Sunday, June 13, 2010

Courstship as Love Involvement

Love cannot develop in a vacuum. Since every love feeling must be oriented with reference to some object, it follows that sweetheart love requires interaction with other persons. The process by which the two sexes associate and adjust together as preparation for marriage we shall call "courtship."

Courtship is both the art of making love and process of love involvement; considered broadly, it extends all the way from when boys and girls are first attracted to each other to the time when married mates bid each other farewell at the sunset of life. There is a more narrow usage of the term, however, one that views courtship as being separate from both dating and marriage.

According to this usage, dating refers to the early friendship activities of young people whereby they seek to have fun in pairs (emphasis upon friendship and enjoyment, not marriage); courtship connotes a more advanced stage in these boy-girl relationships, the stage just prior to marriage where the emphasis is upon choosing a mate and preparing for what lies ahead; and marriage is the consummation or end result of what has gone before. Dating evolves somewhat gradually into courtship as the marriage prospect becomes more real, and courtship gives way to marriage when the mates decide that the involvement process has gone far enough and has been successful enough to be made permanent. We are interested here in the dating and courting processes of the premarriage period.

Parents and teachers sometimes blunder, and young people flounder, for failure to understand adequately the customs and value systems of each other. As "time marches on," oldsters tend to lose track of the feelings and problems of the oncoming group. With males and females made differently, and trained somewhat separately, sex antagonisms are bound to develop. Consequently each generation is partially blind to the new one emerging, and each sex, to a degree at least, is ignorant of the other.

To come to any real understanding of how modern youth think and feel about the various patterns of courtship behavior, it is necessary to let them speak for themselves.

Preferences in Date Selection
Six hundred and seventyfour unmarried and unengaged Purdue University students were asked to rate twenty-four items on a six-point scale according to what they most liked in a date. Greatest emphasis by both sexes was given to pleasant disposition, which was further described in the schedule as "cheerful, agreeable, optimistic, sense of humor, good sport."

Next in importance was the quality of being well-groomed and mannered, meaning "clean, neat, wear clothes well, conventional, refined." Third preference was for sociability, where the date meets people well, is able to mix well in most situations, is at home with the social arts." Other qualities regarded as extremely important for the date to possess are: emotional maturity, physical attractiveness, considerateness, and fitting the traditional role of masculinity (if a man) or femininity (if a woman).

Some of the qualities which young people desire in a date they also want in a mate, but there is a difference in emphasis. In the next chapter we shall see how Purdue students rated these same twenty-four items from the standpoint of choosing a partner for marriage. In general, as will be seen, the two choices are strikingly similar, showing that most people tend to date with marriage in mind. But certain differences are also striking: in dating there is the tendency to play up appearances and the social arts, while in selecting a mate more attention is given to the considerations of family-mindedness and homemaking ability.

It is to be noted that, though males and females agree with each other rather well concerning what they want in a date, there are some differences. Males tend more to want a date who is affectionate, romantic (in the sense of emotional infatuation), and physically attractive, who does not smoke, and who offers promise of being a good homemaker. Females, in contrast, stress more than males such things as conventional sex standards, good financial prospect, ambition and industriousness, religious nature, considerateness, and sociability. Thus there appear certain patterns distinctive of each sex.

An interesting question has to do with how well young people are able to satisfy their dating wants, or, in other words, to date with the kinds of persons they think are ideal. To test this, Purdue students were asked to go back over the list of items they had rated on importance in dating, and to check all of those that applied to their last date. An analysis of highranking items that were left unchecked revealed the following:
1. For each person, there were approximately two items which the last date did not possess, but which were considered above average in importance. This means that dating practice falls a little short of dating preference, that young people either compromise with their desires in making a date or become disillusioned to a degree after the date is in process--some of both, perhaps.
2. For both sexes the factors showing the greatest discrepancy between preference and practice were: being emotionally mature, giving intellectual stimulation, being considerate, being poised and confident, and being stable and dependable.
3. Males indicated greater discrepancies than females on such items as being affectionate, having romantic appeal, and possessing health and vitality; while females indicated greater discrepancies than did males on such items as conventional sex standards, similarity of background, and a religious nature. These, then, seem to be the major areas of frustration in dating.

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