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Online dating apps have been accused of fueling hook-up cultureand killing romance and even the dinner datebut their effects on society are deeper than originally thought. The rise of internet dating services could be behind stronger marriages, an increase in interracial partnerships, and more connections between people from way outside our social circles, according to a new study by economics professors Josue Ortega at the University of Essex and Philipp Hergovich at the University of Vienna in Austria.
Some entered long-term relationships after linking up in cyberspace, and some even made their way down the aisle. But more than 10 years after the Internet transformed dating, one question remains: Are these couples living happily ever after, or are they more likely to meet with divorce lawyers?
Internet marriages: more likely to end in divorce?
Although there are no official divorce statistics for those who met online, one thing is certain: Just as in marriages that began in more traditional ways, love stories created from online matches don't always have fairy tale endings.
And the same sites that helped build a love connection for millions of singles are now trying various tactics to ensure that marriages survive past the honeymoon phase. Some sites have brought in love doctors, encourage feedback and provide personality tests for their marriage-hungry couples. But divorces haven't deterred people from scoping out Internet romances. Kerner's friend met his now ex-wife on eHarmony.
Not discouraged by the failed marriage, his friend, according to Kerner, returned to the online dating scene and now has a new girlfriend he met online. There's no formal data, but some lawyers say they are seeing more of these clients show up on their doorsteps.
New Jersey divorce attorney Eric Spevak is one of them. He says online-dating-related splits started picking up at his practice about five years ago.
How online dating affects divorce rates
Spevak estimates that on average, one out of four or five of his firm's divorce cases stem from online dating. Compatibility and online dating expert James Houran says there's no statistical research that suggests the success rate for online marriages is any different from that of conventional matchmaking.
Part of the problem, according to Houran, lies with both the online dating services and the individuals who use them. With that in mind, some sites are working actively to prevent divorces before they even happen. Founder Pat Dimes says, "I'm not a big believer in finding chemistry online. Meet people offline, and then come online.
Debbie Slowey, 47, is a travel nurse who recently gave Mary. A month ago, she was walking her pooch on a "dog beach" in Florida when she ran into a handsome fellow dog walker.
They said hello and went their separate ways, until a few days later when they ran into each other again and ended up getting into a four-hour conversation. Everything was in synchronicity. He told Slowey about Mary. According to the online test, the pair was off the charts when it came to chemistry. Dimes is a big proponent of finding out everything you can before you get in too deep. Slowey says that if she'd had access to that test several years ago, she may not have stayed in her year relationship. Other online dating services are branching out too.
Most eagerly boast about their success stories, and many are doing more to close the deal and keep it that way. There's also an advisory board of sociologists, neurologists and human relationship experts who offer advice on all aspects of relationships.
Init launched eHarmony Marriage, a separate Web site it calls an "online alternative to marriage counseling. Joe Tracy, publisher of Online Dating Magazine, says more sites are trying to capitalize on people who are already in relationships. But Houran still believes online dating sites need to do more to encourage satisfaction and longevity. As Web sites strategize to find ways to lure in returning customers and attract new ones, it doesn't seem that online dating will be disappearing anytime soon.
Whether their matching tactics will succeed in producing long-term marriages is still unclear.
The virtues and downsides of online dating
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