By Dr. Justin R. Garcia
One of my closest friends recently went back on the dating market. In his last relationship, he had been involved with someone for about one year, and then found out his partner was having an affair. She had committed infidelity. They lost too much trust in each other over that ordeal, and although they tried, they were unable to rekindle their flames.
A few days ago this friend and I were talking about some of the challenges of getting back into the dating game. He said one thing in particular that struck me as important to share: “There is nothing wrong with being single… despite my parents constantly inquiring about who I’m dating!” And, he is absolutely correct. At any given time, nearly one-third of the adult US population is single – there is a constant turnover of people going into and coming out of relationships at all times. This is a demographic with the power to shape American culture, swing a presidential election, and change the way we think and operate. Yet, we hold on to a historical legacy, often presuming that single adults should be married, and if they are single too long, we question why.
As a research scientist, I naturally turn to data. I told my buddy that in this year’s Singles in America study conducted with Match.com, we actually had some interesting numbers showing that he, and other singles, were not alone.
Let’s debunk the biggest myth first. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being single. Most singles are actually quite happy. Over 76% of single Americans are happy with their personal life. Being happy is important – but it also doesn’t mean that one isn’t still looking for something extra special in their life. Nearly 85% of singles either actively want or are open to being in a relationship. While most single Americans are quite happy, a vast majority are still interested in finding someone to share that happiness with. This is not surprising, as the drive for romantic love is deeply engrained in our biology.
It’s also worth noting that most singles have experienced being in a relationship and being in love. 85% of singles have been in love before – no gender difference. Further, 84% of singles have been in a committed relationship in the past. Only 19% of men and 14% of women have never had a previous relationship. This is fascinating, as it demonstrates that most singles have either been in a relationship or want to get into one soon. Singles, like everyone else, are navigating the maze of life and love. When asked what the most challenging part about being single is, the most common response – by 44% of men and 30% of women – was not having someone to share my life with.
I want to leave with a final thought for my friend. In my friend’s case, one of his biggest challenges was his fear that a future partner might stray, as his last did. In our study, nearly 1/3 of singles have been with someone who committed infidelity. He is not alone. Many of us have been with a partner who has strayed, but that shouldn’t stop one from getting back into the throws of dating. But, he’s also not alone in another way: 93% of singles say a partner who treats them with respect is a must have or very important in a potential relationship.
The desire to love is a remarkably consistent human experience, from cultures all around the globe. To find a special someone is a magical moment. Many of us have lived and loved, but when back on the dating market, it’s good to remember you’re not alone (even if your family also nags). Best of luck in your pursuits of love – a desire at the core of human nature.
About Dr. Justin Garcia
Dr. Justin R. Garcia is a CTRD Research Fellow with The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, at Indiana University. He is an expert on the biological foundations of human behavior, particularly romantic love, intimacy, and sexual behavior. Dr. Garcia earned his MS in biomedical anthropology and PhD in evolutionary biology from Binghamton University, where he holds an appointment as adjunct faculty. He is currently co-editing Evolution’s Empress: Darwinian Perspectives on the Nature of Women (Oxford University Press), and co-authoring a book on evolution and human sexuality (Harvard University Press). Since 2010 he has also served as a scientific advisor to Match.com.