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Dating is a form of courtship consisting of social activities done by two people with the aim of each assessing the other's suitability as a partner in an intimate relationship or as a spouse. While the term has several meanings, it usually refers to the act of meeting and engaging in some mutually agreed upon social activity in public, together, as a couple.
The protocols and practices of dating, and the terms used to describe it, vary considerably from country to country. The most common idea is two people trying out a relationship and exploring whether they are compatible by going out together in public as a couple who may or may not yet be having sexual relations. This period of courtship is sometimes seen as a precursor to engagement or marriage.
The near total inability to date for long periods of time is sometimes called love-shyness.
From the perspective of the history of humans in civilization, 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 the 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 the only biological constant 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. According to Sapolsky, humans are somewhat in the middle of this spectrum, in the sense that humans form pair bonds, but there is the possibility of cheating or changing partners. These species-particular behavior patterns provide a context for aspects of human reproduction, including dating. 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 the fact 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 though, in most societies, and during much of human history, marriages were arranged by parents and older relatives with the goal not being love but legacy and "economic stability and political alliances," according to anthropologists. Accordingly, there was little need for a temporary trial period such as dating before any permanent community-recognized union was formed between a man and a woman. 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, according to sociologist Tang Can, 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. The 12th-century book The Art of Courtly Love advised that "True love can have no place between husband and wife." According to one view, clandestine meetings between men and women, generally outside of marriage or before marriage, were the precursors to today's dating.
From about 1700, however, according to professor David Christian of Macquarie University in Australia in a course entitled Big History, a worldwide movement perhaps described as the "empowerment of the individual" took hold, leading to the emancipation of women and the equality of individuals. Men and women became more equal politically, financially, and socially in many nations. Women won the right to vote and own property and receive equal treatment by the law, and these changes had profound impacts on the relationships between men and women. Parental influence declined. In many societies, individuals could decide––on their own––whether they should marry, who 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, 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. Rapidly developing technology played a huge role: new communication technology such as the telephone, Internet and text messaging enabled dates to be arranged without face-to-face contact. 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 having to deal with 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.
And the only rule is that there are no rules.
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. Since dating can be a stressful situation, there is the possibility of humor to try to reduce tensions. 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.
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. Another meaning of the term dating is to describe a stage in a person's life when he or she is actively pursuing romantic relationships with different people. 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.
One of the main purposes of dating is for two or more people to evaluate one another’s suitability as a long term companion or spouse. 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.
While some of what happens on a date is guided by an understanding of basic rules, there is considerable room to experiment, and there are numerous sources of advice available.  Sources of advice include magazine articles, self-help books, dating coaches, friends, and many other sources. And the advice given can pertain to all facets of dating, including such aspects as where to go, what to say, what not to say, what to wear, how to end a date, how to flirt, and differing approaches regarding first dates versus subsequent dates. In addition, advice can apply to periods before a date, such as how to meet prospective partners, as well as after a date, such as how to break off a relationship.
There are now more than 500 businesses worldwide that offer dating coach services—with almost 350 of those operating in the U.S. And the number of these businesses has surged since 2005 Frequency of dating varies by person and situation; among singles actively seeking partners, 36% had been on no dates in the past three months, 13% had one date, 22% had two to four dates and 25% had five or more dates, according to a 2005 U.S. survey. Traumatic events can sometimes cause people to start dating; for example, two passengers aboard US Airways Flight 1549, which crashed in the Hudson River but without loss of life, began dating afterwards.
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.—Judi James in The Guardian, 
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 2005 which examined Internet users in long-term relationships including marriage, found that many met by contacts at work or at school. The survey found that 55% of relationship-seeking singles agreed that it was "difficult to meet people where they live." One writer suggested that meeting possible partners was easier in pedestrian-oriented cities such as Berlin or Barcelona rather than Los Angeles since there were more chances for face-to-face contact. Work is a common place to meet potential spouses, although there are some indications that the Internet is overtaking the workplace as an introduction venue. Some couples met because they lived in the same building and shared a common bathroom. Hobbies can be an informal way for people to meet. In Britain, one in five marry a co-worker, but half of all workplace romances end within three months. In India, there are incidents of people meeting future spouses in the workplace. One drawback of office dating is that a bad date can lead to "workplace awkwardness."
There is 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. Psychology researchers at the University of Michigan suggested that men prefer women who seem to be "malleable and awed", and prefer younger women with subordinate jobs such as secretaries and assistants and fact-checkers rather than executive-type women. Online dating patterns suggest that men are more likely to initiate online exchanges (over 75%) and extrapolate that men are less "choosy", seek younger women, and "cast a wide net". In a similar vein, the stereotype for heterosexual women is that they seek well-educated men who are their age or older with high-paying jobs. Evolutionary psychology suggests that "women are the choosier of the genders" since "reproduction is a much larger investment for women" who have "more to lose by making bad choices."
