Let's say there's a major or constant level of warfare with an external enemy is a modern developed society. Think like modern day Korea or Israel. As a result of this level of warfare men are conscripts and serve for three years before being allowed to return.

Altogether though the society is a healthy, wealthy democracy with scandanvian levels of inequality. So don't worry about income too much.

About 0.1% of the population and 1% of the military dies every year from the war.

How does dating, courtship and relationships change here?

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    $\begingroup$ If this nation is conscripting due to an existential threat (instead of cultural or political inertia), why are only men being conscripted? $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Apr 14, 2021 at 2:49
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    $\begingroup$ @user535733 If it's generational, because you can make ten babies with one man and ten women, but not with ten men and one woman. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Apr 14, 2021 at 2:51
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    $\begingroup$ @DKNguyen seems like that sort of risk of multi-generational risk of population loss conflicts with "healthy, wealthy democracy with scandanvian levels of inequality." Possibly the OP may not know that existential threats generally result in large numbers of women in uniform, too. Or maybe their description of the threat is misleading...maybe it's not existential (in which case, why three years without leaves or passes?) Lots of questions raised by the situation, and lots of historical workarounds...depending upon the answers. $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Apr 14, 2021 at 3:10
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    $\begingroup$ Conscription of this sort happen today and has happened historically so I am not sure what you think is going to be different from the real world examples. And what happens would depend on the normal cultural approach to these things. Everyone in a country typically does not share the same attitudes or culture so the effects will be different from case to case. $\endgroup$ Apr 14, 2021 at 4:18
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    $\begingroup$ "Society where men are conscripted for three years into the military" = all of Europe from about 1850 to about 1950. Go read a book or watch a movie... You will quickly notice that things changed a lot during this time, and varied a lot from country to country. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Apr 14, 2021 at 7:51

5 Answers 5


Not Much

If like you say they face a constant level of warfare similar to that of South Korea or Israel, then you should simply take reference from said countries. Several years of serving as a conscript is an impediment but won't prevent boys from getting into or staying in a relationship. You'd simply adjust by shifting your dates to whichever day you're not on duty, whispering sweet nothings to your girlfriend over the phone while in camp, etc. It will push back other milestones in life, such as marriage, higher education, or getting your own house but with regards to children, nothing stops them from having kids out of wedlock. A common complaint amongst conscripts is that they get dumped shortly after entering national service. However breakups are normal enough at that age group that I don't think this is really indicative of anything big picture.

If you want bigger changes to dating/courtships/relationships, you'll need a much higher level of open warfare occurring on a semi-regular basis, like the 1950 Korean War or the 1973 Yom Kippur War. As neither of those events have since recurred, neither country really serves as an example of major changes to relationships.

Note that countries practicing conscription do so typically at the 18-25 age band. YMMV if you conscript at a different age


It won't change much.

In many European states long conscription was the norm. For example in post-unitary Italy (from 1860 to 1910) obligatory conscription lasted 4 to 5 years for all men above 20 years of age, following the model established in Napoleonic France.

As far as I can find, it affected the rate of desertion among lower classes (taking a young and healthy farmer from his farm when he is at the top of his fitness is not exactly popular), not the courtship behavior of the involved population.


Your conscripts are in their late 50s.

They already did the courting, the baby daddying, the education and the job seeking, or not. What they were able to do they did. Now they pretty much have their trajectories set. It is a fun break for them to be in the military for a few years and hang out with the other graying old boys. Easy first world living means the 50 year olds are in much better shape than their grandfathers or even their fathers were at the same age. 50 is the new 30!

Yes, their knees are not great and vigorous bayonet work still makes their faces get red. Fortunately that is not how wars are fought these days The old dudes make excellent tank drivers and especially drone pilots, and are up for some sniping. They are inherent masters of artillery. They keep the guns and vehicles clean and they go to bed early. Best of all, they are full of helpful suggestions about how military matters could be accomplished more quickly, efficiently and cheaply. Everyone wins!

