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Human mating is the process whereby an individual seeks out another individual with the intention of forming a long-term intimate relationship or marriage, but sometimes for casual relationship or friendship. The human desire for companionship is one of the strongest human drives. It is an innate feature of human nature, and may be related to the sex drive.
The mating process encompasses the social and cultural processes whereby one person may meet another to assess suitability, the courtship process and the process of forming an interpersonal relationship.
Social gatherings are frequently arranged to enable people looking for a partner to meet. Such occasions may be parties of all types and social dances. Sometimes attendance at churches or similar venues would also act as occasions for people to meet. Schools and colleges are also common places for people to meet and form long-term relationships. It is not unknown for couples to form over alcohol or drugs.
In order to bond or to express sexual interest, people flirt. According to Kate Fox, there are two main types of flirting: flirting for fun and flirting with intent. Flirting for fun can take place between friends, co-workers, or total strangers that wish to get to know each other. This type of flirting does not intend to lead to sexual intercourse or romantic relationship, but increases the bonds between two people.
Flirting with intent plays a role in the mate-selection process. The person flirting will send out signals of sexual availability to another, and expects to see the interest returned in order to continue flirting. Flirting can involve non-verbal signs, such as an exchange of glances, hand-touching, hair-touching, or verbal signs, such as chatting up, flattering comments, and exchange of telephone numbers in order to initiate further contact.
People date to assess each other's suitability as a partner in an intimate relationship or as a spouse. Dating rules may vary across different cultures, and some societies may even replace the dating process by a courtship instead.
In many cultural traditions, a date may be arranged by a third party, who may be a family member, acquaintance, or professional matchmaker. In some cultures, a marriage may be arranged by the couple's parents or an outside party. Recently, internet dating has become popular.