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 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". Many societies women still believe that women should fulfill the role of primary caregivers, and thus they count with little to no spousal support in parenting, nor services provided by employers or government such as parental leave or child care. Hence the problem of career timing. Many women have written on the subject, and some writer's opinions harken back to a very traditional notion of gender roles, such the ones expressed by writer Danielle Crittenden in her book What Our Mothers Didn't Tell Us where she argued that having both a career and family was taxing and stressful for women, and she made a case that the ideal path for women was to marry early in their twenties when their relative beauty permitted them to find a solid marriage bargain and choose from a large pool of available men, have children, and return to the work world when they were in their early thirties with kids in school. Another writer, Crittenden, agrees splitting up the career path with a ten-year baby-raising hiatus poses difficulties as well. Columnist Maureen Dowd quoted comedian Bill Maher on the subject of differing dating agendas between men and women: "Women get in relationships because they want somebody to talk to -- men want women to shut up."
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 acheiving 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.
If there is any aspect of dating which is common for both sexes, then perhaps the idea of being in love can be scary; one said "being really intimate with someone in a committed sense is kind of threatening" and described love as "the most terrifying thing." In her Psychology Today column, research scientist, sex columnist and book author Debby Herbenick compared it to a roller coaster:
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 1995 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. and others. It has even caused anthropologists such as Helen Fisher to suggest that dating is a game designed to "impress and capture" which is not about "honesty" but "novelty", "excitement" and even "danger", which can boost dopamine levels in the brain. The subject of dating has spun off popular culture terms such as the friend zone which refers to a situation in which a dating relation evolves into a platonic non-sexual union.
Since people dating often don't know each other well, there's the risk of violence, including date rape. According to one report, there was a 10% chance of violence between students happening between a boyfriend and girlfriend, sometimes described as "intimate partner violence", over a 12–month period. Another estimate was that 20% of U.S. high school girls aged 14–18 were "hit, slapped, shoved or forced into sexual activity". There is evidence that violence while dating isn't limited to any one culture or group or religion, but that it remains an issue in different countries. It is usually the female who is the victim, but there have been cases where males have been hurt as well. 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. One advisor suggested: 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. In some regions of the world, such as Chechnya, bride-stealing is fairly common, enough to provoke leader Ramzan Kadyrov to urge young men to use persuasion instead. Kadyrov advised:
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.—Ramzan Kadyrov, 2010, 
The internet and several websites are shaping the way new generations date. Facebook, Skype, Whatsapp, and other applications like Lulu and Grindr 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. New software applications such as Grindr has also provided a means for gays to meet with other gays in close proximity.
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. Marriages link families in Ethiopia since the dowry paid by the family of the bride is often significant financially. According to one source, there are four ways that marriage can happen in Ethiopia: (1) arranged marriage, when well-respected elders are sent to the girl's family on behalf of the boy's family; (2) courtship or dating after a friendly meeting between boy and girl such as at a market place or holiday where there's dancing; (3) abduction, such as during a blood feud between families; (4) inheritance.
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 200 to 500 cows, about 1,000 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. In many cultural traditions, including some in South Asia, and the Middle East and to some extent East Asia, as in the case of Omiai in Japan and the similar "Xiangqin" (相親) practiced in the Greater China Area, a date may be arranged by a third party, who may be a family member, acquaintance, or professional matchmaker.
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. Women have high standards for men they seek, but also worry that their academic credentials may "scare away more traditional Chinese men." It is difficult finding places to have privacy, since many dormitory rooms have eight or more pupils in one suite. And dating in restaurants can be expensive. One commentator noted: "American couples drink and dance together. But in China, we study together." Professional single women can choose to wait:
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? Every woman should have a room of her own.—Wei Liu, 45, single, broadcaster, in 2005, 
The game show If You Are the One, titled after Chinese personal ads, featured provocative contestants making sexual allusions and the show reportedly ran afoul of authorities and had to change its approach. The two-host format involves a panel of 24 single women questioning a man to decide if he'll remain on the show; if he survives, he can choose a girl to date; the show gained notoriety for controversial remarks and opinions such as model Ma Nuo saying she'd prefer to "weep in a BMW than laugh on a bike", who was later banned from making appearances.
A new format of Internet "QQ" chat rooms is gaining ground against so-called "traditional dating agencies" in Changsha (Hunan Province); the QQ rooms have 20,000 members, and service is much less expensive than dating agencies which can charge 100 to 200 yuan ($13 to $26 USD) per introduction. Internet dating, with computer-assisted matchmaking, is becoming more prevalent; one site supposedly has 23 million registered users. Speed dating has come to Shanghai and other cities. Worldwide online matchmakers have explored entering the Chinese market via partnerships or acquisitions.
There are conflicting reports about dating in China's capital city. One account suggests that the dating scene in Beijing is "sad" with particular difficulties for expatriate Chinese women hoping to find romance. One explanation was that there are more native Chinese women, who seem to be preferred by Chinese men, and that expat women are seen as "foreigners" by comparison. According to the 2006 report, expat Chinese men have better luck in the Beijing dating scene. A different report, however, suggested that Chinese men preferred Western women who they consider to be more independent, less girlish, and more straightforward than Chinese women. Another account suggested that western women in Beijing seem invisible and have trouble attracting Chinese men.
