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Dating is a stage of romantic relationships in humans whereby two people meet socially, possibly as friends or with the aim of each assessing the other's suitability as a prospective partner in a more committed intimate relationship or marriage.
It can be a form of courtship that consists of social activities done by the couple. The protocols and practices of dating, and the terms used to describe it, vary considerably from country to country and over time. While the term has several meanings, the most frequent usage refers to two people exploring whether they are romantically or sexually compatible by participating in dates with the other. With the use of modern technology, people can date via telephone or computer or meet in person.
This term may also refer to two or more people who have already decided they share romantic or sexual feelings toward each other. These people will have dates on a regular basis, and they may or may not be having sexual relations.
This period of courtship is sometimes seen as a precursor to engagement or marriage. Dating as an institution is a relatively recent phenomenon which has mainly emerged in the last few centuries. From the standpoint of anthropology and sociology , dating is linked with other institutions such as marriage and the family which have also been changing rapidly and which have been subject to many forces, including advances in technology and medicine.
As humans have evolved from hunter-gatherers into civilized societies and more recently into modern societies, there have been substantial changes in the relationship between men and women, with perhaps one of a few remaining biological constants being that both adult women and men must have sexual intercourse for human procreation to happen.
Humans have been compared to other species in terms of sexual behavior. Neurobiologist Robert Sapolsky constructed a reproductive spectrum with opposite poles being tournament species , in which males compete fiercely for reproductive privileges with females, and pair bond arrangements, in which a male and female will bond for life.
However, one particularity of the human species is that pair bonds are often formed without necessarily having the intention of reproduction.
In modern times, emphasis on the institution of marriage, generally described as a male-female bond, has obscured pair bonds formed by same-sex and transsexual couples, and that many heterosexual couples also bond for life without offspring, or that often pairs that do have offspring separate. Thus, the concept of marriage is changing widely in many countries. Historically, marriages in most societies were arranged by parents and older relatives with the goal not being love but legacy and "economic stability and political alliances", according to anthropologists.
While pair-bonds of varying forms were recognized by most societies as acceptable social arrangements, marriage was reserved for heterosexual pairings and had a transactional nature, where wives were in many cases a form of property being exchanged between father and husband, and who would have to serve the function of reproduction.
Communities exerted pressure on people to form pair-bonds in places such as Europe ; in China , society "demanded people get married before having a sexual relationship"  and many societies found that some formally recognized bond between a man and a woman was the best way of rearing and educating children as well as helping to avoid conflicts and misunderstandings regarding competition for mates.
Generally, during much of recorded history of humans in civilization, and into the Middle Ages in Europe , weddings were seen as business arrangements between families, while romance was something that happened outside of marriage discreetly, such as covert meetings. From about a worldwide movement perhaps described as the "empowerment of the individual" took hold, leading towards greater emancipation of women and equality of individuals.
Men and women became more equal politically, financially, and socially in many nations. Women eventually won the right to vote in many countries and own property and receive equal treatment by the law , and these changes had profound impacts on the relationships between men and women.
In many societies, individuals could decide—on their own—whether they should marry, whom they should marry, and when they should marry. A few centuries ago, dating was sometimes described as a "courtship ritual where young women entertained gentleman callers, usually in the home, under the watchful eye of a chaperone ,"  but increasingly, in many Western countries, it became a self-initiated activity with two young people going out as a couple in public together.
Still, dating varies considerably by nation, custom, religious upbringing, technology, and social class, and important exceptions with regards to individual freedoms remain as many countries today still practice arranged marriages, request dowries, and forbid same-sex pairings.
Although in many countries, movies, meals, and meeting in coffeehouses and other places is now popular, as are advice books suggesting various strategies for men and women,  in other parts of the world, such as in South Asia and many parts of the Middle East, being alone in public as a couple with another person is not only frowned upon but can even lead to either person being socially ostracized.
In the twentieth century, dating was sometimes seen as a precursor to marriage but it could also be considered as an end-in-itself, that is, an informal social activity akin to friendship. It generally happened in that portion of a person's life before the age of marriage,  but as marriage became less permanent with the advent of divorce , dating could happen at other times in peoples lives as well. People became more mobile. Cars extended the range of dating as well as enabled back-seat sexual exploration.
