The Scoop: Many may have assumed that singles would rush into the bedroom once COVID-19 pandemic mandates eased. But world-renowned researcher Helen Fisher, Ph.D., has reached a different conclusion in her new research for Match.com. Her “Singles in America” report shows that many singles prefer mature, stable relationships instead of casual sex. Today, even younger singles make video calls before meeting and focus on emotional maturity rather than physical attraction. And Dr. Fisher’s The Anatomy of Love platform offers quizzes and lessons based on neuroscience to help singles prepare for their next meaningful relationship.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wane, plenty of research focuses on how social distancing and health mandates affected the dating scene. Helen Fisher, Ph.D., founder of The Anatomy of Love, discovered trends some may find surprising.
The Chief Dating Advisor for Match Group recently completed the annual “Singles in America” study of 5,000 single people in America. It’s an update from similar research conducted during the last 11 years, making the body of work likely the largest singles-focused project in the world.
While many may have presumed that singles would be eager to find sexual partners after keeping their distance for so long, Dr. Fisher said she discovered the opposite.
“We found what I call post-traumatic growth. Singles have grown up, and stability is the new sexy,” said Dr. Fisher, who is also a Biological Anthropologist at Rutgers University. “They’re now looking for a stable relationship, and 83% percent say they want emotional maturity more than looks, sex, or money.”
The time alone seemed to help people recognize what mattered most. Now, many are ready to get serious. Dr. Fisher said 76% of singles said they were looking for a partner who wanted to get married in 2021, while only 58% said they felt that way in 2018.
Those singles also feel more prepared for long-lasting love. The study found that even younger singles now take better care of their mental and physical health. Many have gained self-confidence by unplugging from social media, wisely managing their money and career, and even getting better sleep.
According to Dr. Fisher, that helps them lay the foundation for a healthy, meaningful relationship.
A Scientific Approach to Finding Insights on Romance
Dr. Fisher is known worldwide for her early work using a brain scanner to better understand romantic love. She’s written six books on the subject, with “Anatomy of Love” in its second edition.
She’s overseen the research for Match.com on singles, and their love lives for the last 11 years. She and her colleagues devise 200 questions and send them to an agency that collects data.
“Singles are important because they’re one-third of the population,” she said. “It’s a natural representative sample of singles based on the census, so it’s real science. We publish academic papers, and it’s a huge amount of data every year.”
The latest research was especially fascinating because of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. Researchers compared data from previous years to see what changed, and Dr. Fisher said in her 40 years of work, she’d never seen such significant shifts.
A surprising 65% of singles wanted to start a committed relationship within the next year, with 81% of Gen Z respondents and 76% of Millennials ready for long-lasting love. And millennials especially are serious about their careers and love.
“The ‘bad boy’ and ‘bad girl’ are out, and what we’re finding stability is the new sexy,” Dr. Fisher said. “You’re starting as friends and moving into friends with benefits — one-third of singles at least. Then you go on a first date. Then you tell family and friends.”
New Generations Are Ready For Committed Relationships
In previous generations, couples often married in their 20s, but that trend is fading. Dr. Fisher said singles are still becoming serious about committed relationships, but they’re more interested in ensuring career stability before they get married. That’s good news in terms of keeping divorce rates low.
“I looked at 80 cultures around the world through the demographic yearbooks of the UN,” Dr. Fisher said. “The later you marry, the more likely you are to remain together everywhere in the world. And the longer you court, the more likely you are to create a stable partnership.”
Sure, there are still people who have one-night stands and friends with benefits, she said. But more singles are interested in creating and maintaining healthy relationships. That’s the biggest change Dr. Fisher said she has seen during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Today, more singles engage in a new courtship activity: video chatting. Before the pandemic, Dr. Fisher said only 19% of singles would make a video call before meeting in person. Today, 27% of singles have a video date first. The younger generations make video calls even more often, as video calls leave sexual attraction aside as people get to know each other. Dr. Fisher said video calls can also result in more meaningful conversations, more honesty, and less focus on looks.
“They’re vetting the person, and the beauty of that is they get rid of what they don’t want before wasting time and money,” she said. “So they’re going on fewer first dates, but they’re much more comfortable on those dates.”
Singles Look for Emotional Maturity in a Partner
Another trend Dr. Fisher discovered through her research was that singles take vaccinations seriously. She found that 73% of singles were vaccinated, compared with just 64% of the general population. That’s another way to show potential partners they care about protecting themselves and others.
“These people are following the rules, respecting the community’s needs, and advertising they’re clean,” she said. “They’re going about the dating process in a new and creative way by doing video dating. The young are very dedicated, and I think they will usher in a few years of family stability.”
Dr. Fisher said she found a right way and a wrong way to go about online dating through her work with Match.com. And the process can be more effective than searching for someone in a bar or a nightclub.
But singles who binge date on mobile apps should reconsider their process. Dr. Fisher said the brain is only built to make decisions between five to nine choices. After the ninth option, it basically shuts down. She encourages singles to take their time in making decisions about a person.
Dr. Fisher also recommends being aware of “brain negativity bias.” That’s when people remember negative attributes over positive ones.
“With online dating, you know so little about them that you overweigh the negative. ‘He likes golf, and I like tennis. Forget it,’” Dr. Fisher said. “Focus on the positive. Don’t binge, and think of reasons to say ‘Yes’ instead of ‘No.’”