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Matchmaker, matchmaker, e-mail a match


August 7, 2001

Online dating services usually go something like this:

She: I like fresh-picked strawberries. Long walks on the beach. Puppy dogs. And I want six children.

He: She sounds hot.

They correspond, e-mailing back and forth a few times before deciding to meet at Starbucks, hoping for love over lattes. But despite the initial mutual attraction, they break up when it's discovered he really only wants three children. And hates strawberries.

"At the very least, the public has a very skeptical view on dating services," says Neil Clark Warren, founder of a dating service. No, not a dating service, a "relationship building service."

Last year, Clark launched eharmony.com, where participants must qualify for membership via psychological profiling based on 250 characteristics.

Warren is a clinical psychologist and author of books like "Finding the Love of Your Life" and "How to Know if Someone Is Worth Pursuing in Two Dates or Less."

He's conducted more than 120 seminars and appeared on 4,000 radio and TV programs, including "Oprah" and "Geraldo."

He's been counseling the attached and unattached for 30-plus years.

And he's been married for 42 years. His parents were married for 70 years. And all three of his daughters are happily married.

He loves love. And he wanted to create something different from the usual "dating" and "matching" services.

There are four steps in the eharmony process. First, users fill out a questionnaire on a range of topics, including attitudes, values and beliefs.

Next, eharmony creates a pool of compatible candidates using an "innovative patent-pending matching engine" which involves software created by Warren and a team of experts in psychology.

Once a match has been chosen, you begin a "safe, guided and anonymous communication." This involves a five-stage process equaling, Warren says, six to 10 dates totaling about eight hours online. "It's not just looking at a picture and calling someone up for a date that night," says Warren.

Finally, users can continue their relationship without the watchful eye of eharmony -- though it promises to "always be there to help with our educational resources and expert forums on important topics."

Cost of the service ranges from $49.95 for one month to $299 for a year.

Although anyone can log onto eharmony and get the results of a personality profile, not everyone will qualify for matching.

"We ask about 20 percent of the applicants to drop out of the process," said Warren.

After getting the results of my profile, I realize why I'm still single.

"You like being in the front and having the spotlight. As a result, if not on center stage, you may sulk." Also: "You have a natural enthusiasm for the activities you prefer." Sounds good. But "because of your enthusiasm, you may forget that others have different wants and needs."

As for my communication skills: I tend to be a "selective listener." And my "high ego traits coupled with impatience may have others read (me) as arrogant at times."

"It all starts with having a real sense of who you are," says Warren. "If you get to know yourself well, you have a much better chance of picking the right person."

While answering the relationship questions, I also established a "pattern of basic subconscious wants." These include activities involving contact with many people, equal relations with others, an audience to entertain and popularity.

My first match is Peter. His profile reads: "The one thing Peter is most passionate about: self-improving, helping orphans, and stock markets."

You have to hand it to eharmony: It is thorough. Warren even admits that some of its practices are "sexist." For instance, according to Warren, it matches men with women who are up to 10 percent older and 20 percent younger, while it matches women with men who are up to 10 percent younger and 20 percent older.

It's what people want. Don't blame the matchmakers.

The other day, Joe — the eharmony customer care guy — sent me an e-mail. He noticed that I'd been matched with four potential partners but hadn't communicated with any of them. "Your current matches have been selected for you from tens of thousands of candidates. We looked at who you are and found matches that are extremely compatible with your personality. ... This is a great opportunity and I would hate for you to miss it because you had questions or needed help."

Hmm, I wonder if Joe's single?

By JANELLE ERLICHMAN, THE WASHINGTON POST, Copyright © The Modesto Bee.


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