Thanks to the changing role and rights of women, traditional courtship is a thing of the past, although it has left a lasting impression. Here we take a look at how modern day dating differs from the old-fashioned approach to finding love, but also how in many ways it remains the same.
In the traditional sense of the word, courtship is dead. For hundreds of years, courtship was about a man persuading a woman (and her father) that he was the best person to take care of her. The woman was seen as a beautiful, child-bearing burden to be passed from one man to another. She had no possessions of her own and very few rights.
Now women are no longer helpless humans on the look-out for a caretaker. Instead modern day dating is about finding an equal partner with whom you can happily share your life experiences.
So yes, courtship is dead. Long live dating.
Around the world and throughout the ages, courtship rituals have been loaded with code. When a Victorian lady wore the gloves a man gifted her, for Sunday morning church service, it was a coded signal to him that his interest in her was noted, appreciated and encouraged. And when a 17th century Welshman sent a woman a wooden spoon with an anchor carved into it, he was telling her he was ready to settle down.
In a similar way, modern day dating is riddled with code, which we spend hours agonizing over, trying, to decipher. What did he mean when he said ‘nice profile pic ;)’… why did she change her relationship status to ‘it’s complicated’… ‘should I tag him in my status update?
In four hundred years time, historians will be lecturing about our ‘likes’ and ‘pokes’ and how they were part of an elaborate and complicated digital courtship.
Courtship and dating have two entirely different aims. Courtship was the precursor to marriage. Men and women were expected to marry young and reproduce quickly to ensure the survival of the species, despite short life expectancies.
Modern economic pressures have shifted the focus for twenty-something singles away from finding a long-term partner and towards finding someone to date whose company they can enjoy, without the pressure of immediate marriage plans.
Between flying the nest and creating their own, there’s a few years to be filled with fun and personal growth through mutually enjoyable relationships, that aren’t necessarily going to end in marriage.
In traditional courtships, the number of potential suitors was very limited. Potential candidates needed to be the right age, social class, and nationality.
With the arrival of free dating sites, the world really is your oyster, with hundreds, if not thousands of potential matches. By applying the right filters, you can concentrate just on the profiles of the singles who match your preferences, allowing you to focus on their personality, rather than their location, job, or family history.
For all the many positive aspects there are to enjoy about modern dating, there is one aspect of traditional courtship that’s gone, but really should be revived – Commitment!
Not the kind of commitment that sees a man propose marriage on a first date like a crazy person. But the sort of commitment that encourages a public gesture of affection, going out on a limb, risking rejection in the name of love.
Many traditional courtship rituals involved one party making a public declaration of their affection, usually through gifts or symbols, and then waiting for the affection to be accepted or rejected. The rituals required some planning and forethought and carried with them the risk of humiliation.
A carved wooden spoon or decorated handkerchief from hundreds of years ago, meant a lot more than a modern day ‘wassup’ text.
The wave of change in gender roles over the last 200 years has pushed traditional forms of courtship aside, and made way for a more equal approach to dating. It’s a change that should be embraced and enjoyed, even if there are a few things we can learn from our ancestors when it comes to romance.