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Friday, June 28, 2013

Where’s the best place to meet your future spouse?

John Cacioppo from the University of Chicago and his colleagues interviewed over 19,000 Americans who married between 2005 and 2012 to find out where they first met their future spouse and how satisfied they were as a couple. You may be surprised to learn that meeting online was somewhat better than meeting in person.

Just over a third of the respondents had met their spouse online. It turned out that these people had a slightly lower breakup rate (divorce or separation) than people who met ‘off-line’ (at work, church, school, etc). Even more interesting, people who had met their spouses online reported greater marital satisfaction.

One thing to keep in mind: not all online venues are the same. Older participants were more likely to have used email, whereas younger people tended to meet each other through social networks and virtual worlds. How did these compare? 

If marital satisfaction is your goal, then the best place to meet your spouse online is at eHarmony. This might be a good place to note that this study was sponsored by eHarmony. That doesn't necessarily invalidate the results, but it's something to keep in mind. Other online dating sites were also very good (except for Yahoo, which for some reason led to abysmal marital satisfaction rates). That’s good news because nearly half the participants who met their spouses online did so via a dating site. If you’re not into online dating sites, your next best bet is to meet someone in a multiplayer game or a social network. Sorry, older participants, but email was only a mediocre way to meet someone. Whatever you do, don’t try to meet someone in a chat room.

Off-line meetings weren’t all alike either. Your best chance of marital happiness comes from marrying someone you meet at school, a place of worship or at social gatherings. People who met through work or at bars didn’t fare as well, and blind dates were the worst. As far as your future marital satisfaction is concerned, you can tell your mother that meeting through family was also at the bottom, though marrying someone you grew up with was at the very top.

The researchers did not evaluate why some venues were better than others. Obviously, there are happy couples who met in all sorts of places, even through Yahoo. However, it’s clear that there should be no stigma attached to trying to meet someone online. If anything, you may improve your chances at future happiness by doing so.

Cacioppo, J., Cacioppo, S., Gonzaga, G., Ogburn, E., & VanderWeele, T. (2013). Marital satisfaction and break-ups differ across on-line and off-line meeting venues Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1222447110.

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