Each year November 11 has become an unofficial holiday known as China's Singles' Day when singles are encouraged to make an extra effort to find a partner. Worried parents of unmarried children often arrange dates for their offspring on this day as well as others. Before the day approaches, thousands of college students and young workers post messages describing their plans for this day. Why November 11? In Arabic numerals, the day looks like "1111", that is, "like four single people standing together," and there was speculation that it originated in the late 1990s when college students celebrated being single with "a little self-mockery" but a differing explanation dates it back to events in the Roman Empire. For many, Singles' Day offers people a way to "demonstrate their stance on love and marriage.
There is concern that young people's views of marriage have changed because of economic opportunities, with many choosing deliberately not to get married, as well as young marrieds who have decided not to have children, or to postpone having them. Cohabiting relationships are tolerated more often. Communities where people live but don't know each other well are becoming more common in China like elsewhere, leading to fewer opportunities to meet somebody locally without assistance. Divorce rates are rising in cities such as Shanghai which recorded 27,376 divorces in 2004, an increase of 30% from 2003.
A government-sponsored agency called Shanghai Women's Activities Centre (Chinese: Jinguoyuan) organized periodic matchmaking events often attended by parents.
Chinese-style flirtatiousness is termed sajiao, best described as "to unleash coquettishness" with feminine voice, tender gestures, and girlish protestations. Chinese women expect to be taken care of (zhaogu) by men like a baby girl is doted on by an attentive and admiring father. They wish to be almost "spoiled" (guan) by a man buying gifts, entertainment, and other indulgences. It's a positive sign of heartache (xinteng) when a man feels compelled to do "small caring things" for a woman without being asked such as pouring a glass of water or offering a "piggyback ride if she's tired." These are signs of love and accepted romantic notions in China, according to one source.
Romantic love is more difficult during times of financial stress, and economic forces can encourage singles, particularly women, to select a partner primarily on financial considerations. Some men postpone marriage until their financial position is more secure and use wealth to help attract women. One trend is towards exclusive matchmaking events for the 'rich and powerful'; for example, an annual June event in Wuhan with expensive entry-ticket prices for men (99,999 RMB) lets financially secure men choose so-called bikini brides based on their beauty and education, and the financial exclusivity of the event was criticized by the official news outlet China Daily.
A brave lover in Beijing must be prepared to accept a paradigm shift to enjoy the cross-cultural dating experience.—
There was a report that sexual relations among middle schoolers in Guangzhou sometimes resulted in abortions which, according to a report in China Daily, resulted in greater statistical chances of subsequent sterility. There have been reports of scams involving get-rich-quick schemes; a forty-year-old migrant worker was one of a thousand seduced by an advertisement which read "Rich woman willing to pay 3 million yuan for sperm donor" but the worker was cheated out of his savings of 190,000 yuan (27,500 USD).
Indian dating is heavily influenced by the custom of arranged marriages which require little dating, although there are indications that the institution is undergoing change, and that love marriages are becoming more accepted as India becomes more intertwined with the rest of the world.
The majority of Indian marriages are arranged by parents and relatives, and one estimate is that 9 of every 10 marriages are arranged. Sometimes the bride and groom don't meet until the wedding, and there is no courtship or wooing before the joining. In the past, it meant that couples were chosen from the same caste and religion and economic status. There is widespread support for arranged marriages generally. Writer Lavina Melwani described a happy marriage which had been arranged by the bride's father, and noted that during the engagement, the woman was allowed to go out with him before they were married on only one occasion; the couple married and found happiness. Supporters of arranged marriage suggest that there is a risk of having the marriage fall apart whether it was arranged by relatives or by the couple themselves, and that what's important is not how the marriage came to be but what the couple does after being married. Parents and relatives exert considerable influence, sometimes posting matrimonial ads in newspapers and online. Customs encourage families to put people together, and discourage sexual experimentation as well as so-called serial courtship in which a prospective bride or groom dates but continually rejects possible partners, since the interests of the family are seen as more important than the romantic needs of the people marrying. Indian writers, such as Mistry in his book Family Matters, sometimes depict arranged marriages as unhappy. Writer Sarita Sarvate of India Currents thinks people calculate their "value" on the "Indian marriage market" according to measures such as family status, and that arranged marriages typically united spouses who often didn't love each other. She suggested love was out of place in this world because it risked passion and "sordid" sexual liaisons. Love, as she sees it, is "Waking up in the morning and thinking about someone." Writer Jennifer Marshall described the wife in an arranged marriage as living in a world of solitude without much happiness, and feeling pressured by relatives to conceive a son so she wouldn't be considered as "barren" by her husband's family; in this sense, the arranged marriage didn't bring "love, happiness, and companionship." Writer Vijaysree Venkatraman believes arranged marriages are unlikely to disappear soon, commenting in his book review of Shoba Narayan's Monsoon Diary which has a detailed description of the steps involved in a present day arranged marriage. There are indications that even the institution of arranged marriages is changing, with marriages increasingly being arranged by "unknown, unfamiliar sources" and less based on local families who know each other. Writer Lavina Melwani in Little India compared Indian marriages to business deals:
