This Is the One Characteristic Singles Are Looking for More Than Anything Else

Remember being little and having a checklist of all the qualities you wanted in your one true love? They had to be attractive, a good kisser, and give you gifts just because. And while sure, those characteristics actually still sound awesome, they’re not exactly what singles value most. In fact, according to new research from Hinge, that title goes to (*drumroll please*)...emotional vulnerability. It is *the* most important characteristic singles want from the people they date, and when we say singles, we don’t just mean some singles. We mean basically everyone.

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Hinge discovered a whopping 93 percent of daters want to date someone who shows emotional vulnerability, and 61 percent of the more than 4000 people surveyed ranked it as a higher priority than attractiveness, income, or height.

And while this all may sound well and good, the same data revealed that only 32 percent of people actually *show* vulnerability on first dates. 75 percent of men say they never or rarely show vulnerability on first dates—worrying that it’ll be a turn-off. All of this basically means that the most attractive quality is one that most people aren’t down to actually show. *sigh*

“When we first meet someone, we’re tempted to present an edited, smoothed-out version of ourselves,” explains Hinge’s director of relationship science Logan Ury. “[People are] worried about making that perfect first impression and think vulnerability will turn their date off.”

The problem, of course, is that any partner is eventually going to see the real you anyway—it’s pretty much the premise of every romantic comedy ever. Pretending to be this cool, slick person who has it all together won’t usually work in the long run.

But worry not—being emotionally vulnerable on dates is easier than you think, even if it’s never really been your thing. Here’s how to swap your refined dating persona for one that’s a lil more real without completely laying your heart (or dignity) on the line.

Why Does Emotional Vulnerability Matter So Much?

2020 had a significant impact on the qualities people look for in a potential partner. “After doing a lot of self-work during the pandemic, daters are ready to find someone who has also done the work,” Ury says. “They want someone who can be open and honest about their feelings and their experiences.”

Before you think this could just be some sort of post-pandemic fad, though, let’s rewind to that viral, “Rise of Lonely, Single Men” story from Psychology Today. Published in August 2022, Greg Matos, PsyD, wrote that younger and middle-aged men have become the bulk of the population of long-term single people that has been growing over the past 30 years. This is partially because men make up the majority (about 62 percent) of dating app users but also because the people they’re dating are looking for someone who’s good at communicating and, you guessed it, being emotionally vulnerable.

This desire for openness obviously conflicts with what many people *think* they should do on dates, which is going in all glossy and aloof with surface-level convos that don’t get to the heart of who either of you is. Neither of you is being vulnerable or authentic because you think openness will be a turn-off or you’re afraid it’ll come off as “too much,” so you end the night with an awkward hug, no connection, and a text to your group chat saying you’ll never date again. Sound about right?

In reality, a lack of reciprocal openness stands in the way of a real, rom-com-worthy connection. “It’s our imperfections that make us most attractive to other people,” Ury explains. “We all have things we’re self-conscious about. Seeing someone else emotionally vulnerable and upfront about their struggles makes us more comfortable revealing ours.”

How Can Someone Be Vulnerable While Staying *Healthily* Guarded?

Being vulnerable with someone new can be scary and hard, and it’s easy to go overboard. One second you’re talking candidly about your past relationship and the next, you’re showing them the receipts from the last fight you had with your ex. Ury says the key here is to find a balance between being open and oversharing. “It’s essential to understand that certain personal details should only be shared when someone has earned your trust,” she explains. “Let someone in without too much information.”

For example, talking about your values is a great way to be authentic, but unpacking all your family drama on the first date? Maybe not. Same goes for talking about your feelings or your desires in a relationship. Ury says these are fantastic topics that show emotional vulnerability, but venting about past relationships or dating regrets isn’t as endearing. “Dating is a dance where you move toward each other and deepen your connection,” she explains. “You don’t have to share everything to be vulnerable.”

If the concept of opening up still feels daunting, here are a few of Ury’s best tips to ease you into a more vulnerable space:

  • Share something personal. Instead of sticking with small talk, try going a little deeper by chatting about a hobby, an interest, or even just something fun going on in your life, like the party you’re planning for your bestie or the new trick you’re trying to teach your pup.

  • Put your phone away. By now it should be obvious, but using your cell during a date is a surefire way to mess up any potential bond. It’s rude, it’s distracting, and it takes you out of the moment. An easy fix is to suggest you each put your phones away at the start of the date. This will ensure you both stay present and shows you really care about connecting.

  • Start small. You don’t have to be this amazing revealer of emotions right away. Take your time and ease into showing different parts of yourself. As long as you’re opening up more each date, you’ll be on the right track.

Ultimately, by being emotionally vulnerable on dates, Ury says you have a much better chance of building lasting intimacy. “Even if you don’t hit it off romantically, at least you didn’t have to spend another night talking about the weather,” she explains. Worst case, you have an interesting convo. Best case, you find your person while being totally, authentically you.

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