The Secret To A Happy Marriage Is…Online Dating?

eHarmony
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If I asked what you think the secret to a happy marriage is, what would you say?

Communication?

Date nights?

Spontaneity?

Thoughtfulness?

Respect?

Acceptance?

They're all good answers, but a new study suggests that the real answer might be something you weren't expecting: online dating.

Didn't see that one coming, did you? (Ok, sure, if you read the title you did...but humor me.)

The Internet has forever changed the way people communicate, work, play, create, and date. 1/3 of American couples now meet their partners online, through email, dating sites, and social networks.

In a survey study of more than 19,000 Americans who married between 2005 and 2012, 5% divorced, 2% separated, and 92% remained married. The couples observed were generally representative of the population, but a few demographics showed a particular inclination towards online dating:

  • Men
  • People in their 30s and 40s
  • Hispanics
  • People who are employed
  • People with higher socioeconomic statuses

Even after accounting for the differences between subjects, the study drew two primary conclusions. The first will surprise no one: the popularity of online dating has increased across every segment of American society. The second comes as more of a shock: marriages that began online were found to be longer lasting and more satisfying for couples.

Lead author of the study John Cacioppo, a psychologist and director of the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago, explains the findings by saying dating sites may "attract people who are serious about getting married."

A sociologist, Michael Rosenfeld of Stanford University, backs up Cacioppo's findings. In his own research, he found that "couples who meet online are more likely to progress to marriage than couples who meet in other ways."

But the study is not without its critics. "It's a very impressive study," says social psychologist Eli Finkel of Northwestern University. "But it was paid for by somebody with a horse in the race and conducted by an organization that might have an incentive to tell this story."

That's right - the study was commissioned by eHarmony, which shelled out $130,000 to pay for the research. Cacioppo has also been a member of eHarmony's Scientific Advisory Board since it was created in 2007.

Is it intriguing research? Yes. But does that sound like a major conflict of interest? Absolutely.

Sure, online dating is a great way to meet a partner with high levels of compatibility and real marriage potential. But is online dating better than offline dating? Survey says: inconclusive.