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Evolution Of Love & Relationships: America 1800s To Present

1377 words - 6 pages

One may ask what love is, how do you define love? You can look up the word love in the dictionary and find ten or more different explanations. Most sociologists consider love to be learned through cultural experiences (Love). This would mean that however or if persons parents showed them love while growing up, that is how that individual would interpret love throughout their life. When the Puritans first came to America, their concept of love was less of a romantic passion and more of a deepening reciprocal of respect and affection (Seidman 16). During the Enlightenment (1714-1818), love was typically viewed as a rational and orderly experience that could be controlled by those who experienced it (Sternberg 69). Love was assumed to be a rational feeling made by rational people and thus could be controlled. This belief had a major alteration during the eighteenth and nineteenth century when people began to believe that love was uncontrollable and could happen without reason (Sternberg 70). This change in the perception of love being uncontrollable also shifted the conclusion that people were not as rational as first presumed. In the late twentieth century, love became more sexualized and erotic which became perceived as a crisis in sexual morality and marriage (Seidman 66). Love today is viewed as unobtainable by reason of Americans have unrealistic expectations of love, true love, love at first sight, and the idea that love conquers all (Love). As a result of these unrealistic views, Americans have moved back to the concept that love is controllable but not necessary for a “romantic” relationship (Sternberg 63). As presented, love and the interpretation of what love is has transformed dramatically over the past two hundred years in America.
One can assume that since there have been frequent variations in the perception of love, that there have also been shifts in the idea of dating and romantic relationships. In the 1800s, dating was called a courtship and was arranged oftentimes by parents to maintain or improve the socioeconomic status for their family. Starting around 1900, dating partners became less under family supervision and more personal for the two parties involved. People began to choose whom to date based upon personal qualities rather than wealth or social class (Laner). From this time to World War II, a system of dating called “playing the field” was formed to demonstrate one’s popularity (Laner). Dating around was considered a norm of society, you could go on a date with 3 different guys and nothing would be thought of it unless you were “going steady” with one guy which was much more exclusive. Dating today is much more dependent on technology. Numerous relationships start on online dating sites where you talk to someone online before you even meet them. The focus of dating today is to find someone who compliments a person and makes the person feel complete. Dating, from past to present, has transformed from dating for economic...

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