This discussion leads me to another question: do you think the parents ever worry about what is going on "up there" when they are in their beds and know there is a young man in their daughter's bedroom? Would they ever say anything to their girls or would they keep silent? I read once about an Amish dad who wanted his "old maid" daughter married so badly, he encouraged her to bed court in hopes of a pregnancy. Oh wow.

Dena
Yes, my parents were concerned about us girls, but all mom would say was to keep our dress in place, and never mentioned anything about sex, so…guess how clueless I was, uneducated, and I really feel sorry for those girls that don't get any teaching,.

Mary
On the New Order and more progressive churches like Mennonites and Beachy, they do not have the practice of bed courtship. I have heard that this is one reason some families leave the Old Order and join the N.O. or Beachy, etc. because they don't want to be faced with this issue when their children join the youth. On the contrary, a lot of New Order have pretty high standards for dating.

Barbara
Dee, what I had tried to say earlier today is that this has been the custom for many years so there is most likely little if any wondering going on because the parents dated the same way, and know exactly what is going on.

Barbara
Unfortunately they are expected to date this way but refrain from sex...can you imagine most mothers and fathers never talk about sex with their daughters and sons! So it is discovered by experimentation, not to mention these kids are 16-17 when they start & most of the time alcohol has been consumed prior to the date or sleeping together occurring.

Dee
Dena, that is amazing. No other advice but to keep your dress in place. Wow. (I wish I could meet you, but my driving is limited because of health issues. Is there a weekend day so my hubby could help drive?) You're right: with no education, the young people are set up for mistakes in situations like this.

Mary, it's no wonder families leave the Old Order before their children have to be involved in bed courting. It seems amazing there are any who would want to keep this tradition going.

Barbara, it is SO hard to think about allowing this, especially when the parents know what could happen. Does anyone know why they continue this tradition? Or is it another one of these "Because we've always done it that way" things?

Elizabeth
Wow...just wow. Blows the popular conception of (some) Amish communities out of the water, doesn't it? Imagine the social workers who would immediately get involved if we discovered this going on in some English suburb!

Dee
That's the strange thing, Elizabeth. For some reason, many things within in the Amish communities that would raise eyebrows, and get a social worker knocking on your door outside of the Amish, are tolerated, or maybe just well-hidden. I think it is worse in areas like ours where the Amish live in large groups: you will often find public officials reluctant to get involved and will mostly defer to the church officials to take care of issues that come up.

Lizzy
Yes, I grew up in the Swartzentruber Amish setting.

Emanuel
I was Swartzentruber Amish I left after my first experience of bed courtship, I thought it was a strange way of dating, and most of my family left but the Swartzentruber Amish still practice that, many have broke away because of that. It’s an Ordnung that needs to cease to exist, Amish or English, you can have bed courtship after you promise to live with each other for the rest of your lives.

Vernon
We both grew up in an old order church {Fredericktown Ohio} and fortunately we did not have "BED COURTSHIP" but our morals were no different than those that have it. And yes it does still exist in most old order churches. As for the new order that I know in Pa., they would definitely consider it a SIN to allow bed courtship. Lots of differences when we make church rules based on preferences instead of following GODS word!!!!

Henry
I grew up in the Delaware Amish community and bed courtship was not observed there. However, the way dating was done would not be something I would want my kids, especially my daughter to be part of. It was basically in the living room on the couch, parents in bed, lights out, no supervision or anything. Usually there from 11:00-12:00 to 3:30-4:00 in the morning. A lot of time for a couple teenagers to be together in a situation like that.

Henry
If you can imagine this; when I left the Amish (I was the oldest) within a year or so, my folks took the whole family and moved to Lawrence County, PA, a very strict Old Order Amish community, where bed courtship still is practiced. And my parents took the family there, because they said it was better for my siblings who were all getting to the dating age at the time. ???

Dee
You're right, Vernon: following tradition only is a sure way to get off track if the Word is not applied first. Henry, that is astounding! Such a different way of looking at dating. Wow. I wonder why this topic has been swept under the rug for so many years.

Dee
Emmanuel, I wondered if any left because of the bed courtship. I would guess there are many who didn't want to do that or want their children to be doing that.

Henry
Dee, among the Amish, I don't think it is swept under the rug, it is just another one of their "ways of life" that they are all aware of. I'm sure there are some that wonder why it is that way, especially when their own children

Dee
It's so funny that this is not something that is commonly known among English! I'll have to ask some of the young people around here what they think of it. Thanks, Henry, for all the info!

Laura
Dee, some Old Order do it but not all. The Swartzentruber does, but they stress that they both are fully dressed, the girl under the covers and the boy on top..... but well. :)

Dee
Laura, the comments made above were by those who were Swartzentruber or Old Order Amish before they left the Amish. I'd be curious to know if any of them were told instructions as to how to bed court.

