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This term may also refer to two or more people who have already decided they share romantic and/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 or marriage.  
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.  The 12th-century book The Art of Courtly Love advised that "True love can have no place between husband and wife."  According to one view, clandestine meetings between men and women, generally outside of marriage or before marriage, were the precursors to today's dating. 
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.