Until recently, Indian marriages had all the trappings of a business transaction involving two deal-making families, a hardboiled matchmaker and a vocal board of shareholders - concerned uncles and aunts. The couple was almost incidental to the deal. They just dressed and showed up for the wedding ceremony. And after that the onus was on them to adjust to the 1,001 relatives, get to know each other and make the marriage work.—Lavina Melwani, 
Relationships in which dating is undertaken by two people, who choose their dates without parental involvement and sometimes carry on clandestine get-togethers, has become increasingly common. When this leads to a wedding, the resulting unions are sometimes called love marriages. There are increasing incidences when couples initiate contact on their own, particularly if they live in a foreign country; in one case, a couple met surreptitiously over a game of cards. Indians who move abroad to Britain or America often follow the cultural patterns of their new country: for example, one Indian woman met a white American man while skiing, and married him, and the formerly "all-important relatives" were reduced to bystanders trying to influence things ineffectively. Factors operating worldwide, such as increased affluence, the need for longer education, and greater mobility have lessened the appeal for arranged marriages, and these trends have affected criteria about which possible partners are acceptable, making it more likely that pairings will cross previously impenetrable barriers such as caste or ethnic background. Indian-Americans in the U.S. sometimes participate in Singles Meets organized by websites which happen about once a month, with 100 participants at each event; an organizer did not have firm statistics about the success rate leading to a long-term relationship but estimated about one in every ten members finds a partner through the site.
Dating websites are gaining ground in India. Writer Rupa Dev preferred websites which emphasized authenticity and screened people before entering their names into their databases, making it a safer environment overall, so that site users can have greater trust that it's safe to date others on the site. Dev suggested that dating websites were much better than the anonymous chatrooms of the 1990s.
During the interval before marriage, whether it's an arranged or a love marriage, private detectives have been hired to check up on a prospective bride or groom, or to verify claims about a potential spouse made in newspaper advertising, and there are reports that such snooping is increasing. Detectives investigate former amorous relationships and can include fellow college students, former police officers skilled in investigations, and medical workers "with access to health records."
Transsexuals and eunuchs have begun using Internet dating in some states in India.
The practice of dating runs against some religious traditions, and the radical Hindu group Sri Ram Sena threatened to "force unwed couples" to marry, if they were discovered dating on Valentine's Day; a fundamentalist leader said "drinking and dancing in bars and celebrating this day has nothing to do with Hindu traditions." The threat sparked a protest via the Internet which resulted in cartloads of pink panties being sent to the fundamentalist leader's office.
There is a type of courtship called Omiai in which parents hire a matchmaker to give resumes and pictures to potential mates for their approval, leading to a formal meeting with parents and matchmaker attending. If the couple has a few dates, they're often pressured by the matchmaker and parents to decide whether or not to marry. There are reports of men falling in "love" with digital simulations of women from video games, manga, and anime; one 27-year-old man known by the handle of "Sal 9000" staged a wedding in 2009, watched by thousands online, in which he married his waifu named "Nene Anegasaki".
Marriages and courtship in Pakistan are influenced by traditional cultural practices similar to those elsewhere in the Indian subcontinent as well as Muslim norms and manners. Illegitimate relationships before marriage are considered a social taboo and social interaction between unmarried men and women is encouraged at a modest and healthy level. Couples are usually wedded through either an arranged marriage or love marriage. Love marriages are those in which the individuals have chosen a partner whom they like by their own choice prior to marriage, and usually occur with the consent of parents and family. Arranged marriages on the other hand are marriages which are set and agreed by the families or guardians of the two individuals where the couple may not have met before. In either cases and in consistency with traditional marital practices, individuals who marry are persuaded to meet and talk to each other for some time before considering marrying so that they can check their compatibility.
Singapore's largest dating service, SDU, Social Development Unit, is a government-run dating system. The original SDU, which controversially promoted marriages among university graduate singles, no longer exists today. On 28 January 2009, it was merged with SDS [Social Development Services], which just as controversially promoted marriages among non-graduate singles. The merged unit, SDN Social Development Network seeks to promote meaningful relationships, with marriage touted as a top life goal, among all resident [Singapore] singles within a conducive network environment of singles, relevant commercial and public entities.
|Hopeful they'll find a relationship||37%|
|Have no clear idea how to approach someone who interested them||90%|
|"Changes of heart" and "cheating" cause breakups||60%|
|Willing to resume relationship if problems are resolved||31%|
|Having more than one relationship at a time isn't good||70%|
|Women who won't enter a relationship if man lives too far away||70%|
|Women who believe height in men matters||96%|
|....source: China Daily|
One report suggested that in southern Taiwan, "traditional rules of courtship" still apply despite the influence of popular culture; for example, men continue to take the initiative in forming relationships. A poll in 2009 of students at high schools and vocational schools found that over 90% admitted that they had "no clear idea of how to approach someone of the opposite sex who interested them". What caused relationships to break up? 60% said "changes of heart" or "cheating". Dating more than one person at a time was not permissible, agreed 70%.