Mary
It's like Henry said, "It's not swept under the rug". It just is. Parents don't approve of it, but they don't grieve and worry like they do if one of their children starts attending a non-Amish church. That's the time to get all stressed out. Joining a car church is a very dangerous, risky thing to do! To them, the danger & wrongness is much, much, much worse and more cause of worry than plain old bed courtship that has been around for as long as anyone can remember.

Dee
I know, Mary. Seems odd to be worried over a car and not about bed courtship, but like you said, one has been around forever. Great discussion, everyone. Thank you.


What are your thoughts about Amish bed courtship? Do the comments you read above surprise you? Had you heard of this Amish courtship tradition before? Thanks for taking the time to leave your feedback about this topic!

16 comments:

Joanne Sher said...

Unbelievable. Troubling. Disturbing. Just WOW.

Dee Yoder said...

Yes--not exactly what we expect to hear about the Amish. I'm learning that the more I learn, there more there is to learn.

Anonymous said...

I am definitely a bit shocked. I cannot imagine how this even got started. It's just crazy!

Karen in Kentucky said...

In my opinion this is a form of sexual abuse for young girls as well as the boys.

Among my friends who love to read Amish fiction, they would be horrified to realize this was common. The best selling fictional stories written all these authors who present "clean" fiction for others to read, are misleading the readers when they don't tell the whole story.
They write fairy tales, just as fake as Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty.

Dee Yoder said...

Anonymous, I am sure there are many Englishers who would share your surprise at learning this. That's why it's so important to be open to the truth-the whole truth--concerning some of the stricter Amish groups.

Dee Yoder said...

I agree, Karen. The market is responding to the sales--the more people buy the bonnet books, the less publishers are willing to print books which reveal truths. This is a group of people who need help and prayer, but many think all the Amish have all the answers. So not true. There are people with dark hearts in the Amish, too.

Alice J. Wisler said...

Thanks for your post, Dee.

I am still confused as to why Christians elevate the Amish, even to the point of using the Amish lifestyles as models for godly lives.

Like you, Dee, the more I learn, the more I wonder . . .

~ Alice J. Wisler, author of the EX-Amish novel, STILL LIFE IN SHADOWS

Carol McClain said...

I am surprised, and yet not surprised by this. Because they eschew modern conveniences, doesn't mean they're more moral or righteous than anyone. We have Amish in northeastern NY--it always surprises me to see them smoking or buying junk food in the grocery.

But to have your daughter pregnant so she stays Amish is sad.

Dee Yoder said...

Carol and Alice, you're both right. There is nothing about the Amish that makes them immune from temptation or errors. We truly need to begin looking at them as people first!

Anonymous said...

As my Jewish mother who raised 3 girls would always say " nothing good happens after midnight so make sure you come home before midnight!". When it came time for dating she would say "put a quarter between your knees and don't let it fall to the ground!" Thank God for my Jewish mother.

wron said...

An historical comment: Up to at least the 20th century, it was common in German rural farm communities for a male suitor to have sex with his fiancee before marriage. If she got pregnant, he had to marry her - if not, the possible marriage was questioned. The reason? If the marriage could not produce children, the family ran the risk of losing their farm if the parents could not produce farm workers - their economy would not allow the expense of hiring them. The Amish are above all farmers - perhaps they inherited a similar practice from their Dutch heritage . . .?

Dee Yoder said...

It is possible to have those historical influences still apparent among the Amish because they are all about the "forefathers" and tradition. Unquestioning obedience is the reason given for most things which are seemingly inexplicable and contrary to their "Christian" POV.

david johansen said...

I jioned the Amish , swartzentruber, I was passing out and talking against the bed courtship,started a group of young people that were not doing the preacher's found out, said we have to do it, because is an old custom and tradition do not want to change, I said I will not help with communion until they allowed to do at the Bible teaches, they gave me two weeks to say sorry for having brought the subject up never bring it up again and promise to do as they did, I could not do this I was banned two weeks later. I still like the Amish Way of life and live that way but not bed courtship if I had children I would not want them doing bed courtship is too much of a temptation . we should not put our selves in position like that david.johansen.980@facebook.com

Dee Yoder said...

Thank you for sharing your experience, David. Many other former Amish have felt the same way and have left because of bed courtship.

Linda Maran said...

I read that they started doing bed courtship because it was the only warm place in the house in the late evening. That way they could talk comfortably under the covers fully dressed.

Dee Yoder said...

Linda, in theory that is what even our pioneer ancestors tried (thus the "bundling board" which was supposed to guarantee no monkey shines going on), however, as you can read from the comments posted here, the strict Amish groups have strayed beyond the bundling board concept. If you haven't read Saloma Furlong's book "Why I Left the Amish" you should give it a try. She really shares some thoughts about her days of bed courstship.

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