Searching For Love Throughout History

By | May 31, 2019

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Couple meeting through a matchmaker. Source: (

These days, the search for true love often involves swiping left or right on a smartphone, though any people look down on the use of such dating apps. Some consider them to ineffective, dangerous, desperate, or some combination of the three. Others simply believe that meeting one’s soulmate should occur naturally, through the machinations of fate or God. However, while the technology involved with dating apps may be new, people have been finding creative ways to seek a mate for centuries.


One of the oldest methods of seeking a partner is using a matchmaker. Early matchmakers played a key role in arranged marriages in many cultures as parents would seek aid in finding a spouse for their child. According to Jewish tradition, Abraham employed a matchmaker, called a shadkhan, in seeking a wife for his son, Isaac. These shadkhanim were prevalent in Jewish communities during the Middle Ages. In Western culture, clergy members often assumed the role of matchmaker, particularly in Catholic and Jewish communities. Farming communities of North America would hold dances during which chaperones acted as informal matchmakers. The Japanese tradition omiai, introducing individuals to consider marriage, often involved using matchmakers known as nakoda who provided pictures and resumes of potential mates. Omiai died off during the mid-twentieth century in favor of “love matches.” While it continues in some of the rural areas of Japan, professional matchmakers have been largely replaced by relatives who perform the same function without the fee. Korean tradition has a similar practice which uses a matchmaker called a jung-me. While this practice has also diminished, matchmakers are still commonly used in South Korea.

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Victorian flirtation card. Source: (

Flirtation Cards

A precursor to the modern pick-up lines, flirtation cards were a variation of the gentleman’s calling card. These were popular during the Victorian Era when matchmaking and arranged marriages were acceptable ways for couples to meet. Due to the strict social standards of the time, a man could not simply walk up and speak to a woman without first being introduced by a mutual acquaintance. Flirtation cards, also known as escort or acquaintance cards, were a way of bypassing formal social protocol. These cards were covertly slipped into the woman’s palm and contained short messages ranging from icebreakers to outright propositions.