According to a new study, couples who meet online are less stable than those who don’t – but my experience is entirely different, writes Boudicca Fox-Leonard.
My husband and I first met in a href="https://www.nzherald.co.nz/topic/bars/" target="_blank">bar. Which is somehow more exciting than saying that it was arranged via an app.
It says a lot about how highly humans prize kismet and happenstance that whenever someone says: “So how did you two meet?”, I take a short inhale and prepare to disappoint them. Hinge.
From Ernst Lubitsch’s The Shop Around the Corner to Nora Ephron’s Sleepless in Seattle, we’ve learnt from movies that great love has an even greater meet-cute. Failing that, make it Glastonbury Festival or a ski slope or, at the very least, a friend’s wedding/birthday/blind date set-up.
Why, though, would it have made our relationship more special if we’d bumped into each other after too many drinks on a night out? The life we’ve built together matters far more than the manner of our meeting.
However, a new study suggests that marriages between those who met online are less stable than those who didn’t. The research by Arizona State University asked a sample of 923 American adults, about half of whom had met their spouse via online dating, to fill in a questionnaire.
The average marriage-stability score for online daters was 3.09 and for offline daters it was 3.52, based on answers the respondents gave about how satisfying or stable they felt their marriages were. This was on a four-point scale, where higher scores indicated more stability. It doesn’t seem that drastic a difference, but the researchers felt that while the “online dating effect” was modest, it was worth scrutinising because of the growing number of relationships that now start on dating sites and apps.
The findings were also surprising because people generally assume that online dating allows for better, more compatible matches. Speculating on the results, the Arizona team said it could have something to do with the stigma still attached to online dating. “Dating apps are often labelled as being non-serious or hook-up oriented, which can make couples feel a sense of disapproval,” said Liesel Sharabi, who led the study. This, in turn, could place added stress on a marriage.
It could also have something to do with the respective backgrounds of the people in the marriage – online dating makes it easier for people from different racial or geographical backgrounds to meet, which might affect the stability of their marriage, especially if one party has to relocate.
It’s been a speedy slalom towards online matchmaking. According to a 2019 Imperial College London study, almost a third of relationships between 2015 and 2019 started online, compared with 19 per cent between 2005 and 2014.
By 2035, it predicted the UK would reach the “tipping point”, with more than 50 per cent of relationships beginning online.
While I wouldn’t say there’s a stigma around online dating any more, it’s hard to kick the feeling that your romance is somehow less jazzy than others’. I asked my husband about his thoughts on the subject this morning as he was heading out the door to work. After musing momentarily about how apps had allowed people who weren’t in relationships to be in them, he asked: “Why would this make you less stable?”
Neither of us feels we are under any stress due to the “disapproval” of others. And, although we are very different people (apart from the fact that we’re both redheads), we don’t see that as a disadvantage; opposites, after all, attract.
One could argue, maybe, that online daters are app-crazed flibbertigibbets, high on the infinite swipe – and that explains why they feel less satisfied. They are the type who believe the grass is always greener. But that certainly doesn’t apply to Harry and me. Having met in our 30s, we know our grass is green enough, thank you.
And there is a refreshing directness to app-based relationships. You can be forward about your desire to get down to business straight away. Whether that’s babies or something more casual depends on the app you’re using.
However, those who’ve gone the app way to love know that after the initial gold rush comes the methodical sifting.
I almost tossed Harry to one side on our first date. So jaded was I by the process that I dismissed him almost immediately, assuming he’d be a dud like the rest. It was only when we said goodbye and walked our separate ways that I realised my blunder. I’ve hung on tightly to him ever since.
Marriage was never important to Harry, but it was to me. It’s a declaration of commitment in a world where things and people are all too disposable. Three months in and it’s precisely because I know what’s available out there that I won’t be rocking the boat.