Repairing Relationships

Building intimacy and joy into your relationships

Does Online Dating Promote Unhealthy Relationships?

Are internet daters revealing their political preferences?

Deception in courtship has been a major cause of the decline in marriage in the last century. A study by Rose McDermott of Brown University, Casey A. Klofstad of the University of Miami and Peter K. Hatemi of Pennsylvania State University shows that deception has become common in the new fad of internet dating sweeping the nation.

The study, published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior,  sampled 2,944 profiiles of people from an internet dating website to see if these singles actively advertised their political preference or ideology. Shockingly, only 14%   mentioned "political interests" in their profile, even less people than those who endured  the humiliation of revealing their body type. People were more likely to reveal they were overweight than that they were politically active! Of those who did express a political interest, an overwhelming majority kept it vague and safe  by describing themselves as "middle of the road."

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Why would people obscure their ideology? The internet is a ideal setting for those who want to practice courtship based on physical attraction (a picture), charming e-mails and instant messages, and approval seeking by submerging yourself into the profile of the person you are attracted to on the internet dating site, adapting to their tastes and interests and de-emphasizing those that clash. You have no idea what the person is really like. You don't even know what their voice or laugh sounds like or if they have bad breath or annoying habits and you are already infatuated with the idea of them. They may have obnoxious kids and a lurking ex-,, but you have already talked yourself into getting involved in their drama. They may be a moody loner or a psychotic stalker but they sure sound like Prince Charming or Cinderella on their profile. Thus computer dating is just another tool to achieve an unhealthy relationship.

When we began our 23 year study of deceptive courtship and marriage, we assumed that this was the way things had always been. Men and women throughout the ages had been brought together either through poor judgement or by compulsion to live out their lives in miserable unions of obligation with virtual strangers. But the historical truth is just the opposite!

American men and women once knew how to achieve a happy marriage. When America was a rural land, boys and girls grew up together in Small Town USA and selected their mates from friends they had known since birth. The superficial qualities of looks and charm were less important than one's character and shared interests. Couples relied on open communication to protect themselves from the twin plagues of dating: insincerity and misplaced affection.

If Americans from that era could take a time travelling Delorean to 2013, they would be shocked and disappointed that couples are practicing such a backward, immoral, destructive form of courtship that binds strangers in loveless unions and leaves bitterness and estrangement in its wake.We must learn from our rich heritage that healthy courtship and happy marriages that provide a stable environment to raise children are still possible in 2013.


J.R. Bruns, M.D., is co-author of The Tiger Woods Syndrome, a book about repairing relationships.


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