Humans have been compared to other species in terms of sexual behavior.

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In modern times, emphasis on the institution of marriage, generally described as a male-female bond, has obscured pair bonds formed by same-sex and transsexual couples, and that many heterosexual couples also bond for life without offspring, or that often pairs that do have offspring separate.

Thus, the concept of marriage is changing widely in many countries.

These species-particular behavior patterns provide a context for aspects of human reproduction, including dating.

However, one particularity of the human species is that pair bonds are often formed without necessarily having the intention of reproduction.

Generally, during much of recorded history of humans in civilization, and into the Middle Ages in Europe, weddings were seen as business arrangements between families, while romance was something that happened outside of marriage discreetly, such as covert meetings.

From about 1700 a worldwide movement perhaps described as the "empowerment of the individual" took hold, leading towards greater emancipation of women and equality of individuals.

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This period of courtship is sometimes seen as a precursor to engagement.

Dating as an institution is a relatively recent phenomenon which has mainly emerged in the last few centuries.

A few centuries ago, dating was sometimes described as a "courtship ritual where young women entertained gentleman callers, usually in the home, under the watchful eye of a chaperone," but increasingly, in many Western countries, it became a self-initiated activity with two young people going out as a couple in public together.