MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
OK. This one’s for all the single people out there and for the people who are still trying to fix them up. If you have noticed that dating priorities have changed since the pandemic started, you are not alone. Maybe you, if you are the single person, are spending more time reading people’s bios on dating apps instead of just swiping based on looks. Or maybe you now prefer to have a first date via video before you agree to meet someone in person.
Whatever you’ve noticed for yourself or your friends, we now have evidence that singles and their thoughts about dating are evolving. That’s thanks to the latest Singles in America study that’s just been released. The annual study is funded by the online dating company Match, so we called up Match’s chief science adviser, Helen Fisher, to help us decipher the data. We started our conversation by discussing what Helen Fisher calls post-traumatic growth. She told us singles came out of the pandemic looking for more stability in relationships and putting emotional maturity ahead of pure physical attraction.
HELEN FISHER: That’s new. In fact, you know, every single year, I say, what are your preferences? What are you looking for? And we have about 30 different things. You can check the boxes on this. And within the top five was always somebody who’s physically attractive to me. Now, it’s not any longer in the top five. The top five instead are somebody who I can trust and confide in, somebody who communicates their needs and wants, somebody who’s open-minded, somebody who’s emotionally mature, definitely – and somebody who makes me laugh. So they’re looking for something solid now.
MARTIN: What about the whole hookup culture, the desire to sort of be super casual? Did that survive a pandemic test?
FISHER: Yeah. No, it didn’t. First of all, it’s hard to do when you’re stuck at home. So there’s that. But anyway, when we asked, 11% of people said that they were now – did want to have some casual sex. But the balance, the 89% said no, they’re looking for something real. And when we asked, you know, how important is sex to you? Eighty-five percent of singles said it had become less important to them, not more important to them. There was no hot vax summer. And you know, there’s also a biological reason for this. You know, short-term stress like fight or flight is going to give you the focus and the strength to run away or fight back. But long-term stress dampens these brain systems. So I do think that, culturally, we’ve gotten scared, but physiologically, the dopamine and the testosterone systems have gone down. They’ll be back. But I do think that it’s biological as well as cultural, and they don’t want to hop into bed with somebody instantly.
MARTIN: And both men and women – this is true of both men and women?
FISHER: Men are less interested than women are. It’s quite remarkable. But, you know, men are actually leading the way. All 11 years of this Singles in America study that I do with Match, we’ve found men fall in love faster than women. They fall in love more often than women. And, in fact, when we asked, you know, are you ready to find a long-term partner? Today, 42% of men say they are ready, as opposed to 29% of women. So men and the young are leading the way towards a desire for emotional security, financial …….