Thousands of happy couples. Thousands of marriages. The highest success rate online. These are just a few of the claims we are constantly hearing from online dating sites, both the major ones and the smaller, more specialized ones. But really, how successful is online dating? Can you trust and believe in what these sites are telling you?

The answer is a very murky “yes” and “no”. The reality is that online dating sites generally rely on self-reporting of happy couples and marriages, which means they need their members to submit comments, letters, and other input sharing their own experiences. And while there are indeed many success stories from online dating this kind of self-reporting is by no means scientific or reliable.

So what is a single person to do? Is it worth looking at the so-called success rates promoted by online dating sites when deciding which one (or ones) to join and participate in? The answer to that one is really up to you, but in general you should take these kinds of claims with a grain of salt.

In the real world of online dating you’re going to have to expect to have a lot of not-so-great dates as you move along the path toward finding someone really special. That, it turns out, is the real meaning of “success” in online dating, the willingness to persevere, keep going, and working toward whatever dating goal you set for yourself. It probably isn’t going to happen overnight, and it may even take several years in some cases. But if you stick with it and have realistic goals you’re likely to have a great deal of fun along the way.

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