What the Vast Majority of Single People Say They Want: Debunking the Myths


eharmony is looking at what singles want out of their dating lives — and what they value most in a potential partner. This is a first of a kind study for the dating site. The first-ever “Singles & Desirability” study commissioned by eharmony showed that both men and women want a partner who is kind, funny and honest. It indicated that “Nearly half of all singles said that honesty is the most important attribute when considering someone to date. They ranked kindness (44%) and a sense of humor (34%) as the second and third most desirable traits, respectively.

“Most surprisingly — despite what we’ve heard about the dreaded hook-up culture dominating the single life — both genders, by a very wide margin, (70%), indicated that people who are interested in finding a serious relationship are more desirable than those looking for a casual fling. In fact, even though studies show that millennials tended to eschew marriage or wait longer to walk down the aisle, those who go into dating with the intention of finding someone to be with longterm tend to be more successful in doing so, the data suggests. Older millennials (77%) and Gen Xers (75%) both showed a stronger preference for serious relationships, more than other age groups.”

While 2018 brought significant and largely positive social change for American millennial couples, these new insights demonstrate the specific desires and needs both men and women have when it comes to dating, and how those desires have shifted over the years, especially for women. Overall, singles of both genders indicated that honesty and kindness are the most attractive qualities in a potential partner, while men were two times more likely to desire “attractiveness.”

“The data illustrates how Americans have shifted their priorities when it comes to lasting love,” says Dr. Seth Meyers, a licensed psychologist and eharmony relationship expert. “Instead of identifying physical attractiveness as the most important factor in dating, millennial women are leading the way in showing that finding an intellectual and emotional partner is just as important, if not more.”

Caring Jobs Lead the Way
The new survey also identified some of the top professions men and women seek in potential partners: The four most desired professions in a partner (doctor/nurse, teacher/professor, veterinarian, firefighter/police) are all based around health/wellness, education and public protection – suggesting that people with “caring” jobs are more desirable overall.

Desirability Myth No. 1: You must either look like a supermodel or run 20 miles a day.
Think you need to be America’s ‘Next Top Model’ to get a date with someone you actually connect with? Think again. Singles on the “Singles & Desirability” study ranked attractiveness as only the fourth most desirable trait behind honesty (54%), kindness (44%), sense of humor (34%), and intelligence (29%).

Millennials in particular are more likely to want more than a pretty face and to give a date a second chance if he or she displayed a sense of humor or wit. While physical attributes are still important for both men and women, people are understanding that physical chemistry alone isn’t enough to develop a strong, long-term relationship. Although men still tend to place more emphasis on looks, both genders are starting to search for brains and beauty. Confidence and good health also rank high among singles, so embracing other parts of life that provide a boost in self-esteem are more likely to be worthwhile than say, five hours on the treadmill.

  • Be a good roommate by lending a hand around the house, singles across all ages noted this quality as highly desirable
  • Older Gen Xers are particularly looking for partners who can help out with DIY projects and do handiwork around the house
  • Surprisingly, younger and older millennials (36% and 34%, respectively) want someone who enjoys nights in (i.e. #Netflixandchill) instead of going out

Desirability Myth No. 2: Opposites attract.
There’s a reason why JT’s romantic song “Mirrors” is still one of the most popular wedding songs more than five years after its release: loving your better half is often a reflection of the best parts of you. Eharmony’s annual Happiness Index report released in February 2019 revealed that opposites attack rather than attract. In fact, similarity is the main driver of happiness in a relationship.

  • A strong interest in food is highly desirable in a partner – whether that’s going out for a meal (34%) or cooking and baking themselves (29%)
  • Younger millennials especially prized humor in themselves (35%) and in potential partners, while all age groups described themselves as smart, thoughtful, and hardworking
  • Good with little ones? All those babysitting hours will finally pay off: 25% of singles said they’re looking for someone with a domestic side, especially older/younger millennials and Gen Xers

Desirability Myth No. 3: You’ll find someone when you’re not looking.
People who go into dating with the same intent are more successful in creating a lasting partnership, even if it doesn’t end in marriage. Eharmony has a large pool of singles searching for a serious relationship, showing couples matched on the site have a better chance at romantic success. In addition to relationship success, dating with a clear intent increases happiness as well.

Americans want long-term relationships and are more successful in love when they date with that goal in mind. In reality, teens and adults tend to overestimate the size of hookup culture. This misconception can be harmful to developing relationships or even dissuade people from dating altogether. The data shows that more people are searching for long-term relationships (not necessarily marriage) instead of casual flings, and having that expectation actually makes dating easier. Intention is a powerful tool for finding love and will generate more success than a passive approach.

Those who sought a long-term relationship from the outset were 11 percent happier than those who were seeking something casual when they first met. (Happiness index) Actually, it turns out that, like most things in life, intent is everything when it comes to dating.

  • 70% of singles said they find a partner who’s looking for a serious relationship more desirable
  • Those who sought a long-term relationship from the outset when they first met their current spouse/partner are happiest (Happiness Index)
  • When it comes to finding a desirable partner, people want honesty (54%), and they see honesty and kindness in themselves and want that reflected in their partners

Want to learn more about the “Singles & Desirability” report? Visit https://www.eharmony.com/desirability-study and join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using #mostdesirable.

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