Dating is a stage of romantic relationships in humans whereby two people meet socially with the aim of each assessing the other’s suitability as a prospective partner in an intimate relationship or marriage. It is a form of courtship, consisting of social activities done by the couple, either alone or with others. The protocols and practices of dating, and the terms used to describe it, vary considerably from country to country and over time. While the term has several meanings, the most frequent usage refers to two people exploring whether they are romantically or sexually compatible by participating in dates with the other. With the use of modern technology, people can date via telephone or computer or meet in person.
Dating may also involve two or more people who have already decided that they share romantic or sexual feelings toward each other. These people will have dates on a regular basis, and they may or may not be having sexual relations. This period of courtship is sometimes seen as a precursor to engagement. Some cultures[clarification needed] require people to wait until a certain age to begin dating, which has been a source of controversy.
Dating as a social relationship
Wide variation in behavior patterns
Social rules regarding dating vary considerably according to variables such as country, social class, race, religion, age, sexual orientation and gender. Behavior patterns are generally unwritten and constantly changing. There are considerable differences between social and personal values. Each culture has particular patterns which determine such choices as whether the man asks the woman out, where people might meet, whether kissing is acceptable on a first date, the substance of conversation, who should pay for meals or entertainment, or whether splitting expenses is allowed. Among the Karen people in Burma and Thailand, women are expected to write love poetry and give gifts to win over the man. Since dating can be a stressful situation, there is the possibility of humor to try to reduce tensions. For example, director Blake Edwards wanted to date singing star Julie Andrews, and he joked in parties about her persona by saying that her “endlessly cheerful governess” image from movies such as Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music gave her the image of possibly having “lilacs for pubic hair”; Andrews appreciated his humor, sent him lilacs, dated him and later married him, and the couple stayed together for 41 years until his death in 2010.
Different meanings of the term
While the term dating has many meanings, the most common refers to a trial period in which two people explore whether to take the relationship further towards a more permanent relationship; in this sense, dating refers to the time when people are physically together in public as opposed to the earlier time period in which people are arranging the date, perhaps by corresponding by email or text or phone. Another meaning of the term dating is to describe a stage in a person’s life when he or she is actively pursuing romantic relationships with different people. If two unmarried celebrities are seen in public together, they are often described as “dating” which means they were seen in public together, and it is not clear whether they are merely friends, exploring a more intimate relationship, or are romantically involved. A related sense of the term is when two people have been out in public only a few times but have not yet committed to a relationship; in this sense, dating describes an initial trial period and can be contrasted with “being in a committed relationship”.
One of the main purposes of dating is for two or more people to evaluate one another’s suitability as a long term companion or spouse. Often physical characteristics, personality, financial status, and other aspects of the involved persons are judged and, as a result, feelings can be hurt and confidence shaken. Because of the uncertainty of the whole situation, the desire to be acceptable to the other person, and the possibility of rejection, dating can be very stressful for all parties involved. Some studies have shown that dating tends to be extremely difficult for people with social anxiety disorder.
While some of what happens on a date is guided by an understanding of basic, unspoken rules, there is considerable room to experiment, and there are numerous sources of advice available.  Sources of advice include magazine articles, self-help books, dating coaches, friends, and many other sources. And the advice given can pertain to all facets of dating, including such aspects as where to go, what to say, what not to say, what to wear, how to end a date, how to flirt, and differing approaches regarding first dates versus subsequent dates. In addition, advice can apply to periods before a date, such as how to meet prospective partners, as well as after a date, such as how to break off a relationship.
There are now more than 500 businesses worldwide that offer dating coach services—with almost 350 of those operating in the U.S. And the number of these businesses has surged since 2005″” Frequency of dating varies by person and situation; among singles actively seeking partners, 36% had been on no dates in the past three months, 13% had one date, 22% had two to four dates and 25% had five or more dates, according to a 2005 U.S. survey.
The copulatory gaze, looking lengthily at a new possible partner, brings you straight into a sparring scenario; you will stare for two to three seconds when you first spy each other, then look down or away before bringing your eyes in sync again. This may be combined with displacement gestures, small repetitive fiddles that signal a desire to speed things up and make contact. When approaching a stranger you want to impress, exude confidence in your stance, even if you’re on edge. Pull up to your full height in a subtle chest-thrust pose, which arches your back, puffs out your upper body and pushes out your buttocks. Roll your shoulders back and down and relax your facial expression.— Judi James in The Guardian, 
Ballroom dancing is one way to get to know somebody on a date.
There are numerous ways to meet potential dates, including blind dates, classified ads, dating websites, hobbies, holidays, office romance, social networking, speed dating, and others. A Pew study in 2005 which examined Internet users in long-term relationships including marriage, found that many met by contacts at work or at school. The survey found that 55% of relationship-seeking singles agreed that it was “difficult to meet people where they live.”Work is a common place to meet potential spouses, although there are some indications that the Internet is overtaking the workplace as an introduction venue. In Britain, one in five marry a co-worker, but half of all workplace romances end within three months. One drawback of office dating is that a bad date can lead to “workplace awkwardness.”
