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A surprising new study shows that while online dating sites do work well for dating (obviously), they aren’t as successful at setting people up for marriage—or a lasting marriage, at that.

October 01, 2014

You can probably count at least a few couples you know who met through a site like eHarmony or Match.com. Hey, maybe you’re one of them. And there’s no denying some peoples’ good luck. But a surprising new study out of Stanford and Michigan State shows that while online dating sites do work well for dating (obviously), they aren’t as successful at setting people up for marriage—or a lasting marriage, at that.

As more people search for love in cyberspace, and polls show that online dating has lost much of its stigma, researchers decided to look and see how meeting your mate online compares to meeting in real life.

And the results aren’t so pro-web: After polling more than 4,000 people, researchers found that those who used sites like eHarmony, Match.com, and Zoosk are less likely to get married than folks who met the old fashioned way. On top of that, the online couples who did get into long-term relationships or marry had a higher rate of break-ups compared to the couples who met offline.

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But does it really matter how a pair got together? Maybe. The researchers theorize that endless options online may lead people to put off starting a serious relationship. Also, online relationships often take longer to get going (think about all the back-and-forth messaging), so they're not as developed as offline ones over the same time period. Trust may also be an issue: Since many people are concerned that other users are lying in their profiles, they may be hesitant to get involved emotionally.

And then there are people who are in denial about what they want. "Some men and women use online dating as a sort of distraction when they want to meet someone, but don't take it seriously," says Seth Meyers, PsyD, author of Dr. Seth's Love Prescription.

But none of this news means you should automatically delete your accounts—researchers say the more time couples spend with each other, the more they'll get to know the other person and develop trust, which can up any couples' odds of staying together in the long run.

But note: By "time together" they mean IRL.

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