In Britain, the term dating bears similarity to the American sense of the tentative exploratory part of a relationship. If two people are going out together, it may mean they're dating but that their relationship has advanced to a relatively long-standing and sexual boyfriend-girlfriend relationship although they're not cohabitating. Although Britons are familiar with the term dating, the rituals surrounding courtship are somewhat different from those commonly found in North America. Writer Kira Cochrane advises daters to "get out there and meet people" while noting a trend of temporary suspension of marriage until an individual reaches his or her thirties. She sees a trend for developing new ways of meeting people. In contrast, writer Bibi van der Zee found dating etiquette rules to be helpful, and found that supposedly liberated advice such as "just be yourself" to be the "most useless advice in history." She expresses frustration following fruitless sexual relationships, and that her mid twenties saw dating relationships with partners who were less willing to return phone calls or display interest in long-term commitment. She felt "clueless and unwanted", she wrote, and found advice books such as The Rules helpful. British writer Henry Castiglione signed up for a "weekend flirting course" and found the experience helpful; he was advised to talk to and smile at everyone he met. Emailing back-and-forth, after meeting on a dating website, is one way to get to know people in Britain, and elsewhere. In the U.K., one estimate is that 15 million people are single, and half of these are seeking a long-term relationship; three-quarters of them have not been in a relationship for more than 18 months. In a twelve-month period, the average number of dates that a single person will have is four. When dating, 43% of people google their dates ahead of time. Almost five million Britons visited a dating website in the past twelve months. A third admitting to lying on their profile. A fifth of married individuals between 19 and 25 met their spouse online, according to one estimate. One poll in 2009 of 3,000 couples suggested that the average duration of their courtship period, between first meeting to the acceptance of a marriage proposal, was three years.
A speed dating event at a hotel in Cerizay was "open to anyone aged 20 and above and starts at 20.00 with a light buffet and apéritif, price €15," and required reservations. One Internet dating site will "allow people to share their single friends in the same way they share files."
While analysts such as Harald Martenstein and others suggest that it is easier for persons to initiate contact in America, many Germans view the American dating habits as "unspontaneous", "ridiculous" and "rigid". Countries such as Germany, Switzerland and Austria allow for first contacts during seasonal festivals like carnival and festivals and funfairs like the Oktoberfest. In addition, municipal and local festivals like the love parade and others allow unattached men and women to meet and flirt.
Membership in voluntary associations is relatively high in German-speaking countries and these provide further chances for possible partners to meet. Strolling on Esplanadess and Promenade walkways such as the one in Hamburg called the Jungfernstieg (maidens way), have been another venue for introductions as early as the 19th century. Analyst Geoffrey Gorer described dating as an American idiosyncracy focusing on youth of college age and expressed in activities such as American proms. In contrast German speaking countries and the longstanding musical tradition there provide ample opportunity of persons of varying ages enjoying social dances, such as the Vienna Opera Ball and other occasions.
Romantic encounters are often described with French terms like rendezvous or tête-à-tête. The German term of Stelldichein (as translated by Joachim Heinrich Campes) is used to signify dating when the age of consent to marriage was relatively high. German traditions to signify lovers who met in hiding were described with terms like Fensterln (windowing) or Kiltgang (dawn stroll) used in Bavaria and Switzerland. Analyst Sebastian Heinzel sees a major cultural divide between American dating habits and European informality, and leads to instances in which European expatriates in cities such as New York keep to themselves.
One report suggested Spanish women were the "greatest flirts", based on an unofficial study by a dating website which ranked countries based on initiations of contact.
In Egypt, like in many parts of the Middle East, sex without marriage is considered unacceptable. Dating in Egypt is predominantly done under family supervision, usually in a public area.
People of different sexes are not allowed to "mix freely" in public. Since 1979, the state has become a religious autocracy, and imposes Islamic edicts on matters such as dating. Clerics run officially sanctioned internet dating agencies with strict rules. Prospective couples can have three meetings: two with strict supervision inside the center, and the third being a "brief encounter on their own"; afterwards, they can either (1) choose to marry or (2) agree to never see each other again. This has become the subject of a film by Iranian filmmaker Leila Lak. Iran has a large population of young people with sixty percent of the 70-million population being under the age of thirty. However, economic hardship discourages marriage, and divorce rates have increased in Tehran to around a quarter of marriages, even though divorce is taboo. While the Iranian government "condemns dating and relationships", it promotes marriage with (1) online courses (2) "courtship classes" where students can "earn a diploma" after sitting through weekly tests and "hundreds of hours of education" (3) "marriage diplomas" (4) matchmaking and arranged marriages. Authorities push a conservative approach and shun unmarried romantic relationships and encourage "traditional match-making". But young people have disobeyed the restrictions; one said "It is wiser to have different relationships" and believed in defying religious rules which suggest "short-term illegitimate relationships harm dignity." Adultery can be punished by death. While youths can flout selected restrictions, there are almost no instances in which unmarried people move in together. There have been efforts to promote Sigheh (temporary marriage).
