Dating is a stage of romantic relationships in humans whereby two people meet socially with the aim of each assessing the other's suitability as a prospective partner in an intimate relationship or marriage. It is a form of courtship, consisting of social activities done by the couple, either alone or with others. The protocols and practices of dating, and the terms used to describe it, vary considerably from country to country and over time. While the term has several meanings, the most frequent usage refers to two people exploring whether they are romantically or sexually compatible by participating in dates with the other. 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. 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. Some cultures require people to wait until a certain age to begin dating, which has been a source of controversy.
Different meanings of the term
While the term dating has many meanings, the most common refers to a trial period in which two people explore whether to take the relationship further towards a more permanent relationship; in this sense, dating refers to the time when people are physically together in public as opposed to the earlier time period in which people are arranging the date, perhaps by corresponding by email or text or phone. Another meaning of the term dating is to describe a stage in a person's life when he or she is actively pursuing romantic relationships with different people. If two unmarried celebrities are seen in public together, they are often described as "dating" which means they were seen in public together, and it is not clear whether they are merely friends, exploring a more intimate relationship, or are romantically involved. A related sense of the term is when two people have been out in public only a few times but have not yet committed to a relationship; in this sense, dating describes an initial trial period and can be contrasted with "being in a committed relationship".
One of the main purposes of dating is for two or more people to evaluate one another’s suitability as a long term companion or spouse. Often physical characteristics, personality, financial status, and other aspects of the involved persons are judged and, as a result, feelings can be hurt and confidence shaken. Because of the uncertainty of the whole situation, the desire to be acceptable to the other person, and the possibility of rejection, dating can be very stressful for all parties involved. Some studies have shown that dating tends to be extremely difficult for people with social anxiety disorder.
While some of what happens on a date is guided by an understanding of basic, unspoken rules, there is considerable room to experiment, and there are numerous sources of advice available.  Sources of advice include magazine articles, self-help books, dating coaches, friends, and many other sources. And the advice given can pertain to all facets of dating, including such aspects as where to go, what to say, what not to say, what to wear, how to end a date, how to flirt, and differing approaches regarding first dates versus subsequent dates. In addition, advice can apply to periods before a date, such as how to meet prospective partners, as well as after a date, such as how to break off a relationship.
There are now more than 500 businesses worldwide that offer dating coach services—with almost 350 of those operating in the U.S. And the number of these businesses has surged since 2005"" Frequency of dating varies by person and situation; among singles actively seeking partners, 36% had been on no dates in the past three months, 13% had one date, 22% had two to four dates and 25% had five or more dates, according to a 2005 U.S. survey.