Lockdown…A Time For Love?

By: Helen Fisher

We weren’t built to live 24/7 with a lover.  For millions of years men regularly set off to hunt, sometimes for days.  And women went gathering and often visited friends or family in another camp for weeks.  We are a nomadic species—built to leave home regularly for adventures of all kinds.  So being cooped up during this pandemic requires resourcefulness, particularly if you are single and used to stepping out. 

    Oddly, however—this nasty virus has given you some perks: foremost, time to date.  Even if you are working at home, you won’t be dressing, commuting or meeting friends after office hours. 

    And you have something meaningful to talk about: this disease.  The chit-chat of most first meetings is gone; instead you are inclined to trade stories of fear and hope.  This self-disclosure spurs intimacy, love and commitment.  (And psychologists report that men are just as likely to reveal their innermost feelings as women).  So during this lockdown, you might get to know vital things about a potential partner fast.  That’s a plus.

     Moreover, sex is, at least temporarily, out.  When you meet in person, you’re obliged to navigate this nether world.  “Do I kiss him?”  “Should I take her hand?”  “What do I do if they invite me back to their pad?” You might have some sexy conversations…but real sex is of the table.

      Money is off the table too.  On a regular first date, you are required to negotiate who pays: “Should we meet in a cheap café or an expensive bar?”  “Should I offer to split the bill?”  Nope: who pays is history.

     And fortunately, you have a new tool for courting: video chatting.  From data collected on 6,004 Match members over the weekend of April 12, only 6% said that they used video chatting before Covid-19 hit.  Now 69% of these singles are open to video chatting with a potential partner.  And a third already have someone with whom they’d like to talk via video.  

But when using this technology, I recommend you do two things: 

Foremost: after you have actually seen and talked with nine potential partners, stop.   And get to know at least one of these people better. The brain is not well-built to absorb a host of options.  Indeed, about nine is max.  Then we burn out; faced with too many alternatives we choose none. Moreover, the more you get to know someone, the more you are inclined to like them.   

     Second: think of reasons to say “yes.”  The brain is designed to remember the negative, not the positive.  Forget that he likes cats and you like dogs.  Focus on what you do like about him or her.  But remember: these are not dating apps—they’re introducing apps.  The only real algorithm is your own brain.  You must ‘show up’ for these video chats.

      Oddly, video chatting has another benefit: it’s slowing down the courtship process—accelerating a current trend I call Slow Love.  And data shows that the longer you court and the later you marry, the more likely you are to build a happy long-term partnership.  In fact, I’ve come to realize, (from my brain scanning studies), that romantic love can be sparked instantly; but feelings of trust and attachment take time to develop. 

      So this pandemic has created a new stage in the courtship process: video chatting.  And I think it will continue after this lockdown ends.  Why? Because it has some genuine benefits: With video chatting, not only can you weed out non-starters before you meet in person—enabling you to save time and money, as well as kiss fewer frogs.  But you can get to know potential partners more slowly, a natural process in the brain that builds trust and attachment.  Now’s a perfect time to let Cupid do his job.

Match’s Most Eligible Valentines

Still looking for a Valentine? Whether you’re searching for fit and flawless or you’re all about the personality, these eight eligible bachelors and bachelorettes will show you some l-o-v-e just in time for Cupid’s favorite holiday.

Let’s meet the babes:

Jackson aka Mr. GQ

Do we really need to explain the nickname? I mean…look at that face. While he’s mastered all the model facials – smoldering, suspicious, you name it – he’s usually all smiles. At just eight months old and 55 pounds, he still has a little growing up to do (don’t all men?) and just wants someone to be silly with along the way.  

View Jackson’s profile

Demi aka Netflix & Chill (in the good way)

This 10-pound female chihuahua is the perfect mate for anyone into really big…ears! While she’s only one year old, she has mastered the art of relaxation, making her the dream companion for binging that new documentary. (Yes, Netflix, we’re stillll watching…)

View Demi’s profile

Zoe aka Little Spoon

If you’re one of those bizarre singles who doesn’t like to cuddle, this ain’t ya girl. This 65-pound sweetheart loves to snuggle up after a long day of work or play. She’s also a great walking companion as her little legs and affectionate spirit are always turning heads.

View Zoe’s profile

Jimbo aka The Jock

Jimbo is like the football player you had a crush on in high school, but with a wayyy better personality. He’s two years old and the perfect partner for long runs, hikes or just throwing the ball in the yard. His upbeat attitude and silly spunk will always make you smile.

