Family in Lifespan Perspective
6 - Getting Involved
involved with someone else frequently begins with a date.
At least, dating plays a part in the development of most
serious relationships, although some young people get
involved by “hanging out” and “hooking up” rather than
dating. Once out of school, many single adults
discover that it is more difficult to find dates. Among
the sources of dates are the workplace, clubs and
organizations, singles’ bars, mutual friends, dating
services, personal ads, and the Internet. As the
personal ads indicate, people are selective about whom
they date. We use criteria for assessing people’s
attractiveness, which is one of the most important
factors, but not the only criterion for selecting a dating
partner. Ironically, the things we value for the long-term
are not necessarily the criteria used to initiate a
relationship with someone.
There are two types of dating: assortative (dating
fun and experience) and exclusive dating (the
precursor to engagement/commitment/marriage)
A. Traditional Dating generally occurs in the Marriage
Market - out there, where everyone can be had for a price.
Dating is "window shopping" - courtship is "bargaining" -
Marriage is sealing the deal.
Each dating participant puts on a face or "mask" by
attempting to project personalities that will please and
attract the exact type of person they are interested in.
This is known as pluralistic deceit.
B. Finding People to Date / Selection of Dating Partners
1. Propinquity - refers to the tendency of people
to meet and marry those with whom they have the most
contact. So we find mates in school, in the neighborhood
d, at church - usually. This puts to rest the notion of
there being a "Mr. Right" - or "one and only" just for us.
We make that happen. We also find prospects through
friends, at work, fix ups, at bars, laundromats, the Acme.
2. Similarity, Complementarity, and Compatibility -
Because of strong social norms surrounding who we date,
there are some sociocultural factors influencing our
choice of mates:
a. Exogamy - refers to the pressure to marry outside
specified social groups (outside gender, immediate family,
Over time in as dating
becomes more exclusive, the layers of falsehood are
stripped away (erode away) and we begin to know the other
more as we show ourselves more.
b. Endogamy - refers to the pressure to marry inside
specified social groups (opposite sex, within age limits)
within religious and economic limits, within ethnic or
c. Homogamy - refers to pressure to marry people similar
to ourselves in social background, values, and beliefs.
The Process of Dating into
Courtship - We
are Initiated into Dating as preparation for marriage:
are various functions of dating.
- in preschool we see marriage as heterosexual.
- we pay attention to what mommies and daddies do.
- Marriage is taught to us as an attractive and
- It is personalized
- we are quickly pushed together in mixed sex play
- we develop crushes (these are encouraged), and have
- in adolescence we learn the cues that will serve us
later in solving our identity crisis.
As a social phenomenon,
dating differs not only across generations but across
societies and among different groups within a particular
society as well. People not only differ in dating patterns
because of ideological commitments, but also because of
differing family backgrounds. Children of divorced parents
are likely to have higher levels of dating activity.
Dating patterns also differ among various racial and
- We all have a need for recreation, and one way
to do this is to date.
- Dating offers intimacy and companionship.
- Mate selection is the most obvious function of
- Dating can bring status attainment.
- The process of learning to function effectively
in a group is known as socialization, and in dating, we
begin to learn how to relate more meaningfully to
someone of the opposite sex.
- Teaches us about members of the opposite sex - how to
get along with them.
- Allows us to improve communication and social skills
- We learn to enhance our social attractiveness and
promote intimate interactions.
- We learn about ourselves through dating, get some
understanding of our market value,
- We learn to establish standards for later mate
- Sexual exploration can occur and some degree of
gratification can be had
- WE determine compatibility with different partners and
eventually select one.
Gender differences in the
first date exchanges: Men feel pressure to "put out"
financially Women feel pressure to "put out" sexually.
- congregations in larger groups
- less paring use of friends
- peer group standards in choosing date
- use of media standards - how do we know that
"breaking' up is hard to do?"
While nobody claims to
like this system, it is titillating and takes on a "game"
nature. It is sometimes helpful to think about
developing love relationships in terms of the
Intimacy-Commitment Spiral to explain how couples move
from assortative dating to exclusive dating and
The basic idea is
approach dating from a psychosexual orientation
Little in the way of
trust is shared early in the dating process. Both males
and females fall back on traditional norms, developing
skills in the playing of complex "games" to manage
themselves. Traditional dating has its critics
while Women tend to approach dating from a
Problems in dating
- it is sexist leaving little choice
- it is superficial as all encounters are it is
deceitful - we put our best effort
- it is unfair and arouses anxiety - who calls, who
waits - etc.
