Online dating: a new gateway to marriage?

Dr. Neill Neill examines the issue of online dating and marriage.

In my travels in the south I set up my tent beside a small trailer belonging to a very happy 75-year-old man and woman. As I got to know them they told me about meeting on the Internet, one of them moving across four states and marrying at 70.

After they had met on the Internet, the turning point was their discovery that they shared an interest in a particular kind of pet.

When you think about it, isn’t finding a common interest— a shared faith, an activity or a type of work—the way we’ve always met our spouses?

In the last few years, however, the number of men and women who enter committed relationships after meeting their partner online has risen dramatically.

Recent figures are that 20 million people per month are engaging in online dating. About 70 per cent of people surveyed said they would use an online dating service to find their partner if they were looking for a relationship.

And in a large-scale survey 17 per cent of couples married from 2007 to early 2010 said they had met online. Such statistics indicate a huge shift in the way people meet and mate.

However, some things have not changed, like the advice I write in my articles. My stated premise is “choosing well is the foundation of a good marriage.” The advice stands, whether you are meeting someone in a traditional way through friends, family or work, or you are meeting them through a dating site. So choose carefully.

Personally, I have not always chosen wisely. Two divorces attest to that. However, for the last 30 years or so I have been in a marriage that does work. I know the difference.

In my world, marriage is a wonderful institution; a long-term, romantic, emotional, intellectual commitment. It’s family. It’s connection. I love it. A good marriage is a great place to live.

Lurking in the dating scene forever, however, are con artists, deadbeats, addicts, and predators, always looking for the vulnerable. And they love the initial anonymity of the Internet. Their first choice is a free dating site, the source of the worst horror stories that come in my door.

The advent of online dating has indeed broadened the ways in which people can meet. It has greatly expanded the pool of potential partners.

But the art of choosing well is still at the heart of a good marriage. If you are seriously considering online dating, you can check out the big paid dating services like eHarmony.com or Match.com, or a smaller, local service like IslandIntroductions.ca.

Whether online or offline, choosing well includes not letting the predators and joyriders slip under your radar.

Dr. Neill is a Central-Island Registered Psychologist. You can reach him for an appointment at 250-752-8684 or through his website www.neillneill.com/contact.

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