View Jimbo’s profile

Tyga aka Teddy Bear

If the big warm teddy bear is your type, look no further. Tyga is 80 pounds, four years old and has plenty of love to share. He’s also the perfect guy to introduce your parents and friends to – no really, he gets along with everyone.

View Tyga’s profile

Dizzy aka Mr. Dependable

No matter what kind of day you’ve had, you’ll love going home to this handsome hunk of love. At 83 pounds, Dizzy is the perfect protector, but loves to be silly too. He’s always ready for a walk or a good belly rub (aren’t we all?) and is looking for a stable partner to provide him both.

View Dizzy’s profile

Bernice aka Down for Whateva

Bernice is one of those babes who prides herself on being low maintenance. Whether you want to explore the open road, pick up new friends at the park or just kick it on the couch, she’s game for anything. She doesn’t let her past get in the way (no ex bashing here!) and is ready for a new partner in crime to enjoy the future with.

View Bernice’s profile

Allie aka Sugar Mama

Sweet and sophisticated with plenty of skills, Allie is pretty much everyone’s type – so better keep an eye on your friends around her. She loves meeting new people, long walks on the beach (or the street) and sharing her love. And what’s better than that?   

Ready to match with one of these cuties? You’re in luck. All are currently available for adoption through Wags & Walks, an LA-based adoption center dedicated to helping rescue dogs find their forever homes. 

FAKE NEWS…and the real story of love in the digital age

Dr. Helen Fisher

The Washington Post recently proclaimed that “The US is in a Crisis of Love.” Many Americans agree—currently regarding America’s singles as commitment-phobes who are retreating to their bedroom computers to duck romance and attachment. Really? I and my colleagues at Match wanted to see if this was true. So in our 9th annual survey, known as Singles in America, we polled a representative sample of 5,000+ adult singles of all ages, backgrounds, sexual orientations and regions of the country to get to the real scoop.

Indeed, it’s fake news: 57% of singles report that they seek romance; and 60% want to make a life together–while only 9% want to “date casually.”

Today’s singles are being smart about love too. Some 31% say they first want to build self-acceptance—a good component of a healthy partnership. And one out of three want to get their finances in order before cupid strikes.  Moreover, more than half of young singles have created a dating profile on a dating site or app.  But rather than just looking at photos, then carelessly pursuing “him” or “her,” 68% say they assiduously assess a potential partner’s profile.  Few are willing to spend their precious time, money and energy pursuing a romantic dead end for very long either.  Instead, after about four months of dating someone, many launch the DTR conversation: “Where are we headed?” And 33% depart if their partner doesn’t want to have the conversation.

But today’s singles are slow and careful. They don’t want to “catch feelings” until they are ready—thus fueling an impressive new social trend, what I call “Slow Love.” Some 76% cautiously begin a partnership as “just friends.”  Then they slowly become friends-with-Benefits to see if they are compatible between the sheets—another important part of most relationships.  Even later, they inform friends and kin of their budding relationship and embark on an “official first date.” And only after a long stretch of living together, do they wed–often some six years after meeting. Where marriage used to be the beginning of a partnership, today it’s the finale. 

I’m impressed—because academic data clearly show that the longer you court and the later you wed, the more likely your marriage will last. Surely, courtship is changing with changing times.  But love is not dead. It’s a primordial brain system that will endure as long as we survive as a species.  And today’s singles—particularly our young—are taking love seriously and proceeding with elegant sanity.  Bravo to them.   

Check out our 9th Annual Singles in America Survey HERE.

When The Best Medicine Is Love

Amanda and Troy Martinez connected on Match in 2016, but their love story actually began seven years earlier, in a hospital room. While an emergency center certainly doesn’t sound like the ideal place to meet, for Amanda and Troy, a chance encounter on one of the most harrowing days of Troy’s life set the stage for the love of a lifetime.

In 2009, Amanda was working as an ER nurse at Mercy Hospital in Bakersfield, CA, when she treated a badly injured man who had been in a major car accident. Troy’s pickup truck had been struck head-on by a bus, leaving him with a fractured face, bruised chest and more. His memory of the hospital stay is foggy, but he did recall a blonde nurse taking his vitals.

Fast-forward to 2016: Troy’s daughter set him up with a Match account, and he came across Amanda’s profile — not knowing that she was the nurse who treated him years earlier. Over two months went by, with no one making the first move. Troy had been feeling shy, and was a bit out of practice when it came to dating. Finally, Amanda, who was divorced with kids as well, sent Troy a message. Not long into their conversation, they realized their incredible connection. Amanda didn’t recognize him from his Match profile right away, because when he was in the hospital, Troy’s facial fracture left him bruised and swollen — not looking like himself.

