More Satisfaction, Less Divorce for People Who Meet Spouses Online

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More than one-third of American marriages today get their start online — and those marriages are more satisfying and are less likely to end in divorce, according to a new study.

The research, which was funded by the online-dating site eHarmony, was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Meeting online is no longer an anomaly, and the prospects are good,” says lead author John Cacioppo, a professor of social psychology at the University of Chicago. “That was surprising to me. I didn’t expect that.”

The research involved a Harris Poll of nearly 20,000 Americans who got married between 2005 and 2012. It found that 35% of people met online. But while 8% of those who met off-line got separated or divorced, the percentage for those who met online was just 6%. Although these differences narrowed after controlling for factors that affect divorce rates such as income, education and number of years married, they remained significant, Cacioppo says.

Income, however, was a big factor:  According to the study, just 3% of people making less than $15,000 annually met online, while a whopping 41% of those making $100,000 or more met partners online.  Since greater income is linked with happier marriages and less divorce, controlling for income reduced the differences seen between those who met online and off.

(MOREIs There Hope for the American Marriage?)

The study also found increased marital satisfaction among people meeting online, compared with off-line venues like at college or in bars.

Eli Finkel, a professor of social psychology at Northwestern University who has published research critical of the online-dating industry, said in e-mail to several journalists that the research is “impressive” with a “large sample” and “fascinating findings.” However, Finkel thinks that the conclusion that online marriages are better is premature.

“The study is a good one,” he says. “It suggests that one can meet a serious romantic partner online. That’s a big deal. But any conclusions that online meeting is better than off-line meeting overstep the evidence.” Finkel explains that the differences between the two venues overall are not large enough to support this claim.

The study does not suggest that meeting online in and of itself actually improves matchmaking or somehow causes marriages to be better. In fact, both online and off, different types of meeting places were linked with different marital prospects.

Not surprisingly, for example, growing up together or meeting at school, through friends or through a religious group were linked with more satisfying marriages than meeting at a bar or club or on a blind date. Oddly, however, meeting at work was just as bad as finding a spouse at a bar or nightclub.

(MORE: Physical Proximity May Help Keep Men in Relationships Faithful)

In terms of online venues, marriages begun in chat rooms or online communities were less satisfying than those initiated via online-dating sites, although dating sites themselves varied in terms of the marital satisfaction reported.

“In chat rooms and off-line, you meet only the people who are around and not large numbers of people,” Cacioppo says as a possible explanation for this finding. “If you do online dating, all of sudden, there’s a world of possibilities.”

Another potential explanation for differences between online and off-line marital success has to do with personality. “If you have good impulse control, you may be more likely to meet your spouse [deliberately] online rather than impulsively at a bar,” he says.

Of dating sites, eHarmony fared particularly well — a finding that may raise suspicion because of the funding source. However, the study could not determine whether or not this has anything to do with how it matches people or anything else specific to the site. Because it advertises itself to those who are seeking a spouse, eHarmony may simply attract more people who are ready to settle down. A marriage-focused website, Cacioppo says, “is not appealing if you are just looking for a hookup.”

Cacioppo notes one additional reason why the online world might be conducive to matchmaking — an explanation that might surprise many online daters who have met people whose bodies didn’t exactly match their pictures. “There is some experimental work going back more than 30 years now, which [shows that] meeting [via computer or text] leads people on average to be a little more honest and self-disclosing,” he says.

“When you are face to face, there is face-saving,” he explains. “When you don’t [see each other], you can be more comfortable being yourself.” Being more open, the same studies found, led people to like each other more — something that could obviously influence romantic connections.

When it comes to playing Cupid, it’s still not clear whether online dating ultimately makes better matches. But given the large number of people who meet their mates this way, the good news is that at least it doesn’t seem to make matters any worse.

MOREIs There Hope for the American Marriage?

14 comments
Muakas
Muakas

There are fewer secrets to hide when couple comes to marriage and they were  known before it. As he tell “When you are face to face, there is face-saving,”.

I'm not surprised, it is a day to day!


Congratz with the article!!


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SexShopOnline*
SexShopOnline*

very interesting article, I know a couple who are well known, it is Venezuela and he in England, she took a course in English and practiced writing in the chat, one day he met with the boy, then she vacation travel on a tour of Europe when passing through London met, then the feu to Venezuela to propose the following year they were married, they are still together it's been 6 years and look happy, definitely think this happens when people are removed all complex, false faces, poses anywhere without wanting to impress anyone and are just themselves

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gail.rao1
gail.rao1

There are any reasons why a marriage started online can work much better. It has privacy to get to know each other from the inside out( heart and soul first) not the outside in. I have a met online long time marriage and it is wonderful. I know lots of others like that too. My husband and I friends first. When he wanted to change the direction he was upfront about marriage.I can well see how dating sites work well when the intent to marry is clearly stated.

  Can you imagine going to a bar and saying I am here to find a person to marry? Hey lady I just came here for a beer..lol

erotisimo
erotisimo

Interesting article to consider. Although these studies are usually unreliable and local population samples that have nothing to do with the rest of the country.

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GradSchoolInfo
GradSchoolInfo

Perhaps, as the story says where you meet depends on your degree of interest in marriage/family, and your personality, so it's not just where you meet per se, but who is doing the meeting there. Perhaps "being yourself" when you first meet goes with less dating success, but more marital success. It seems like fear of rejection would be less online, even if you are rejected it is much more obvious that there are "other fish in the sea".   Online dating may also simply produce a greater number of prospects, so the daters may also feel like they can be more choosey, and be more likely to go for what they really want. If this finding holds up it would likely go far in reducing any stigma that remains for online dating. 

Odzy
Odzy

I understand you need catchy titles but could you be at least a little coherent ?

Title of the article: "More Satisfaction, Less Divorce for People Who Meet Spouses Online"

Corpus of the same article:

"“The study is a good one,” he says. “It suggests that one can meet a serious romantic partner online. That’s a big deal. But any conclusions that online meeting is better than off-line meeting overstep the evidence.” Finkel explains that the differences between the two venues overall are not large enough to support this claim."

"The study does not suggest that meeting online in and of itself actually improves matchmaking or somehow causes marriages to be better. In fact, both online and off, different types of meeting places were linked with different marital prospects."