How Dating Has Changed in the 21st Century

Every year for the past eight years, online dating giant has surveyed singles across America.

They wanted to know what makes a great first date, whether hookups ever lead to a committed relationship, and whether old-fashioned gender expectations still hold true.

And what they found will reassure you.

Singles are just as commitment-minded as ever. Most (69%) are looking for something serious. But they’re much more open-minded about how they get to a great relationship.

Here are 5 fascinating findings.

Takeaway #1. Dating is just one way of getting to know someone.

Twenty years ago, America was in an uproar over the spread of hookup culture. College students were forgetting how to date. Pundits warned that the spread of casual intimacy would lead to a drop in marriage rates.

Now, I’m not an advocate of intimacy without commitment, but here’s something interesting. It seems hookups often led to something more. Half of college relationships began with a hookup.

Today, 45% of singles have had a “friend with benefits” who ended up becoming a committed partner. Culture may have become more casual about physical intimacy, but the underlying desire for something more serious is still there.

You don’t have to hook up or go out on a date to start building a relationship, either.

“Hanging out” puts friendship first. You discover if you enjoy one another’s company without the pressure of romance. Just under a third of singles have found that hanging out has led to a relationship.

Takeaway #2. Men have lower standards for first date etiquette.

If you’ve ever gone out on a date with a man who seemed oblivious to basic etiquette, you’re not alone. One in four men thinks it’s okay to keep checking his phone on a first date. He also thinks it’s okay to arrive up to 15 minutes late.

Women don’t agree. Most women (90%) expect him to put his phone away and to be waiting for her when she arrives.

What women want most from a first date is to feel comfortable. She also appreciates it when he compliments her on how she looks and insists on paying the bill.

But that’s not always what happens. Even a man who thinks you’re stunning may not say anything, because he believes compliments are passé. He’ll let you pick up the tab for your own coffee, because he worries about offending you by offering to pay.

Takeaway #3. Check him out online, but don’t mention it.

These days, you can never be too careful. A man may not be who he claims in his online profile.

That’s why half of women check out a man on social media before a first date. If they found something they didn’t like, half would cancel the date.

Men are less likely to check out their date on social media beforehand. They’re also less likely to cancel if they see something they don’t like.

But tread with caution. If you don’t know someone very well, it can feel stalkerish to find out they’ve followed you on Instagram or liked one of your photos on Facebook. Even if your social media accounts are public, you want to be in charge of your date’s first impression of you—in person.

Nevertheless, it’s revealing that 1 in 4 of us would clean up our Facebook wall before accepting a friend request from a date. We realize that our social media presence speaks volumes.

Takeaway #4. It’s fine if you want to make the first move.

The old-fashioned dating rules say that men prefer to pursue. That’s no longer the case. Most men (91%) feel comfortable with being asked out by a woman, and 65% have already been asked out.

Women initiate sex half the time, and men don’t find it a turn-off at all. Additional research has found that college-age women make the first move in 25% of relationships. Most men (72%) wish women would initiate sex more often.[1]

Takeaway #5. Powerful women don’t scare men off.

In the past, women were told to downplay their achievements around their romantic interests. They were told that men don’t like women who are smarter or earn more than they do.

That’s no longer the case.

Most men (80%) would happily date a woman who earns considerably more than they do. And it’s not just talk. Women earn more than their spouse in nearly a third of marriages.

Having a well-educated wife matters a lot to 40% of college graduates. In fact, college graduates get married and stay married at a higher rate than those with less education.

So the next time someone tells you there’s only one right way to date, laugh them off.

There are many paths to a happy, lasting relationship. Men love it when women share the burden of initiating a date or financially supporting the family. What both sexes care about most is finding someone who’s caring, compassionate, and a great friend as well as a great lover.


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