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Dating Apps: Long-term impacts of using an app to find your spouse

The different ways that people find their romantic partners have evolved a great deal over the past few years. Blind dates, meetings at the high school, sports, college parties, coffee shop encounters, and the like have all been places where romance has bloomed over the years. We see depictions of these sorts of scenes in movies and television shows. The key aspect that all these interactions have in common is that they occur in person. Two people get together in a social setting and identify something in the other person that is appealing. Since the beginning of human interaction, this is how new couples began courtship.

However, with the advent of the internet and the proliferation of online dating apps, that dynamic has shifted. You can now strike up a conversation with a potential partner without being anywhere near that person. How this major change in how people court, date, and eventually marry one another will impact our culture and society is anyone’s guess as of now. We are in the infancy of this development, and I think the jury is still out on its impacts. 

However, some results have begun to trickle in as far as the results of the marriages that have developed because of people meeting on various dating apps that have become increasingly popular in recent years. The results of the studies performed on people who have met and married via a dating app do not paint an especially rosy or optimistic picture of how marriages may flourish in the future when the couple met using a dating app. Without waiting any longer, let’s discuss the results of one study and the implications for dating, marriage, and divorce in our country moving forward.

Quick meet-ups could lead to quick divorces

So that you can read through the study yourself that we are going to talk about, I’ve included a link to it here. The study which is called: Relative Strangers: The Importance of Social Capital for Marriage, finds that 12% of couples who met online or via a dating app got divorced within their first three years of marriage. By comparison, only two percent of marriages for people who met through friends or family succumbed to divorce within the first three years of marriage. At seven years, marriages ended by divorce in 17% of online versus “real-life” romances. 

With more and more people meeting online versus in person or through family these statistics are troubling. The rate of quick divorces (less than three years of marriage) among the online cohort is six times the traditional cohort. Let’s put it in terms of medicine and your health. Suppose that you went to your doctor and asked him: What is one way that I can decrease my chances of developing cancer in the next three years? If your doctor told you the answer would be you likely to follow their advice. I reckon that you would be more than happy to make whatever change or to take into consideration whatever recommendation was made by him. 

Circling back to the world of dating it seems clear that there is something about meeting online that leads to more divorces- at least in this study. Social capital is a term that is used within the name of this study, but it is not one that we have explained yet. The way that social capital seems to be used in this context is having connections to other people as well as the personality needed to overcome problems in a marriage caused by several different factors and issues. You may have heard the old saying that it takes a village to raise a child. Well, the researchers behind this study seem to indicate that, in their opinion, it takes a village to raise a married couple. Or at least that it takes a village to be able to overcome adversity and succeed in marriage throughout the relationship. It may just be that the first three years of marriage are especially difficult and that you need to able to have someone to lean on the outside of your spouse to work through those years. 

The first three years of marriage

Anyone who is or was married can tell you that the first few years of marriage are difficult- even when you are in a good marriage. There will invariably be some transitions from being single to being married. These changes and transitions can hit you like a ton of bricks. Working out problems with your spouse without getting angry or losing your temper is one of the first issues that comes to my mind. Being able to calmly and rationally discuss a topic that you and your spouse disagree about is just one of the things that can make a new marriage challenging. That some of us never learned conflict resolution and how to get along very well with others while we were children is something that can come back to haunt us in those early years of marriage.

Getting through those first few, difficult years of marriage can seem like a mountain that is just too high to climb. Suppose that you were climbing a mountain. If your feet started to hurt and you were getting tired just a few minutes after starting, you would probably turn around and go home. It is just easier to have that mindset when you have been engaged in a process for all that long. Take into consideration that the longer you have been going at something the more likely you would be to remain engaged and to try and complete a process to fruition. Not that there is an end date or a completion date for a marriage. However, I think if you have been married for thirty years rather than three years you would be better equipped to handle problems in your marriage. 

There are outside influences that can weigh in on your marriage during its first three years which may not be as profound later in the relationship. For one, you and your spouse are probably not earning as much money as you would be ten, twenty, or thirty years into your marriage. I will point out that there are studies that show married people do make more money, for what it’s worth, but that is not going to be the point that we are going to make here. Rather, just being younger at the beginning of your marriage means you are less likely to be making a lot of money. 

Money fights and money problems are among the leading cause of divorce in our country. The more money you must spare means the less likely you are to fight about money. Your budget will be locked in, your spending habits will become more consistent, and you will just generally be better equipped to handle what comes your way as far as finances are concerned. A budget does not restrict your spending. A budget permits you to spend your money. Many people do not have this mindset at the beginning of a marriage. You may not even be budgeting is the reality of the situation. If you can prepare your finances for marriage, then you are more likely to stay married. 