In the mid-twentieth century, the advent of birth control as well as safer procedures for abortion changed the equation considerably, and there was less pressure to marry as a means for satisfying sexual urges. New types of relationships formed; it was possible for people to live together without marrying and without children.
Information about human sexuality grew, and with it an acceptance of all types of sexual orientations is becoming more common. Today, the institution of dating continues to evolve at a rapid rate with new possibilities and choices opening up particularly through online dating. Social rules regarding dating vary considerably according to variables such as country, social class, religion, age, sexual orientation and gender.
Behavior patterns are generally unwritten and constantly changing. There are considerable differences between social and personal values. Each culture has particular patterns which determine such choices as whether the man asks the woman out, where people might meet, whether kissing is acceptable on a first date, the substance of conversation, who should pay for meals or entertainment,   or whether splitting expenses is allowed.
Among the Karen people in Burma and Thailand , women are expected to write love poetry and give gifts to win over the man. For example, director Blake Edwards wanted to date singing star Julie Andrews , and he joked in parties about her persona by saying that her "endlessly cheerful governess" image from movies such as Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music gave her the image of possibly having "lilacs for pubic hair";  Andrews appreciated his humor, sent him lilacs, dated him and later married him, and the couple stayed together for 41 years until his death in While the term dating has many meanings, the most common refers to a trial period in which two people explore whether to take the relationship further towards a more permanent relationship; in this sense, dating refers to the time when people are physically together in public as opposed to the earlier time period in which people are arranging the date, perhaps by corresponding by email or text or phone.
If two unmarried celebrities are seen in public together, they are often described as "dating" which means they were seen in public together, and it is not clear whether they are merely friends, exploring a more intimate relationship, or are romantically involved.
A related sense of the term is when two people have been out in public only a few times but have not yet committed to a relationship; in this sense, dating describes an initial trial period and can be contrasted with "being in a committed relationship". Often physical characteristics, personality, financial status, and other aspects of the involved persons are judged and, as a result, feelings can be hurt and confidence shaken.
Because of the uncertainty of the whole situation, the desire to be acceptable to the other person, and the possibility of rejection, dating can be very stressful for all parties involved.
Some studies have shown that dating tends to be extremely difficult for people with social anxiety disorder. While some of what happens on a date is guided by an understanding of basic, unspoken rules, there is considerable room to experiment, and there are numerous sources of advice available. There are now more than businesses worldwide that offer dating coach services—with almost of those operating in the U. The copulatory gaze, looking lengthily at a new possible partner, brings you straight into a sparring scenario; you will stare for two to three seconds when you first spy each other, then look down or away before bringing your eyes in sync again.
This may be combined with displacement gestures, small repetitive fiddles that signal a desire to speed things up and make contact.
When approaching a stranger you want to impress, exude confidence in your stance, even if you're on edge. Pull up to your full height in a subtle chest-thrust pose, which arches your back, puffs out your upper body and pushes out your buttocks.
Roll your shoulders back and down and relax your facial expression. There are numerous ways to meet potential dates, including blind dates, classified ads, dating websites, hobbies, holidays, office romance, social networking, speed dating, and others. A Pew study in which examined Internet users in long-term relationships including marriage, found that many met by contacts at work or at school.
There is a general perception that men and women approach dating differently, hence the reason why advice for each sex varies greatly, particularly when dispensed by popular magazines. For example, it is a common belief that heterosexual men often seek women based on beauty and youth. All of these are examples of gender stereotypes which plague dating discourse and shape individuals' and societies' expectations of how heterosexual relationships should be navigated.
In addition to the deterimental effects of upholding limited views of relationships and sexual and romantic desires, stereotypes also lead to framing social problems in a problematic way.
For example, some have noted that educated women in many countries including Italy and Russia and the United States find it difficult to have a career as well as raise a family, prompting a number of writers to suggest how women should approach dating and how to time their careers and personal life.
Yet the advice comes with the assumption that the work-life balance is inherently a "woman's problem". In many societies there is a view that women should fulfill the role of primary caregivers, with little to no spousal support and with few services by employers or government such as parental leave or child care.