At some point, most
people move beyond dating to a more permanent relationship
with one person. As couples progress to a more permanent
relationship, they become more alike in attitudes,
beliefs, and values. Eventually, if the couple is
moving toward marriage, they enter the period of
engagement. During the engagement period, a couple has an
opportunity to closely examine their relationship. In a
sense, an engagement is a final countdown period in which
potential problem areas can be detected before the union
is finalized. As we move into an exclusive dating
relationship more investment is put into the relationship
- matched in equal parts by each partner. Friends
who are not in serious relationships tend to be pushed
away, replaced by "couples" who will do "couples" things
recreationally . We have couples over for dinner parties,
instead of catching a buzz with our friends down at the
- difficulty in getting dates
- initiative is up to the male, leaving the poor female
in a submissive stance
- aversive dating experiences
- lack of social skills
- Violent behavior that occurs in dating situations
includes pushing, grabbing, shoving, slapping, kicking,
biting, hitting with the fist, and date rape. The rates
of victimization are about the same for men and women,
but women are more likely to receive severe abuse, such
as sexual assaults and physical and emotional injuries.
Some aspects of the dating situation encourage and tend
to prolong violence in a particular couple.
- Sexual aggression refers to any kind of unwanted
sexual activity, from kissing to sexual intercourse.
Forced sexual intercourse is rape – attempted or actual
sexual intercourse by the threat or use of force – and
this is one of the most severe forms of dating violence.
Clearly, one of the problems women encounter in dating
situations is the tendency for some men to justify
violent behavior, including rape.
Cohabitation - a
period of extended exclusivity.
- Exclusivity gives time to agree on and work out any
fundamental living arrangements - finances, place of
residence, spending patterns.
- Provides time to re-examine the goals and means of the
- Allows each other's families time to adjust to the
eventual marriage of the two.
- Provides time to make a final check of each other in
terms of common interests, values, goals, comfort in
each other's company.
- Provides time to work out final details of the
Sex and the Single Person
- In the process of moving toward marriage, increasing
numbers of couples cohabit. Cohabitation may occur
before or after the engagement. Cohabitation may now be
the most typical path to marriage. It is also an
alternative to marriage for some couples.
- Not everyone is equally likely to cohabit. Cohabitants
tend to have distinctive attitudes and values about
marriage and various other matters. While cohabitation
is generally associated with younger people, increasing
numbers of middle-aged and older people are
- A little more than half of those who cohabit say that
one important reason for doing so is that it permits a
couple to be sure they are compatible before they marry.
- People cohabit for reasons other than to check on
their compatibility. Four types of cohabitation have
been identified: the Linus blanket type,
emancipation, convenience, and testing.
- Cohabitation is not the same experience for everyone.
The nature of any individual’s experience depends on the
motives and purposes of the two partners, the length of
time the two have been together, and whether the
relationship is heterosexual or homosexual.
- For many couples, cohabitation is a testing ground for
marriage. In the great bulk of the research comparing
marriage and cohabitation, it is the married couples who
have the advantage. Two ways in which cohabiting couples
have an advantage over married couples involve housework
(married women spend significantly more time on
housework than do cohabiting women) and in terms of
conflict over money management (cohabiting couples fight
less about money than do married couples).
- Research shows that those who cohabited before
marriage exhibit poorer marital problem-solving skills
and are less supportive of each other than are those who
did not cohabit. At best, cohabitation brings no
advantage to those who desire marriage; at worst,
cohabitants are at a higher risk for problems and
breakups. The consequences are clear: cohabiting before
marriage makes a poorer-quality marriage and a less
stable marriage more likely.
AIDS has put a damper on
sex among some segments. -the average number of sex
partners for women was 4 (2-10 with the bell shaped curve)
Sex without Intimacy -
While sex is viewed as pleasurable (almost recreational at
the dominate value in our society
seems to tend toward sex with affection (love or something like it).
Booby Traps on the Singles
Most people experience a number of serious
relationships rather than a single one. That
means that most have the painful experience of breaking
- Sexual Exploitation -Date Rape: 20% to 30% of all
- The Married Person Gambit - Married men are much more
available and require less attention.
A. If there is
perceived inequity, the lack of self-disclosure, or the
absence of other factors than enhance intimacy, we would
expect a relationship not to last. And, there are other
Breaking an intimate relationship is painful, even for the
person who wants out. Four kinds of responses to
relationship deterioration can be identified: Exit refers to a response of withdrawal or
threatened withdrawal from the relationship; Voice is the response of facing up to, and
trying to talk through, problems; Loyalty is the response of staying with the partner in spite
of the problems; Neglect is a refusal to face the
problems and a willingness to let the relationship die.
Although breaking up is difficult, we should beware of a
tendency to think that it is always bad for relationships
to break up.