Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Dating and marriage in the age of the internet

In light of rule #6 from my post on Sunday, I thought I'd take a crack at this article I got sent by my wonderful (and single!) brother.  The headline reads "marriage from online meetings is more stable, satisfying".  In case you're curious, the study was sponsored by...wait for it...an internet dating site.  

This doesn't actually make the finding illegitimate however, though it does indicate we should use some scrutiny.  

First, as I'm sure many of my older readers have already wondered, this study only focused on people who have been married at most since 2005.  Given some lead time for publication and all, that means that they were studying the incidence of divorce in marriages in the first 7 years or so.  Now this isn't totally crazy...about half of all divorces occur in the first ten years of marriage (This is what I learned in school, but now I can't find a good source for this, but this article seems to back me up), so this study does likely tell us something.  It's interesting though that the abstract uses the word "slightly" to describe the lower divorce rate/marital satisfaction.  It turns out that's pretty true, as the divorce rate for those meeting online is about 6%, and for those not meeting online it's 7.7%.  This difference was smaller when they controlled for other factors, but was still statistically significant (they don't list it).

Now I don't think this is totally crazy.  It's a small difference, but I would imagine that much of that could be attributed to people who went online looking for love/relationships vs people in the offline world who just fell in to relationships with people they encountered.  Actively desiring marriage would, I presume have a protective effect on said marriage once it occurs.

Overall though, it is interesting to ponder where this might go.  Are the divorce rates going to be higher once we get more than 7 years out? Are there other changes coming due to online meetings that we haven't noticed yet?  Additionally, there's evidence that the divorce rate is not continuing to climb because many who  would have gotten divorced are simply not getting married.  As those folks continue to opt out, how will things change?  I will be anxiously awaiting the eHarmony followup.


  1. A childhood friend who had divorced many years ago found her new husband from the Internet- about an hour's drive from where she lived. The five year old marriage has endured longer than the first marriage.

    So, it can work for some people.

  2. Fun. Yes, the self-selection of looking for marriage versus falling into a relationship with not-necessarily-equal focus on marriage would likely influence that. I might think it would be more, actually.

    Also, there might be some influence on one's willingness to persevere. If you thought, even just a bit, that "this test thought we were a good match. This might be among my better choices and my next choice likely to be a little worse." Similarly, thinking "It's not like I was doing such a great job figuring this out solo" could give one pause.

    Finally, the factors that the dating sight wants you focus on are also real. They weeded out some people who had very different ideas about money, children, sex, religion, and adventure. There are always tradeoffs there, but kicking some goats out of the pen likely helps.

    Why doesn't someone do a rom-com about a person who sets up an internet dating site for the secret reason of matching himself/herself up with a specific person? (Or some less-geeky variant, such as changing someone's laptop answers when they aren't looking to make them match up with yours and hitting "Submit questionnaire?")