of singles want emotional maturity in a partner over physical attractiveness (78%)
Every year, Match’s Singles in America study shows how the latest trends are shaping what it means to fly solo. In the 11th annual study, we reveal how singles are redefining the new sexy. That’s right. Physical attraction is no longer enough. From social movements to self-improvement, we dive deep to see how emotional maturity has become the new “it” factor.
got better at prioritizing important things in their lives
got better at caring for their mental health
Good things can come out of the worst circumstances, and pandemics are no exception. While many expected the pandemic to cause a deluge of post-traumatic stress (and rightfully so), we actually found the opposite within the single population: “post-traumatic growth.” Or what we like to call “The Grown-Up Glow Up.” Because that’s exactly what happened. Men and women of all ages matured more, improved their health and reset their sexual, romantic and life priorities. Talk about some good news!
To put it simply, singles are coming out of this pandemic better versions of themselves. Whether it was all that extra time alone, or just a general desire to get off the couch, they made the most of 2021. And it paid off. 72% got better at prioritizing important things in their lives, and 66% got better at caring for their mental health. More than 50% also made improvements when it came to their physical health, building stronger family relationships, unplugging from social media and increasing their self-confidence. It’s safe to assume singles are more eligible than ever.
Seriously. Looks will fade, and apparently one’s desire for them will as well. Okay, maybe not completely. But this year, for the first time ever, there was a drop in singles’ preference for physical attractiveness, while preference for partner traits like being open-minded and accepting increased. So is emotional maturity the new sexy? We can’t make this data up. Nor can we act too surprised. After all, following any traumatic event, we often look for partners who are stabilizing, regardless of whether or not they have six pack. This psychological effect leads us to surround ourselves with people and social contexts that feel genuinely safe. (Though if you can find someone who is safe AND satisfying to look at, more power to you.)
So what do singles really want?
Only 78% want someone physically attractive (vs. 90% in 2020).
Turns out we don’t know Gen Z and Millennials as well as we thought. While some see them as entitled, weak or selfie-obsessed, these “participation-trophy generations” are actually the ones leading the charge when it comes to self-improvement. From their personal to their professional lives, young singles used the pandemic to truly grow up, proving that for some, age really is just a number.
They’re also widening their horizons when it comes to relationships. 50% of young singles are open to having a long-distance relationship, which is about 20% more than singles overall. And while they’re at it, Gen Z and Millennials are also attracted to a wider range of people compared to Gen X and Boomers.
We’re not saying one-night-stands are gone for good, but they’re definitely on the decline. And social distancing isn’t the only explanation. The pandemic has initiated an appetite for more meaningful, steadfast and long-term relationships. And to the shock of many, young singles are embracing this trend the most. (We told you they were growing up!) So how might this impact society moving forward? Only time will tell. But it’s possible that this desire for more commitment could lead to future generations growing up with more family stability. And we don’t hate the sound of that.
Today, only 11% of singles want to date casually.
singles say the pandemic hasn’t negatively affected their dating life
It’s true. Despite local restrictions and worldwide uncertainty, 74% of singles say the pandemic hasn’t negatively affected their dating life. Yup, you read that right. Only 1 in 4 singles said the pandemic negatively impacted their romantic life. (Not bad considering the number of people who haven’t put on real pants since the beginning of 2020.)
There’s only so much messaging you can do before you’re ready for something more. Pandemics are no exception. Social distancing ushered in unprecedented interest in video chat technologies, including innovations on dating apps like Match. Last year, we predicted that the rise in video dating wasn’t just a phase, but here to stay. This year’s data confirms it.
Half of young singles had a video date before meeting in person. And 1 in 4 singles overall had one.
It’s not just because they like looking at themselves. Video dates are a new step in today’s courtship process, allowing for an efficient and effective vibe check before flirting face-to-face. After all, 71% of singles say video chatting helped determine if they wanted to meet up in person, and 47% think it helps avoid a bad date. It’s not just about deciding if they want to meet up though. 63% of singles say they would be more comfortable on a first date if they had video chatted with the person beforehand. And to our surprise, older generations believe this the most (Gen X 66% and 72% of Boomers). So what does this say? Despite the era of Zoom fatigue (1 in 3 singles have it as well as half of young singles), video dates will live on long after this pandemic.
Think finding l-o-v-e via video is far-fetched? 34% of singles believe you can fall in love over a video date, including more than half of Gen Z and Millennials. And while it might not be the full-on fairytale right away, 78% of singles have felt romantic chemistry during a video date (83% men and 72% women vs. 51% overall last year), with young singles (80%) feeling butterflies the most often.
It’s not just every news outlet talking about the Covid vaccine. Singles are prioritizing the vaccination significantly more so than the average American. And we have the numbers to prove it: 73% of singles are vaccinated, compared to 64% of the US population. Whether it’s due to their more active lifestyles or not being tethered to the same social pressures as those with partners, the majority of singles aren’t shy about getting their shots. And they hope their future dates feel the same way.
Times they are a-changing, and single Americans are keeping up. Now more than ever, they’re thinking seriously about social justice movements and racial discrimination, and they have greater expectations for their partners to do the same. (We love to see it!) Singles are also more open to dating people of diverse backgrounds.