There is a general perception that men and women approach dating differently, hence the reason why advice for each sex varies greatly, particularly when dispensed by popular magazines. For example, it is a common belief that heterosexual men often seek women based on beauty and youth. Psychology researchers at the University of Michigan suggested that men prefer women who seem to be “malleable and awed”, and prefer younger women with subordinate jobs such as secretaries and assistants and fact-checkers rather than executive-type women. Online dating patterns suggest that men are more likely to initiate online exchanges (over 75%) and extrapolate that men are less “choosy”, seek younger women, and “cast a wide net”. In a similar vein, the stereotype for heterosexual women is that they seek well-educated men who are their age or older with high-paying jobs. Evolutionary psychology suggests that “women are the choosier of the genders” since “reproduction is a much larger investment for women” who have “more to lose by making bad choices.”
All of these are examples of gender stereotypes which plague dating discourse and shape individuals’ and societies’ expectations of how heterosexual relationships should be navigated. In addition to the detrimental effects of upholding limited views of relationships and sexual and romantic desires, stereotypes also lead to framing social problems in a problematic way. For example, some have noted that educated women in many countries including Italy and Russia, and the United States find it difficult to have a career as well as raise a family, prompting a number of writers to suggest how women should approach dating and how to time their careers and personal life. The advice comes with the assumption that the work-life balance is inherently a “woman’s problem.” In many societies, there is a view that women should fulfill the role of primary caregivers, with little to no spousal support and with few services by employers or government such as parental leave or child care. Accordingly, an issue regarding dating is the subject of career timing which generates controversy. Some views reflect a traditional notion of gender roles. For example, Danielle Crittenden in What Our Mothers Didn’t Tell Us argued that having both a career and family at the same time was taxing and stressful for a woman; as a result, she suggested that women should date in their early twenties with a seriousness of purpose, marry when their relative beauty permitted them to find a reliable partner, have children, then return to work in their early thirties with kids in school; Crittenden acknowledged that splitting a career path with a ten-year baby-raising hiatus posed difficulties. There are contrasting views which suggest that women should focus on careers in their twenties and thirties. Columnist Maureen Dowd quoted comedian Bill Maher on the subject of differing dating agendas between men and women: “Women get in relationships because they want somebody to talk to — men want women to shut up.”
In studies comparing children with heterosexual families and children with homosexual families, there have been no major differences noted; though some claims suggest that kids with homosexual parents end up more well adjusted than their peers with heterosexual parents, purportedly due to the lack of marginalizing gender roles in same-sex families.
It is increasingly common today, however, with new generations and in a growing number of countries, to frame the work-life balance issue as a social problem rather than a gender problem. With the advent of a changing workplace, the increased participation of women in the labor force, an increasing number of men who are picking up their share of parenting and housework,  and more governments and industries committing themselves to achieving gender equality, the question of whether or not, or when to start a family is slowly being recognized as an issue that touches (or should touch) both genders.
The prospect of love often entails anxiety, sometimes with a fear of commitment  and a fear of intimacy for persons of both sexes. One woman said “being really intimate with someone in a committed sense is kind of threatening” and described love as “the most terrifying thing.” In her Psychology Today column, research scientist, columnist, and author Debby Herbenick compared it to a roller coaster:
There’s something wonderful, I think, about taking chances on love and sex. … Going out on a limb can be roller-coaster scary because none of us want to be rejected or to have our heart broken. But so what if that happens? I, for one, would rather fall flat on my face as I serenade my partner (off-key and all) in a bikini and a short little pool skirt than sit on the edge of the pool, dipping my toes in silence.— 
One dating adviser agreed that love is risky, and wrote that “There is truly only one real danger that we must concern ourselves with and that is closing our hearts to the possibility that love exists.”
Anthropologist Helen Fisher in 2008
What happens in the dating world can reflect larger currents within popular culture. For example, when the 1995 book The Rules appeared, it touched off media controversy about how men and women should relate to each other, with different positions taken by columnist Maureen Dowd of The New York Times and British writer Kira Cochrane of The Guardian. and others. It has even caused anthropologists such as Helen Fisher to suggest that dating is a game designed to “impress and capture” which is not about “honesty” but “novelty”, “excitement” and even “danger”, which can boost dopamine levels in the brain. The subject of dating has spun off popular culture terms such as the friend zone which refers to a situation in which a dating relation evolves into a platonic non-sexual union.
Risks of violence
Since people dating often do not know each other well,[ there is the risk of violence, including date rape. According to one report, there was a 10% chance of violence between students happening between a boyfriend and girlfriend, sometimes described as “intimate partner violence”, over a 12–month period. A 2004 estimate was that 20% of U.S. high school girls aged 14–18 were “hit, slapped, shoved or forced into sexual activity”.Violence while dating isn’t limited to any one culture or group or religion, but remains an issue in different countries. (It is usually the female who is the victim, but there have been cases where males have been hurt as well.) Sara McCorquodale suggests that women meeting strangers on dates meet initially in busy public places, share details of upcoming dates with friends or family so they know where they’ll be and who they’ll be with, avoid revealing one’s surname or
Map showing the most popular social media applications, by country; Facebook is dominant in 2016.
The Internet is shaping the way new generations date. Facebook, Skype, Whatsapp, and other applications have made remote connections possible. Particularly for the LGBTQ+ community, where the dating pool can be more difficult to navigate due to discrimination and having a ‘minority’ status in society.
Online dating tools are an alternate way to meet potential dates. Many people use smartphone apps such as Tinder, Grindr, or Bumble which allow a user to accept or reject another user with a single swipe of a finger.Some critics have suggested that matchmaking algorithms are imperfect and are “no better than chance” for the task of identifying acceptable partners. Others have suggested that the speed and availability of emerging technologies may be undermining the possibility for couples to have long-term meaningful relationships when finding a replacement partner has potentially become too easy.