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

One in seven men (14%) in Wales still think the man should pay the bill on a date. This compares to almost one in five men (19%) surveyed from across the UK. Interestingly less than one in ten of all women (9%) surveyed agree that men should be the ones to pay.

This is according to polling carried out as part of the new Men’s Heads and Hearts report from leading relationships charity Relate and relationships experts eharmony. 

The report combines insights from interviews with Relate counsellors and consumer polling plus service data. It looks at how men are feeling about dating, relationships and their mental health and wellbeing as we emerge from an extraordinary 18 months.

Social norms that we once took for granted have become fraught with confusion since emerging from the latest lockdown and 8% of men surveyed in Wales think that the pandemic has caused them to lose confidence. 

So it’s not surprising that feelings of uncertainty are also prevalent in the dating world with almost one in eight men (12%) surveyed in Wales admitting that they are confused by modern dating. Across the whole of the UK, 60% of men also confessed to having felt insecure about going on a date.

Val Tinkler, National Manager at Relate Cymru thinks that preconceived views still exist in many parts of society and this is leading to men feeling confused about their roles when dating or in a relationship: “Men are still fighting against the stereotype of needing to be the ‘strong one’ in a relationship and this coupled with increased insecurities following the pandemic has led to many men feeling unsure how to behave when dating or in a relationship. 

Over one in ten males (12%) surveyed in Wales think it’s harder for men to date now than it was 10 years ago. I think the key is for men to communicate and be honest with partners about how they are feeling. Many men want to do this but may need encouragement or support to be able to open up.”

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 fearful 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.”

The #MeToo movement

The research also explores the impact that the #MeToo movement has had on men. Over two in five male respondents (42%) in Wales think that the movement has impacted their approach to dating. This is comparable to 39% of all men surveyed across the UK. Of these 14% feel more informed about the importance of consent. One in ten male respondents (10%) feel ashamed about how they have previously treated women and 8% say it has made them recognise their past behaviour was unacceptable.

Despite these realisations there’s still some way to go – a quarter of men surveyed across the UK (25%) said they’d not really heard of the #MeToo movement and more than one in ten (11%) think #MeToo is exaggerated.

Relationships, Dating and Male Mental Health

Despite the challenges men face when dating, the report highlights that more men are opening up about their feelings when in a relationship. One in five men surveyed (20%) in the Wales report that they can talk openly to their partner about their mental health compared to 17% of men surveyed across the UK overall.

Whilst this is a step in the right direction, it feels like more needs to be done to help the large majority of respondents who are still struggling to be able to discuss their mental health and wellbeing. Even more so when 6% of men in Wales and 16% of men across the UK surveyed overall report suffering from poor mental health.

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

“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,” comments Val Tinkler, National Manager at Relate Cymru. “While it’s positive that 20% of men surveyed in Wales feel able to open up to their partner about their mental health, this means there are many men 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.”

To access the full Men’s Heads and Hearts report please click here.

To find out more about Relate’s services, which include WebChat and relationship counselling for couples and individuals which can be accessed via webcam or over the phone please visit relate.org.uk