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Time redefines the rules of romance

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If one thing is constant, it is … love?

Like most things, it changes over time, however.

“I think love is great; I think everybody ought to fall in love. It’s a wonderful, wonderful thing, and there’s nothing much more valuable than love that lasts a long time. … It’s one of those things that makes life worth living – worth an investment,” Baker University Assistant Professor of Psychology Wendi Born said.

Born said that although relationships have evolved a long way, the factors that make up love in a relationship have remained the same.

“I would think of love as equal parts of physical attraction, respect and kind of a warmth and caring. … I think of these as the things that make a romantic relationship successful or, if not successful in the long-term, at least a pleasant growth experience,” Born said.

Born said while romantic love was made up of these same factors long ago, relationships and dating have changed on the whole.

She said that 30 or more years ago, intimacy was not as strong in relationships as it is now, so people would sometimes date more than one person in a week, and it was not looked down upon.

“Certainly, you could date different people, but when you did that, you were not intimate at all, perhaps not even kissing them.”

Minister to the University Ira DeSpain said that today, “going out” refers to people actually in a relationship, but “going out” used to be a more casual phrase.

“Going out means something different now,” DeSpain said. “When I was dating … going out was simply going out on a date.”

DeSpain agreed with Born in that it used to be normal to date a variety of people before committing to a certain person.

“If you went out with somebody, that was not a contract,” DeSpain said. “That was simply a social get-together. You could date around without feeling disloyal, unless you had agreed somehow to be lavaliered or to date exclusively. … (Now) people date one person at a time as opposed to dating a series of people at a time, and that’s the difference.”

Sophomore Ali Sherman, who wrote a column on relationships for the Kansas City Star that was later picked up nationally and organized by Knight Ridder, said money could also play a role in how we do not ‘date around’ as much anymore, especially for people still in school.

“I think that in college especially, dating isn’t really necessary,” Sherman said. “You meet someone in class or at a party and slowly get to know each other on a casual basis. Then, you make things official before you actually go out on dates. We’re all college kids, not rolling in the dough, so before we take someone out and spend a ton of cash on a single evening, we wait to see if we like them.”

In addition, Sherman said ‘group dating’ is something more common now than in early times, when a date usually involved only the couple.

“I think the biggest change in dating within our lifetime is the inception of the ‘group date,'” Sherman said. “It makes things less awkward (and) puts less pressure on each person involved. It also makes parents feel more comfortable with their children ‘dating’ at a younger age because, in all actuality, it is not an (official) date.”

Sophomore RJ Michel said he thinks dating has become less strict, and parents will let their children date at earlier ages than in the past.

“I think dating someone is a lot looser now,” Michel said.

DeSpain agreed that dating has become less strict and said that we move faster today in our relationships than couples did in previous decades.

“One of the things that was sort of a big drama in the early to mid-’60s was at what point would it be appropriate to kiss a girl. … It was not assumed that you would be kissing on the first date, so there was a bit of social pressure to not have that sort of physical contact right away,” DeSpain said.

DeSpain is an alumnus of Baker and he said women had certain hours they could be in or out of their places of residence.

“When I was a student here, there were closing hours for the women,” DeSpain said. “When you went out on a date, the women had to sign out and tell where they were going and who they were going with,” he said.

He said dating was even stricter when his parents were dating in the ’40s.

“Their dates were my dad coming over to my mom’s house and the two of them sitting on the front porch of her house and just talking, and they didn’t go out because my mom wasn’t aloud to go to the movies,” DeSpain said.

DeSpain said privacy is increasing, as far as ‘alone time’ between couples goes. He said his parents had less privacy than he did, and he had less privacy than his children did. DeSpain said the amount of privacy couples are afforded is still increasing to this day.

Another change to relationships as we know them now is that society is more accepting of expanded dating options, like same-sex or interracial relationships, Born said.

“I think something has changed … and homosexual relationships are a bit more open and accepted than 20 years ago,” Born said.

Freshman Amelia Harshfield agreed that society has become more diverse, as far as relationships are concerned.

“Today, we’re a lot more accepting … (we have) interracial and gay relationships,” Harshfield said.

However, Baker, as a smaller university, can make it tough for all types of relationships to prosper, Born said.

“The one thing that might be different in a bigger university is that people who have strong interests outside the mainstream maybe will meet more people that are similar to them,” she said. “If you are a gay student, you probably have a lot more choices at a bigger institution, especially if you belong to an organization for gay students.”

But Born said a plus about a small university is that one may feel more comfortable engaging in conversations and meeting other people.

“I think studies suggest that we date people that we come in contact with, so it may even be that a small university like this would bring you into contact with more people, because at a larger university, you may pass more people, but not get into contact with them,” Born said.

Born said another difference in present and past relationships is that today marriage happens at a later age, and it may be caused by our working society.

“From age 18 to 28, people make a lot of major life decisions, and so you would have to manage more situations in order to stay together,” Born said.

She also said that waiting to get married, paired with stronger pre-marriage intimacies, increases the risks for sexually transmitted diseases, if two partners engage in premarital sex.

“The longer you wait to get married, the more issues you will have to deal with since the average age of getting married is getting higher,” Born said.

Another problem with waiting longer to get married is there are fewer options in the working world, Born said.

“If you go work at a large company, 80 percent will be married, some will have children, so the number of prospective partners you come into contact with every day will diminish dramatically,” Born said.

Sherman said many students feel more secure leaving college with a stable partner.

“You graduate, you step out into the real world, and it’s scary to be alone,” Sherman said. “Getting married can be seen as a comfort, taking a piece of that life with you into your new one. … It gives you a person who already knows and loves you to help you figure out how to live on your own without having to do it by yourself.”

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