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    $\begingroup$ Sorry, but no. Sleep deprivation is part of conflict, especially one that lasts 3 years, and while older people need less sleep they function worse without it. They are also less adaptable and less reckless - much harder to make them "gov over the top". Lots of them will have chronic health problems which will massively increase the already significant medical support requirements of the armed forces. If all you need are drone drivers then they can do that from home, this requires a 3 year deployment without leave! $\endgroup$ Apr 14, 2021 at 3:25
  • $\begingroup$ @KerrAvon2055 - you have a point. And I understand your tacit suggestion is to cybernetically augment these old sodiers, and rejuvenate them with infusions of blood from young people. And so you have clarified the correct answer to the question: young men will practice courtly love, but slightly less vigorously by virtue of being frequent blood donors. Everyone wins! $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Apr 14, 2021 at 14:01
  • $\begingroup$ This is a good one, lol $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Apr 14, 2021 at 14:42

Politics aside, I'm from israel, so I'll give a mostly historical perspective on how courtship worked in israel during the "security zone" period 1982-2000.

First off we must address what getting drafted into a modern army means. Modern armies usually have an equal or greater quantity of support staff as opposed to combat staff. Some support are mechanics others are camera operators and others are truck drivers. The importance of this is that they are likely to go home more, therefore it's not as if all courtship has ceased, just less constantly available people. The combat staff's life looked different, and this was the cause of much consternation.

  1. hooking up: Though picking up girls at the street corner was a thing, it was common back then for people to set each other up. This improved peoples chances, since they would often have just a single weekend until being sent back to wherever for a month or more. In essence they had a single weekend to enter a long-term long-distance relationship. Many others simply didn't bother getting a girlfriend.

  2. girlfriend:.For the combat troops having a girlfriend was as much of a practical matter as it was a romantic one. A girlfriend could do your laundry, give you a place to sleep and send you a care package with things you forgot. Despite this broken relationships from service are common, to the point the armoured corp used to graduate from armoured school any girlfriend that lasted through the entirety of training.

  3. Marriage: Getting married during combat service is considered cruel to your loved one to this very day. Despite this people get married during service for various religious and financial reasons. The other use of marriage is for draft dodging, since the law exempts married woman from service and married men from combat. (They can serve married if they so wish, but it is voluntary.)

  4. Relationships on base: Not very common for no apparent reason. When they do happen they are usually rather frivolous. Higher ranking officers used to commonly have mistresses, though not openly, since there are non fraternization laws.

EDIT: Israel is a small country, with its conflicts at its' borders. This allows relatively often leave even for the busiest of soldiers. What is described here comes in context of leave about once a month.


Probably nothing, but there could be nasty side effects...

It depends on how much action they see and how supervised they are on the battlefield, and what they do with their shore leave.

If your men are trained, drilled, and then sit on bases or expensive tech doing not much, then getting 2 trips home a year or something, absolutely nothing will change. They will write letters to their high school sweet hearts, and those relationships may work or they may not, but it'll be treated like a pause on all relationships between ages, say 17 to 20.

(Could arguably even be a good thing to force a pause on all young relationships between teens and adulthood to stop regretful marriages - We have cooling off periods with major financial contracts, relationships should be no different).

However if they see action, especially deployed into enemy territory, and they're not very well supervised or held to account for their actions, this could have major impact on your society: Young men, sexually frustrated and inexperienced, sweeping through enemy towns with automatic weapons (and the ability to kill anyone without consequences) have a nasty tendency to rape, both historically, and in modern wars. Even those who don't commit the acts directly learn from the culture - having buddies do these horrible things normalises it.

Even minus the rape of enemies wife's and daughters, sex for an army is often at best a transaction at a local brothel - teaching a transactional model to sex "I gave you money, now we have sex" that often doesn't fair well when equal adults attempt courtship. "I bought you dinner and 2 drinks - now you owe me sex!" - "But I have a headache" - "You're trying to rip me off!".

While I doubt they'll bring the serial rape home with them (it'll probably get compartmentalised - "the enemy is subhuman" "Laws don't apply in that land, but do at home"), their deployment was probably their first few sexual experiences and the bulk of their informal sex-ed. If a significant number of your adult males return from the field with that learned experience of interacting with women, there will be problems. Your males will struggle significantly with concepts like informed consent and dealing with rejection.

If they learn their sex-ed from a position of power - I would expect issues with increased domestic violence in your society.


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