By Dr. Helen Fisher, Biological Anthropologist
“I don’t like money actually. But it quiets my nerves,” said heavyweight boxer, Joe Louis. We all like money, for many reasons. But singles today aren’t waiting for a fat wallet to win romance. Indeed, when the 2012 Match.com survey asked over 5,000 Singles in America, “In what ways has the current economic situation affected your dating habits?” 60% of singles chose “My dating habits haven’t been affected by the economy” as their answer. Moreover, when asked whether the down economy had made them more interested in finding someone to share their life with, only 5.7% “strongly agreed” and 13.2% “agreed somewhat;” the rest disagreed or had no opinion. For singles, it’s business as usual. They seem to understand the old refrain, “money can’t buy love.”
I’m not surprised that the economic downturn hasn’t seriously affected singles’ dating habits. I study personality, and our attitudes about money— and the ways we spend our cash— have a genetic basis. I’ve seen some really stingy rich people. And I’ve known some poor and middle class folk who were incredibly generous. Sure, many are now going to cheaper restaurants, buying fewer clothes and toys, and traveling to less exotic places. But their economic woes haven’t changed their ancient drive to seek a mate, nor made them less picky about this partner— these habits are too deeply woven into the human brain to be squashed by an economic blip.
What blew my mind, however, was how singles responded to a different query about money: “When, if ever, would you date someone who is unemployed?” Some 36% chose “If I was interested in the person, unemployment wouldn’t matter.” Money, that power of yesteryear, is losing its romantic value. Singles are now seeking different traits in a partner: Over 90% “must have” a mate whom they can trust and confide in, as well as someone who respects them. Over 80% “must have” a partner who has a sense of humor and is comfortable communicating his or her wants and needs. And 73% of both sexes want a partner who is physically attractive to them. For at least 5,000 years both men and women were obliged to choose someone of their own religious, ethnic and economic background. No more. Singles are turning inward, shedding these traditions to seek deeper intimacy with another.
Times don’t change fast, of course. Some 36% of women (and 13% of men) in this Singles in America study report that they “must have” a partner who makes as much money as they do, and 45% of men are turned off by a woman who “doesn’t care about her career.” But even so, today most singles strive for more ancient goals: companionship and love.