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When it comes to love, does it matter who initiates the first date?

Couples today are more likely to meet online than at a restaurant or at church, according to new research

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Danielle Green, left, and Yehonatan Miron kiss as they prepare to take their place during a Valentine’s Day group wedding ceremony, Monday, Feb. 14, 2022, outside the Flagler Museum in Palm Beach, Fla. The pair were one of nine couples married during the annual event.

Wilfredo Lee, Associated Press

People really do love the very idea of love. And they’re willing to spend big bucks on flowers, candy and cards to celebrate it on Valentine’s Day.

The National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights and Analytics said Valentine’s Day spending is expected to near $24 billion this year — an average of $175.41 per person among those who said they like to celebrate their romantic relationship with tangible treats.

The retailers said 76 % of celebrants deem acknowledging romance especially important because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While that survey focused on how people spend their money, others look at how romantic relationships form. For example, a new poll from the Institute for Family Studies and Wheatley Institution at BYU explores young people’s dating journeys.

Wendy Wang, director of research at the institute, said she and her colleagues are always tracking new trends in dating, relationships and happiness, so a day that formally celebrates those relationships seems like a great time to explore some basic questions. They plan to do a mini-survey for Valentine’s Day every year.

She wrote about the first iteration of the survey in a Valentine’s Day blog, using data from a survey YouGov did last week. The survey polled 1,510 young adults, including 644 married respondents, 410 who were cohabiting and 456 who were in a relationship but not married or cohabiting.

The poll asked participants to answer three questions: Where did they meet? Who asked for the first date? And how happy are the couples now?

Here are a few key takeaways:

  • Couples today are more likely to meet online than at church.

The survey found nearly a third of couples met online, while just under a fourth met at school/college and a similar share were introduced by friends. Work was the setting for 14% to meet.

Far fewer met at parties, through family, in bars and restaurants or through religious activities. Just 1 in 20 met in a church setting.

  • Meeting at church may give couples a happiness boost.

When it comes to being happily married, Wang’s report notes that couples who met in bars or restaurants are the least likely to be happy (46%), while more than three-fourths of those who met at church are very happy.

  • Men are more likely than women to make the first move.

“Even among the younger generation today, men are still much more likely to be the one who asked women out. And men who asked their spouse out for the first date report higher relationship satisfaction, compared with men who didn’t. However, the same story doesn’t apply to women,” Wang told the Deseret News. “This is an interesting finding in the age when many dating experts are encouraging women to make the first move.”

Men who took that first step are more likely to say they are very happy with the relationship than men who didn’t ask first (70% to 46%). Among women, the gap is smaller based on who asked, but they’re slightly happier if their partner made the first move (63% vs. 59%).

  • Married men and women are happier than cohabiting ones.

Who’s “very happy” in their relationship now? Young married women lead the way (68%), followed by cohabiting young men (67%), married young men (65%) and young women who are dating (62%). Just over half of cohabiting women and dating men describe themselves that way, at 55% each.

“It is interesting to find out that among the age group of 35 and younger, married women are happier about their relationships than cohabiting women or women who are dating. It shows that when it comes to relationship happiness, commitment matters more than freedom,” Wang said.