Feature Archive

Desperately Seeking a Mate

Why are so many people single? The answer may surprise you.

WebMD Feature

March 20, 2000 (Los Angeles) -- Meaghan Muir wants a life partner. But the 28-year-old Santa Barbara woman has decided to take a breather after a failed 3-1/2-year relationship. At one point, the couple talked seriously about spending the rest of their lives together. But not now.

"There were differences between us," Muir says. "And I don't know if we weren't able to work through them or if we just didn't put enough effort into getting past them. When I'm being practical about it, I say to myself it never would have worked out, but sometimes I think, 'Did I really explore it? Did I really get into it?' "

Singles Seeking Singles

Muir is one of millions of single adults reflecting on their efforts to find true love. They want it, but they also know that it's harder and harder to find. And those who think they've found it are often mistaken. The rate of marriage is down; the rate of divorce, up. The number of marriages for every 1,000 women dropped 43% between 1960 and 1996, while the rate of divorce more than doubled in the same time period, according to a report published last year by the National Marriage Project, a research and education initiative at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

And the news on cohabitation isn't much different. In a study scheduled to appear in this summer's Annual Review of Sociology, Pamela Smock, PhD, a researcher at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research, finds that five out of six cohabiting couples end that living arrangement within three years, with only 30% of them legalizing their unions with marriage. The majority of cohabiting couples simply break up.