7400.602 Family in Lifespan Perspective
Topic 6 - Getting Involved

Getting 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 for 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,
    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 racial limits).
    c. Homogamy - refers to pressure to marry people similar to ourselves in social background, values, and beliefs.
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.
The Process of Dating into Courtship - We are Initiated into Dating as preparation for marriage:
  • 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 desirable status.
  • It is personalized
  • we are quickly pushed together in mixed sex play
  • we develop crushes (these are encouraged), and have imaginary steadies.
  • in adolescence we learn the cues that will serve us later in solving our identity crisis.
There are various functions of dating.
  1.  We all have a need for recreation, and one way to do this is to date.
  2.  Dating offers intimacy and companionship.
  3.  Mate selection is the most obvious function of dating.
  4.  Dating can bring status attainment.
  5.  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.
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 ethnic groups.
  • 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 selection.
  • Sexual exploration can occur and some degree of gratification can be had
  • WE determine compatibility with different partners and eventually select one.
Changing Dating Patterns
    • 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?"
Gender differences in the first date exchanges: Men feel pressure to "put out" financially Women feel pressure to "put out" sexually.
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 engagement.
The basic idea is that: 
Men tend to approach dating from a psychosexual orientation
while Women tend to approach dating from a psychoaffectional 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
  • 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.
Problems in dating
  • 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.
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 tavern.
Engagement and/or 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 relationship.
  • 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 wedding.
  • 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 cohabiting. 
  • 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.
Sex and the Single Person
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 times),
the dominate value in our society seems to tend toward sex with affection (love or something like it).
Booby Traps on the Singles Front
  • Sexual Exploitation -Date Rape: 20% to 30% of all college students
  • The Married Person Gambit - Married men are much more available and require less attention.
Most people experience a number of serious relationships rather than a single one. That means that most have the painful experience of breaking up.
 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 factors involved. 

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.