A new annual study released on May 17th by Avvo delves deep into issues surrounding modern romance, uncovering new data about how people find love and think about relationships in 2016 America.
The study surveyed a wide swath of American adults across gender, age, and sexual orientation, covering a wealth of topics; respondents were asked to give their opinions on divorce, online dating, same-sex marriage, polyamory, and more. The results indicate that while Americans continue to wrestle with technology and have varying levels of comfort with the current relationship landscape, there are some old-fashioned ways people find each other that continue to flourish.
Some details from the study:
Men more likely to regret divorce; women more likely to blame their ex
Divorced Americans were asked who was responsible for the end of their marriage. Of the people Avvo polled, a significantly larger number of women than men point the finger at their spouses. A full 64% of women said their spouse was to blame for the failure of the marriage, while a relatively scant 44% of men said the same. Meanwhile, 42% of men said the blame should be shared equally; only 29% of women were as magnanimous. A higher percentage of women (73%) than men (61%) said they don’t regret their divorce.
Gender roles and accompanying societal expectations may come into play. According to noted sociologist and renowned sexologist Dr. Pepper Schwartz, deep-rooted, predisposed beliefs and tendencies about men and women in domestic partnerships could shape attitudes about responsibility.
“It takes two to ruin a relationship, but women are less likely to take their share of the blame,” said Schwartz. “It might be that women believe that self-blame is not empowering, and men may feel as though it’s not masculine to blame their wives.”
Attitudes about marriage as an institution may also influence feelings about getting a divorce. When asked if they believed in the institution of marriage, 63% of women—versus 53% of men—said yes. The more weight one places on being married, it seems, the more intense the outward blame when the marriage doesn’t work out.
“Whatever the underlying reasons, in reality it takes two to ruin a marriage,” says Schwartz, “and women have a role—whether it’s by making more mistakes than we care to admit or even choosing the wrong partner.”
Are you ready to get a divorce? Find a divorce attorney in your area, or look into getting an uncontested divorce at a fixed rate—an option that might cause less regret for both you and your spouse, regardless of gender.
People use technology to find love, but still believe in the tried and true
Americans looking for love are resourceful in their search, employing online dating and other methods to find a mate. One in four respondents indicated they would agree to a professionally-arranged romance through a matchmaker service, in which a relationship expert would find them a mate. Many of those same people (53%) also agree that online dating is a great way to meet a partner.
“This is a comment on how hard it is to find a mate in today’s society and how frustrated modern daters have become,” says Schwartz. “People who have been successful at putting together a long term relationship for themselves haven’t lost confidence in their own ability to find someone. But if for people who have had only had short term relationships, or an important relationship that self-combusted, then a matchmaker starts looking better and better.”
While those on the hunt for a partner might feel challenged, other data indicates that Americans continue to view online dating with some level of suspicion; overall, only 1 in 4 millennials have actually dated online, and 9 out of 10 believe that meeting face-to-face is the best way to first meet a romantic partner. Meanwhile, older, more venerable ideas of what matters in a relationship often surfaced in the results; for instance, when all respondents were asked whether time or money makes a relationship great, 84% said time.
“Time is worth its weight in gold,” says Schwartz. “We are so pressed for time – quality time to look for love and nurture it – that we really do understand that its scarcity is hurting us…it’s clear that people in a relationship know that nothing will compensate for not having enough time, and quality time, together.”
The legality of same-sex marriage has triggered a shift in attitudes
When it comes to supporting same-sex marriage, Americans are quickly adjusting to the new reality that has set in since the June 2015 Supreme Court ruling legalizing it on the federal level. In May of 2015, 43% of Americans believed same-sex marriage should be legal, compared to 48% today.
“The fact is that love endures. That feeling, that pursuit of happiness and desire to build a life with another person is something that stays constant even as society learns to welcome new opinions and ways to love,” said Schwartz.
The adjustment of the last year has occurred across gender: In 2015, significantly more women expressed support, with 47% of women onboard with same-sex marriage, as compared to just 39% of men. Today, in 2016, nearly the same proportion of men and women are supporters, with 50% of women and about 47% of men now backing same-sex marriage and relationships.
Americans’ support of same-sex marriage differs slightly by political affiliation, with Democrats generally being more supportive (as you might suspect). Since the SCOTUS ruling, more Democrats than Republicans have shifted their attitudes. Among Democrats, 58% were in support of same-sex marriage in 2015, versus 68% in 2016. This compares to 22% of Republicans in 2015 supporting same-sex marriage, and 26% of Republicans supporting same-sex marriage in 2016 (not a statistically significant shift).
Still, the trend is clear: Overall, younger Americans continue to be among the strongest supporters of gay marriage, with a full 58% of Americans 18-34 saying they support it.
“One short year after the landmark decision by the Supreme Court, people are opening up their minds to acceptance where there sometimes was judgement before,” said Schwartz. “Recognizing that love comes in all shapes, colors, and sizes is a sign of maturity for American society.”
Open relationships: a matter of perspective
For some, relationship satisfaction might come with an open relationship. But open relationships are not for everyone; some people are morally comfortable with non-monogamy, while others are not, and Avvo’s study shows major attitudinal differences between the two groups.
People in the first camp, who are comfortable with non-monogamy and open relationships, as you might expect, are less OK with marriage as an institution: 22% feel that marriage is outdated, compared to 9% of people opposed to polyamory who feel the same way. Meanwhile, 41% of those morally opposed to open relationships think marriage is a goal everyone should have in life, compared to 24% of people open to polyamory.
Differences in attitudes about the sanctity of marriage are reflected in attitudes about dating someone who is married: 59% of those morally comfortable with open relationships say they’d date someone who is married; only 15% of those opposed to open relationships would do the same.
However, by some measures, it appears those who are comfortable with open relationships actually seem to value relationships more in a general way.
Avvo’s survey asked respondents if they would rather be alone, successful, and happy than in a relationship where they’re not happy. A full 95% of those opposed to open relationships say they would, while a smaller percentage—89%—of those who are morally OK with open relationships would say the same. Does this indicate that those interested in open relationships are more willing to stick it out when the relationship turns sour? Maybe, although both groups agree in the value of relationships and the longevity of love overall, as 92% of both groups say relationships were meant to last.
“People crave connection, and when they feel a connection, they want to do everything they can to keep that intact,” said Schwartz. “They also need to feel satisfied, emotionally and physically. What people do to stay satisfied in a elationship, and sustain and strengthen their connections, can depend on the desires of the two parties of the couple and how connected they feel.”
“The alignment or misalignment of these desires may lead to pursuing an open relationship just as readily as they could lead to deciding to start a family, formalizing a commitment in marriage, or even ending the relationship altogether.”
Click here to see the full study, and see below for more details and insights from the survey data:
- Avvo study: men regret and blame themselves for divorce more often than women
- Avvo study: one in four would use a professional matchmaker
- Avvo study: legality of same-sex marriage has triggered a shift in attitudes
- Avvo study examines new attitudes around open relationships