17th century marriage and dating rules
It’s one of those words with which most people are familiar, but have vastly differing opinions of what it means. It summons visions of men women with small tokens of affection and asking their hand in marriage on bended knee.For social scientists, studies of courtship usually look at the process of “mate selection.” (Social scientists, among whom I number myself from time to time, will never be accused of being romantics.) For the purpose of this article the , prior to the early 20th century, courtship involved one man and one woman spending intentional time together to get to know each other with the expressed purpose of evaluating the other as a potential husband or wife.
The unfortunate couple have to make a decision of whether to stay married and try to work things out or to obtain a divorce and go their separate ways.One of the most obvious changes was that it multiplied the number of partners (from serious to casual) an individual was likely to have before marriage.So one important point to understand right up front (and about which many inside and outside the church are confused) is that we have not moved a dating system into our courtship system.Bailey observes that by the 1930s and ’40s, with the advent of the “date” (which we will look at more fully in the next installment) courtship increasingly took place in public spaces such as movie theaters and dance halls, removed by distance and by anonymity from the sheltering and controlling contexts of the home and local community.Keeping company in the family parlor was replaced by dining and dancing, movies, and “parking.” A second cultural force that influenced the older courtship system was the rise of “public advice” literature as well as the rise of an “expert” class of advisers — psychologists, sociologists, statisticians, etc.
The reason for the divorce, be it unfaithfulness on the part of one of the partners, a need to escape an abusive situation or simply the acceptance that the love that brought the couple together no longer exists, is not the subject of this article.