Couples that meet online are six times more likely to divorce within the first three years of marriage, according to a new study.
Research from the Marriage Foundation found that online meetings are now the most popular place to meet a husband or wife, accounting for a third of those marrying in the UK in the last two years.
However, the study also found that married couples who met online had a 12 per cent risk of divorce during their first three years of marriage, compared to two per cent of those who met via family, friends or neighbours.
It suggests that shared social networks play a vital role in supporting and advising those who wish to tie the knot.
Marriage Foundation research director Harry Bensons told Premier that choosing a partner with no connection to your friends, family or community can leave newlyweds ill-equipped to face the challenges of married life.
“When you meet somebody online you are meeting a relative stranger. Bit when you have family, friends or work colleagues ‘lurking in the background’ they will have known that person a long time and you will get a much more reliable source of information. It doesn’t mean for one second, that you can’t make the relationship work, or that I’m against online dating, I think it’s here to stay.
“But there is just this tiny extra risk that you’re meeting someone with whom you’ve otherwise had absolutely no contact.”
“What these findings are suggesting, is the importance of social capital – that importance of having people who have been together a long time who look out for one another, who provide a reliable source of information, who’ve seen people through the bad times as well as the good.”
The study found that the risk of divorce to couples who met online reduced after this initial three-year period, after which there were no significant differences in divorce risk depending on where couples met.
Benson suggests that Christian communities and churches can help couples who’ve met online to beat this statistic by providing marriage preparation courses.
“Marriage preparation specifically reduces your risk of having problems in those early years. It improves happiness, it reduces conflict, makes you less likely to split up. And frankly, it also makes sure you’re making a good decision about this in the first place. So there’s a really strong case for encouraging people who meet online to do some kind of marriage preparation course.
“It’s really about communication. It’s about checking each other out. Checking your values, checking your expectations.
“There is this risk, but it doesn’t have to happen to you. And there’s no reason why it should.”
Marriage Foundation’s findings show that by ten years of marriage, those meeting through the workplace have the highest rate of divorce at 24 per cent, compared to 20 per cent of those who met online, 19 per cent who met in a bar or restaurant, and 15 per cent of those who met via family, friends or neighbours.