How Have Love, Dating and Courtship Changed in the Last 6 Decades? 3 Generations Reflect on Relationships

Love and how we chase it has changed over time, but by how much?

Fifty-seven years, five children, 16 grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren later, Sharon and Bruce Barber's relationship is the kind made up of a lifelong, fun love that's endured because of, not in spite of, each other's quirks.

“He chews really loud. He has a deviated septum that he has never had fixed, so he cannot close his mouth when he chews and it is really bad,” Sharon Barber laughed. 

“Oh, let's see. She's a little messy. I have a big job picking up after her,” Bruce Barber told Inside Edition Digital.

The movies and shows people watch, the music people listen to, the internet people live on and the apps people swipe all serve as constant reminders of the connections craved. 

Love and how it's chased has changed over time, but how much? And at what cost?

Sharon Barber, known as TikTok’s Grandma Great, met Bruce in their native Utah in 1961 and got married three years later.

“His best friend was my best platonic friend. And I worked at a place called the David Feed Dipper Drive-in as a carhop. And my friend, Ricky, brought Bruce in to the Dipper Drive-in, and he can tell you the rest,” Sharon said.

“I thought she was the most beautiful person I had ever seen. So I asked him to see if he could set me up a date with her and he did,” Bruce recalled.

“It was actually a blind date. And I just thought he had the bluest eyes I had ever seen, ever,” Sharon said.

Their courtship was a far cry from the experiences of 21-year-old Gabriella Cusick, whose busy life in New York City sometimes makes it unclear if she's even on a date.

“So when we were just hanging out, they were talking about, ‘Oh, what do you want to do?’ And everything,” Cusick told Inside Edition Digital of one encounter. “And I think we ended up just going to McDonald's or something and then afterwards, he was like, ‘So when do you want to go on a second date?’ And I was like, ‘That was a date?’ I felt really bad because I didn't realize because we were hanging out.

“And if I do want to take my time and go out on a date with somebody, I really want to make sure I have a previous connection with them just because I'm a college student, I work two jobs,” she continued.

Although Cusick isn’t actively looking for love, she open to the idea of a relationship, but experts say that sometimes that isn't enough to find love.   

“We think we have endless options, but we actually don't,”  matchmaker, author and host Paul Carrick Brunson told Inside Edition Digital.

In addition to serving as a co-host of U.K.'s "Married at First Sight," Carrick Brunson has been pairing couples up around the world for more than a decade. 

“We're constantly looking for how can we get the most out of something, but in actuality, satisfaction doesn't come from getting the most of something. Right? So pointing to an example is my grandfather who grew up in Jamaica. He grew up in this very small, we call it ‘Bush in the Bush,’" said Brunson. “He was like, ‘Paul, I had three options.’ Right? And it's funny to hear my grandmother tell the story, because she says ‘I only had two options.’ Right? But the point is they had so few options. They really did. Therefore, there was much more care, much more diligence, but much more value that they got when they made their decision."

His grandparents did not have the option of Facebook, Tinder, Bumble, Match, Instagram or the plethora other sites that connect people, but that may not necessarily have been a bad thing, he explained. 

"You're not constantly thinking about the opportunity costs, 'I could have had this one, this one, this one,' right? That's the issue that we have today is because we're constantly swiping, it's this perception of opportunity costs. We think we could have had all of these other people when in actuality could we have?" he said. "Not really.”

Both married once before, Christine Lenihan Butler and Tom Butler decided to take another crack at love... meeting on match at the end of 2018.

Tom Butler can’t remember exactly what it was that Christine Lenihan Butler said to him on, but at this point, one could argue that it doesn’t really matter. 

“I forget exactly what she wrote, but it was pretty humorous and it was smart. You could tell. She articulated herself very, very well,” Butler told Inside Edition Digital.

Both married once before, the 57- and 56-year-old decided to take another crack at love, meeting on Match at the end of 2018. Lenihan Butler was encouraged to try online dating by her 30-year-old coworker and friend. 

