In many traditional societies, courtship is a highly structured activity, with well-known rules. In many cultures, courtship is made redundant, or eliminated altogether, by the practice of arranged marriages, where partners are chosen for young people, typically by their parents. In some societies, the parents or community choose potential partners, and then allow limited dating to determine whether the parties are suited.
In Japan, there is a type of courtship called Omiai. Parents will hire a matchmaker to provide pictures and résumés of potential mates, and if the couple agrees, there will be a formal meeting with the matchmaker and often parents in attendance. The matchmaker and parents will often exert pressure on the couple to decide whether they want to marry or not after only a few dates.
In Western societies, a date is an occasion when one socializes with a potential lover or spouse. In this sense, the purpose of a date is for the people dating to get to know each other and decide whether they want to have a relationship. Dating may be the term describing the relationship of two people attending a date, but other terms are often used. These terms can imply different degrees of commitment and monogamy, but with some ambiguity. In the mid-20th century, United States teenagers commonly dated or “went out” with multiple people before “going steady” with just one, but the term “going out” later came to imply an exclusive relationship. Other terms include “seeing” one another and “pseudo-dating” where the time is spent together, but the prospect of actual romantic relationship may be understood by one or both parties but is never explicitly discussed.
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