Couples who meet online most likely to separate…

ITV South West recently invited me to take part in an article for the news.

They wanted a relationship therapist to comment on a study by the Marriage Foundation. A study suggesting couples who meet online (versus through friends) are six times more likely to divorce in the first three years of marriage.

They wanted to ask me:

  1. Why do I think couples who meet through family/friends networks might be more successful?
  2. What my advice would be to those couples who have met online?

Here’s what aired (I’ve included the transcript in case the video doesn’t work):

The stress of the post-Christmas blues sees divorce rates peak in the first few weeks of the year as couples often take stock and some may be looking for a fresh start.

More than a third of UK weddings since the turn of the century now involve couples who met online.

Marcus Santer is a relationship therapist from Dawlish who claims while online dating can open more doors for people you can get a clearer idea of a partner if you meet through shared contacts.

“If you’ve met through friends, through family, you know people. Then generally there’s like a selection process. You’ve gradually grown closer to people that you like and generally, the people you like are those you have shared values and beliefs with. And therefore if you get together there’s that shared compatibility. And you’ve also got friendships, you’ve got to know people over time.”

A recent survey by the marriage foundation claims couples who met online are the most likely to separate within the first three years of tying the knot.

One of the main reasons cited was that they are relative strangers when they meet without support or approval from mutual acquaintances.

And here’s what I ‘rehearsed’ for my TV debut:

Relational Compatibility

In my experience ‘networked’ couples tend to have a lot of shared qualities in common at the start of their relationship:

  • Ambitions
  • Dreams
  • Values
  • Beliefs
  • Friends

And these qualities have often been developed over time and through shared experiences.

Shared qualities and experiences are the ‘glue’ that can help a couple to stick together, especially when things get tough.


…Couples who meet online have to spend a disproportionate amount of energy to establish these compatibilities. This isn’t always easy to do. And, how can I say it…

..Many folks dating online are tempted to exaggerate the truth in their profiles.

Advice to couples who meet online

Recognise the potential deficits from the start and concentrate on:

  1. Questions – Make sure you get to know who you’re marrying before you marry them. Ask searching questions.
  2. Feelings – How do you feel when you’re with this person? Do they make you feel safe? Are they kind to you? Can you trust them? The truth is, people’s basic personalities rarely change. So if they’re unreliable, chaotic, and hurtful now… They’re going to be unreliable, chaotic, and hurtful when you get married. And no… Your love will not change them.
  3. Realistic Expectations – No relationship is perfect. Every couple fights. Before you marry, give some thought as to how you manage differences and disagreements.

I work with couples who met online and those who met more traditionally. And if there’s one thing I know it’s this:

You should expect a lot from the person you’re wanting to marry, so make sure you take it seriously.