A marriage built solely on the forces of emotion and mutual affection was scorned and perceived as irresponsible.Rather, love was regarded as the product of a constructed arrangement, eventually achieved by couples with aligned resources and values.
This ritual may seem overly cautious, but in a society in which the Catholic Church was an incredibly powerful institution that prescribed marriage as an integral part of God’s plan, this was not a decision that could be made lightly.
Additionally, the many legal and social barriers surrounding divorce increased the pressure to ensure that a match was suitable.
As the American conception of intimacy evolves, so does society’s approach to dating.
A society’s prescribed method of courtship is incredibly illuminating: As we trace the timeline of dating rituals, we can get a better sense of how Americans throughout time understood love and, by extension, the world.
Separation was often only granted on grounds of bigamy, impotence, or adultery.
Women especially were impeded by the law, which still did not acknowledge them as capable of claiming possession of property or monetary assets.Consequently, a new concern arose for parents: as young people grew more secure in their committed dating relationships, they became more likely to engage in premarital sexual behaviors. This movement ushered in another paradigm shift; youth rejected the prescribed dating model in favor of a more liberal approach to love and sexuality, and “hookup culture” was born, a shift that emphasizes physical pleasure rather than emotional intimacy.The Women’s Movement led to more women obtaining higher education and becoming integrated into the workforce, and more women began delaying marriage to first establish their careers.This, combined with the increasing availability of birth control, led to a relaxation in attitudes toward premarital sex.Birth control gave women power over their fertility for the first time, empowering female sexuality due to liberation from the constant risk of unwanted pregnancy.World War II initiated a paradigm shift that deeply impacted the way American society approached dating.No longer was quantity emphasized, but rather the stress fell on finding a loyal partner.Reputation was also an essential form of social currency that required intimate guarding.A woman suspected of dabbling with too many suitors was in danger of becoming publicly regarded as a “coquette,” which essentially socially branded her as a flirt, a disparaging designation in a society that so highly esteemed chastity.In the early days of dating, many isted of one long, parentally-controlled audition for marriage.Marriage during this time was less a public declaration of mutual affection and more an essential means of legally exchanging property between familiehe courting script was usually contained to “calling,” in which the man was invited into the woman’s parlor for conversations over tea and involved a large degree of supervision.