Your guide to dating

What is dating?

Dating simply means the process of meeting someone to see whether or not getting to know them further could lead to a more intimate relationship and even love. In short, it is a form of courtship which places two people in a social situation where they may start to form a deeper relationship. In some cases, dates lead people to decide the person they have met is not for them. In others, it leads to further dates and even romance. Dates often occur in person with face-to-face meetings, but increasingly people now date over the phone or via video conferencing, too. So-called speed dates are organised events where people can meet many others in quick succession to see whether or not sparks fly.

Where did dating come from?

The term dating began to come into common usage in the 1920s in North America. It caught on and subsequently became popularised in Europe and the rest of the world. In much of the world, the more formal term courtship was still widely used until the 1970s. Essentially, to date someone means to arrange a date in your diary when you are both free to meet. The romantic or courtship connotations are implied. As such, it is possible to use the term dating in a purely platonic sense. For example, two or more friends might set a date to catch up with one another with no suggestion of intimacy.

Where are good places to go dating?

Most people prefer public places for a date. This is especially important when you are on a blind date or when you do not know the other person very well. Dating safety is a big concern, so choosing a public place, such as a bar or restaurant, is a good move because you can be together and undisturbed but within earshot of others. Dates, where there is an activity involved, can also help to break the ice because couples will have something to talk about other than themselves. Dates involving sport, theatre or visiting a gallery are popular, for example.

How does dating differ around the world?

There are plenty of places in the world where a chaperone would be expected to accompany a couple on a date. This is often the case in parts of India, North Africa and the Middle East, for instance. In such societies, sex before marriage is frowned upon, so a chaperone is seen as a way of maintaining public decency. In China, educated women often report that it is hard for them to find men to date while in Japan a formal style of dating, known as Omiai, still persists.

Are dating apps useful?

They can be. However, dating apps are only helpful for finding suitable potential dates. They don't make going on dates any easier or less nerve-racking. Some people criticise the use of apps because they tend to pander to superficial first impressions.

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Intimacy is best described as the closeness between individuals at a physical or an emotional level. For example, an intimate act might be the physical contact that comes about when cleaning someone or even gently brushing their hair. At a physical level, intimacy also includes sexual contact, although, for something to be intimate, it does not necessarily need to be sexual. At the emotional level, intimacy means a certain closeness of spirit. Again, this could be platonic, such as the intimacy and trust shared between friends, or the sort of intimacy that comes from a sexual partnership.
Relationship advice is a term that covers both the informal guidance people give one another about their most intimate relationships as well as some professional services which are designed to help couples. In most cases, such advice is not laid down as a set of rules that people need to stick to in order to maintain a successful relationship but a 'road map' that allows people to navigate their own way from a bad situation to a better one. In some cases, relationship advice will take the form of marriage guidance counselling, but this is by no means the only form that couples – and other groups, for that matter – engage in it nowadays.
Essentially, trust is a concept that means one person has confidence in another that they will behave honourably. Without trust, it is impossible to be able to rely on anyone else at all. It means having faith that a friend, family member or even a stranger will do the right thing. The person who trusts the other is called a trustor. The person who gains the confidence of another is known as a trustee. Sometimes, such confidence is implicit with nothing needing to be said to assure it. In other cases, it is backed up by a contract that can be referred to afterwards if a dispute were to arise. People have trust in one another by varying degrees. The same can be said of many institutions, too, such as banks, the government, public bodies and charities, for example. In sociological terms, it is, therefore, a belief system that allows for all sorts of social interactions to occur without too many doubts causing the normal function of society to break down.
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