60% of men have felt insecure when dating, with rejection their biggest fear

Release Date: Thursday 7th October 2021

Men’s Heads and Hearts

New Men’s Heads and Hearts report from eharmony and Relate unpicks complexities of dating and relationships in the 21st century 

  • More than half of men (60%) have felt insecure when it comes to dating, with fear of rejection, their age and their appearance key contributing factors
  • And, one in five single male respondents (20%) are looking for love when it comes to dating, this is compared to just one in 10 (11%) looking for no-strings sex
  • One in five (20%) men say they can talk more openly about their mental health and a similar number feel comfortable showing vulnerability (20%) in a relationship
  • Four in 10 men (39%) say the #MeToo movement has impacted their approach to dating, with a tenth feeling ashamed of how they previously treated women (10%)

Stereotyped thinking might suggest it’s just women who worry about ageing and how they look but think again. Six in 10 men feel insecure when it comes to dating, with fear of rejection, their age and appearance the top contributing factors.

And, twice as many men are now looking for ‘real love’ rather than no-string sex (20% versus 11% respectively). 

That’s according to the new ‘Men’s Heads and Hearts’ report – from the experts at eharmony and leading relationships charity Relate. The report combines insight from practising Relate counsellors and consumer polling to shine a light on male attitudes to dating, love and relationships in 2021. 

It documents how the #MeToo movement has led four in 10 men to approach dating differently, plus identifies a shift when it comes to mental health in relationships, with a fifth of men saying they are now more open about their mental health with their partner (20%).

Dating and its challenges

Further factors driving dating insecurities for men include prior bad experiences (19%), plus the perception that they’re ‘out of practice’ after coming out of a long-term relationship (13%).

One in seven (13%) men think it’s harder for them to date than it was 10 years ago. For example, mismatched expectations mean one in five men (19%) believe they should pay the bill on the first date, while less than half as many women say the same (9%).

Relationship Expert at eharmony Rachael Lloyd adds:

“It’s really interesting to see that men battle the same insecurities as women in terms of insecurity about their looks, and how they’re perceived. Many also carry the wounds from relationships that didn’t work out.”

“What’s more, navigating dating in the 21st century comes with its own unique challenges – and this can no doubt add to these reported feelings of insecurity. My advice to any man feeling hesitant about dating, would be to look for someone who shares your core values and personality traits. The more alike you are personality wise, the better your chances of a great date which will increase confidence and chemistry.”

When it comes to #MeToo, four in 10 (39%) men report it impacted their approach to dating rising to 66% of 25-34 year olds. A tenth feel ashamed about how they previously treated women (10%) and a similar number recognise their past behaviour was unacceptable (8%).  Despite these realisations there’s still some way to go - almost a quarter (24%) of men said they had not really heard of the #MeToo movement and more than one in ten (11%) think #MeToo is exaggerated.

“Sexual abuse and harassment is never acceptable and the damage caused by this is something we regularly see in counselling sessions,” comments Relate Counsellor Josh Smith. “Whilst four in ten men across all age groups report having changed their behaviour as a result of #MeToo, it is encouraging that the number is higher amongst younger men surveyed.” 

Dating – what men are looking for in a partner

With gender stereotypes often shaping expectations as to what men and women are looking for in a partner, we wanted to explore the reality of what men are actually seeking when it comes to dating.

The research shows one in four single, male respondents (25%) are looking for companionship from their romantic life, with one in five looking to find real love (20%). Just over one in ten single, male respondents (11%) said that they were looking for no strings sex and over one in five were looking for someone to share their hobbies and interests with (22%). This response was supported by what Relate is seeing in its counselling sessions:

“Men are traditionally thought of as seeking sex, not relationships. In reality I’m seeing more men looking for relationships, but some don’t know how to go about making it happen” Peter Saddington, Relate Counsellor comments

When asked what qualities are considered to be the most important in a romantic partner, the top three responses from men were honesty (47%), being trustworthy (47%) and having a good sense of humour (42%). 

Relationships, dating and male mental health

Despite the challenges men face when dating, the report highlights more men are opening up about their feelings when in a relationship.

One in five of the men surveyed report being able to talk more openly about their mental health (20%) and showing their vulnerability to a partner (20%) – acutely important when considering that one in six (16%) men report suffering from poor mental health.

And though this is a step in the right direction, there’s still a way to go. The vast majority of men wouldn’t consider counselling if they were experiencing difficulties with relationships or dating – with only one in 10 (10%) saying they would consider this option for them.

There is a clear gender gap when it comes to accessing therapy too, with almost double the number of women reporting accessing some form of counselling in the past compared to men (23% and 13% respectively) – despite a similar rate of mental health issues being faced.

Stigma remains when it comes to men discussing their mental health, and this is clear when looking at the traits that are important for them in a relationship. Four in 10 think communication is key for a successful relationship (41%), yet this is notably higher for women at over half (56%).

“On the whole, society is becoming much more open about mental health – but men can still feel a certain stigma when it comes to discussing things that might make them feel vulnerable,” continues Relate Counsellor Josh Smith. “While it’s positive that some men feel able to open up to their partner about their mental health, there are many who don’t and it’s clear we also need to do more to encourage men to access support such as counselling for their relationships and wellbeing. Getting support early is key and can be really beneficial.” 

Rachael Lloyd, Relationship Expert at eharmony adds: “It can be confusing to know what to do or say when dating and this can leave some men paralysed by fear and unable to be themselves. However, communication is key. From the initial stages of dating right through to relationships and marriage, we know that couples who see the most success are the ones who are able to communicate effectively and seek help when required.”

Read the full 'Men’s Heads and Hearts' report 


For more information please contact:

Liam Reeves – Third City
T: 07398 268 187 E: liam@thirdcity.co.uk

Sarah Osmik – Relate
T: 0207 554 2895 E: sarah.osmik@relate.org.uk


Relate and eharmony conducted a focus group with four practising Relate counsellors to understand the challenges men face when dating.

Censuswide on behalf of Third City conducted supplementary UK research in September 2021, among a nationally representative sample of 2,531 UK adults (18+). A boost of 1,031 UK singles (18+) was added to this sample - with a minimum quota set for 200 in NI.

About eharmony

eharmony launched in 2000, and now forms part of the ParshipMeet Group the international market leader in matchmaking. Real love remains at the heart of everything we do. In an increasingly fast-paced dating culture, we take a more bespoke and supportive approach to creating relationships. Our unique Compatibility Matching System brings together like-minded singles who share core values and personality traits, which are key indicators of relationship success. We are constantly evolving our matching system, designed by psychologists, which measures each member’s profile across 32 dimensions of compatibility - factoring in traits such as kindness, openness, and communication style. The results speak for themselves – every 14 minutes someone finds love on eharmony. Take our virtual tour at www.eharmony.co.uk.

About Relate

Relate is the leading relationships charity and the Relate Federation is the largest provider of relationship support in England and Wales. Offering counselling, information, mediation and support to individuals, couples and families, we currently work online and on the phone with people of all backgrounds and sexual orientations at all stages of life. Find out more at relate.org.uk

Join our newsletter to get relationship advice and guidance straight to your inbox