The estimated divorce rate for couples experiencing their first marriage within the US is approximately 41%, meaning that 4 out 10 marital unions will have ended in acrimony by the close of 2010. This statistic is one that has risen steadily since the turn of the century, except in instances where the annual marriage rate has decreased. In terms of individual demographics, couples aged between 20 and 24 are most at risk, with an estimated 37% of these unions ending in divorce or annulment. Online and Virtual Dating as a Relationship Foundation There is minimal and contrasting research into the causes of climbing divorce statistics; however the increase in online or virtual dating is suggested by some to be a factor. More and more people meet online these days, and relationship site E-Harmony boasts that 1 in 10 of their partnership matches will end in marriage. This accounts for a large proportion of couples who have started their relationship online, and not enjoyed the traditional methods of courtship. Online virtual dating and novelty events such as speed dating certainly differ widely from the tried and tested ways of meeting and developing an accord in person. In the first instance, people are matched on information, details and pictures that they provide without any censure or guidance, and misrepresentation can prove to be a false and flawed basis for long term harmony. Also, there is scepticism as to the type of people virtual dating attracts, and the differences in expectations between people seeking long term love and others seeking brief liaisons can be too large a bridge to gap successfully in many circumstances. The Online Age and Instant Gratification Of course, people can mislead others and misrepresent themselves to a certain degree whether dating online or in person, so there may well be other more significant factors in the high rates of divorce. There is no doubt that western civilization has changed irreversibly with the internet age, where people can buy, sell and seek information in seconds and with the touch of a single button. This culture of instant gratification and fulfilment has created a generation of impatient consumers, and this attitude is beginning to influence the approach to relationships and marriage. This fact is born out amongst the higher rates of divorce in couples aged between 20 and 24, where there are case studies of couples who become engaged, married, blessed with child and divorced all within the matter of months rather than years. These couples apply the principles of the internet age in which they have been nurtured, and rush headlong into a long term union without getting to know each others personality and aspirations. Of course, these same ideals are enforced when the partnership enters difficulties or conflict, with one or the other person looking for a swift resolution by leaving or ending the relationship. The Future of Marriage The cultural and social aspects that influence generations seem to be the most significant factors in the rise of divorce rates throughout the US. It may well be that the rates will continue to rise with technological advances and the increased speed with which material items, knowledge and fulfilment can be sourced, with some estimates suggesting that divorce rates will climb to more than 50% in the next 15 years. If this does happen, it may well require future generations to learn from the mistakes of their predecessors in order to help restore the lustre and relevance of modern marriage.