Dating – Then and Now

Turn to Page 3 or the gossip column of any newspaper or daily and there is bound to be an interesting news item of an impending engagement of a celebrity or at the very least some gossip about ‘who’s dating whom!’

Dating or the social practice of a couple being seen in public at social gatherings and events has been in place ever since humans became a civilized society of people. It is the precursor to ‘sexual selection of a partner’; much like how other species find partners or mates.

The term dating has several connotations; most commonly it is two people giving the relationship time to settle and exploring possibilities of compatibility towards a long-term relationship. Dating need not always end in a marriage. In several parts of the world, couples date many partners without the thought of marriage involved, often having sexual relations with their partners.

However, a couple that is dating does so with the intention of assessing their suitability to each other to take the relationship and culminate it in marriage. It is the accepted norm and one which has the approval of parents and elders on both sides. The period of dating is known as courtship which leads to an engagement and possibly, marriage.

A few centuries ago, men and women were allowed to date but only with some member of the family being present; this was seen more as an occasion for members of the opposite gender to meet each other socially rather than in a personal or romantic situation. In western society of previous centuries dating was dictated and sometimes arranged strictly by family status, financial standing and social upbringing. Garden parties, literature readings and art shows were events where couples could meet and interact socially with family and friends often around. We can possibly relate them to modern-day school proms. As time went by, society’s norms also changed and individuals became more outgoing and independent and in control of the choices they made.

In modern society, dating establishes the ritual of a man and woman being paired with each other in a relationship which invites less competition unlike the olden days where there were many suitors for one woman and it usually fell to a ritual or sport for the victor to ‘claim the hand of the maiden’. The social rules and accepted norms regarding dating vary from country to country; there are no written laws and patterns are constantly changing. Every world culture has considerable variations in personal and social values – in some cultures, the man takes the initiative of asking a woman out on a date, in many cultures a couple dating cannot kiss or have sexual relations before marriage. Modern dating sees men and women as equal partners and very often expenses while dating such as food and entertainment are shared by the couple.