Life Love
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About ten years ago, online dating was considered creepy—the way socially awkward wallflowers who struck out at bars connected and found love. My, how times have changed.

Now, with new dating apps and sites like Tinder, Coffee Meets Bagel, Plenty of Fish and How About We joining originals Match, OkCupid and eHarmony, there’s an online matchmaking site for every type.

And believe us, copious coupling is afoot.

Recent research shows internet dating may lead to more durable marriages than dating started by unexpected meetings in bars and at parties, suggesting that internet-based connections are anything but creepy.

Indeed, as we move more toward disconnected connection as a norm, placing digital devices as buffers between us as we communicate, a study of nearly 20,000 married adults found that by a small but significant margin, online-dating-started marriages were more sturdy, and even satisfying.

The University of Chicago researchers compared marriages where the initial connection was made via an online dating site versus real-world meetings (think bars and parties and parks), after an online survey was sent, 19,131 respondents who married between 2005 and 2012 were chosen. Couples were asked to rank how happy they found their marriages “all things considered,” and whether they “had chemistry” and were “able to understand each other’s feelings.”

Conducted by lead study author John Cacioppo, a University of Chicago psychology professor who is also an eHarmony scientific advisor, researchers had the site agree to publish the study no matter the results before finding that online dating is the most common way for marriage partners to find one another nowadays.

They also found that one-third of couples who married between the years of 2005 and 2012 met via online dating. What’s more, a relationship that began through an online dating site was found to be 25 per cent less likely to divorce compared to married couples who met by chance or through friends.

Many psychologists are not surprised. “I’m a huge proponent of online dating, “says Sheri Meyers, Psy.D., an L.A.-based licensed relationship therapist. “It allows opportunity to spring. You can do research before even meeting, with Google searches, so you’re not just being swayed by chemistry and a date’s presence.”

In fact, Dr. Meyers says she highly recommends online dating. “It’s one of the most viable ways to meet and find someone special these days,” she says. “Because you have a broader spectrum of dates to choose from… Think about how many parties you really go to, or how often you really go out, and branch out from your familiar circle. Without online dating, which is available 24 hours a day, you’re waiting for stars to line up, from the right time, or chance, to circumstances.”

One site that’s taking a unique approach is HowAboutWe.com (admitted bias, after years dating in NYC, I met my fiance this way and we’re getting married in June!). The site founded in 2010 has people post date ideas and invite others to join them on the date. In this way, it’s activities-driven and, as such, largely passions-driven. One may post a date idea to tour the museum, another to ice cake, still a third to try the best chocolate cake around.

“The belief behind HowAboutWe.com is that there’s a risk in saying what you want to go out and do,” says co-founder and CEO Brian Schechter. “It immediately reveals your quirks. In lieu of messaging for weeks and arriving at a dead end with someone, our members get offline and go do something together, which is more meaningful and revealing than, say, just grabbing a drink. Some of Schechter’s fave date ideas posted to the site: “Buy cheap umbrellas and hand them to people caught in downpours,” “go to a beginner’s language class,” and “go to a museum and take turns pretending to be a tour guide,” a progressive dinner — appetizers, entrees and dessert each at different places” and “walk around a bookstore and leave little notes between the pages.”

All in all, though, finding true love through internet dating is all about taking the right approach, says dating expert Jonathon Aslay, who found himself dating online when he was 40 and newly divorced. “Think of online dating as a way to practice your dating skills, and a great place to meet new people, not to mention learn more about yourself.” Aslay says some eighty percent of us are bad daters. “Those who succeed take time to complete killer profiles and don’t take each meeting too seriously,” he says.

Ready to dive back in? Fantastic. First, take a refresher with these tips from the relationship pros.

Dating Pro’s Cheat Sheet:

1. Lead with Honesty
On your profile, and on your date, but you also want to put your best self forward, says Dr. Meyers. “Because if you’re serious about having a real, long-term relationship you want someone to know who you really are. If you think online dating is for losers and scam artists, you’re setting yourself up for a bad experience.”

2. Adjust Your Mindset
People get frustrated when they go in with wrong and unrealistic expectations, says Aslay. “Go all in. Think of this as an adventure, a way to make at least a new friend, instead of thinking you are too good for it or questioning why you are even looking online for a partner.”

3. Heal Offline
“If you’re holding onto resentment, such as from being cheated on in the past, heal first, and don’t air past grudges on your profile,” says Dr. Meyers. In short, work on you, before your profile.

4. Go Lightly into That First Date
Online daters make a mistake by taking it all too seriously, says Dr. Meyers. “Look at it all as an adventure, a change to learn, grow and meet new people.”

5. Look Deeper
Be mature enough to know that a life partner has way more than looks to offer. “Look for the spark in things besides pictures and looks,” says Dr. Meyers, “a sense of humor, a unique quirkiness, or level of intelligence.”

Good luck, bright-eyed daters. Remember, the universe is on your side, when you let it be.

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