Another circumstance that can lead to stressed-out marriages is having young children in the home. While children are certainly a blessing, they are also certainly a lot of work. Being a parent of young children means leaning on your spouse for help and reassurance. Not having that help or reassurance can be very stressful for you and your spouse. The stress about children, taking care of them, and everything else that comes with parenting can ramp up the stress in an environment that may already be stressful as it is. Being able to divide up the labor when it comes to the kids is something that can take years to discover. Just in time for additional challenges to come your way when it comes to the children.

Finally, you and your spouse may experience stressful interactions with one another’s families. One of the reasons why it may be a good idea to not buy a home as soon as you get married is that you need to figure out how close to/far away from your mother-in-law’s home you should buy. Some families need to learn boundaries when it comes to giving opinions on matters like the children and the cleanliness of the home. Some of you reading this may not even know what I am talking about yet. However, there comes a point in every marriage where the couple needs to band together against outside forces that can threaten its stability. Unfortunately, when boundaries are either ignored or not established that gives families ample opportunity to elbow their way into the marriage- metaphorically speaking.

Just as we have seen the pandemic usher in sweeping new changes in how we work, go to school, and perform other tasks, it has caused the dating world to undergo some sweeping changes as well. It may seem like a distant memory now (thankfully) but there was a long period where meeting in person to do anything was seen as risqué and not in line with the norms of society. As a result, it was not easy or even socially acceptable to ask a co-worker out for drinks or to do much of anything in person. What was a person to do who wanted to meet new people but was unable to do so face to face?

Enter online dating. Of course, online dating was a “thing” before the pandemic. However, necessity brought online and app-based dating to the mainstream. Humans are inherently social creatures, pandemics notwithstanding. As a result, online dating was seen as the next best thing to in-person dating when in-person dating was restricted and generally frowned upon. You can close restaurants and bars, but people are still going to want to get together. Dating apps were the main beneficiary of this phenomenon.

Getting to know a significant other via a dating app can be challenging

Rather than taking the time to meet a person, get a feel for their personality, and assess whether you feel like a relationship may be a possibility, dating apps make it simpler and quicker to start a romantic relationship. In our microwave culture, I think this was inevitable. We are just no longer content, for the most part, to sit around and wait for romance to blossom the old-fashioned way. Rather, we want to rely on the digital universe to help us quickly find and develop romantic relationships. The fruits of that tendency are borne out in this study. The older, slower method of dating and courtship seems better suited to long-lasting marital success when compared to the instant pot of dating via an app or website. 

When you get married to a person that you met through friends or family you have those people invested in the relationship. Your wedding was a time when your mutual group of friends can revel in your relationship. Your families likely grew to know each other better. This leaves the two of you with a feeling like more people are invested in the relationship than just the two of you. Therefore, I think on a subconscious level you may be less willing to pull the plug on a struggling marriage. You wouldn’t want to let anyone down, would you? Rather than give up on a marriage you can rely on the people around you for perspective, guidance, and support. 

Online relationships do not offer this advantage. You may have met someone who lives nowhere close to you. Once the relationship became more serious you all may have chosen to move closer together. This invariably means someone is going to be further away from their support system. Rather than building a support system when your fledgling marriage needs it the most, online-based couples may be destroying that safety net at the most inopportune time. This is not something that many people even think about as they begin the courtship process. Instead, we focus on the shiny parts of a marriage rather than the practical, duller aspects.

Make it through the first few years of marriage and your marriage has a good chance of going the distance. Once the first three years of marriage have escaped the study, we are citing here states that 20% of marriages end in divorce. This is taking into consideration that your marriage may have started via mutual friends, the internet, or through your families. The challenges that we face in our first few years of marriage are more than enough to sink the relationship. However, if we can cling to our spouse and get through those challenges then the chances of your marriage lasting a long, long time go up a great deal.

Dating apps: something to try or something to stay away from?

As with anything in life, dating apps carry with them some plusses and minuses. As far as a plus is concerned, dating apps can help you start the dating process with less resistance than beginning it in person. That social capital that we’ve been talking about means that you have to have built up social capital. Usually, you are not going out to a social setting alone to find a significant other. Typically, you would be going out with friends or family. If you don’t have many friends or family nearby, then you could be out of luck. Dating apps don’t require you to sign up with other people. All you need is an internet connection, and you are off to the races. 

A minus of the dating app is that you can present a skewed portrait of yourself that is geared towards attracting a mate but may not be that accurate. We can call this phenomenon getting “catfished” What you think that you see online may not be what you are getting in person. By now this is something that is well established in our culture, but I think it bears mentioning, nonetheless. You may have built someone up to be something that they are not when you meet the person face to face. You can be surprised by a person’s true self after meeting him or her in person, as well, but I think you can better figure out what a person is all about when you have a chance to develop a relationship in person rather than over a social media app.

Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as how your family’s circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case. 

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