Old Money and Online Dating

Recently, I enjoyed a lively conversation with JL, one of our readers. He mentioned an article in the Economist magazine that he was reading about online dating. As it turns out–and contrary to everything I would have ever thought to be true–according to the article, people who meet online and begin to date are 30% less likely to divorce when/if they marry.

I was completely dumbfounded. Full disclosure: I haven’t read the article yet. Still, the statistics are very surprising. As an Old Money Guy, I would have advocated being introduced to someone by friends and family, or at university, have a very good idea of who they are and where they come from, and wade very slowly into the romantic waters.

But this is a new time, and perhaps technology isn’t always a bad thing. (If you quote me on that, I will deny it, regardless of the evidence. Wink, nod.)

As I thought about it, however, there might be a ‘reverse, low-tech logic’ to this process that leads to an increase in the success of these relationships. First, I’ve heard that dating sites like e-harmony and match.com require a substantial commitment of time to fill out their forms and go through their protocols.

This sets up a first filter: the people on these sites are serious about finding a partner or spouse, not just messing around. The second thing they allegedly do is match you up with compatible candidates. This means that you’re more likely to meet someone who’s also looking for a serious relationship and, based on their analytics, likely to click with you on some fundamental level.

Finally, the initial contact–from what I’ve heard second hand–is that the initial contact is via email. This means that you’ve got to have a conversation first. You are required to express yourself, not with a charming smile or coy look, but with words.  This filter is key because this is what an enduring relationship is all about. The romance may come and go. The conversation–the dialogue–is always there in marriage or a long term commitment, whether it’s a candlelit dinner or driving to the in-laws for Sunday dinner.

I think these three filters or demands might be what is contributing to the relationship success of people who use online dating services. Are they serious? Are they compatible (in general)? Is there chemistry in conversation? Of course, nothing can predict what will happen in that magic moment when you first meet someone in person for the first time, but these services might be onto something with these protocols. I’ll remain neutral and wait for more data.

If I was more entrepreneurial, I’d come up with an Old Money dating site. For now, though, I’ll leave it to Silicon Valley…and the gods of love. Like the old song says, Cupid, draw back your bow…

  • BGT

24 thoughts on “Old Money and Online Dating

  1. Dear Mr. Tully,
    My husband and I enjoy your blog and value the thoughts we find here, especially as we are raising our son. We were delighted to read this post because we met online. We both had similar experiences: being immediately attracted to someone in person, then discovering after extended courtship that the ‘spark’ had blinded us to long-term incompatibilities. Online dating was basically a safe-guard that allowed the ‘spark’ to happen with people we were fairly (as it turns out, accurately) sure shared certain fundamental (self-selected) values. My grandmother told me that in her day you would join a country club to do the same thing. Of course, online dating is what you make of it – people can use it for all kinds of ends.

  2. I am third generation old money. My wife and I have been happily married for 19 years. We were introduced by an algorithm.

    There’s a wonderful scene in Downton Abbey in which Lady Catherine and Matthew tour the estate talking about how new techniques can be applied to the old to renew and protect the longevity of the family. It’s instructive all round, but especially for old money.

    I see online dating, in fact all things virtual, as agnostic on matters of class. The mechanism by which society used to match people was the Friday church dance, the spring racing calendar or the country club. While that still exists, today people meet their future spouses, purchase their cars and buy their houses via the Internet.

    In finding a spouse, whether London’s Season in Downton Abbey days or at Match.com, caveat emptor endures.

  3. I met my wife online, back in AOL days, when meeting someone face to face that you met online was frowned upon. We moved from sending messages to phone conversations fairly quickly. I wasn’t willing to make the drive to see her, I was looking for fun without no commitment.

    However, we talked regularly over the course of 12 weeks, then her job assignment was over and she back in town. We met finally, and I realized how those conversation laid a foundation for an actually relationship. I don’t recommend this next part 🙂 but we were engaged about 3 months later, that was 16 years ago. I’m a firm believer in a low tech lifestyle… but there’s something noteworthy in tech – if it can take an approach that allows at least some time for development and connection, if one doesn’t have the disciple to take it slow.

