Does finding a spouse through an On Line dating site increase the chance of marital success? Decrease the chance of divorce? There is a new study published in the Journal Of Proceedings Of The National Academy of Sciences from The University Of Chicago, funded by On line dating site eHarmony that is being discussed on various media outlets this week. The study compared couples who met On Line to couples who did not meet On Line stating that 25% of those couples who met On Line are less likely to get a divorce. Sounds black and white to the reader, but . . . is it really a statement one could make with conviction? When all is said and done is it as black and white as a reader may think? As an experienced marriage therapist, and upon reading the published study thoroughly I say; hmm, ah, no! Are you as skeptical as I am? Okay, here is the quickie from this marriage therapist’s point of view.
Upon reviewing the study it is clear to me that the media is over dramatizing the inference, as is the study itself.
Dr. Karen’s Opinion
I am PRO meeting through an On Line dating site as another tool, as another valuable option, to meet someone. Meeting through On Line dating sites is a great tool as a way to narrow down prospects in terms of similar interests and finding someone with traits you think you would like. Meeting through an On Line dating site also offers the option to potentially find someone who is also interested in a relationship. Thus, a wonderful option to meet a potential spouse. Not the only wonderful option, there are others- this is just but one, and a great one.
Meeting On Line versus not On Line will not increase nor decrease your marital success, your level of marital happiness, nor the likelihood whether your marriage will stand the test of time in and of itself ! Exclamation Point! I realize my statement appears to be in contradiction to the reported study. Allow me to explain. Think of it like this as a comparison point. Certainly, if you meet someone On Line and marry this person who has similar interests, similar values, wants to have a committed long term relationship as you do and you compare that to meeting someone at a bar who you marry who does not have similar interests, does not have similar values, and is not vested in a long term committed relationship then certainly by comparison the person you met On Line is more likely then the person you met at the bar to provide a happier first few years of marriage and may be more likely to stay with over time, respectively.
What it really comes down to, long term for couples (past the first 7 year marker), is not solely about similar interests what is often referred to as; compatibility. Long term compatibility is far less about similar interests and much more about how you relate to one another over time. Over time life’s challenges that come your way, how you cope with those challenges, communicate with one another, how you treat one another, plays the heavier role then similar interests. When a person feels valued, when there is communication, one’s voice is heard, experiences connection, intimacy (emotional, physical, and sexual) – over time a lack of that affects marital satisfaction. Happiness and not getting a divorce in a long term marriage is about how couples cope with life’s challenges, their values and how they treat one another.
Bottom Line: Meeting On Line in and of itself is NOT a guarantee of a happy marriage. Similar interests does not necessarily equate to compatibility over time. On Line dating sites is simply another one on the list of great tool options for meeting.
This study is not empirical evidence that proves if you meet your spouse On Line Vs. Off Line you will less likely divorce
The point that is stated on various media sites in response to the inference this study makes is; if you meet On Line you are more likely to stay together happily and less likely get a divorce. Readers are being misled if that is their “take away”. Rather the reader’s take away should be: online dating is a wonderfully valid way of meeting someone. Period. The back-up for my statement includes:
- Voluntary nature of sampling and online survey may partially limit the outcome.
- This study addressed marital outcomes in the first 1-7 years of a marriage (2005-2012). Do note that first marriages ending in divorce last an average of 11 years. Therefore a longer term follow up study would be advisable and helpful before making such an inference.
- Study showed those who are currently married who grew up together or who met their spouse through school, place of worship or social gathering also had a high level of satisfaction whereas those who met through work, bar, club or blind date had low levels of satisfaction by comparison. (This important item was ignored in the media’s representation to the public).
More men participated in this study then women. This could also affect the results. As a marriage therapist for 20 years I have seen it is more common for women to report dissatisfaction about their marriage then men.
What increases the chances that your marriage will be happy, successful, stand the test of time?
For a happy long term marriage there is a lovely array of concrete action items that one takes to be successful. If you live by those tips, you too will have a healthy and happy marriage. Of the 40 marital do’s I list in ABC order in my book: ‘Dr. Karen’s Marriage Manual‘ – along with communication tools and marital don’ts, one of the tips which increases your chances of marital success is when you and your spouse both: Water The Plant Of Marriage! Explanation: Each day with words and physical actions show your spouse you value and appreciate them. One of the top reasons couples report unhappiness in a marriage that leads to divorce is disconnection. Not feeling appreciated, valued, and paid attention to (verbally, emotionally, physically, sexually) overtime leads to disconnection and thus unhappiness. So, couples – take action!
If you wish to watch Dr. Karen’s interview on NECN discussing this topic, it is available On Demand.