A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that more than one-third of American marriages began with an online relationship, and those marriages were less likely to end in divorce than relationships that began in person.

Although the party funding the study (eHarmony) had a vested interest in the results, the findings reveal some interesting trends when it comes to lasting relationships.

“Meeting online is no longer an anomaly, and the prospects are good,” said researcher and lead author John Cacioppo, a professor of social psychology at the University of Chicago. “That was surprising to me. I didn’t expect that.”

The Study

For their study, researchers surveyed nearly 20,000 Americans who got married between 2005 and 2012. After looking at the data, researchers concluded:

  • 35% of respondents met online.
  • 8% of people who met off-line got a divorce, while only 6% of people who met online got a divorce.
  • Only 3% of people making $15,000 a year or less met online, while 41% of people making $100,000 or more met online.
  • Meeting venue played a role in marital satisfaction for both groups. Couples who met at school indicated more marital satisfaction than couples who met at a bar, on a blind date, or at work. Online couples who met on online-dating sites reported more satisfaction than couples who met in chat rooms or in online communities.

Cacioppo said he believes people are more honest when asked to profile themselves online rather than in person, which means the relationship has a greater chance of starting off on the right foot.

“When you are face to face, there is face-saving,” Cacioop said. “When you don’t [see each other], you can be more comfortable being yourself.”

Family Law Attorney comments

I think that there is a fundamental difference between people who use online dating versus people who are meeting prospective mates at social gatherings or through friends: people who avail themselves to online matchmaking already decided that they are ready to settle down and are looking for someone who is also of the same mindset.

This is different than the typical dating scene because people are spending time in relationships that lead to nowhere because one of the parties is not interested in getting married or a long-term relationship. Typically, if someone is using an online dating site, they are choosing mates from a pool of people who also want to have a committed relationship.

I think that when two people start dating and both people are looking for their life partner, then the parties are less apt to accept a mate that does not meet all of the qualifications that they are seeking.

For example, if Brian wants to get married and have children, if he tries online dating, he is exposed to potential mates that, prior to even meeting them, he can determine if they are in the same place in their lives. In the alternative, if Brian goes out with someone that he meets at a party, that person might not be interested in getting married or may not want to have children. Brian spends several dates with this person, trying to determine what their intentions are and their plans for the future. Brian then has to decide whether or not to keep dating this person once he learns that the person does not want to get married or have children. At this point, maybe Brian has found other characteristics or attributes in that person that he truly enjoys and he stays with that person for an extended period of time trying to decide whether he can forgo his own vision of a future family, or perhaps he tries to change the other person’s mind. Brian and that person eventually get married, but the other person still does not want children. Brian and that person then get divorced.

Perhaps these issues would have been completely avoided if Brian’s dating pool was originally limited to potential mates with the same mindset as Brian, which can be accomplished through online dating.

Related source: TIME