Hooking up; Friends with Benefits; living together; constant yakking on cell phones: many Americans believe the young are ushering in an era of emotional isolation and sexual chaos. But I am optimistic about the future of relationships. Foremost, Singles are leading the way to a far less prejudiced society. Some 75% of singles would make a long-term commitment to someone of a different ethnic background. Most of today’s Singles don’t care what color you are. They don’t care about a partner’s religious beliefs either. Some 70% would commit to someone of a different faith. And most Singles want to wed: 79% of men and women in their 20s and 62% of those in their 30s — the years of reproduction — want to tie the knot.
And they want to marry for what I regard as the right reasons: Only 14% want to marry for financial security. Gold digging is out. Instead, 86% say they primarily want to “have a committed partner to share my life with.” Even those who don’t want to marry say their primary reason is that they “don’t think you need a marriage to prove you love someone.” The significance of marriage is declining; but love’s becoming the core of one’s partnership.
We are turning inward–forming relationships to fulfill ourselves. For centuries, our forebears were obliged to choose the “right” girl or boy, with the “right” kin connection, the “right” ethnic background, and the “right” religious beliefs. What do modern singles want? Not money. Every year my colleagues at Match.com and I do our annual Singles in America study, polling men and women across America (not the Match.com population) regarding what they “must have” in a relationship. Every year over 90% say they want someone “who respects them,” someone they can “trust and confide in,” someone who “makes them laugh” and someone they find “physically attractive.”
Singles seek a highly personal relationship. And they spend a lot of time looking for “him” or “her.” You may regard hooking up and Friends with Benefits as utterly irresponsible. I’m not advocating it. But singles learn a great deal about a would-be partner (and themselves) from these escapades–vital pre-commitment information in an age where divorce is common, extra-sexual opportunities abound and our dispersed families can’t help us raise our young.
Singles don’t even care who you court or how you make a partnership. Some 92% of men are comfortable with a woman asking them out; and 33% would make a long-term commitment to a woman who is 10+ years older. These and many other courtship taboos are breaking down. Singles approve of same-sex marriage, child-free marriage, and having children out of wedlock. They don’tapprove of commuter marriages, sexually open relationships, or partners living in separate homes or separate bedrooms. Customs that jeopardize a deeply personal connection to a committed mate are unacceptable.
American Singles are shedding thousands of years of racial, religious, and family-centric prohibitions to build partnerships for a higher reason: love.