Study Finds Online Dating Relationships Just as Strong, Despite Challenges

Online dating has gone mainstream, with over a third of recent marriages in the U.S. beginning from a first digital encounter. But how do these relationships stack up long-term against those started offline?

A woman in the dark smiling down at her phone

A new study from relationship researchers at Arizona State University provides some answers. Published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, the study compared the quality of marriages between those who met their spouse through online dating versus more traditional in-person venues.

“We found that couples who met their partner online faced unique obstacles, including judgment from friends and family,” said lead author Dr. Liesel Sharabi. “However, their marriages were just as satisfying and stable overall, despite these hurdles.”

The researchers surveyed nearly 1,000 married adults in the U.S. Roughly half met their spouse through online dating sites or apps like Tinder, Match, and eHarmony. The rest met offline, mainly through friends, work, school, or other in-person settings.

Those who used online dating to find their spouse tended to be younger and have dated more people before getting married. Their marriages were also more likely to be interracial or same-sex couples compared to those who met offline.

When assessing marital satisfaction and thoughts of divorce, a slight “online dating effect” emerged. Those who met online reported somewhat lower quality marriages, though differences were small.

“Online couples may face more scrutiny from friends and family about how they met, which appears to impact marital happiness,” said Dr. Sharabi. However, she emphasized that even with slightly lower scores, online dating relationships demonstrated impressive resilience.

While more research is needed, results suggest some useful takeaways. Those meeting online may need to focus more on finding social support for their relationship. But overall, starting a marriage online does not necessarily put couples at a disadvantage.

Said Dr. Sharabi, “We hope this study reassures online daters that their relationships can go the distance, despite what outdated stereotypes might suggest.”

Olivia Guy-Evans, MSc

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MSc Psychology of Education

Associate Editor for Simply Psychology

Olivia Guy-Evans is a writer and associate editor for Simply Psychology. She has previously worked in healthcare and educational sectors.

Saul Mcleod, PhD

Educator, Researcher

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MRes, PhD, University of Manchester

Saul Mcleod, Ph.D., is a qualified psychology teacher with over 18 years experience of working in further and higher education. He has been published in peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of Clinical Psychology.