Story: Love and romance

Love is expected to be the foundation for long-term intimate relationships, and domestic and family life. It is intensely pleasurable, but sometimes fleeting and disruptive. Different people and cultures have varied ideas about love, and ways of expressing it.

Full story by Rosemary Du Plessis
Main image: US navy personnel and their dancing partners, Wellington, 1942

The Short Story

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Māori stories

The relationship between a Māori couple was the concern of the whānau, the hapū and sometimes the iwi. In one story Hinemoa was prevented from seeing the man she loved, Tūtānekai, because he was not of the same high rank. She swam across to Mokoia Island, guided by music he played on his flute.

Another story links tribes in Waikato with tribes on the East Coast through the marriage of Māhinaarangi and Tūrongo. Their son was the founder of Ngāti Raukawa.

Pākehā stories

Settlers brought a range of love stories, including stories of people who marry someone from a different social group, or lovers whose families are in conflict with each other.

New Zealand stories about falling in love range from the tragic novel The butcher shop by Jean Devanny, in which a wife’s affair leads to a murder and a suicide, to authors like Essie Summers, who wrote romance novels which sold internationally. There have also been many poems, movies and songs about love.

Dances and courtship

Balls and dances provided opportunities for courtship in the 19th century. At formal balls women held a card with that evening’s dances – when men asked them to dance they wrote their names on the card. In the 20th century dances became less formal, but people could still meet potential lovers.

Cinemas, milk bars and cars

In the early 20th century cinemas became places for couples to go to have private conversations, and hold hands and cuddle. Men were expected to invite women to go out.

Cars provided a place to talk and embrace, and ‘parking’ became a dating activity.

People also met during the day at milk bars, because it was not acceptable for women to go out at night alone.

Night clubs and school balls

In the late 20th century nightclubs offered dancing, alcohol and live entertainment. They were open till the early hours of the morning. Lesbians and gay men met at particular pubs or coffee bars.

Although many commercial dance halls closed down, school balls continued. Girls wore special dresses and halls were decorated. Often there were pre- and post-ball parties.

Meeting partners

Although people were generally left to choose partners for themselves, there was often an expectation that they would marry someone from their own social group. Young people were sent to church schools or joined clubs where they would meet people of similar backgrounds. By the end of the 20th century families were less likely to influence who people married.

Some people paid dating agencies to find them a suitable partner. In the early 2000s many people met through internet dating sites. Some sites introduced immigrants to potential partners from their former home.

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How to cite this page:

Rosemary Du Plessis. 'Love and romance', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 9-Nov-12
URL: http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/love-and-romance