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But in the 20th century this all changed, with young people deciding they wanted to be in charge of their own domestic destinies.
Matchmakers were viewed as hook-nosed crones from Fiddler on the Roof or pushy Mrs Bennet at the Pemberley ball.
One in five relationships in the UK starts online, according to recent surveys, and almost half of all British singles have searched for love on the internet.
Just today, nine million Britons will log on looking for love.
“I’d hazard that your chances of finding love through one of these sites is probably about 10 to 15 percentage points greater than through traditional means.” For all the claims of success, some experts warn that the online dating is making monogamy more, rather than less, elusive.
“I’ve found a tendency for the 'grass is greener mentality’ to set in, where the person they’ve set their sights on seems great until they decide to check out 'just a few more profiles’ and spot an 'even better’ singleton,” warns relationship expert Dr Pam Spurr, author of Love Academy.
The researchers interviewed 20,000 people who had married between 20.
Scarred by their parents’ (or their own) divorces, this generation approaches affairs of the heart with the same pragmatism as it might buying a car or booking a holiday.
The result is that, rather than being someone that defies all calculation, love is now big business worth an annual billion internationally and growing at 70 per cent a year – with high-tech venture capitalists, psychologists and software engineers reaping vast rewards.