Have you ever known someone, likely a friend of yours, that you know would be a great catch for anyone lucky enough to date them, yet they happily remain single? Maybe this has confused you or you can't see a point in choosing to not even engage in dating.
It's not just your friend, there's a growing number of young people who are putting relationships on the backburner in favor of, well, a lot else. Recent studies dove into this topic and shared their findings with the world.
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When examining the young, modern dating landscape, you might begin to notice that more and more people remain single for longer. While part of this population is definitely people who want to find a partner but are struggling to, there's also a growing population of people choosing to remain single.
Why, though? Why are so many more young people nowadays opting for the single life over playing the dating game and searching for a life partner? Some recent studies may hold the answer.
First, it's important to note that this trend isn't really new. Marriage rates, especially, have been on a steady decline for decades now. A 2021 study saw that the number of American adults aged 25-54 who are married dropped a whopping 15% between 1990 and 2019, from 67% to 52%.
The general attitude towards dating mimics that same drop, with young women, in particular, becoming less interested in dating, wanting to enjoy their time single.
Other Matters At Hand
A large dating survey published in early 2023 asked 5,000 adults about their dating preferences, asking consciously single people in particular why they're choosing to remain partnerless.
The two most popular reasons that people give for not being interested in dating are simply having more important priorities in their lives at the moment and it being difficult to meet people. Roughly 36% of single adults cited that first reason as to why they're not seeking out dates, with women picking this reason more often than men.
No Good Fish In The Sea
Another 36% of respondents cited the second option, it being difficult to meet people, as the reason they're not dating, with more equal numbers among women and men this time.
A significant portion of people also said that not being able to find someone who meets their standards is the reason they're not dating either, with women once again outnumbering men in this regard. This reason became even more popular among college-educated women.
The study also found that reasons like not being ready after a breakup, a lack of interest, or a preference for being single are on the decline.
So people do want to date, but they're also not in a rush to do so, prioritizing their standards and current goals above scrambling for a partner.
The reasons for not dating also change depending on the generation. For single Baby Boomers, they're most likely to simply enjoy being single over being in a relationship. Gen X has a tie between not being able to find someone who meets their expectations and having more important priorities, Millenials find it most difficult to meet other people, and Gen Z is focusing solely on other areas of their lives right now.
Beyond The Polls
There's more to this shift away from dating than what this survey can describe, though, as a large part of it is cultural. Long gone are the days when people, women especially, were expected to marry young and immediately launch into being a homemaker, even a mother.
Philip Cohen, sociologist at the University of Maryland, said that the simple cost of being a mother or a married woman is higher than being a single, childless woman. "It's an advantage to not need to be married, in terms of economics or social pressure," he said.
"People can improve their career status and happiness on their own terms, and they can set the terms for potential mates in the future."
Daniel Cox, the primary researcher for the survey, believes that women are afforded better expectations and better standards for men they choose to date. "Women who can provide for themselves might look for a partner who's emotionally engaged, who’s attentive — instead of trying to find someone who can put food on the table," he explained.
The Male Side
This is a lot of talk about women, but what does this mean for men? Young men don't appear to have hopped onto the single life trend bandwagon as much as young women have. The study showed that 52% of men aged 18-29 were not currently dating but were open to it, while only 36% of young women said the same.
This is a pretty big disparity that shows a shrinking dating pool for young men. Women were also more likely than men to say they're choosing not to date as they have other, more important priorities.
The Bigger Picture
Cox has some thoughts on this, too. Citing a different survey, he explained that women are almost twice as likely to receive emotional support from their friends. With fewer avenues for emotional support, men have less opportunities for the emotional growth and development that a woman would want in a partner.
This points to a much larger societal issue when it comes to men, their emotional health, and the expectation put on women to deal with that stunted growth.
Single Or Not
As you can see, the simple question of 'why are more young people staying single?' doesn't have a simple answer. Not only does every individual person have their own reasons, but there are bigger elements at play here, elements that need widespread societal change before they get solved.
In the meantime, all we can do is not judge someone for whether or not they're actively dating and why they may choose not to. Someone else's relationship status is never your business so long as they're happy, healthy, and enjoying their life.
Just like wanting to be single is a perfectly valid way to live, so is wanting to date! Staying on that quest towards your perfect partner is valiant, but it's tough. Though, it could become easier with a little help.
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