Maybe. In fact, we hope so. 58% of singles think it’s important that their dating partner supports BLM (67% of Gen Z and 60% of Millennials). 62% feel similarly about the Stop Asian Hate movement (68% Gen Z and 64% of Millennials).
singles say they are open to dating someone of different race or ethnicity
When it comes to accepting others, they’re not just talking a big game. 45% of singles have actually dated someone outside of their race, and 46% have dated someone with different political beliefs. And we expect those numbers to keep climbing. After all, 7 in 10 singles say they are open to dating someone of different race or ethnicity, a 22% increase compared to before the pandemic.
As for racial dating discrimination? We have hopeful news: 78% of single people of color do not feel like they have been discriminated against in dating. In fact, the number one thing people have felt discriminated against is their weight, with 1 in 5 singles reporting this.
Forget everything you thought you knew about men. They might be portrayed as cliché players or clueless boyfriends in some of our favorite sitcoms, but when it comes to real-life romance, they’re the most evolved sex. And we have the numbers to prove it.
Nearly 60% of single men say it’s important that their partner supports the #MeToo movement. And speaking of partners, they’re looking for those too.
There’s always talk of women’s biological clocks pressuring them to settle down. And while men don’t exactly face this same challenge, they do feel more social pressure to find a relationship these days (24% vs. 17% women). Once they are dating, men feel an emotional connection faster than women. In fact, 53% of men can feel it by the second date compared to 38% of women.
When it comes to connection, we couldn’t forget about the physical one. While men are often seen as more eager to enter the bedroom, 81% say they now find sex less important than they did pre-pandemic. (We can’t make this stuff up.)
We often assume women resume this role, but our study shows the opposite. For one, men will go the distance for love, as they’re more open to having a long-distance relationship with someone who lives 3+ hours away than women (38% vs. 29%). And speaking of distance, men are more likely to believe they could fall in love over a video date (41% vs. 30% women.) They’re also open to second chances. Men are willing to go on a second date with someone even if the first isn’t exciting (43% vs. 31% women).
Ah, the “Slutty Summer” that never was. While we all made jokes about how eager men and women would be after so many months of social distancing, the truth is: Sexual activity has actually become less important to singles. No, seriously. This past year and a half, they’ve learned how to invest in “slow love” versus “fast sex.” And it’s been, dare we say, satisfying.
Nearly half of all singles report that their ideal sexual relationship right now would be a committed, exclusive relationship. Even if they don’t hold off until they’re monogamous, 2 in 3 singles want to wait until after the third date to have sex.
singles want to wait until after the third date to have sex
In comparison, 27% of singles want a friends-with-benefits or casual sexual relationship. But that doesn’t mean they’ll slide into the sheets with just anyone. Quite the opposite. 78% of singles actually say they’re picky when considering a partner for casual sex.
Women might have a reputation for faking the big O, but they’re not the only ones. Of the singles who were having sex, nearly half (47%) of both genders faked an orgasm this past year. It’s a shame, we know.
While phone sex is fun for some, naked photos have declined. 34% of singles sent less nudes than prior to the pandemic (36% men vs. 31% women). (We’ll let you decide if this is a good thing or a bad thing.)
While singles are generally investing in relationships and taking their time getting to the bedroom, the future of sex is still looking bright and satisfying. Half of singles say they’ve learned something new sexually since the pandemic. And on the topic of something new, 1 in 5 young singles are now more open to experimenting with sex toys and sharing sexual fantasies with their partners.
singles say new spikes in cases won’t stop them from dating in person
COVID changed nearly every aspect of normality, and dating is no exception. While the pandemic continues to evolve, 2 out of 3 singles say new spikes in cases won’t stop them from dating in person. So we put together a playbook to help navigate romance in this new world. Combining real science and responses from over 5,000 singles, here’s our top takeaways for daters:
Get vaxxed. We won’t tiptoe around it. 2 in 3 singles want their date to be vaccinated against COVID-19 (65%). A majority of singles are not likely to go on a first date with someone who is unvaccinated (52%), and even more are not likely to have sex with them (58%).
Opt for a call over a text. Because it’s all about hearing someone’s voice. 71% of singles overall (and 70% of young singles) prefer a phone/audio chat prior to meeting someone for a first date.
Don’t skip a video date. It’s not just for social distancing anymore. 71% of singles said a video date helped determine if they wanted to meet up in person, and 63% said they would be more comfortable on a first date if they had video chatted with the person beforehand.
Widen your net. You never know who you might find. Over half of singles have become more interested in exploring a wide array of potential romantic partners.
Lead with more than just looks. Because now more than ever, men and women are looking for more than just a pretty face. This year, there was a drop in singles’ preference for physical attractiveness, while preference for traits that demonstrate emotional maturity increased.
Be open to wearing a mask. Over 1 in 4 singles reported that someone being against wearing masks is an instant turn-off (28% overall, 41% Boomers), and 1 in 3 women wouldn’t go on a first date with an anti-masker.
Hold on the hug. At least in the beginning. 1 in 5 singles say they have less desire to be touched now, and 40% of women do not want to be greeted with a hug or handshake on a date.
Follow the new 3-date rule. Singles agree that you need 3 dates with someone to know if you’re compatible. Afterall, chemistry takes time to build.
Don’t rush to the bedroom. An astonishing 2 in 3 singles want to wait to have sex with a new partner until after 3 dates.
Commit to commitment. It’s hotter than you think. 62% of singles became more interested in a meaningful, committed relationship since before the pandemic began.
Stick to the safer date spots.