The Mating Crisis

The Mating Crisis

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Kim Johnson Reporting America is quickly becoming a nation of singles. The number of single adults between the ages of 30 and 34 has tripled since 1970. And because the marriage rate is dropping, the birth rate is dropping too. Why are so many NOT taking the plunge?

That's the billion dollar question because a majority of America's single men and women say they want to be married. After talking to a lot of people, we don't profess to have any firm answers. But consider these possibilities:

There's a lot of pressure to succeed at a career. And the pursuit of higher education and careers can delay the pursuit of a mate. By the time they're ready for that pursuit, opportunities to meet new people may be harder to come by. They're older now, more aware of what what they want in a companion, and a little less willing to throw away the checklist.

And on top of all that, the whole culture of dating is changing. Add it all up and you have a mating crisis.

Jared Gillett: “I think dating is a big frustrating mess.”

Tiffany Bloomquist: “ think for people whose relationships worked out younger, we are obviously older singles. I don't think they understand how hard it is.”

Between college and marriage, more and more singles are exploring a new life stage. They're enjoying independence, careers, and they're finding fulfillment in so-called urban tribes, a la "Friends."

Most want to find a life-long companion, but will they find one when they want one? Statistics show many aren't, so they're turning to non-traditional mating methods. Enter the world of internet dating, dating services, speed dating and "hanging out."

Phil Muir, LDS Singles Ward Bishop: “I think there isn't enough formal dating, in the true sense, going on.”

Muir sees it firsthand as a bishop of an LDS singles ward. He says in his own day people socialized in groups, but not to the extent that singles "hang out " today.

Phil Muir: “There was always some eventual pairing off, and it just doesn't seem to be going on today. There's no feeling or need to do that.”

¶ So what's going on? We asked a group of singles to join us for lunch and tell us why their generation seems to be hung up on "hanging out."

Brent Osiek: “It's just easier. What am I going to do Friday night? Well I'm going to go to their house and hang out. You feel justified that you've done something. I've been social.”

Their parents don't approve.

Wendy Butler: “My parents are very frustrated. They'll actually get angry with the guys I'm hanging out with, and say, 'Why doesn't he ever take you on a date?' or whatever. And I'm like, 'I don't know, I'll take what I can get.'”

An 18-month study in 2001 found that Only 50 percent of female college seniors had been on six or more dates with men since their freshman year. What's changed? Well, once upon a time, men would ask women out. Now, no one is quite sure who should ask whom.

Cathy Cummings, Social Worker: “I think it's very frightening to men and women alike because they're not quite sure what the rules are.” Women have never had so many opportunities to advance their education and careers.

Phil Muir: “Some accomplished, aggressive, talented women intimidate some of the men.”

Muir says as if the social landscape weren't confusing enough, there's pressure. Cathy Cummings, a licensed social worker, says more and more single women are coming to her for counseling.

Cathy Cummings. “The biggest pressure seems to be on women I've met. And I believe that's due to the realization that the biological clock is running out.”

Visit any bookstore and you'll find a barrage of books written on the subject that have become national best-sellers. Lest we leave you hopeless, consider the fact that older, educated, people are more likely to succeed at marriage, if they can just make it to matrimony.

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