It’s the news we’ve all been dreading: there’s an official shortage of eligible men. But does that mean we give up on romance altogether - or are we just getting confused about what 'eligible' actually means?
Swiping, swiping, swiping – your thumb moves back and forth over your iPhone and the screen becomes a blur of not-quite-chiseled jawlines, frizzy chin fluff and bad selfies. Too beardy, too clean-shaven, too blond, too tanned, too grumpy, too happy – dating feels like the romantic equivalent of picking out a Christmas tree: you’re inundated with identical options, but whether they’re prickly, limp or just a bit lopsided, none of them are quite right. And if you’re going to invest your time finding the right one, getting it into your car and letting it make a mess of your bedroom, then you at least want an option that isn’t going to wilt and die on you within the space of a fortnight.
But when you put it like that, it feels like there’s no hope for your relationship status.
So at least now you can breathe a sigh of relief, because as it turns out, there’s a very real reason why it might feel like there aren’t any eligible blokes out there for you: there’s actually an official man shortage. That’s if education and academic success is important to you, at any rate.
According to the National Centre for Education Statistics in America, there are significantly less men graduating from university than women. In fact, in 2012, 34 per cent more American women than men completed higher education. But the numbers over here aren’t all that different: in 2014, 58,000 more British women went to university than men.
Meanwhile, the chances of somebody who’s gone to university jumping into a relationship with somebody who hasn’t are lower than ever – despite the fact that the salary gap between graduates and non graduates is narrowing, year on year. Altogether suggesting that we’re still prioritizing academic achievements over vocational, or alternative skill sets – even when it comes to finding somebody to snog on a night out.
But as maintenance grants are scrapped, housing benefit is taken for under 21s, and universities are allowed to increase their fees even further, it’s becoming harder and harder for men – and women – to get to university in the first place.
Meaning that unless we want to live in a society divided in two – where the financially fortuitous go on to get their degrees, marry other wealthy graduates and raise families of rich, academically privileged children, and the poor, well, don’t do any of that, then surely we’re going to have to change our perception of what ‘eligible’ actually means?
Relationship expert Judi James believes so. ‘Relationships are primarily about creating a complimentary ‘fit’ with one another and it’s important to remember that that fit will also be fluid,’ she explains. ‘So one of you might be the tougher or more protective person on some occasions, but your partner might also step up to the plate at others. And the same can be said of intelligence. We can measure intelligence and intellect in so many ways that it would be dangerous to suggest we need a partner on the same academic level to create the ideal relationship. IQ is now seen as just one way to define a smart person, you can add EQ and PQ into the mix too (Emotional and Physical) and you will often find the ‘geek’ with a low EQ being attracted to someone with a high EQ to make them a more sociable and outgoing couple.’
‘I have met graduates with very low levels of general intelligence and people who didn’t make university who are as smart as a whip,’ she adds. ‘Of course, if the more academic partner bases their happiness on intellectual conversations and pursuits then they might find a partner with lower levels of success difficult to communicate with, and a lot does depend on upbringing: if your entire family are academics, then that might be an issue too. But really, who wants to marry a clone?’