Women are pickier in their dating choices? Men are more romantic? Unemployment doesn’t matter so much in love? You’re more likely to run for the office of president than change your new sweetie’s political bent before the election happens? And wait…older singles are happier than the rest of us? What is going on?
No, the world didn’t shift on its axis. But maybe it rocked a little after getting a glimpse at the latest eye-opening findings from Singles in America, the second annual study (and the largest of its kind) of single Americans’ attitudes, values and practices, conducted by Match.com in association with biological anthropologist Dr. Helen Fisher and sex therapist Dr. Laura Berman, among others, and in collaboration with the Institute for Evolutionary Studies at Binghamton University (also known as EvoS).
In this important election year, we asked over 5,000 single men and women aged 21 to 65+ to weigh in on hot-button issues — including their attitudes about dating and politics — by answering more than 120 questions focused on love, dating, relationships, sex and politics. Now, the tallies are in… and there’s definitely a strong mandate for change. The findings reveal shifting trends among men and women of all ages, ethnicities, orientations, and political parties. But while the research — like any smart politician — offers plenty of dazzling facts and figures, here’s the question singles really care about: What does all of this mean to me?
View Singles on Match.com
Let’s cut to the chase and reveal the real-world implications for actively dating singles and their matches. Check out these six brand new, myth-busting tips designed to help improve your love life:
Tip #1: Pay attention to political affiliation — it matters more than you might think
Especially in an election year, savvy singles should pay close attention to what political differences might mean for your love life. The data indicates that Republicans and Democrats will benefit from really learning about each other — before going on a date.
“They are really looking for different things,” says Dr. Fisher. In a nutshell, Republicans want matches from similar backgrounds (i.e., the same religion and/or ethnic group, share the same basic set of values and have similar attitudes about money). Democrats are significantly more likely to claim their “must-haves” for a partner include: being funny, independent, having a similar level of education/communication skills, and being comfortable with his or her sexuality. “This speaks to core values, priorities, and goals in life,” says Dr. Fisher. “And those ‘must-haves’ are not going to change.”
In fact, nearly half of all singles surveyed (46%) say their political views have not changed in the last 10 years — including men and women of all major ethnic backgrounds (African Americans, Caucasians, Asians, and Latinos fall into the 92-96% range) and those of different sexual orientation (94% of straight men, 96% of straight women, 93% of gay men and 89% of lesbians). So if you date someone across the political aisle from your own, accept that you probably won’t be able to change anyone’s beliefs one way or the other — and get ready to make some real compromises for the sake of your relationship.
Tip #2: Stop stereotyping the single American male
According to the latest study, men are more romantic, sensitive and willing to commit than the collective American public gives them credit for. So, it’s time for straight women (and gay men) to get with the program and stop making assumptions, because this new data makes a strong case in defense of the oft-maligned American male and his dating behaviors. “Women should be very reassured by this,” says Dr. Fisher. “Even though I get a lot of responses along the lines of ‘that can’t be true’ — it is true.”
“Open your eyes and let your assumptions go,” says Dr. Fisher. “You might miss out on the richness of the male personality.”
So much for the myth that most men are players! “Only 3% of men responded affirmatively to the query, ‘I’d like to date a lot of people.’ 97% are looking for a genuine relationship,” explains Dr. Fisher. In fact, men are more likely to believe in love at first sight, are equally likely to fall in love, believe it’s possible to stay in love forever, and become stressed from loneliness due to lack of a romantic partner.
Men are also more willing to commit to a relationship that’s without romantic love or sexual satisfaction. “Women are going to swallow their forks when they hear that,” says Dr. Fisher. “They have a concept about what men are that doesn’t fit reality. And what is even more surprising is that the majority of these responses are from young men.”
