Marriage

New Study Shows that Online Relationships Fare Worse than Others

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Wondering if you should try online dating? Before you craft your profile, a new study by Michigan State University and Stanford found that people who met online weren’t as likely to stay together for the long-haul as those couples who met offline.

As it turns out, online dating sites who have been touting their matching success rates may not be telling the whole story. Many couples have successfully gotten together thanks to online dating, but that doesn’t mean they have lasted. The separation and divorce rates for folks who paired up online was much higher than for those who met their partners offline in more traditional ways.

According to the report, 8% of married couples who met their spouses online reported to have ended their marriage in separation or divorce, compared to approximately 2% of married couples who met their spouses offline. And compared to 23% couples who had met offline, 32% of couples who had met online had broken up in the following year of the survey.

You’re Not Alone – Everyone Else Is Single Too

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The times, they are a-changin’. In fact, they’re more than changing. They’re completely transforming. Evolving, even.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the majority of American adults are now single. This is the first time single adults have outnumbered married adults since 1976, when the BLS started keeping track in the first place.

Back in August, there were 124.6 million single Americans – a number that counts for 50.2% of the 16-and-over US population. 0.2% may not seem like a big number, but it's statistically relevant and, more importantly, it's socially relevant.

Eric Klinenberg, an NYU sociology professor who researches marriage trends, told the New York Post he believes that margin will remain the same for the foreseeable future, but that change is still afoot. “I don’t expect the proportion of singles to go much higher, but it could go up a bit more,” he said. “Marriage rates are going down all over the developed world as people experiment with new ways to organize their lives and their relationships.”

That, in turn, could have social, political, and economic ripple effects. On the whole, single Americans prefer to rent housing rather than purchase it. They're also less likely to have children. Trends like these, and others in a similar vein, mean major changes in spending are probably on the way. A third of young adults still live with their parents, and even those who don't are concerned they can't afford to participate in marriage and other aspects of the American dream like generations before. Maybe the dream itself will change.

Of course, it's important to note that "single" in this context simply means "not married." Plenty of folks in that 16-and-over category are probably casually coupled up or settled into serious, long-term partnerships. “Just because people are not getting married doesn’t mean they’re not partnering and cohabitating,” said Karen Guzzo, a sociology professor at Bowling Green State University, to the Post.

And it seems that even though marriage rates have plummeted, plenty of young people still hope to get hitched. According to Gallup survey data, only 9% of Americans in the 18 to 34 age range say they both have never been married and do not ever want to marry. 54% of Americans are currently married and 21% of those who have never been married say they want to tie the knot someday.

In the meantime, those 21% can join the 9% in celebrating National Unmarried and Single Americans Week – because yes, that's a real thing.

Dating site Ashley Madison Cheating on its Own Users

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Ashley Madison, the infamous dating website that makes its revenue from matching married people looking for affairs, has now admitted to spying on its own users.

A recent study published by the company was gathered from emails the sites’ users sent to each other under what they assumed was a condition of anonymity. According to a recent article in Time Magazine, Eric Anderson, a professor at the University of Winchester in England who conducted the study, claims that “women who seek extra-marital affairs usually still love their husbands and are cheating instead of divorcing, because they need more passion.”

“It is very clear that our model of having sex and love with just one other person for life has failed— and it has failed massively,” Anderson tells Time.

As it turns out, Ashlay Madison seems to have commissioned this study to boost its membership numbers - that is, to prove that almost every person in a monogomous relationship is looking to cheat, (and therefore should join their website). But for those who join the site on a strict condition of anonymity because they don’t want their partners to find out, this study is a direct infringement on their right to privacy.

So Ashley Madison is now in a tricky spot. Has it alienated its members, since now they know their emails are no longer strictly confidential, but subject to studies and read by a third party? Perhaps it was in the fine print when they joined the site, as most dating sites collect user information for the purposes of research. But most don’t analyze individual emails being sent back and forth between individual users.

As Time Magazine also points out, because of the nature of the dating site, and the fact that most of its members are being dishonest or lying by the mere fact that they are using the site for an extramarital affair, it calls into question the integrity of the data itself. Who knows what is true and what isn’t in each email? Who can say that anyone on the site is honest in any email they send to another site user?

According to Anderson, his data “included profile information that the women supplied when they signed up for the site (information not made available to other Ashley Madison users),” as well as information other users could see. “We also acquired all private message conversations that [users] had with men on the website for one month,” Anderson told Time.

The results of the study are still somewhat questionable. Anderson claims that in our sexualized culture, married folks could feel as if they are missing out when they are only having sex with one partner.

While this might be true for the users of Ashley Madison, it doesn't mean that it's applicable to the majority of married couples in the U.S.

Stories in Success, Part II

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A few years ago, I was at an amusement park with friends when one of them shyly handed me his camera.

“Do you think you could take a few pictures of me today?” Kent asked. “I’m making a profile for an online dating site and I don’t really have any pictures of me. Especially ones that aren’t posed in some way.”

Happy to oblige, I did my best to grab good candid shots of Kent. Everything was quiet for some months, until I ran into him one morning, positively giddy.

