Savvydating net

Christine Northam, a counsellor working for Relate, said: "On these websites you have to give details, and I wonder whether the matching might eliminate some potential future problems before you even get going with the person, whereas when you meet naturally a powerful initial attraction might mask problems in the future." But Mr Marshall warns of the pitfalls: "I think the problem with meeting someone online is that you don't have any context for them.

If you meet someone through work, you can ask around and find out that he's already married, or find out if he's a ladies' man. Sometimes a context makes it easier to relax and trust them." But there is another powerful pull towards online dating.

Back home I signed the house over to my ex and quit my job.

But now my lover tells me his divorce proceedings have not even started yet …" The early adopters of online dating tended to be the technically very savvy, who shared what one might call a certain geeky mindset.

The later you marry the more likely you are to stay together.

You're more mature, you have more experience and you know yourself better.

Andrew G Marshall, a leading marital therapist, said that "30s and 40s are the key internet daters who end up in my office. People will say 'Oh, we clicked because we both liked cage fighting,' and that's fine, but to make a successful relationship you need more than common interests." But whether a successful relationship came via self-started online encounters or dating sites, many happily hitched people told us that it was vital that they had a lengthy "getting to know you" period of emails and phone calls before they met face to face.

Arthur Ritson, 43, from Bath, and Ann Ramsay, 34, from Edinburgh, who married in 2001, met online and emailed each other for three months before meeting.

And a 2005 University of Chicago study of 23,000 users of dating sites found 75 per cent of men claimed "above-average looks" – not a percentage many women would corroborate.

And then there are the serial philanderers prowling online dating sites, like the Gloucestershire management consultant who was finally confronted in a pub by the four women he'd been stringing along.

There are basically two sorts of online romantic experiences.

First there are people who locate each other using Twitter, Facebook, My Space, MSN Messenger, chatrooms or virtual communities focusing on particular interests or concerns.

A dozen or so years ago, for example, the engagement was reported of a Midlands couple who met online and made much use of email.

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