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In the twentieth century, dating was sometimes seen as a precursor to marriage but it could also be considered as an end-in-itself, that is, an informal social activity akin to friendship.

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.Accordingly, there was little need for a temporary trial period such as dating before a permanent community-recognized union was formed between a man and a woman.While pair-bonds of varying forms were recognized by most societies as acceptable social arrangements, marriage was reserved for heterosexual pairings and had a transactional nature, where wives were in many cases a form of property being exchanged between father and husband, and who would have to serve the function of reproduction.New types of relationships formed; it was possible for people to live together without marrying and without children.Information about human sexuality grew, and with it an acceptance of all types of sexual orientations is becoming more common.