    1. AOL days…I love it. Congratulations on the 16 years, and thank you for sharing. Interesting that you had 12 weeks of nothing but conversation. I think that lays the foundation. – BGT

  4. I love this posting because it relates to the interesting way I found my better half. If your a gentleman wearing Khaki’s and oxford shirts while maintaining proper deportment isn’t a quick way of finding a young lady for marriage. Nor is going out to wealthy area’s of Long Island and acting like a party animal. Country clubs tend to have attached couples and private schools simply have a low enrollment and not a selection for either male or female to have a fulfilling dating life when selecting a spouse. When I was ready for a spouse (I had a good job and savings) I researched how people met in the early part of the 20th century who didn’t have large families or close communities for introductions. The answer was a marriage broker. I found one and after asking me questions and charging me a fee they started to send me the names of 5 ladies per month that I was to call and setup a date with. One of the rules was I had to dress in a shirt, tie and blazer. I had a wonderful time since I met all kinds of different ladies and some from different cultures who truly wanted to have commit to a family life. I met my spouse shortly thereafter and we hit it off right away and I asked for her hand in marriage on our third date and we have been happily married for 15 years and counting.

    People need to be honest and just be decent but more importantly be committed to a marriage and family. Having a lot of the same interests doesn’t matter at all. Having a mutual interest in Cross-Fit is not going to do a thing when you are up 4:00 AM in the morning with a sick child or holding a spouses hand when the wake up from an operation.

  5. Ah, old money keeps an open mind!

    I truly understand how online match-ups allow people to keep their head in the game, to make smart choices, to find just what they (believe) they are looking for, so they do not fall under the spell of someone’s big brown eyes. And yet…. (Henry Higgins moment), the meandering path of a long and ambiguous friendship, and the experiences- even mistakes along the way that create our character are worth the struggle to me. Yes, I’m a romantic fool, but I know it.

    What I love is the written component that has been reintroduced in relationships. Text messages can tell you a lot about how quick-witted and playful someone is. Re-reading a message from someone is very old-fashioned and wonderful.

  6. I firmly believe in a low tech lifestyle, but there’s a noteworthy quality to consider when a tech platform can create an appropriate distance that allows for development and proper expectation. Great post.

      1. Thank you for the welcome, and the books. “Live better while spending less” assisted me on my first major adjustment/decision in the way I look at spending and debt. Priceless insight.

  7. My husband and I have been married for 18 years. We dated long distance (300 miles) for a year before getting married. While we visited each other occasionally, most of our dating was comprised of nearly nightly phone calls often lasting for an hour or two. Perhaps low tech compared to online dating, but to your point the ability to communicate with your spouse is key to a long relationship. We have few shared interests, but we still can happily converse for hours on end.

  8. If online dating leads to happy marriages, then how could one oppose it? More than that, it allows people to connect, in countries where approaching strangers is frowned upon (e.g. China); it increases the chances of people finding a partner from a different culture, etc. It even leads to profitable dating businesses.

    Still, I’m skeptical. What is the background of the people who claim to be happily married thanks to online dating? Wouldn’t it be preferable to relax social norms, so people can interact more openly in public? And regarding the financial success of dating businesses; the fact that a service is profitable doesn’t mean it is worth buying.

    Perhaps, in the first place, we need to teach young people how to interact in a confident and respectful way. If online dating is an additional tool in finding a partner, fine. But if it becomes the standard, it would be a sad thing.

    1. Hello JL.

      “The fact that a service is profitable doesn’t mean it is worth buying.”

      Profit isn’t a dirty word. Profitability means sufficient people believe the service is worth buying. It’s a crystal clear measurement that people have a need being solved. And that’s a good thing. It’s what propels the world forward.

      “What is the background of the people who claim to be happily married thanks to online dating?”

      My wife and I found each other through online dating. She is post-graduate educated daughter of a physician and upper middle class. I am old money.

      I would say this. After nearly 20 years, we are not happily married thanks to online dating but rather for the million little inspirations, compromises, high points, shared moments and love. Online dating was nothing more than the starting line. It is the wonderful complexity of social nuance which makes the continued journey possible.

