Singles Are Starting to Care Less About Looks. Here’s What They Want Instead

For singles in 2021, the hottest trait in a potential partner isn’t physical attraction, but instead a healthy dose of emotional intelligence. A Match study released today shows that emotional maturity is the most sought-after trait among singles, surpassing all other traits. It’s one of many recent shifts in dating trends that show singles are reconsidering their priorities when it comes to romantic relationships in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Emotional maturity matters more, looks matter less

For Match’s 11th annual Singles in America study, researchers surveyed over 5,000 singles between the ages of 18 and 98 across the U.S. In addition to the shift toward an interest in emotional maturity, the study also found that singles are looking for stability and security in long-term partners—and that they’re far less concerned this year with finding someone who is physically attractive than they were in the past. While 90% of singles considered physical attractiveness to be an important quality in 2020, only 78% put it this year. Eighty-three percent of singles rated emotional maturity as important, while 84% ranked being open-minded to other cultures and 84% regarded being an effective communicator as a top priority.
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A majority of singles reported being eager to be off the market—and the sooner, the better. The study found that only 11% of singles want to date casually, while 62% said they’re looking for meaningful and committed relationships. A lot of people, particularly Gen Z singles and those with millennials, have indicated that they are looking for a partner within the next one year.

Stability and security are important for singles

The effect of the pandemic on these cultural changes cannot be emphasized enough, according to Helen Fisher, Match’s Chief Science Advisor, who said that the trends that have prominently emerged because of COVID-19 have the potential to impact how we date and form partnerships forever.

“I do think this is a historic time in human courtship,” Fisher told TIME, reflecting on the impact of enduring the pandemic. “I’m not surprised that those that came out of it alive grew up,” she said. “The bad boy and bad girl are out—people are going to be having fewer one night stands.”

Several statistics show that people need stability and security after the pandemic. Singles indicated that their desire for a partner to have financial stability (with at least equal income to the survey respondent’s) was nearly 20% higher this year than over the past two years. Similar to the previous year, singles expressed a desire for their partner to be educated at a comparable level and have a career that is successful, increasing by 10% and 5% respectively.

Fisher pointed out that singles want to be more fulfilled in their personal and romantic relationships. She also said that 73% of singles have improved their ability to prioritize important life events over the past 12 months. Lisa Clampitt (president and founder Lisa Clampitt Matchmaking) in New York City attributes this shift to people taking the time to reflect on what is important to them.

Clampitt thinks there’s a connection between self-reflection, and the desire to find an emotionally mature partner as reported in the Match Study. “It’s a lot of personal growth, self-reflection, thinking about what you want in life,” she said. “People have had so much time to reflect, and they want to be with someone who’s also reflecting on similar things.”

Men are looking for commitment more than women. Singles desire marriage.

Research also showed that men and women are shifting their expectations about dating. Researchers found that 70% of men who were single wanted to meet someone in the coming year. This is in contrast to 60% for single women. The importance of getting married increased almost 20% in the last two years, but men were more interested in marriage than women. 22% more men expressed interest in getting married than 14% of women.

Maria Avgitidis, the CEO of Agape Matchmaker in New York, sees this trend less as an indicator of some sort of evolution for men and more likely another sign of how the pandemic has changed people’s priorities.

“Every single woman is ready for the right guy if he comes along,” Avgitidis said. “The only difference here, which is a 2021-2022 situation, is that more women are willing to walk away from partners that are not worth their time. If he’s going to gaslight me, if he’s going to be avoidant, if he’s not going to be emotionally mature, I’m going to just move away.”


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