Dating Apps Can Lead to Less Divorce, According to Research

Here's why users are finding love at first swipe.
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sarah hanlon associate editor the knot
by Sarah Hanlon
sarah hanlon associate editor the knot
Sarah Hanlon
Associate Editor
  • Sarah is an Associate Digital Editor for The Knot, with special focuses in fashion, pop culture and wedding trends.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Sarah was a contributing writer for Bravo at NBC Universal.
  • Sarah has a degree in journalism and resides in New York City.
Updated May 26, 2020
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Love at first swipe, apparently, can result in stronger marriages. Recent studies show that dating apps can lead to more fulfilling marriages in comparison to relationships formed offline. With the popularity of dating services like Match, Tinder, Bumble and Hinge, as well as marriage counseling apps like Lasting, online tools are changing the way couples cultivate long-term relationships.

However, the success of online dating isn't anything new. In fact, over 15 years of data point to the strength of relationships formed online and why. In 2005, researchers at the University of Chicago began a seven-year study that evaluated marriages formed both online and offline. The findings revealed that marriages from online relationships were more likely to last longer than marriages formed offline. "Marriage breakups were reported in about 6 percent of the people who met online, compared with 7.6 percent of the people who met offline," the study reported. "Marriages for people who met online reported a mean score of 5.64 on a satisfaction survey, compared with a score of 5.48 for people who met offline." This data laid the groundwork for similar studies to come in the future.

Another 2013 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal found that marriages formed online were likely to have a higher satisfaction rate. Of the couples who were surveyed, less than six percent of those who met online got divorced, while the break-up rate for marriages formed offline was almost eight percent. Four years later, a 2017 study conducted by researchers at the University of Essex in the U.K. and the University of Vienna in Austria found that marriages that began with online dating were less likely to end after one year when compared to couples who didn't meet using an online service.

Today, online dating remains the top way couples meet. According to The Knot 2019 Jewelry and Engagement study, 22 percent of couples meet online and end up getting engaged. Tinder, the dating app behemoth, is responsible for matching 30 percent of all engaged couples who met online, with OkCupid and Bumble rounding out the top three websites. Other resources like Match and Hinge also held steady rankings among the top seven online tools for dating.

There's a reason that online dating is potentially correlated to a decrease in long-term divorces. We spoke to the experts to find out why—and below, we break down exactly how dating apps can lead to stronger marriages.

Apps Encourage 'Intentional Dating'

One key quality might set online daters apart from others: the intention to find a lasting relationship. "Every app has a different connotation depending on where you're swiping or clicking," says Rachel DeAlto, Match's Chief Dating Expert. "But with these apps, there's a lot of intentional people coming to them. They really want to have a relationship. And when you have that intention and know what you're looking for, you enter into a relationship in a different way and I think that makes a huge difference."

In 2019, Tinder was the most popular dating app by size in the United States with 7.86 million registered users. Bumble claimed the second spot, with 5.03 million users. Rounding out the top five apps were Plenty of Fish, Match and OkCupid.

"We find that people who meet online are more in tune with what they're looking for, and what they want to get out of the experience," Cecily Gold Moore, Bumble's Director of Community Experience, tells The Knot. "For better or for worse, once you meet someone online it can be easier to ask questions that may otherwise be a little intense for a first or second date, such as, 'What sort of commitment are you looking for?'"

Online Dating Fosters Deeper Connections… Faster

Intentional daters turn to apps with a specific purpose in mind—and for the majority of users, it involves finding a meaningful connection with a partner. Moore says Bumble's users tend to look for a lasting partnership as opposed to something casual. "In a study we conducted two years ago, we actually found that over 85% of our users are looking for an empowered and lasting connection, not a hookup," she shares. "We find that when you're clear about your expectations and intentions, you're more likely to find success in dating because there's no guessing involved and you've fully put yourself out there."

She adds that online dating encourages people to have honest conversations sooner, setting up a relationship for long-term success. "When you have the strength and self love to define how you want to be treated in a relationship, you can stay true to who you are throughout the process," she explains. "Dating requires clear communication, setting boundaries, intentions, and expectations—and an understanding that if your intentions don't align, it's okay to move on."

DeAlto explains that the user intent behind using a comprehensive service like Match sets the relationship apart from offline couples from the beginning. "[Match users] really want to have a relationship," she says. "Some people want to date a little deeper—they want to get to know people, and that's where that differentiation [from other apps] comes in."

