Saturday 12 March 2011

Relationships: Men want marriage more than women?

A new survey draws a picture of single Americans which suggests the attitudes and behaviours of today's singles have radically changed from their counterparts of just a few decades ago. The results show men to be more interested in love, marriage and children than in previous times while women want more independence within their relationships than their mothers did. Plus hooking up and one-night stands aren't necessarily meaningless sexual encounters.

The survey was backed by an online dating service and was authored by two experts in the field of relationships.

  • is an online dating service with supposedly more than 20 million members in 25 countries with 8 languages and seems to be the largest of all the online dating services.
  • Helen E. Fisher is a professor of anthropology and a researcher of human behaviour at Rutgers University. She has studied romantic interpersonal attraction for over 30 years and is considered a leading expert on the biology of love and attraction.
  • Stephanie Coontz is an author and historian. She teaches history and family studies at The Evergreen State College and is Director of Research and Public Education for the Council on Contemporary Families.
Match.Com sponsored a survey "Single in America" authored by Fisher and Coontz of more than 5,000 men and women touted as the largest and most comprehensive study of single adults to date. USA Today quoted the two authors as saying:

Helen Fisher: "Men are now expressing some traditionally female attitudes, while women are adopting some of those long attributed to men."

Stephanie Coontz: "For me, as a historian, it's just amazing confirmation about what has changed in the last 40 years."

The survey debunked a number of widely held myths.

Myth: Women are needy and clingy in relationships.

Fact: Women need more independence in relationships than men do. In a committed relationship, men are less likely to say they need personal space (58% vs 77% of women); less likely to want nights out with friends (23% vs 35% of women); less eager to own their own bank account (47% vs 66% of women); and less likely to want to take a vacation on their own (8% vs 12%). 

Myth: Guys don’t want to get married and have to be pushed into having kids.

Fact: Men are just as inclined to want to get married as women.  In fact, 33% of men and 33% of women said they want to get married.  And among singles without children under 18, more men (24%) than women (15%) say they want to have children. Among those between ages 21 and 34, 51% of men want kids, while 46% of women yearn for young.

Men are less picky too. Fewer men say it is important to find a partner of their own ethnic background (20% of men vs 29% of women said this is a “must have” or “very important”); and fewer say they want someone of their own religion (17% of men vs 28% of women said this is a “must have” or “very important”).

54% of men say they have experienced love at first sight, compared with 44% of women and men are apparently open to introducing a date to their parents sooner.

Myth: Older people don’t care about sex.

Fact: Older men and women are less likely to compromise on either love or sexual attractiveness in order to have a committed relationship.  In addition, older singles find sex while in a committed relationship more satisfying than other age groups.

Myth: Single parents have no social life.

Fact: Not only do single parents go on more dates than singles without kids but more single parents are currently dating someone (21%) than those without kids (16%).

Myth: Young singles today are promiscuous.

Fact: More people in the 21-34 age group say they have never had sex. To be precise, 24% of men and 23% of women ages 21-34 are virgins.

This corresponds to a study by the Centers for Disease Control released on March 3, 2011. See my blog Teenagers and sex: More chaste, less chased.

Myth: I love you implies a serious commitment.

Fact: 31% of singles believe that “I love you” means “I want you in my life” and 30% believe it means “I care about you.”  Only 14% think it means “I want to spend the rest of my life with you” and 19% that “I want to have a committed relationship with you.”

See my blog Sex in the Digital Age which revealed that 51% of the respondents said their couple-time in this digital era is less intimate than it used to be.

Myth: Unemployed means unlucky in love.

Fact: 50% of singles would be open to dating someone unemployed if they found the person interesting.

Myth: Hook-ups never turn into relationships.

Fact: 36% of singles are open to a casual hook-up in the near future; and 54% of singles have had a one-night stand. 35% of singles have had a one-night stand that turned into a long term partnership.

