16 Historical Dating Tips That Might Help Your Love Life

A painting of medieval courtship. Thomas Umstattd.

Dating hasn’t changed a great deal in the course of the last 100 years, but courtship and romance have varied dramatically over the course of human history. The earliest “romances” consisted of kidnapping and rape, which evolved into arranged marriages for the forging of alliances or exchange of property – and we have the Victorians to thank for working to encourage the role of romantic love in marriages.

A painting of a shepherd embracing his partner. Thomas Umstattd.

Many eras had their own unique courtship rituals like the carving of love-spoons or the gifting of gloves or other tokens of affection with specific meanings attached. One mostly constant factor in courtship through the ages has been the pursuing nature of men while women merely responded to overtures of affection.

A photograph of Thomas Edison and his second wife, Mina Miller. List Verse/Find a Grave.

1. Share a Language No One Else Knows

Thomas Edison, the famed inventor of the light bulb, the phonograph, and more, had a special romance with his second wife, Mina Miller. Edison married his first wife when he was 24, and she was only 16. Nevertheless, they had three children before she died in 1884 from either a brain tumor or morphine overdose. Two years later, he met and married Mina Miller, the daughter of fellow famed inventor Lewis Miller.

With the strict courtship rituals at the time, involving extensive parental supervision on behalf of the woman, it was difficult for couples to communicate privately. Being a talented inventor, Edison figured out a way to communicate with Miller under the watchful eye of her guardians: morse code. Miller was quite sharp herself and picked it up quickly, allowing the couple to pass messages under any watchful eyes.

Miller married Edison when he was 39 and she only 20. The couple went on to have three more children, one of whom was Charles Edison, a governor of New Jersey who also took over his father’s laboratory and inventions. Miller outlived Edison, becoming his widow when Edison died from complications of diabetes in 1913. One can imagine that new couples likely came up with ways of passing notes or secretly communication to get around the strict courtship culture of the age.