For the vast majority of people it is probably still true to say that love and marriage go together, though the horse and carriage have mostly disappeared from the equation! But it would be equally true to say that our attitudes towards love, marriage and dating have changed greatly over time.
So how has love, romance and marriage changed over the years?
In ancient times, romance was not necessarily high on the agenda, and a wife was often obtained by capture or arrangement to promote gaining property, money or political advantage. In medieval times love and romance came to the fore with the emergence of chivalric suitors wooing their beloved with romantic serenades and poetry. Great value was placed on honor and chastity.
In Victorian times courtship became even more formalized and was hedged about with strict rules and regulations to ensure propriety and respectability. Gentleman ‘called’ on ladies and a beady-eyed chaperone assured that nothing untoward happened! However, with the emergence of ‘dating’, courtship became a much more informal affair, with men and women mixing freely and entirely according to their own choices.
Many factors contributed to this radical social shift. The two World Wars challenged all sorts of social attitudes, particularly with the empowerment of women. Improved and longer education were very important in this regard, as men and women mixed informally at school and college. The emergence of a more affluent society also played a role as people had more leisure time and money to spend on having fun.
Few areas of societal norms and mores have shown more dramatic change over the past century that the ideas and perceptions surrounding sex and all its multitudinous ramifications. Most societies in the world have an extremely complex relationship with sex. The Victorian era seems almost synonymous with sexual repression. Conservative religious mores were very much the norm.
In the 1950s, however, the Kinsey report turned many people’s perceptions about sex upside down. But it was really the 1960s that started a true sexual revolution with Second Wave Feminism and the liberation of successful birth control that induced the most dramatic changes.
Suddenly sex was being talked about and written about. Long-held sexual beliefs were questioned, and in many instances set aside – sex was not just for procreation anymore! It’s tough to imagine what our predecessors would have made of a group of women chatting casually about which of their favorite online stores has the best selection of vibrators!
Dating and the Baby Boomers
The Baby Boomers, born between 1944 and 1964, were hugely influential on society. They launched the sexual revolution of the 1960s that in essence freed sex from marriage and said emphatically that sexual pleasure was a right of all human beings. And apparently they are continuing enthusiastically right along the same lines today! The Boomers have adopted online dating with gusto, stating that they feel more sexually liberated and positive about life nowadays. One in ten Americans dating online today is reputed to be a Baby Boomer!
Dating – Millennials and Gen Z
Millennials, born between the 1980s and the early 2000s, are rewriting the rule books about dating, sex and marriage. In 1980, the average age for getting married was only 22 for women, and less than 25 for men. In 2018, the average age for men was well over 28, and well over 27 for women. And studies also show that Millennials are taking the ‘slow road’ to love – they date less frequently and have sex less frequently. And this in an age when dating apps like Tinder, Plenty of Fish and Bumble put dating opportunities literally at your fingertips.
Millennials are also more open to interracial and interfaith relationships. Premarital sex is not an issue for them and more Millennial couples are likely to live together before marriage.
And Gen Z (those born after 1995) are taking this scenario even further – they are basically not dating at all, and are said to personify lack of commitment. This is blamed on them growing up in an overwhelmingly technological age when boredom can be instantaneously averted by a single swipe of a smartphone.
Romantic interaction has been replaced by instant online communication through Instagram, Snapchat and Tinder. Internet dating sites create the impression that there is an endless supply of romantic partners available, thus making it more difficult to commit to only one person.Unfortunately, biology hasn’t quite kept pace with the rapid advance of technology – and many worry that this lack of “true” social engagement is to blame for increasing numbers of Gen Z members who report feelings of isolation, demotivation and even depression. If there’s one thing we can learn from history, however, it’s that every generation forges their own brave new path through the world of romance!
Lynne OConnorDecember 20, 2019
A fascinating reminder of how far we’ve come
Lynn HeathDecember 22, 2019
A really interesting insight!
Jane WillisDecember 23, 2019
I wonder what will come next – a swing right beck to Victorian attitudes perhaps? Or maybe something so radically different that none of us can picture it right now?
Margaret GallagherDecember 25, 2019
Beautiful – love certainly makes the wirld go round no matter what way its expressed
Maggie AliDecember 30, 2019
I think Gen Z is missing on a lot of things and I find it quite sad.
Sharon l CatterallMay 30, 2021
what a interesting read
lynn nealOctober 25, 2021
It is fascinating how much these things have changed over the years!
Natalie CrossanMarch 14, 2022
Lovely, I love reading old love letters
Margaret GallagherDecember 14, 2022
Changes happen : love is still love and free for all
ashleighMarch 27, 2023