New Research Offers Insights Into How American Couples Meet

A history of getting hitched reveals the only thing that people are not in a hurry to do

love illustration
Since the 1940s, years spent dating and living together before marriage has increased, while meeting online has become the dominant real-life "meet-cute" story. thanaphiphat / iStock

If you meet Michael Rosenfeld at a dinner party, he’ll probably pop the question: How did you meet your romantic partner? “I’m not being nosy!” the Stanford University sociologist insists. For Rosenfeld, it’s an extension of his academic research. He has collected answers from thousands of people for a data set called “How Couples Meet and Stay Together,” which offers insight into how courtship has—or hasn’t—changed since the 1940s. Smithsonian crunched some of the numbers to learn more. For instance, one out of every four couples who got together this decade did so virtually, with the internet outpacing every other method of meeting one’s match.

New Research Offers Insights Into How American Couples Meet
New Research Offers Insights Into How American Couples Meet
Illustration by Shaw Nielsen
New Research Offers Insights Into How American Couples Meet
New Research Offers Insights Into How American Couples Meet
New Research Offers Insights Into How American Couples Meet
Shutterstock
New Research Offers Insights Into How American Couples Meet
Eritrea Dorcely

Meanwhile, in Hollywood

Analyzing the top-grossing romantic films of the last nine decades, Smithsonian found that the best-known big-screen couples are a little different from the rest of us. Only 7% meet through friends or acquaintances, long the most common catalyst for real-world pairings.

Research by Michelle Strange

© Universal Pictures
© Buena Vista Pictures / Everett Collection
© Paramount Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

Sources: Stanford University's How Couples Meet and Stay Together surveys, 2009 and 2017; IMDB.

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This article is a selection from the November 2019 issue of Smithsonian magazine