Internet Marriages: More Likely to End in Divorce?

An estimated 3 million U.S. Internet users have clicked their way to love, so says the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

Some entered long-term relationships after linking up in cyberspace, and some even made their way down the aisle.

But more than 10 years after the Internet transformed dating, one question remains: Are these couples living happily ever after, or are they more likely to meet with divorce lawyers?

Although there are no official divorce statistics for those who met online, one thing is certain: Just as in marriages that began in more traditional ways, love stories created from online matches don't always have fairy tale endings.

And the same sites that helped build a love connection for millions of singles are now trying various tactics to ensure that marriages survive past the honeymoon phase.

Let Cyber Love Rule

Some sites have brought in love doctors, encourage feedback and provide personality tests for their marriage-hungry couples.

"There are an awful lot of success stories, and there are an awful lot of not-so-success stories," says Ian Kerner, a relationship expert based in New York.

But divorces haven't deterred people from scoping out Internet romances. Kerner's friend met his now ex-wife on eHarmony.com. Not discouraged by the failed marriage, his friend, according to Kerner, returned to the online dating scene and now has a new girlfriend he met online.

Online Affairs Rising

There's no formal data, but some lawyers say they are seeing more of these clients show up on their doorsteps. New Jersey divorce attorney Eric Spevak is one of them. He says online-dating-related splits started picking up at his practice about five years ago. Spevak estimates that on average, one out of four or five of his firm's divorce cases stem from online dating. "I think it's a trend that will continue," he says.

Compatibility and online dating expert James Houran says there's no statistical research that suggests the success rate for online marriages is any different from that of conventional matchmaking.

He does have anecdotal evidence that suggests there's probably more failures than successes.

Part of the problem, according to Houran, lies with both the online dating services and the individuals who use them. "When you're advertising a service that promotes marriages as the only indicator of success, it encourages people to reach for that," says Houran, who believes it's more important for couples to get to know each other before rushing to the altar.

Compatibility and Chemistry

With that in mind, some sites are working actively to prevent divorces before they even happen. Mary.com, for example, provides its users with personality and compatibility tests to determine if a couple has the potential to make it over the long haul.

Founder Pat Dimes says, "I'm not a big believer in finding chemistry online. Meet people offline, and then come online." That's where his Florida-based relationship site has proved useful to some people -- both single and married.

Debbie Slowey, 47, is a travel nurse who recently gave Mary.com a try. A month ago, she was walking her pooch on a "dog beach" in Florida when she ran into a handsome fellow dog walker. They said hello and went their separate ways, until a few days later when they ran into each other again and ended up getting into a four-hour conversation.

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