Accordingly, an issue regarding dating is the subject of career timing which generates controversy. Some views reflect a traditional notion of gender roles.
For example, Danielle Crittenden in What Our Mothers Didn't Tell Us argued that having both a career and family at the same time was taxing and stressful for a woman; as a result, she suggested that women should date in their early twenties with a seriousness of purpose, marry when their relative beauty permitted them to find a reliable partner, have children, then return to work in their early thirties with kids in school; Crittenden acknowledged that splitting a career path with a ten-year baby-raising hiatus posed difficulties.
Columnist Maureen Dowd quoted comedian Bill Maher on the subject of differing dating agendas between men and women: It is increasingly common today, however, with new generations and in a growing number of countries, to frame the work-life balance issue as a social problem rather than a gender problem. With the advent of a changing workplace, the increased participation of women in the labor force , an increasing number of men who are picking up their share of parenting and housework,  and more and more governments and industries committing themselves to achieving gender equality, the question of whether or not, or when to start a family is slowly being recognized as an issue that touches or should touch both genders.
The prospect of love often entails anxiety, sometimes with a fear of commitment, particularly for men,  and a fear of intimacy for persons of both sexes. There's something wonderful, I think, about taking chances on love and sex. Going out on a limb can be roller-coaster scary because none of us want to be rejected or to have our heart broken.
But so what if that happens? I, for one, would rather fall flat on my face as I serenade my partner off-key and all in a bikini and a short little pool skirt than sit on the edge of the pool, dipping my toes in silence. One dating adviser agreed that love is risky, and wrote that "There is truly only one real danger that we must concern ourselves with and that is closing our hearts to the possibility that love exists.
What happens in the dating world can reflect larger currents within popular culture. For example, when the book The Rules appeared, it touched off media controversy about how men and women should relate to each other, with different positions taken by New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd  and British writer Kira Cochrane of The Guardian.
Since people dating often do not know each other well, there is the risk of violence , including date rape. Sara McCorquodale suggests that women meeting strangers on dates meet initially in busy public places, share details of upcoming dates with friends or family so they know where they'll be and who they'll be with, avoid revealing one's surname or address, and conducting searches on them on the Internet prior to the date.
Don't leave drinks unattended; have an exit plan if things go badly; and ask a friend to call you on your cell phone an hour into the date to ask how it's going. If you explain beautifully, a woman does not look to see whether you are handsome or not -- but listens more, so you can win her heart. That is why I advise our boys to read stories and watch movies more and to learn more beautiful phrases to tell girls.
The Internet is shaping the way new generations date. Facebook , Skype , Whatsapp , and other applications have made remote connections possible. Particularly for the LGBTI community, where the dating pool can be more difficult to navigate because of discrimination and having a 'minority' status in society, online dating tools are an alternate way to meet potential dates. Dating customs and habits vary considerably throughout the world.
The average duration of courtship before proceeding to engagement or marriage varies considerably throughout the world. One Ethiopian writer described a couple, when dating, as happy, at parties and movies and recreation centers and swimming pools, while they appeared to be less so after being married; still the writer thought marriage was the "lesser of two evils" when compared with the single life. Finding a wife is not easy for a Nyangatom boy.
He has to build his own house, store lots of tobacco and dry coffee leaves for the girl's parents and have many cows and goats. If the girl is from a wealthy family the dowry given to her parents is worth about to cows, about 1, sheep or goats, five camels and three rifles. Asia is a mix of traditional approaches with involvement by parents and extended families such as arranged marriages as well as modern dating.
Patterns of dating are changing in China, with increased modernization bumping into traditional ways. One report in China Daily suggests that dating for Chinese university women is "difficult" and "takes work" and steals time away from academic advancement, and places women in a precarious position of having to balance personal success against traditional Chinese relationships. But in China, we study together.
Like other women in my social circle, I have certain demands for a potential mate. He doesn't have to make much more than I do, but he must be doing at least as well as I am, and has to be compatible with me, both morally and spiritually He should also own an apartment instead of us buying one together. Remember what Virginia Wolf [ sic ] said?