What Is Dating? So Much More Than What We Think It Is

by Eharmony Editorial Team - December 3, 2021

What is dating? According to Merriam Webster, to date someone means to make a usually romantic social arrangement to meet with them. As can be inferred from the definition, dating is generally considered to be a form of courtship, and consists of social activities performed by the couple, either by themselves, or with others. Although traditions and protocols vary widely across cultures, it’s generally accepted that the end goal is marriage or a serious relationship. And although it can feel that dating has been around forever, especially in the West, it’s actually got a shorter, and more interesting, history than many people realize.

What is dating? a short history of getting together

Surprising but true: The modern meaning of dating only began to take hold in the West in the early 1900s.

Prior to the 20th century, and certainly before the Industrial Revolution, marriage was a business decision, often decided between families, and based on practical matters such as wealth, alliance building, and politics. However, the changing mores brought by the European Renaissance, as well as increasing access to education and wealth brought about by the industrial revolution, gave young people some small degree of freedom when it came to their life partners; the concept of ‘calling on’ a young woman, always in the presence of her parents or some other suitable chaperone, became more widespread. The potential couple could at least talk and get to know each other a little bit before it came time for their parents to decide whether the match was acceptable.

As the 20th century progressed, however, a variety of factors meant that dating became a more common means of finding a partner. Women gained more rights and independence, slowly but surely; at the same time, two world wars and their aftermath led to a seismic shift in the world order, and consequently, a change in how people looked for love. As the world became more equal, people looked to things like compatibility and love while searching for a partner.

Although the 21st century dating scene might seem very different, it still shares a few aspects with its predecessors. Firstly, for many people, the end game is still marriage, or at least a serious relationship. Secondly, while family approval isn’t essential like it used to be, it’s still important for most people that family and friends are happy with the person they’re dating. Of course, the level of family involvement varies deeply, depending on culture and religion; it’s not uncommon, for example, for Muslim or Hindu families to matchmake for their sons and daughters, or for dates to be chaperoned in the more traditional of these families. Additionally, how people date depends on their age and region; people who live in big cities might look for love in local bars or attend events, while people who live in more rural areas might depend on introductions from friends and family. However they choose to do it, the end goal is still the same, however: finding love.

What is dating, practically speaking?

Yes, the dictionary definition of dating – to make a usually romantic arrangement to meet with someone – is there, but it hardly encompasses the question ‘What is the meaning of dating someone?’

Spending time together

The importance of spending time together can’t be understated; that’s how people go from acquaintances to friends or even more, after all. Luckily, unlike couples in the past, singles today can spend time together by themselves either in public or in private. And even if they’re unlucky enough to not be in the same region, there’s always video chat.

Special moments in a relationship

And when people spend time together, magic happens. Inside jokes, special memories, thoughtful gifts – these are some of the small things that strong relationships are made of, and dating gives people the opportunity to create moments like these for the special someone in their life.

Feelings that spark

While you can combine time spent together with doing fun things, what tips the edge over from friendship to dating is that special chemistry. Luckily, modern dating allows us to see if we can share those feelings with someone before there’s any chance of a lifetime commitment.

Why dating is different with eharmony

As more and more people choose to take their search for love to the Internet, they have a plethora of online dating options to choose from. What makes eharmony different?

First and most importantly, we’re here for real love. Our core mission, and our raison d’etre, is to help everyone find deep connections and lasting relationships. And we do mean everyone – our ever-increasing member dating pool includes adults of all ethnicities, ages, orientations and backgrounds. Our unique Compatibility Matching System takes the guesswork out of figuring out which of the many, many people on our site you might have a strong connection with right from the start, while our range of communication tools help you make and strengthen that connection. And our impeccable customer service team will be there to help you with every step of your journey with us.

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Discover the true meaning of dating with eharmony

The answer to ‘what is dating?’ might be simple, but the same can’t be said of the process. That said, dating can – and should – be a delightful adventure, one that’s filled with pleasant surprises and unexpected connections. Eharmony takes much of the guesswork out of dating, leaving you free to spend your time and energy on things other than the definition of dating – like actually going on dates! So sign up for eharmony and get started on your dating journey today.

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