One report suggests the Lebanese dating game is hampered by "the weight of family demands upon individual choice" and that there were difficulties, particularly for people seeking to marry across religious lines, such as a Christian seeking to marry a Muslim.
One report suggested the United States as well as other western-oriented countries were different from the rest of the world because "love is the reason for mating," as opposed to marriages being arranged to cement economic and class ties between families and promote political stability. Dating, by mutual consent of two single people, is the norm. British writer Kira Cochrane, after moving to the U.S., found herself grappling with the American approach to dating. She wondered why it was acceptable to juggle "10 potential partners" while weighing different attributes; she found American-style dating to be "exhausting and strange." She found dating in America to be "organized in a fairly formal fashion" with men approaching women and asking point blank for a date; she found this to be "awkward." She described the "third date rule" which was that women weren't supposed to have sex until the third date even if they desired it, although men were supposed to try for sex. She wrote: "Dating rules almost always cast the man as aggressor, and the woman as prey, which frankly makes me feel nauseous." Canadian writer Danielle Crittenden, however, chronicling female angst, criticized a tendency not to take dating seriously and suggested that postponing marriage into one's thirties was problematic:
By waiting and waiting and waiting to commit to someone, our capacity for love shrinks and withers. This doesn't mean that women or men should marry the first reasonable person to come along, or someone with whom they are not in love. But we should, at a much earlier age than we do now, take a serious attitude toward dating and begin preparing ourselves to settle down. For it's in the act of taking up the roles we've been taught to avoid or postpone––wife, husband, mother, father––that we build our identities, expand our lives, and achieve the fullness of character we desire.—Danielle Crittenden, 1999, 
There is evidence that couples differ in the pace and timing with which they initiate sex in their relationships. Studies show that approximately 50% of premarital young adult couples become sexually involved within the first month of dating, while 25% initiate sex one to three months after beginning to date and a small proportion of couples wait until marriage before initiating sexual relations.
Teenagers and college-aged students tend to avoid the more formal activity of dating, and prefer casual no-strings-attached experiments sometimes described as hookups. It permits young women to "go out and fit into the social scene, get attention from young men, and learn about sexuality", according to one report by sociologists. The term hookup can describe a wide variety of behavior ranging from kissing to non-genital touching to make-out sessions; according to one report, only about one third of people had sexual intercourse. A contrary report, however, suggested there has been no "sea change" in sexual behavior regarding college students from 1988 onwards, and that the term hookup itself continued to be used to describe a variety of relationships, including merely socializing or passionate kissing as well as sexual intercourse.
Muslims living in the United States can choose whether to use traditional Islamic methods, or date American-style; Muslims choosing to stick to Islamic tradition can "only marry another Muslim", according to one Malaysian account. Mosques have been known to try to bring people together––one in California has a dating service for Muslims.
There are reports that guys are asking out girls for dates by text messaging. A recent study revealed that 50% of Australians agreed it was permissible to request a date via a text message but not acceptable to break up with them this way. Flirting while texting, dubbed flirtext, was more likely to be done by girls after a relationship was started. A survey of newspaper readers suggested it was time to abandon the "old fashioned rule" of men paying for the first date, based on women's greater earning capacity. A dating show on TV features three couples who live under one roof, but who can only have contact in a "specially created dark room", and the show is scheduled to be hosted by Miss Australia model Laura Dundovic.
In Brazil, according to one report, there's a longer time interval before children move out of the house, which affects dating. As a result, parents offer advice about dating although it may not be heeded. Men interested in Brazilian women are advised to befriend them first. Even though Brazilians can be viewed as warm people, they are less likely to "share intimacies" until they are well into the relationship. Different from North America, there is no "multi-dating" in Brazil: that is, when in a relationship, it is assumed that both parties are exclusive to each other.
A report in Psychology Today found that homosexual men were attracted to men in their late teens and early twenties and didn't care much about the status of a prospective partner; rather, physical attractiveness was the key. Gay men, on average, tend to have more sexual partners, while lesbians tended to form steadier one-on-one relationships, and tend to be less promiscuous than heterosexual women. One gay man found dating online difficult, and found that there is an element of deception on dating website profiles just like everywhere else:
Very attractive translates as big-headed ... Average build means a bit paunchy ... 5ft 10 is actually 5ft 7 and a half ... The picture is always taken from the best, most flattering angle ... Black and white photos mean I am pretentious or I've something to hide ... Anyone who writes in text speak or says I heart instead of I like should be avoided ... Ditto for people whose interests include feet.