Highly Selective Dating Leads to Alignment With Values

Dating apps also empower users to find an equal partner instead of settling for someone who isn't a good match. Liz Colizza, Head of Couples Therapy for Lasting, says this sets up online relationships for success. "Online dating allows people to be highly selective in who they choose to talk to because the pool of potential partners is large and because of the format," she explains. "People want to meet other people that are compatible with them, but often don't know where to go for that. Online dating platforms offer that space for people to match with potential partners."

Additionally, dating apps encourage couples to have honest conversations about their goals earlier than they would if they met offline. "Relationships only last when your goals are aligned, and online dating [allows couples to] reveal those goals almost immediately," Moore explains. "It also [gives users a platform] to understand and articulate their values and goals. Knowing yourself is the first step in knowing what you need from a good partner, and how to be one yourself."

Algorithms Know Their Users

The success of a dating app could boil down to its algorithm. Whether users are swiping right or liking profile prompts, the way an app presents profiles will impact the success of its matchmaking. Hinge, for example, encourages users to share extensive information on their profile through the use of question prompts and photo captions—and this allows users to make a more informed, meaningful decision when it comes time to "like" someone. "Hinge's proprietary algorithm combined with the prompts, which are specifically designed to help elicit more personal responses, help facilitate honest conversations and strong connections right from the start," says a spokesperson for the app. "While a connection made online can be the start to a strong relationship, it's the real life dates and time spent together that are crucial to making a deep connection."

In 2019, Hinge released a campaign titled "Designed to be Deleted." This placed an emphasis on users finding a connection sooner, in turn allowing them to get rid of the app. "[The campaign] drives home our core belief that dating apps should be a means to an end, not a game or form of entertainment," the rep adds. "We believe technology is at its best when it brings people together, rather than separating them by screens."

According to their own studies, Hinge sets up a date every four seconds—and 75 percent of users who have gone on a first date from the app want to initiate a second. In 2017, Hinge was the top mentioned dating app in the New York Times wedding announcements section, proving that the science behind their algorithm is crucial for long term success.

On websites like Match and eHarmony, personality surveys are used to complete dating profiles. This data is combined with user activity to create an algorithm that will present the best potential matches.

In 2019, Tinder revealed that user behavior is responsible for controlling the matching algorithm. "We prioritize potential matches who are active, and active at the same time," the company wrote in a blog post. "Using the app helps you be more front and center, see more profiles and make more matches. This is the most important part of our algorithm. Our current system adjusts the potential matches you see each and every time your profile is Liked or Noped, and any changes to the order of your potential matches are reflected within 24 hours or so."

Dating Apps Connect Unlikely Matches

Simply put, dating apps allow unlikely couples to meet. It's not a coincidence that the rise in popularity of dating apps corresponds with the rise in interracial marraiges. According to a 2019 Pew Research Center analysis, "Three-in-ten of those who say they met their partner online report that their partner is a different race or ethnicity, compared with 19 percent of those who met their partner offline." The same study also indicates that couples who meet online are more likely to report having different political affiliations. Because of their accessibility, apps expand the dating pool. And in turn, users connect with potential partners they wouldn't have met in their daily lives.

"Pre-apps, you only could date the people that you ran into or were friends of friends and that doesn't mean that your person is in that small circle," DeAlto says. "The apps have created a way for you to focus on the qualities of the person you're looking for instead of accessibility."

Moore shares that Bumble success stories reach a similar conclusion. "Dating apps are great places to meet people who you wouldn't have otherwise met," she says. "For example, most of us take the same commute to work and we grab lunch at the same place every day. We're limited to our routines, which ultimately limits the number of new people we can meet. We've heard countless success stories from our users, including those who met their significant other on Bumble although they grew up on the same street as them."

Because of the convenience, online dating won't be going away any time soon. Instead, experts predict their impact will continue to grow. "Online dating is going nowhere," DeAlto stresses. "As we grow as a human species, we're going to be dating online far more than we're going to be finding people to date in real life... This is so much more efficient for people with busy lives."

But even with connections sparking behind a screen, DeAlto still believes in the magic of finding a genuine soulmate online. "Believe that part of this is magic… keep doing what you're doing and I guarantee that you'll get the results you want."

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