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In this system, dating and marriage were viewed as two very separate entities, with marriage marking the graduation from youth into adulthood.
World War II initiated a paradigm shift that deeply impacted the way American society approached dating.
century, romance had rapidly become the desired method of courtship.
Art and philosophy began to reflect a new world view in which love was prescribed as the ideal foundation for a marriage, even taking precedent over considerations of property.
Additionally, the many legal and social barriers surrounding divorce increased the pressure to ensure that a match was suitable.
Separation was often only granted on grounds of bigamy, impotence, or adultery.
The committed, monogamous label of “going steady” emerged as the ideal relationship, and dating returned to its traditional role as a marital trial.
Consequently, a new concern arose for parents: as young people grew more secure in their committed dating relationships, they became more likely to engage in premarital sexual behaviors. This movement ushered in another paradigm shift; youth rejected the prescribed dating model in favor of a more liberal approach to love and sexuality, and “hookup culture” was born, a shift that emphasizes physical pleasure rather than emotional intimacy.
During the courtship process, it was typical for the intended couples to divulge their perceived character flaws to ensure that a long-term commitment would be logical and feasible.
This ritual may seem overly cautious, but in a society in which the Catholic Church was an incredibly powerful institution that prescribed marriage as an integral part of God’s plan, this was not a decision that could be made lightly.
As the American conception of intimacy evolves, so does society’s approach to dating.
A society’s prescribed method of courtship is incredibly illuminating: As we trace the timeline of dating rituals, we can get a better sense of how Americans throughout time understood love and, by extension, the world.
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Due to this connection with the lower class, the practice was initially mistrusted by parents, but dating quickly replaced calling as the favored model of romance.