Which kind of meeting results in the best marriages? My survey suggested that husbands who were introduced to their future wives by friends and family members were most likely to pronounce themselves happy in their marriages later on. The size of my survey sample was not large enough to confirm this as statistically significant, but my personal interviews supported the theory: Those who know us best may know what -- and who -- is best for us.
Because of the newness of online dating, no studies have yet been completed on whether marriages that begin online are more or less successful in the long term than those that start in more traditional ways. Online matchmaking tends to rely less on physical attractiveness (photos are usually available, but self-selected) than on résumés and self-descriptive abilities. I interviewed two men who had met their wives online, and the evidence was mixed.
One fifty-eight-year-old man who had left a long first marriage met his wife through an Internet dating service. "I put my set of criteria out there, and her name came up. I sent her my profile," he told me. Both were on spiritual quests, and they e-mailed back and forth on that and other subjects for four months before meeting at a restaurant. In person, they gradually warmed to each other. After several months of dating, they decided to move in together, and a year later they married.
When I spoke with the man, however, he and his wife had separated after three years together. He told me that his wife had been living alone as an adult for twenty years before marrying him; she could not get comfortable with sharing decision-making. In addition, he added, "I had difficulty expressing emotions." The fact that they'd met online, he believed, wasn't a factor in the split-up.
Another man, a fifty-one-year-old artist who had been twice divorced, told me he had met his wife in a chat room four years earlier. He found that "she was willing to go deep" in their e-mail conversations. When they met at a neighborhood bar after a few weeks, "I felt a spark immediately."
Now, two years into the marriage, the man says he's in this relationship for life. "We made all our mistakes in our previous relationships," he told me. He said that meeting online had been efficient because he hadn't wasted time dating women with whom he had little in common.
One question I'm often asked about mate selection is whether opposites attract. There is some evidence that they do. As noted at the beginning of this chapter, men often seek women who are open and expressive to complement their own less animated personalities.