“I just had the best first date!” he said excitedly.

“It’s ten in the morning! That must have been some first date!” I said, raising my eyebrows.

“No, no, the date didn’t start last night,” he said, blushing. “It was a breakfast date! She works nights, so this was the fastest way to actually meet in person.”

“Ooh,” I said, intrigued. “So you met her through your dating site?”

“Yep,” he said. “She moved here two years ago and only lives ten minutes away, but thanks to our jobs our chances of running into each other are practically zilch. And since we’re on opposite sleep schedules, it’s been pretty nerve-wracking writing her and then waiting a minimum of eight hours for a response. But still, that’s better than never having met her at all.”

“Well, it’s great that she seems so wonderful, but will you ever get to spend time together with such opposite schedules?”

“She’s going to get moved to a different position at the end of the year,” Kent said. “It won’t be forever. And - this may sound cheesy, but - even if it’s more work finding time to meet, she really seems worth it.”

Last month, Kent and his wonderful first date were married. Her inconvenient schedule was indeed not for forever - but hopefully her romance with Kent will be.

Related Article: Stories in Success, Part I

Are Women Claiming Equal Power in Relationships?

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Most women will agree that they prefer equal partnership when it comes to romantic relationships. This mean they each have equal say and an equal role to play in things like finances, child care, household chores, and major decisions like where to live or whether to start a business.

It makes sense in our culture, as the majority of women are pursuing both careers and families. They want a partner who respects and supports their ambitions.

But what if the reality is different from our post-feminist ideal of equality in relationships?

New research by New York University doctoral candidate in sociology Ellen Lamont is challenging the way many women still seem to accept certain elements of “the man’s role” both in terms of dating and marriage.

Maybe some of this rings true for you: Lamont found that when dating, women seem to prefer the man to ask them out and to pay for the date, a more traditional role. Also, women like to leave it to the man to make decisions about the trajectory of their relationship. That is, they wait for him to say “I love you” or to commit to being serious first. Essentially, this puts the man in control of the relationship.

It seems dating and courtship play a big role in how women view long-term relationships. If during the dating process, women put the man in the driver’s seat (so to speak) and let him decide where things are headed, then how is it possible to easily transition to an equal partnership once they are in a long-term, committed relationship?

“[Women] want traditional courtship and egalitarian marriages and I just don’t think that will be possible,” she said. “Their justifications for traditional courtship are based on beliefs in essential biological differences between men and women and they reinforce these beliefs in their dating practices.”

Lamont chose to study women who had some form of college education to better understand women who are balancing both career aspirations and wanting a love relationship. Even with education and ambition, many of the women still subscribe to “traditional gender norms,” according to Lamont.

“Women were supposedly so desperate to get married, while men were supposedly so reluctant,” Lamont said. “I wondered if women’s so-called desperate behaviors that are so frequently highlighted in the media were actually the result of the powerlessness they feel about the process of getting engaged.”

It’s an interesting point, and maybe one worth considering as we move forward into a bigger and more technologically advanced dating pool.

The women surveyed ranged from 25 to 40 years of age.

HowAboutWe Co-Founder Talks Online Dating Sites and the Company’s New Focus

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Aaron Schildkrout and his friend Brian Schechter founded HowAboutWe four years ago as an alternative to traditional online dating. In a recent article in The New York Observer, he said that the fundamental problem with online dating sites was that they needed to keep subscribers. The sites work best when people are looking for dates, not when they are in relationships and dropping out. Dating sites depend on a huge database of subscribers.

HowAboutWe’s focus is a bit different for an online dating site. For one, they have branched out from their online dating platform to creating a valuable resource for all people interested in dating and relationships.

The primary goal of their dating site is to help people meet offline (and get them there as quickly as possible), so they can move towards forming relationships. Instead of searching through profiles, members can create an idea for a first date, put it out to the network, and see who’s interested. Schildkrout says it’s a way for people to meet more organically.

Because of the site’s focus on date activities, it was a natural progression to create a site for couples who are looking to be inspired. Many couples are bored with the same old dates they do all the time, but don’t have the time to research or a lot of money to do something more unique. This is where HowAboutWe comes in – they curate dates particular to each city they service, and set the whole thing up for a discounted price.

It’s an appealing idea for couples. As Schildkrout says, “We make the booking process and the reservation process extremely easy — you never have to show a voucher, your name’s already on the list. We do all the work for you. We take care of all the details.”

The company is also getting into media content, acquiring sites like The Date Report and Nerve.com and creating two additional new blogs related to dating and relationships. “We built out a world-class editorial team,” says Shildkrout, “and for the last three months, we’ve been working really hard to create a media wing focused on becoming the authoritative voice on all things love, and have grown traffic dramatically in that process.”

Popular apps like Tinder and the bigger or more traditional dating sites like OkCupid don’t seem to bother Shildkrout. He sees Tinder as more of a lightweight hook-up experience and OkCupid as an algorithm-matching experience which might not match you with someone outside your type. He is focused on his product, on connecting people in a real-world way. And he’s looking to build content that gets a conversation started.