By Dave Singleton
I thought I knew a lot about how singles think and feel. After all, I’ve written about dating and relationships for ten years and my name is Singleton (no, not a pen name).
But the surprising and sometimes counterintuitive results from a new study of more than 5,000 single people are making me question my assumptions and take note. Commissioned by Match.com and led by top researchers, this is quite possibly the most comprehensive survey of singles to date.
The findings reveal what I call Singles 2.0, a new breed of men and women who are defying age and gender stereotypes while shaking up their actions and attitudes toward dating. The facts and figures are striking. But how can they help those on the dating frontlines?
Based on the research findings, there are several real-world implications for singles trying to meet their matches. Check out these six new and myth-busting rules that’ll help you improve your dating life right now!
Rule 1: Approach single men with fresh eyes
In some ways, this new study could be subtitled: “In defense of the unmarried American male.” Single guys, who have long gotten a bum rap for being commitment-phobes and romantically blasé, are evidently misunderstood. The survey makes it clear: don’t buy into these myths. Men fall in love faster, are more eager to have children for the first time (24% vs. 15%), and when it comes to love, feel just as intensely as women do. The most surprising fact about men may be this: “More men than women would marry a partner they weren’t sexually attracted to,” says renowned biological anthropologist Dr. Helen Fisher. “Shared interests and family are more important.”
Rule 2: Stop thinking that single women are clingy and dependent
I’ve heard from numerous single men who fear that clingy women will threaten their independence. Guess what? Study findings reveal that — across every age group — women in a relationship are more likely than men to hold tight to their own interests, personal space, bank accounts, regular nights out with their girlfriends, and separate vacations. So relax, guys. It looks like we’re the ones who should worry about being overly needy.
Rule 3: Join the crowd and expand your dating pool
Prejudice is waning and singles are more open to dates of different races and religions. A relatively small percentage of men (20%) and women (29%) consider it “very important” or a “must have” to find someone who shares their own ethnic background, while even fewer men (17%) and women (28%) are specifically looking for partners who share their religious backgrounds. “Be part of the future,” says Dr. Fisher. “It’s clear that others are getting rid of their past ideas about the right partner.” For many singles, knowing that the tides are turning may free you up to expand your pool of prospects, too.
Rule 4: Whoa, slow down! Don’t rush to judgment about your date
I have nothing against the lucky few who’ve experienced love at first sight. But what about the rest of us who aren’t immediately felled by Cupid’s arrow? We’re used to going out on a first date and not experiencing the 4th of July fireworks we’re told we must have. The research suggests that success comes if you’re not so quick to throw in the towel. So why not slow down next time and give your date a second chance? “Maybe the single most important finding is that 35% of these people fell in love with someone they didn’t initially find attractive,” says Dr. Fisher. Of this subset of people, “71% grew into the attraction through great conversations, shared interests or both.”
Rule 5: Embrace dating as you age
Conventional wisdom holds that dating success and enjoyment are like a milk carton. They come with an expiration date. According to this new study, singles 65+ report the greatest level of happiness over the past 12 months combined with the least stress over their single status. So relax about being single, older, and dating. It turns out that your love life down the road will be better than you think.
Rule 6: Disavow outdated dating obstacles
Remember all the traditional reasons why you weren’t supposed to date someone? He’s not this. She’s not that. Findings indicate that singles are increasingly disavowing what were once considered romantic hindrances. For example:
- Myth: Office romances are taboo. This is undoubtedly true in some places and circumstances. But the relative few who engage in office romance seem to be grown-ups who can handle their love lives in ways that don’t affect their work. After breaking up, 56% reported that the romance didn’t affect their professional relationship and 36% would consider dating someone in the workplace in the future.
- Myth: You’re unemployed and therefore unlovable. Wrong! You’re not a dating pariah. Fifty percent of singles are open to seeing someone unemployed if they found the person interesting.
- Myth: Single parents are alone on Saturday night. Says who? Single parents go on more dates than singles without kids, and more of these moms and dads are currently dating someone, too.
Amid all the surprising findings, a few results seem familiar. For example, despite their independent streak, women still aren’t comfortable asking men out. “I suspect there are certain aspects of courtship that are never going to change,” says Dr. Fisher. Still, it’s hard to deny how dramatically the dating landscape has indeed changed. But I’m happy to embrace changes that keep me optimistic about romance. How about you?
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 at email@example.com.