• Couples now seek matches online
     | January 06,2008

    After dating for nearly four years, Tanna Burchill, 20, and John Hitchin, 23, of Victoria, British Columbia, found themselves in a rut: They were too boring for their single friends but did not know how to meet other couples.

    "We work all week," explained Burchill, who runs her own housecleaning business. "So when the weekend comes, we like to relax. We don't know how to make other couple friends."

    Having met each other online through a Yahoo chat room, Burchill and Hitchin considered it only natural to look for couple companionship online. They soon found Kupple.com, a site geared toward couples looking to befriend other couples.

    Kupple.com and competitors Couplesworldwide.com and Couplets.com hope to do for couples what online dating services and social-networking sites have done for singles.

    But the three sites emphasize they are about building friendships, not helping couples who are looking for sex.

    "It's a huge market," said Jay Chalnick, who founded Couplets.com in April 2006. "There are more than 65 million married couples in the United States, not to mention engaged and gay couples."

    Chalnick, 33, had the idea for the Web site in 2004, after he and his wife moved from Manhattan to Rockland County in upstate New York.

    "We bought a huge house and realized all our friends were in Manhattan," he said. Both he and his wife worked full time, each commuting 90 minutes each day, and had no time to meet couples in their new neighborhood. Couplets.com currently has more than 2,000 members in the United States.

    Sheila Zamel, founder of Couplesworldwide.com, started in much the same way. She remarried and moved from South Africa to Calabasas, Calif. She and her husband were in their 40s and wanted to meet new couples, but they found it surprisingly difficult.

    Despite the large number of couples in the United States, some experts doubt the sites will catch on.

    "I see, for couples, this being more of a fad because couples are even more limited in their interactions," said James Houran, a columnist and researcher with Online Dating Magazine. "There are the needs of four people to be met, the egos of four people, the motivations of four people."

    Zamel originally thought Couplesworldwide.com would cater to young couples fitting the same profile as Burchill and Hitchin. She was surprised to see the number of middle-aged couples who have signed up.

    "Second time around for both of us," wrote a couple from Roxbury, Mass., on their Couplesworldwide.com profile. "Looking for friends to spend time with. Dinner, movie, chatting, and sharing good times with. Children all grown and enjoying our grandkids."

    Meanwhile, Burchill and Hitchin are still waiting for their first Kupple.com date.

    As they start planning their wedding next summer, they are optimistic that couple dating will net them some new good friends. After all, the online world has already served them well.

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