If you’re like me, you don’t know anything about eHarmony.com other than what you’ve seen in their advertising — that the company claims its matchmaking system, based on 29 areas of compatibility, is more likely to get you your dream match than those of their competitors, and that eHarmony’s founder likes to appear on camera. This strikes me as odd because Neil Clark Warren doesn’t quite have the trademarked offbeat image or the eccentric charisma of a Colonel Sanders or even an Orville Redenbacher. He’s plain, ordinary, and painfully earnest.
Not even his Ph.D. from my alma mater can make him or his message compelling, at least to me.
At about the same time I started seeing a plethora of eHarmony commercials, a friend mentioned that she had completed the eHarmony personality profile, so my curiosity was piqued. The advertising features people who don’t appear to be models; they do look real enough. Some are even older people, perhaps over 50 or 60. They seem normal, but there is something a little disturbing to me in their smiles and their cloying happiness that they have found someone with whom they instantly and magically clicked.
When they are telling me this after 30 years, surrounded by children and grandchildren, I’ll be impressed with the success of the relationship, at least the public aspects of it. But not when they are in a commercial talking about how well the first date went.
I don’t think this will ever be me, perfectly dressed and coiffed, smiling with 32 flawless pearly whites, and clinging like a Stepford wife to my newfound soul mate.
Still, I decided to find out what eHarmony would tell me about me and my ideal match. Admittedly, the concept of the latter would be new to me, since Mr. Stepford wife has yet to make an appearance. So I spent a half hour filling out the profile in a brutally honest way. I’m no beauty, I’m not in top physical condition, and I’m not vivacious and outgoing. I don’t make a good Stepford wife, actually. Hmmm. The more questions I completed, the less l could picture myself being invited to appear in an eHarmony commercial.
Frankly, eHarmony is a lot like Myers-Brigg, only not as accurate. The personality profile I ended up with is not exactly spot on, as Myers-Brigg was. Despite the consistency of my introverted answers, eHarmony seems to think I’m on the line between introversion and extroversion, comfortable on my own or in most social situations.
No, that’s me at the party, reading a book in a cozy, hidden corner (ideally), or looking desperately for someone familiar who’s chatty to make up for my lack of garrulousness so I can appear outgoing.
There were a few other areas in which eHarmony made me more middle-of-the-road, more “normal,” than I actually am.
But apparently I’m not normal enough to deserve love, or even a nice first date, because after another half hour of my life that I can’t get back, hunched over my iBook and aiming at what seemed to be hundreds of radio buttons, I learned the horrible news:
eHarmony is based upon a complex matching system developed through extensive research with married couples. One of the requirements for successful matching is that participants fall within certain defined profiles. If we find that we will not be able to match a user using these profiles, we feel it is only fair to inform them early in the process.
We are so convinced of the importance of creating compatible matches to help people establish happy, lasting relationships that we sometimes choose not to provide service rather than risk an uncertain match.
Unfortunately, we are not able to make our profiles work for you. Our matching model could not accurately predict with whom you would be best matched. This occurs for about 20% of potential users, so 1 in 5 people simply will not benefit from our service. We hope that you understand, and we regret our inability to provide service for you at this time.
You can still receive your free Personality Profile by clicking here.
No wonder I’m single! After 30 seconds of dissecting my heart, soul, and intellect, eHarmony determined that there’s no way to match someone as unique as I am — me and that 20% who are just not predictably matchable, or at least not through a “system.” That’s twenty percent who may not work out as Stepford wives.
This intrigued me, along with something I’d noticed — there were neither of the usual “man seeking men” or “woman seeking women” options.
I found a Salon.com article by Rebecca Traister about eHarmony and its founder, Neil Clark Warren (I reserve the “Dr.” title for medical/veterinary professionals, not Ph.D.s), who turns out to be a conservative Christian. According to Traister, eHarmony “. . . won’t match gays or depressed people or anyone who’s been married more than twice.”
Traister goes on to say:
When I asked Warren about his refusal to serve same-sex couples, he listed several reasons for his policy. “First, we’re into marriage,” he said, pointing out that gay unions remain illegal in almost every state. He also doesn’t feel there is adequate research on how men can be matched up with other men, or women with women.
“It’s just not an easy point! We’ve got thousands of years of history of the human race in which this was never treated as a marriage and there are a lot of people who think it’s just not going to have the same kind of stability over time.”
This strikes me as a weak defense. First, this rationale presumes that “marriage” is merely a legal contract between two parties — parties of the opposite sex. This diminishes the sacred aspect of marriage, which should be before God, not men. Is a long-term or lifetime loving commitment to one partner any less sacred without the legal blessing of man’s secular government?
Then, while Warren’s goal for his heterosexual members may be marriage, who is to say that that is the goal of any given member? Some people, of either sexuality, date with the objective of finding their soul mate. Others just like to date. It could also be said that some people, of either sexuality, remain faithful to their partners; others simply cannot. eHarmony cannot control, or predict, the actions of its members. After all, does everyone answer the questions, all of the questions, brutally honestly?
There is also the matter of the science. Why presume that the 29 areas of compatibility could be significantly different for homosexuals? Gays are not a different species; they’re subject to the same human psychology, whatever it is, as the rest of us. Why not at least try the same formula to see how effective it is?
If bringing together heterosexuals in successful marriages is satisfying (and eHarmony has decades to go before it can be determined if it has accomplished this), then how is uniting non-heterosexuals in equally committed relationships any less so? Even Warren seems uncomfortable with the Old Testament’s judgments and punishments.
But I digress, because I’m not gay, and I’ve not been married more than twice, yet eHarmony can’t help me. That’s probably because my answers indicated I’m in that other outcast category, “depressed.” In a way, this seems fair enough. A relationship with a person prone to depression is probably fraught with additional difficulties. Yet it doesn’t make sense to single out depression among the many emotional and physical disabilities that could complicate a relationship. For example, the questionnaire didn’t ask if I have visions of myself as a 13-year-old boy with Christ, like Naomi Wolf, but I imagine I’m a lot easier to get along with.
Then, too, there is the matter of misrepresentation. What if I were to go back and answer the questions in a less brutally honest way, if I were to represent myself as cheerful and optimistic? Would eHarmony find a perfect match for my altered persona, a happy, well-adjusted man who would find himself on a memorable first (and last) date with a brooding melancholic who is nothing like the smiling Stepford wife his profile called for?
Of course, there is always the concept that anyone who uses eHarmony should be an adult with eyes wide open. Take me, match me to someone who seems to be tolerant of a tendency to sadness. Let us, as adults, determine for ourselves if that is really true. If it is, wonderful. If it is not, then, like many others before us, single and married, we will end up parting, perhaps to try again with another. Surely there are depressed or sad people out there who have managed to have successful relationships — with or without eHarmony’s permission.
I suppose this means that eHarmony is not the perfect match for me after all.
Now if only I could have that half hour of my life, that “first date,” back.