Dating and the economy
According to eHarmony.com, when people are in need of debt relief and worried about their finances, they turn to love. The website reports that membership sales are up 20%, despite monthly fees of $60. Bathsheba Birman, co-founder of dating service Nerds at Heart, says, “They’re looking for something that’s genuine in a world that isn’t very secure. With headlines full of why you can’t trust established institutions that you thought you could…people are re-examining their own values.”
Craig Kinsley, a neurologist at the University of Richmond, explains, “Misery loves company, especially if the prospect of romance looms large…Really, dating rather than being considered expensive, can be a thrilling and inexpensive distraction. Like getting drunk without the wallet-hit or hangover.” Kinsley also confirms the internal high of dating, adding that it releases brain chemicals that temporarily ease problems. This could explain the popularity of online dating services among people who are concerned about jobs, retirement account, and bills.
Dating and dollars
Sam Yagan, founder of OkCupid.com, sees the change in dating habits as a matter of money. He argues that buying drinks for random women at a bar can cost upwards of $100, and in the end offer no relationship prospects. On the other hand if the man has a steady date, a simple “Thai noodle takeout and Netflix” can make the night fulfilling. Overall he stated, “That’s more bang for your buck.”
The change in membership at eHarmony.com when the economy started to fall confirms Yagan’s theory. Last fall, as the stock market fell more than 100 points, eHarmony consistently gained more members. Activity on the site also climbed after notable tragedies like the Virginia Tech shooting. In times of good news, such as during the Olympics, dating service numbers stabilize.
The important things in life
Gian Gonzaga, eHarmony’s senior research scientist, states, “It ends up being a reminder that you need to look for the important things in life. It isn’t that surprising when you see people gravitating toward the most fundamental human relations.” He believes that although debt relief, bills, and retirement loom heavily, people still look to emotional connections as a respite from everyday woes. Research has shown that people return to what is considered “truly important” during recessions.
The tendency to cling to love during recessions isn’t universal. Singles may look for love in economic downturns, but married couples respond differently. Married couples tend to be much more stressed as they fear economic uncertainty will drive a wedge between them. Studies have proven that finances can be a major relationship trigger and the cause of dissention in marriage. Economic problems aren’t received the same way by married couples who are already financially invested in each other.
Standards for singles are changing
As debt relief weighs heavily on people’s minds, standards for singles are changing. Gonzaga adds, “With such a tenuous climate right now, I think people are looking for stability in their partner. I [also] think it’s less haphazard dating and more pointed dating.”
In hard economic times, daters become open to partners they might not have considered in better times. Mili Thomas, a 28-year old graduate student, spends more time with men who “didn’t show up on her radar screen before the recession.” She said, “I figured this was the best possible time to explore other options since people’s lives have been turned topsy-turvy…I think everyone is more open to bucking convention given that ‘the usual’ has gone out the window.”