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Do Online Marriages Really Last Longer?

Thursday June 6, 2013

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So, a recently published report has found that couples that meet online enjoy longer lasting marriages. Apparently this is due to the time it takes to meet someone and the amount of information you find out about each other before doing so.

I'm surprised it took them so long to publish. Normally this exact same news report comes out every 2 months and has done for the last 8 years or so. I'm sure it's been at least 6 months since I last heard it.

I've never really written anything on it before though. Partly because I assumed everyone knew it was industry promulgated rubbish, but mainly because I had better things to do. Like de-friend from Facebook anyone who's ever shared a LOLcat.

But today I was sitting in the sun, sipping a cool, fresh glass of lemonade (read: I was indoors guzzling instant coffee) when up popped this news item on Radio 6. Then Radio 4, 2, Magic, Extreme and any other number of radio news segments.

I put down my lemonade (coffee), had a brief think (very brief think), and went indoors (stayed sat at my desk) filled with a burning desire to investigate this recurring phenomenon. I had questions.

The first related to my parents. They've been together just shy of 50 years. How many people who met online, I wondered, could say the same? This may come as a surprise to you Generation 'Y' pre net folks, but home computers, let alone the internet, have not been around that long.

Obviously they're talking about a different generation I concluded. But which one? If people were in relationships before they met online and got married, then obviously the online marriage will be a longer marriage than the non-marriage that didn't occur before they met online.

If they're comparing it to people who were previously married, divorced and then married someone they met on line, then demographically the people most likely to use online dating sites are those of such an age that their first marriage will have been, by definition, short.

And if they split groups of divorcees into  'met online' and 'met offline' and then asked how long they had been together, in order to avoid unfair statistical weighting they would have to have selected the whole group from a specific age range. This would be again limited to those statistically more likely to use online dating sites, thereby excluding the millions of people that met either before online dating or who never bothered to use it in its early years.

And what constitutes a long marriage anyway? One man interviewed claimed that the report must be true because he met his wife a year ago and they've been happily married for 10 months. Not the most convincing statement. Another woman wittily responded that she met her husband of 30 years on a beach. Therefore, a beach was a statistically safer bet to meet 'the one'. Unfortunately the presenter failed to see the irony.

The point is this: Such claims – sorry, legitimate studies and reports – surface roughly every 2-3 months. It's part of a fairly standard seasonal Public relations trending cycle. The truth is that some people meet online and get married. Most don't and there are no statistically significant data to argue for longevity either way. The industry is simply too young to draw long term conclusions or establish future projections.

So next time you hear such pronouncements and feel you've let your emotional self down by not spending more time dating online, grab a glass of fresh lemonade (instant coffee), step outside (stay at your desk), and simply enjoy the sunshine (whatever).

WORDS BY JOHN DAVIS

If online dating isn't for you then check out one of our real life dating events in London. Speed daters get married too you know.