You’ve seen all of the commercials promoting certain online dating sites and their supposedly “advanced” matching of singles based on a large number of compatibility factors. These same dating sites show lots of examples of couples matched up through their programs that have gone on to get married, the idea being to convince you to spend your hard earned money to join their site.
What’s the Evidence?
While these kinds of online dating services, such as eHarmony and PerfectMatch do have a lot of success matching singles up for dating, the evidence on whether or not those matches actually end up creating lasting and stable marriages is somewhat murky. It turns out that some areas of compatibility are more important than others, having a much larger influence on the long term success of a relationship.
Most Important Compatibility Factors
Age – Although some online dating sites will tell you age alone is not important, recent research tells us otherwise. It turns out that large differences in age (greater than three to five years) is a major factor in whether or not a long term relationship and/or marriage will survive.
Drinking – Whether or not either person drinks alcohol also has a major influence on long term relationship success. If one person drinks and the other does not, the chances of that relationship ending in divorce more than doubles.
Smoking – Smoking is also a major factor on relationship success; if one partner smokes and the other doesn’t, research tells us the chances of that relationship ending in divorce more than triples.
So What’s the Lesson Here?
Certainly there is a lot of value to matching up with other singles whose values and other preferences parallel your own, so from that perspective it can be helpful to use an online dating site that looks at those things. However, those same web sites very likely don’t have success rates that are dramatically higher than if you were to pay attention to critical compatibility factors on your own.