The deception got worse. When he met his date who he had befriended online who he dubbed Facebook Guy for the first time, he wrote:
Facebook guy arrived on time. Facially, he looked the same as his picture. And his arms were as "worked out" as he promised. But he was lacking in the leg department. Quite literally. Facebook Guy had failed to mention that he had no legs.
People can meet other people on their own or the get-together can be arranged by someone else. Matchmaking is an art based entirely on hunches, since it is impossible to predict with certainty whether two people will like each other or not. "All you should ever try and do is make two people be in the same room at the same time," advised matchmaker Sarah Beeny in 2009, and the only rule is to make sure the people involved want to be set up. One matchmaker advised it was good to match "brains as well as beauty" and try to find people with similar religious and political viewpoints and thinks that like-minded people result in more matches, although acknowledging that opposites sometimes attract. It's easier to put several people together at the same time, so there are other candidates possible if one doesn't work out, according to Hannah Pool. And, after introducing people, don't meddle.
Friends remain an excellent way for people to meet people, according to sociologist Edward Laumann of the University of Chicago, who wrote that "A real person––whatever his relationship to you, be it friend or kinsman or co-worker––is still far and away the most reliable kind of way to meet someone." However, the Internet promises to overtake friends in the future, if present trends continue, according to an article in USA Today. A friend can introduce two people who don't know each other, and the friend may play matchmaker and send them on a blind date. In The Guardian, British writer Hannah Pool was cynical about being set up on a blind date; she was told "basically he's you but in a male form" by the mutual friend. She googled her blind date's name along with the words "wife" and "girlfriend" and "partner" and "boyfriend" to see whether her prospective date was in any kind of relationship or gay; he wasn't any of these things. She met him for coffee in London and she now lives with him, sharing a home and business. When friends introduce two people who don't know each other, it's often called a blind date.
Parents, via their contacts with associates or neighbors or friends, can introduce their children to each other. In India, parents often place matrimonial ads in newspapers or online, and may post the resumes of the prospective bride or groom.
Dating systems can be systematic and organized ways to improve matchmaking by using rules or technology. The meeting can be in-person or live as well as separated by time or space such as by telephone or email or chat-based. The purpose of the meeting is for the two persons to decide whether to go on a date in the future.
(Speed dating is) a fast and comfortable way to meet people. It helps enlarge my social contacts. I don't care if I can't find a girlfriend there. I just want to try my luck, and if she is there, then that will be a big bonus.—Huang Xiao, salesman, age 27, 
Computer dating systems of later 20th century, especially popular in the 1960s and 1970s, before the rise of sophisticated phone and computer systems, gave customers forms that they filled out with important tolerances and preferences, which were "matched by computer" to determine "compatibility" of the two customers. The history of dating systems is closely tied to the history of technologies that support them, although a statistics-based dating service that used data from forms filled out by customers opened in Newark, New Jersey in 1941. The first large-scale computer dating system, The Scientific Marriage Foundation, was established in 1957 by Dr. George W. Crane. In this system, forms that applicants filled out were processed by an early IBM card sorting machine. In the early 1980s in New York City, software developer Gary Robinson developed a now–defunct dating service called 212-Romance which used computer algorithms to match singles romantically, using a voice–mail based interface backed by community-based automated recommendations enhanced by collaborative filtering technologies. Compatibility algorithms and matching software are becoming increasingly sophisticated, according to one report.
Online dating services are becoming increasingly prevalent worldwide. They charge a fee to enable a user to post a profile of himself or herself, perhaps using video or still images as well as descriptive data and personal preferences for dating, such as age range, hobbies, and so forth. One report suggests that online dating businesses are thriving financially, with growth in members, service offerings, membership fees and with many users renewing their accounts, although the overall share of Internet traffic using online dating services in the U.S. has declined somewhat, from 2003 (21% of all Internet users) to 2006 (10%), and that dating sites must work to convince users that they're safe places having quality members, according to Jupiter Research. While online dating has become more accepted, it retains a slight negative stigma, according to one writer. There is widespread evidence that online dating has increased rapidly and is becoming "mainstream" with new websites appearing regularly. One study suggested that 18% of single persons had used the Internet for dating purposes. Reports vary about the effectiveness of dating web sites to result in marriages or long–term relationships. Pew Research, based on a 2005 survey of 3,215 adults, estimated that three million Americans had entered into long-term relationships or marriage as a result of meeting on a dating web site. While sites have touted marriage rates from 10% to 25%, sociologists and marriage researchers are highly skeptical that valid statistics underlie any such claims. The Pew study (see table) suggested the Internet was becoming increasingly prominent and accepted as a way to meet people for dates, although there were cautions about deception, the risk of violence, and some concerns about stigmas. The report suggested most people had positive experiences with online dating websites and felt they were excellent ways to meet more people. The report also said that online daters tend to have more liberal social attitudes compared to the general population. In India, parents sometimes participate in websites designed to match couples. Some online dating sites can organize double dates or group dates. Research from Berkeley suggests there's a dropoff in interest after online daters meet face–to–face. It's a lean medium not offering standard cues such as tone of voice, gestures, and facial expressions. There is substantial data about online dating habits; for example, researchers believe that "the likelihood of a reply to a message sent by one online dater to another drops roughly 0.7 percent with every day that goes by". Psychologist Lindsay Shaw Taylor found that even though people said they'd be willing to date someone of a different race, that people tend to choose dates similar to themselves.
