Difference between Dating and Marriage

When two people live together, have sex, make their incomes and assets available to each other and talk about children or even have children, are they dating or are they married? A lot of lines have been crossed in the past decades as far as what couples can do when they are dating and what they can do when they are married. The times when two people could only hold hands and kiss before marriage are long gone, and many brides are carrying their baby down the aisle and breastfeeding in their wedding dresses whenever they get a change throughout the ceremony. So what else is left for marriage these days? Is it simply the notion?


Dating vs Marriage

Normally, dating, or going out, is a series of activities done by two people who are trying to find out as much as possible about each other. They are supposed to be fun and enjoyable and shed some light on each of their personalities and how well they match. Dates can take place during the day or night. They imply doing something or simply hanging out, talking and spending time in whatever way the two people see fit. If both partners approve, a date can end in sexual intercourse.

Although there is a difference in terms when talking about dating and being in a relationship, some people see dating as being in a relationship, while others see dating as the time for doing test runs with potential partners and not taking things too seriously.


Marriage is the ceremony in which the union of two people and their decision to share their life and their assets is made public and is publically accepted by their families, their communities and their religious leaders. In time, this concept has suffered changes and has been regulated to comply with human rights provisions.

Since ancient times, the main purpose of marriage was that of giving birth to children and of knowing their lineage. Strong and powerful families liked to have more control over their assets and married their children off in arranged marriages. This secured their political position, helped them form alliances and made sure that their assets and titles remained in the extended families.

The 19th century Romantic movement introduced the notion of love marriage to the world, and slowly, things started to change. More than strategic alliances, marriages had to be partnerships between spouses and unions that both parties needed to agree upon. The role the woman’s consent played in forming the union changed considerably.

Today, we look at marriage as a partnership between two people, brought together by a strong feeling of love, respect and loyalty. Legally, spouses have equal rights over their shared assets and they have decision power over one another in specific situations.

Dating vs Marriage

The main difference between dating and marriage consists in the legal recognition of the union, which grants partners rights over the shared assets and decision power in family matters. More than social and religious recognition of the union, the state itself needs to have an idea of how many family units it has. Although the government has to protect all individuals, the family is considered the main cell of modern society.

When a couple is dating, a break up is possible without need for legal notifications, acknowledgement and involvement of civil servants. Children can still be conceived out of wedlock, and they can still be raised by both parents without the group ever becoming a family unit in the eyes of the law. However, this type of behavior is not typically encouraged because, statistically, children coming from disorganized families have fewer chances for success in life, as there are clear benefits from being raised by two people with two incomes and pre-defined roles in the household.

Dating is fun and implies only taking on the responsibilities one wants to take on. The past few decades have proven that people are more willing to take on married life responsibilities without actually being married and that the ceremony in itself and the notion is among the scariest things for those who prefer dating to marriage.

Comparison Chart

Dating Marriage
When two people go out, spend time together and have sex When the union of two people is publicly announced and accepted by families, community and religious leaders
There can be shared assets and children, but it is up to the partners how much they admit to having in common There can be shared assets and children both spouses are entitled to and responsible for
Has changed in the past few decades as people are doing more in the dating phase Has changed in the past few decades as people are doing more in the dating phase
It used to be about getting to know a bit about the other person, now it allows people to experience every aspect of couple life It used to be about alliances between families, assets and dowry exchange and producing heirs, now it is about love