      This is an amazing website. Thank you for allowing me to contribute.

    2. Yes, there is the magic of the chance encounter and the comfort of an introduction by mutual friends. Hopefully, online dating remains just one of the many. – BGT

  9. Hi Anglosphere,

    Thank you for your comment.

    Indeed, profitability is an indicator of a “need being solved”. From a philosophical standpoint though — and the example of online dating aside — one could say that profitability isn’t necessarily an indicator of (ethical) value. Of course, there is such thing as individual freedom (e.g.: one is free to eat fast food every day, buy products that are unsustainable, etc).

    Regarding social background, my comment could have been more nuanced. I have well-educated friends who have been happily married after meeting online. Background isn’t entirely irrelevant. For instance, if a restaurant has a 100% customer satisfaction, but only 5% have “good” standards, then the rating may not be that helpful. But if all 100% are experienced epicureans, the picture is different.

    Finally, you are absolutely right that online dating can only be a start, and it is good to hear that you have been happily married for 20 years. Many people could learn from your words.

    Since we both enjoy this website, we will surely have more opportunities to discuss.

    1. JL,

      Philosophical indeed. Who determines ethics? The individual? The majority? The old money establishment? Or are ethics universal? And what is freedom anyway? This is the realm of law, political philosophy and, even that lost discipline no longer taught, logic.

      If only I could access that mind of yours over wine and cheese settled into an oversized leather chair by an open fireplace.

      … but now I digress.


      1. Good questions, Anglosphere. My apologies, there’s no short/definitive answer.

        1. “Who determines ethics?”
        This subject has been studied for over two millennia; it is embedded in Western civilisation. We could start with Socrates and Plato, and work our way up to Kant and Stuart Mill.

        In the Western world we understand what ethical behaviour means. The problem is that, what is unethical isn’t necessarily unlawful. In other words, we disregard ethics when they stand in the way of our (capitalist) ideals — which I do not claim to be against or in favour of.

        E.g.: We, as society, understand that inclusiveness is ethical, and paying taxes is a way for government to ensure a minimum level of well being for all. And yet, we will gladly evade them or use lawful ways to pay as little as possible. One may say: “I am free not to care about others”. In our current context this is indeed valid. There are philosophies who support this, such as Objectivism and Rational Egoism. However, they ignore a long tradition of Western thinking.

        2. “And what is freedom anyway?”
        We may want to distinguish between negative and positive liberty (there are other approaches too). In simple terms, negative liberty means the absence of interference. Positive liberty has a more collective connotation, in the sense of creating conditions for individuals to achieve self-realization. In the Colorado wedding cake case, negative freedom means the right of the baker not to sell; while positive freedom means that clients shouldn’t be discriminated.

        The issue is that the concept of freedom is (over) politicised, with little regard for ethics. Some claim that anti-discrimination laws are a restriction on individual freedom. This is simplistic at best — it’s only discrimination of freedom in the abstract.

        Altogether, if one thinks about freedom in terms of ethics, from what is Good, one will understand that a certain level of regulation is necessary. That’s why Plato believed in Aristocracy. The state governed by noble spirits who are committed to improve life in the city-state. Utopia? Indeed. But not entirely. There are ways to make democracy more ethically coherent. But they don’t sell in elections.

        Both types of liberty need to be balanced, as in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Think about it. How did we, Western civilisation, get to where we are? Only through maximising negative freedom?

        3. This is the realm of law, political philosophy and […] logic.”
        Freedom is essentially about ethics. Law enshrines our right to freedom (and other ethical matters which we think need to be regulated), and logic can only justify it if assisted by moral principles. The prevailing culture of politicising freedom is not entirely valid. Things are labeled “left” or “right”, without serious thought.

  10. You noted that marriages that begin online have a 30% less chance of ending in divorce. For some reason that made me wonder what the success rate is for arranged marriages. I wonder whether there is any data available about that?

    1. Good question, Andrew. I’m guessing it would be lower given the simple fact that a person involved in an arranged marriage is in a social setting that seriously frowns on divorce. Expectations would be different also. If anybody can comment on this, I’d welcome some insight… BGT

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