Swipe Right for Divorce; are online relationships leading to early divorce?

From the advent of Match in 1993 to the launch of Tinder in 2012, online dating is an ever-evolving phenomenon, increasing in popularity year-on-year.


With continued growth and new statistics showing that early divorce rates are six times higher for couples who meet online, is swiping right steering us into a pandemic of broken marriages?

In 2020, 270 million adults were using dating apps worldwide – equal to the population of the United Kingdom four times over. The incredible growth makes sense in this era of digital revolution – if we can’t do it online, is it really worth doing? Yes, is the resounding answer, particularly if you want your marriage to celebrate its third year and beyond.

Dating app providers are, understandably, more focused on the beginnings of their users’ relationships than the ends. For example, Match offers its users a guarantee, providing free membership if they don’t find their ‘special someone’ within six months of registration. Sadly, this assurance doesn’t extend to the longevity of a marriage made in Match, which is seemingly destined for dissolution.

What lies beneath the swipe is crucial to understanding these statistics, which came from studies into the odds of divorce after three, five, seven, and 10 years, both in couples who met online and those who got to know each other through social or familial links. The research paper, entitled Relative Strangers : The Importance of Social Capital for Marriage raised the point that online relationships have little social capital, i.e. mutual friendships, shared workplaces, and common goals, all of which work towards cementing relationships, particularly in the early days. While this social capital is lacking, couples are ostensibly marrying relative strangers, with whom they have little to no social link. “For online couples, wider social bonds between families and friends have to form from scratch rather than being well-established over years or even decades. It is therefore not entirely unsurprising that the input of family, friends or co-workers reduces the risk of making a hasty mistake.”

Crucially, the odds only apply to those who have been married for fewer than three years; it appears that those who make it past this point are no more likely to experience a marriage breakdown than the other couples in the studies. This validates the narrative in which the key is in sailing past this magical three-year mark, after which mutual social relationships are well-established and common activities formed, adding vital support pillars to fledgling marriages.

With the use of dating apps still increasing globally, installations of dating apps increased by 13% in early 2021 when compared to the late 2020. So do we need to be worried about the future of a generation of marriages built on shaky digital foundations? Perhaps so, particularly in the early years. One answer is to offer relationship support to couples who met online and are seeking to marry,

providing them with the tools they need to form social capital, to know each other in different ways, and to build a stronger foundation for their marriage.

Knowledge and mutuality is key: as journalist Helen Rowland famously mused, “When two people decide to get a divorce, it isn’t a sign that they ‘don’t understand’ one another, but a sign that they have, at least, begun to.”

For more information on divorce contact Matthew Kellow.

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