Why are women more independent?
Stephanie Coontz explains as part of the survey analysis that years ago being single was a stigma. Anybody not married was looked upon as being some sort of deviant as marriage was considered "the" path to self-fulfillment and happiness. Today, with more options, especially with financial independence through the job market, women are no longer pressed to follow a single path to self-fulfillment and happiness.

Today, by contrast, women are far less likely to put financial security ahead of love, and they express far less anxiety about the prospect of remaining unmarried if they do not find someone they love and trust. In many ways, today’s women are more cautious about investing themselves in relationships than are men. According to data from the new Single in America study, women are more likely than men to want to maintain their personal space, their own bank accounts and their own interests, including regular nights out with girlfriends and vacations on their own.

Are men different?
Dr. Helen Fisher says her studies show less of a difference than people thought. "This Single in America study supports what I have long suspected: that men are just as eager to find a partner, fall in love, commit long term and raise a family.. the sooner we embrace these findings, and fling off our outmoded and unproductive beliefs about both sexes, the faster we will find—and keep–the love we want."

Salon adds: Meanwhile, men have gotten hip to the joys of childcare: "One of the gains of the feminist movement is that men have gotten more interested in family life, they have ceased to identify themselves purely in terms of their achievements at work," [Coontz] says.

Final Word
It's a different world. In some ways though, it's a transitional world; the "new world order" is not fully defined and there are many loose ends to tidy up. However, this study shines a light on the many changes occurring in both sexes within the context of the traditional relationship. The marriage of our parents is not the marriage of today, or of tomorrow for that matter. Some may be nostalgic for the past, but I think of that amusing saying that you can't get the toothpaste back in the tube; we can't go back.

As Dr. Helen Fisher said, "...the sooner we ... fling off our outmoded and unproductive beliefs about both sexes, the faster we will find—and keep–the love we want."


Wikipedia: is an online dating company which reportedly has more than 20 million members, made up of a 49/51 male/female ratio, and Web sites serving 25 countries in more than 8 different languages. Its headquarters are in Dallas, Texas and the company also has offices in West Hollywood, Tokyo, Rio, and Beijing. is owned by IAC/InterActiveCorp and employs more than 340 people worldwide. has nearly $342.598 million in revenue and 1.3 million paying subscribers.
In November 2004, Guinness World Records recognized as the largest online dating site in the world. At the time, more than 42 million singles globally had registered with since its launch in 1995, and worldwide there were over 15 million members using the service.

Wikipeda: Helen Fisher
Helen E. Fisher (born 1945) is an anthropology professor and human behavior researcher at Rutgers University and has studied romantic interpersonal attraction for over 30 years. Prior to becoming a research professor at Rutgers University, she was a research associate at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

Dr. Fisher is a leading expert on the biology of love and attraction. She is currently the most referenced scholar in the love research community. In 2005 she was hired by to help build, which used her research and experience to create both hormone-based and personality-based matching systems. She was one of the main speakers at the 2006 and 2008 TED (conference). On January 30, 2009, she was featured in an ABC News 20/20 special, Why Him? Why Her? The Science of Seduction, where she discussed her most recent research on brain chemistry and romantic love.

Wikipedia: Stephanie Coontz
Stephanie Coontz (born August 31, 1944) is an author, historian, and faculty member at The Evergreen State College. She teaches history and family studies and is Director of Research and Public Education for the Council on Contemporary Families, which she chaired from 2001-2004. Coontz has authored and co-edited several books about the history of the family and marriage. Her work has been translated into French, Spanish, Greek, German, and Japanese.

The Single in America Study
We called on renowned biological anthropologist Dr. Helen Fisher, Professor Stephanie Coontz and University of Binghamton’s Institute of Evolutionary Studies to help design a comprehensive study of all aspects of the single life.  What we didn’t know was that our findings would be so surprising and revelatory; that they would bust long-held and entrenched myths about gender, age and sex and prove how deeply things have changed.


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