Internet "QQ" chat rooms. This type of dating approach, cheaper than traditional websites and agencies, is gaining ground in China.
|Internet users who've used it romantically||74%|
|Know somebody who found long-term partner via Internet||15%|
|Know someone who's used a dating website||31%|
|Know someone who's gone on a date after visiting a website||26%|
|Agree online dating can be dangerous||66%|
|Don't think online dating is dangerous||25%|
|Believe online dating is for those in "dire straits"||29%|
|Gone on a dating website||10%|
Mystery Date is a board game from the Milton Bradley Company, originally released in 1965 and reissued in 1970, 1999, and in 2005, whose object is to be ready for a date by acquiring three matching color-coded cards to assemble an outfit. The outfit must then match the outfit of the date at the "mystery door". If the player's outfit does not match the date behind the door, the door is closed and play continues. The game has been mentioned, featured, or parodied in several popular films and television shows.
Numerous television reality and game shows, past and current, address dating. For example, the dating game shows The Dating Game first aired in 1965, while more modern shows in that genre include Blind Date, The 5th Wheel, and The Bachelor and its spinoff series, in which a high degree of support and aids are provided to individuals seeking dates. These are described more fully in an article on them alone and in the related article on "reality game shows" that often include or motivate romantic episodes between players. Another category of dating-oriented reality TV shows involves matchmaking, such as Millionaire Matchmaker and Tough Love.
Dating can happen for people in most age groups with the possible exception of children. Teenagers and tweens have been described as dating; according to one report by the CDC, three-quarters of eighth and ninth graders in the United States described themselves as "dating", although it is unclear what is exactly meant by this term.
Young persons are exposed to many in their high schools or secondary schools or college or universities. There is anecdotal evidence that traditional dating—one-on-one public outings—has declined rapidly among the younger generation in the United States in favor of less intimate sexual encounters sometimes known as hookups (slang), described as brief sexual experiences with "no strings attached", although exactly what is meant by the term hookup varies considerably. Dating is being bypassed and is seen as archaic, and relationships are sometimes seen as "greedy" by taking time away from other activities, although exclusive relationships form later. Some college newspapers have decried the lack of dating on campuses after a 2001 study was published, and conservative groups have promoted "traditional" dating. When young people are in school, they have a lot of access to people their own age, and don't need tools such as online websites or dating services. Chinese writer Lao Wai, writing to homeland Chinese about America, considered that the college years were the "golden age of dating" for Americans, when Americans dated more than at any other time in their life. "Once they are way past school, it's harder to find a partner," according to dating coach Evan Marc Katz, who urges singles to go online. There are indications people in their twenties are less focused on marriage but on careers; according to National Public Radio, "marriage is often the last thing on the minds of young people leaving college today."
People over thirty, lacking the recency of a college experience, have better luck online finding partners. Economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett in 2002 found that 55% of 35-year-old career women were childless, while 19% of male corporate executives were, and concluded that "the rule of thumb seems to be that the more successful the woman, the less likely it is she will find a husband or bear a child."
While people tend to date others close to their own age, it's possible for older men to date younger women. In many countries, the older-man-younger-woman arrangement is seen as permissible, sometimes with benefits. It's looked on more positively in the U.S. than in China; older men are described as more knowledgeable sexually and intellectually, supportive, skilled in the ways of women, and financially more secure so there's "no more going Dutch." In China, older men with younger women are more likely to be described as "weird uncles" rather than "silver foxes." One Beijing professor reportedly advised his male students to delay dating:
Research shows that successful men are, on average, older than their spouses by 12 years; exceptional men, by 17 years; and Nobel laureates, well, they can be 54 years older than their mates. Why date now when your ideal wives are still in kindergarten!
A notable example of the older-woman-younger-man is Demi Moore pairing with 15-years her junior Ashton Kutcher. Older women in such relations have recently been described as "cougars", and formerly such relationships were often kept secret or discreet, but there is a report that such relationships are becoming more accepted and increasing.
Since divorce is increasing in many areas, sometimes celebrated with "divorce parties", there is dating advice for the freshly divorced as well, which includes not talking about your ex or your divorce, but focusing on "activities that bring joy to your life." Adviser Claire Rayner in The Guardian suggests calling people from your address book who you haven't been in touch with for years and say "I'd love to get back in contact." Do activities you like doing with like-minded people; if someone seems interesting to you, tell them. It's more acceptable for this group for women to ask men out.