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Women eventually won the right to vote in many countries and own property and receive equal treatment by the law, and these changes had profound impacts on the relationships between men and women. In many societies, individuals could decide—on their own—whether they should marry, whom they should marry, and when they should marry.

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.

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.

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.

New types of relationships formed; it was possible for people to live together without marrying and without children.