“I don't know about Tom, but I can also say that I've told other women, ‘Don't give up. Don't don't think you can't find someone later in life.’ A lot of people give up, which is sad,” Lenihan Butler told Inside Edition Digital.

At the time, Lenihan Butler lived in Northern Virginia, while Butler lived in Tennessee. By the beginning of 2019, they were officially together and hadn’t met in person until she moved to Tennessee.

“So I broke the lease and moved out here and met him," she said. "I felt safe because I knew I had a job to go to. I knew I had my reasons for being in Nashville, my own personal reasons. So I thought it's icing on the cake to meet Tom. Right? And we set up a date at a pizza place on a Wednesday night. So it was very relaxing and casual.” 

Meeting people was a very different experience for the pair when they had first entered the dating game decades earlier. 

“It was just so random," she said. "I mean, it was exciting, but also just maybe that's why it was exciting because it was random.”

“I was in the military, so I was moving around a lot and I wasn't in one place for long,": Butler said, describing the experience then as "hit or miss."

So why, then, do so many people romanticize courtships of earlier times?

Dalvin DeGrate may have an explanation. 

DeGrate, his brother DeVante DeGrate and brothers K-Ci and JoJo Hailey were known in the 1990s as Jodeci, the bad boys of R&B who helped define New Jack Swing and love songs of that era. Their debut album, “Forever My Lady,” dropped in May 1991.

“I've never been in love, but I can write about it because I know and I can imagine what I want it to be like when I do,”  Dalvin DeGrate told Inside Edition Digital. “I haven't, I haven't. I've loved people and I've cared, but as far as being in love, I haven't experienced that yet."

It could come as surprising to some, considering DeGrate was seen by many as the group’s sex symbol. 

“Well maybe that's the reason," he said. "There are other things that excite me as far as I love making music, I love being on stage, I love a lot of things about life. And I've just never took the time to let love be one of the things that just kind of that center stage in my life.” 

At the height of Jodeci's success, dating came easy to DeGrate, but love was not the ultimate goal. 

“We had beepers. We had the two-way pagers. We had all the new technology. And we had cellphones,” DeGrate said. “I mean you had this abundance of just people, women and... back then you wasn't trying to be serious, you was just having fun.”

So why do some romanticize the way love used to appear? “I think that it brought people to a place to where they wanted to feel like, ‘Man, this artist is talking to me.’ They wanted to feel loved, and that's what we really projected on,” DeGrate said.

Sharon Barber, whose marriage has lasted five decades, said it's easy to romanticize a time that's long gone, but humans have always been as complicated as they appear now. 

“Well, I think love is love, the blissful love that you saw back then, I think it still exists because that is just human nature, that I don't believe that it was as easy and simplified as people see it today as they look back at that era,” she offered. “If we could only have it that easy, but we had a war going on, and we were concerned that our husbands were going to get drafted and if it was going to split up the family. And I think that people look at that era as so much less complicated.”

What does it take to make love last?

The Barbers say the key to a healthy, thriving relationship at any age and stage is the work needing to be put in by both parties. 

“Yeah, you've got to keep working at what you got. You don't want to throw things away for something better that you don't have,” Bruce Barber told Inside Edition Digital.

“Yeah, we all have them. And in the end, affection is greater than perfection,” Sharon Barber smiled.

Ultimately, Carrick Brunson says the key to a long, successful relationship is self-confidence.

“You don't need anyone else. You were full in who you are. That's normally when love shows up unexpectedly and it normally shows up in an unexpected package," he said. "And that's the reason why it's so important for us to do the work on us first. And when you do the work on you first, and you reach that point, that's exactly when love comes and knocks on your door."

The award-winning journalists at Inside Edition Digital are digging into a specific topic, going deeper than daily news cycles allow to bring you The Issue, a series of articles and videos on a specific subject. For more of The Issue 3, where we're diving into generational change, click here