Though they wanted to meet right away, time was not on their side. Again. Work took Troy out of town for two weeks, pushing back their first date, but regular phone calls kept their connection blossoming. After messaging on the app and talking on the phone for weeks, they finally met…for technically the second time. Dinner and dancing at a Mexican restaurant solidified their connection — both say their first date never really ended, because they’ve been inseparable ever since. On knowing Amanda was the one, Troy says, “It’s hard to explain. You just know.”

Coming up on their one-year anniversary as a couple, Troy approached Amanda’s daughters to ask their permission to propose, and then got approval from his own kids — everyone agreed they should be together. On Christmas, they were celebrating and opening gifts with their families. At the end of the day, Troy announced that he had one more present to hand out, and presented Amanda with a ring and heartfelt declaration of his commitment.

Today, Amanda and Troy are happily married, and enjoy traveling with their children (most recently to Disney World and the Dominican Republic). Both avid lovers of the outdoors, they spend precious alone time together in the mountains, fishing and hanging out. Though they have many other shared interests, like music, put simply: they are just in love with each other’s company.

FAST SEX; SLOW LOVE: Courtship in the Digital Age

Fast Sex, Slow Love

By Helen E. Fisher

Has the world run wild on sex?  Is romance dead?  Has marriage gone the way of the dinosaurs?   Today, some 66% of single Americans have had a one-night-stand; 34% have had sex with someone before their first date; 54% have had an uncommitted, secretive Friends-with-Benefits relationship; and 56% of singles have lived with someone before wedding.  Sounds reckless.  But data collected as part of an annual study I do with Match (and my colleague Dr. Justin Garcia) on a representative sample of over 35,000 single adults (known as Singles in America) has convinced me that this is not recklessness; it’s caution.  Today’s singles appear to want to know everything about a potential partner before they invest their time, money and energy to initiate a formal commitment to him or her.  In fact, some 67% of American cohabiting couples are terrified of the social, legal, emotional, and economic consequences of divorce.   So many begin a relationship by “hanging out” as “just friends.”  Next, they move into being friends-with-benefits.  Only later do many have an “official” first date.  Then gradually they move toward living together before wedding.  The pre-commitment stage of the courtship process is expanding:  Fast Sex; Slow love.  Where marriage used to be the beginning of a partnership, today it’s the finale.

Yet romantic love is in full bloom.  Over 54% of American singles believe in “love at first sight;” 86% seek a committed partner with whom they can spend their life; and 89% believe you can stay married to the same person forever.  Moreover, 83% of men and 89% of women in America will marry by age forty-nine.

Even modern technology—with introducing sites and Internet communication–can’t kill love.  The neural pathways for romance lie in the deepest part of the brain, near factories that orchestrate thirst and hunger.  Romantic love is a drive, a drive to find life’s greatest prize, a mating partner.  Myths; legends; songs; stories; novels; plays; ballets; operas; love holidays: everywhere in the world people still pine for love, live for love, kill for love and die for love.   The drive to love is one of the most powerful brain systems humanity has evolved–and it won’t change as singles swipe left or right on dating apps.

And from the evolutionary perspective, slow love is adaptive—because the human brain is soft-wired to attach to a partner slowly.  Using fMRI, my brain scanning colleagues and I have established that the neural circuits for romantic love can be triggered instantly; but the primary circuit for deep attachment can take months, sometimes years, to activate.   Slow love is in alignment with our primordial brain circuits for romance and attachment.

With this trend toward slow love, partnerships may become more stable too.  Data on 80 societies that I have collected from the Demographic Yearbooks of the United Nations between 1947 and 2011 indicate that the later you marry, the more likely you are to remain married.  A study of over 3,000 married people in the US found that, (compared to those who dated less than a year), couples who dated for one to two years were 20% less likely to get a divorce; and couples who dated for three years or longer were 39% less likely to part.  And when I asked 1,095 married Americans (with my friends at Match) whether they would remarry the person they were currently married to, 81% said: “Yes.”

It’s good news.  Today’s singles are turning inward–taking time to court, pair and wed.  But love is not dead; courtship is not ruined; and sex has not replaced emotional intimacy.  In fact, with the current Marriage Revolution toward slow love, we may see more happy and enduring partnerships in the Digital Age.

You can find the full academic article here:

SLOW LOVE: Courtship in the Digital Age
By Helen E. Fisher and Justin R. Garcia (2019)
In R.J. Sternberg & K. Sternberg (Eds.), The New Psychology of Love (2nd edition).
Cambridge University Press. Pp. 208-222