Tip #3: Think it’s scary and miserable to be an older dater? Think again
In fact, there’s plenty of data that suggests there’s no reason to fear dating after a certain age. In fact, the characters portrayed on shows like the Golden Girls — four older, single women who enjoyed dating and had active sexual lives of their own — have probably been the norm longer than we realize. We’re just now catching onto this as something that’s more than just a funny stereotype. The study shows that overall, older men and women are embracing dating, having more orgasms, and finding their marital sex lives to be most satisfying.
“Older daters are really looking for sex and love,” says Dr. Fisher. “They are not desperate. When you’re older, you don’t have to make compromises. I don’t have to build a family or fulfill certain societal expectations. If I am going to make compromises, I’m only going to make them because I’m madly in love and feel profound sexual attraction to that person.”
Forget the image of a miserable single senior, then. Unconstrained by family and social pressure, you’ve got the freedom to make your own dating rules as you age and have a sexier, more romantic and fulfilled love life than ever before!
Tip #4: Embracing these changes in people’s attitudes and behavior widens your dating pool
Men and women are no longer looking for the same traditional attributes in a partner that they once did (“for millennia!” Dr. Fisher adds). Here are a few reasons why it’s not just a good thing for most of you — it’s great. First, think of how liberating it is that fewer singles cite the following “must-haves” for a serious partnership: a partner’s religion (only 18% of men and 28% of women), ethnic background (21% of men and 31% of women), equal financial contribution (13% of men and 36% of women), and the desire to have children (36% of men and 41% of women aged 21-39).
With these prerequisites for marriage seeing a dramatic decline, the oh-so-important “numbers game” aspect of dating gives singles much better odds of finding someone than they had in the past.
Tip #5: Log onto the love train, because the love of your life might be online right now
And to borrow a line from Michael Buble: You just haven’t met him online yet. More singles met the last person they dated through an online dating site (21%) than in any other place. While keeping a well-rounded portfolio of dating options is important, don’t overlook the fact that online dating is a trend that’s destined to stay on an upswing in the coming years. Across all age groups, nearly three times as many singles met their last date online (21%) as in a bar or club (8%). And singles were roughly seven times more likely to meet their last date online compared to being set up with someone by a relative. “These days, singles are inclined to meet friends at the bar but then come home, put their pajamas on, and start the real courtship [efforts] when they log onto their computer or smartphone,” says Dr. Fisher.
Tip #6: Avoid letting the bad economy negatively impact your love life
If you’re unemployed or facing economic hardship, cheer up; here’s some good news. Just because the economy is still sluggish doesn’t mean your dating life has to be, too. While it might not conquer all, love at least conquers a lot of negative stereotypes about dating those who are unemployed (or less wealthy). On average, a third of all respondents said someone’s unemployment status would not affect their decision to date someone if they liked that person. And it’s no surprise that 60% of singles say they’re stressed out by the tough economy — but an equal number (60%) indicated that their dating routines hadn’t been affected by it.
“In fact, the economy has a remarkable lack of impact on dating,” says Dr. Fisher. “The human brain is built to seek romantic love and attachment — so much so that the ups and downs of the economy are less likely to affect basic human drives.” Finally, the new research reinforces the growing equality of gays and lesbians. Brain studies reveal that they respond to romantic love the same way as their heterosexual counterparts, and they want the same qualities in their mates as straight couples seek out.
“A colleague commented to me that ‘there’s no difference in data between straights and gays, so I guess there’s no news,’” says Dr. Fisher. “I responded: That is the news. The fact that we all want the same things should help normalize gay and lesbian relationships. Hopefully, gays and lesbians will have more time to focus on building strong relationships and less time worrying about others’ opinions and prejudices.”
There’s a lot to absorb in all this new research, but perhaps the biggest takeaway is this: knowledge is power. Challenging society’s old assumptions and considering new ways of approaching your love life can only help in your search for a mate.
To review the study’s findings in more detail and offer your comments, visit the Match.com blog.
Dave Singleton, an award-winning writer and columnist for Match.com since 2003, is the author of two books on dating and relationships. Send your dating questions and comments to him firstname.lastname@example.org.