Relationships have evolved over time

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Illustration: kissing in bed

Da Eun Kim

While he was in Grade 10 and looking to get to know a girl in his physical education class better, James Arias decided to do what many of his peers did while trying to meet a potential mate: he added her on ICQ.

“That’s a really easy way for people our age to meet, I think,” he says. “Talking to someone in person can be awkward, so the Internet can make it easier.”

Since that time, Arias and his girlfriend of almost seven years have had their ups and down, but have remained with one another, making them somewhat of an anomaly at Western.

Although couples that have been dating for many years continue to exist, it is harder to find individuals in long-term relationships.

David Hall, who met his current wife of 29 years while at Western in the late 1970’s, noted some of the differences in striking a relationship during that era.

“I think generally [when people dated], they were looking for a life partner down the road,” he says. “There wasn’t too much ‘going out as a group’ as you see now. If you were going to a dance or social event, you’d go as a couple, you wouldn’t go individually.”

While in previous eras a relationship lasting seven years would likely lead to marriage, neither Arias nor his girlfriend have seriously contemplated the issue.

“It’s kind of funny that it would be weird for us to think about getting married after dating for this long,” he says.

Arias is not alone. A recent study by Statistics Canada entitled Canada Family Portrait revealed that for the first time, more Canadian adults have never been married than are married, reflecting a general lifestyle change in younger adults.

Former Western psychology professor Guy Grenier identified a number of factors pertaining to this trend, most notably the prevalence of birth control over the past few decades.

“It has had a huge effect on both relationships and on sex,” he says. “Sex used to be a terrifying thing for people, and now it is a more casual thing ... we can look at places around the world where birth control isn’t common and we see very different cultural expectations for men and women and very different social trends.”

In addition to motivation for dating, the ways in which individuals court one another has changed as well. Couples in previous eras did not have the benefit of Facebook, MSN Messenger and email to break the ice.

“You would have to do some maneuvering, I guess ... you’d try to know this person who caught your eye, maybe strike up a casual conversation and then maybe try to phone them and it would go from there,” he says. “More often than not you’d try to get to know them very casually and you’d kind of test one another out.”

As a member of Western’s Gilbert and Sullivan Society, Hall says he was lucky to have a job where he met a lot of women and eventually met his current wife.

“It was fortunate for me because I was a rather shy guy, and that was a problem … If you were too shy to approach anybody then you had a big obstacle to overcome,” he says.

“At the time it was more in the hands of the guy to make a move on the girl ... these were kind of unwritten laws, something you sensed the way it should be done.”

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