Mike Kueber's Blog

February 12, 2012

eHarmony

Filed under: Culture — Mike Kueber @ 2:22 pm
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This Sunday’s edition of the New York Times included a fascinating article on eHarmony.  Although the article’s title – Online Dating Sites Don’t Match Hype – suggests a broad review of all sites, the article actually focuses on those sites that use “matching algorithms” to match you with potential dates who have been “prescreened for deep compatibility with you across 29 dimensions.”  The only site that does that is eHarmony, although there are apparently several other obscure sites that make similar scientific-sounding claims – Chemistry, PerfectMatch and GenePartner make similar scientific-sounding claims.

The Times article is written by two college psychology professors, and their two main criticisms of eHarmony are:

  1. Despite its lengthy Relationship Questionnaire, eHarmony fails to collect information that is critical to predicting the success of relationships, things like communication patterns, problem-solving tendencies, and sexual compatibility.
  2. Compatibility on psychological variables like personality doesn’t predict the success relationships.  A 2010 study revealed that “similarity on the major dimensions of personality accounted for a mere 0.5% of how satisfied spouses were with their marriage – leaving the other 99.5% to other factors.”

For a final measure of pessimism, the article warns that even solid relationships can be threatened by factors like job loss, financial strain, infertility, or illness.  But the article concludes with a backhanded compliment:

  • None of this suggests that online dating is any worse a method of meeting potential romantic partners than meeting in a bar or on the subway. But it’s no better either.”

The popularity of eHarmony suggests that there are millions of people who disagree.  In fact, I have a friend who swears by eHarmony, even though he thinks 29 dimensions is way too complicated.  His ideal woman, who he found three years ago, is an unabashed conservative, loves watching sports, enjoys alcohol, and is frugal.  

His methodology sounds simple, but for the fun of it, I decided to complete eHarmony’s Relationship Questionnaire.  More than an hour later it told me the following:

  • Regarding the Agreeableness dimension, I can best be described as, “Taking care of others and taking care of yourself.” 

You are important. So are other people, especially if they are in trouble. You have a tender heart, but you know how to establish and keep personal boundaries. You are empathetic and compassionate, but you also believe that it’s best if people solve their own problems and learn to take care of themselves, if they are able.

You are deeply moved by the needs of others, but you know that if you don’t take good care of yourself, you’ll wind up being of no use to anyone. So yours is a thoughtful compassion. You strive to be fair and sensible, taking care of others while also taking care of yourself.

When someone really is in trouble, you like to collaborate with them toward a solution; they do their part, you do yours. You consider carefully, and respond in a sensible way; they do their part, and together you move through the difficulty.

You seldom act impulsively; rather, when a problem arises, you take your time to think through the situation. This contemplative quality usually means that you’ll arrive at a diplomatic solution, one that’s fair for the other person and also fair to you. It’s frequently a win/win situation.

  • Regarding the Openness dimension, I am “sometimes curious, sometimes content.” 

Like someone who can sleep comfortably on either side of the bed, you are equally at home with ideas and beliefs that you have held for a long time and with new ways of thinking and believing that grow out of your intellectual curiosity.

Your sense of who you are and what your place is in the world around you rests on values and principles that are the solid ground you walk upon. You’ve tested them, they work for you, and much of the time you are content to trust them, that is, until some provocative new idea slips in from a conversation, book or some flight of your active imagination. “Hmmmm. What’s this. Never thought of it before.” And off you go, exploring.

Since you love to learn, you’ve always been teachable; you absorb new information, which means you are well-educated in things that matter to you. Sometimes your intellectual exploring will lead you back to where you started; the “next new thing” proves too shallow or impractical to you. But once in a while a new idea or belief will dislodge you from the ground you’ve stood upon; it is so compelling and persuasive that you step away from the tried-and-true and embrace this notion that is brand new to you.

Because you hold both solid beliefs and are open to new ideas, you are accepting of other people and other ways of thinking and believing. You are flexible enough to listen to something new and different, or something outside of your comfort zone; if it works for you, you’ll take it in, and if not, you’ll let it go. In this sense, you know who you are: you are neither closed-minded nor wildly open-minded, but walk somewhere near the middle of the intellectual road.

  • Regarding Emotional Stability, I am “steady.”

When emotions get topsy-turvy, most of the time you keep your feet on solid ground. When some of your friends lose control of their feelings, you are able to stay relaxed and even. It’s not that you’re cold-hearted or without feelings. On the contrary; you can be fun-loving. You hurt when a friend is in pain or is in trouble.

You might cry occasionally at a movie, or when watching a particularly touching story on the evening news. But in moments of emotional pleasure, or when troubling feelings rise up within you or around you, you keep yourself together.

Here’s a fundamental truth about you: when it comes to your emotional world, you are certain and constant, not flapping around and out of control. It’s a good thing because life will come at you, as it comes at all of us, with emotional surprises. We all hit hard times, or get caught off guard, or feel a sudden swell of fear or joy or anger or sadness.

Once in a while you’ll get caught up in the feelings of one of these moments. You get silly, maybe too silly, with your friends. You wake up in the dark, or run into dark thoughts, and find yourself afraid of . . . of something, though you’re not quite sure of what. The sadness around you creeps inside you and you feel “down” for a while, but you push your way through it. “Think”, you say to yourself. “Stay calm, and figure out a way to cope”. Soon, you’re relaxed and together again, your feet are once more on solid ground, and your emotions are under control.

  • Regarding Conscientiousness, I am “focused.”

Everybody knows they can count on you to do what you promise to do, be where you say you’ll be “on time” and finish what you start. If you say you’ll chair the committee, you’ll come with an agenda and a clear outline of the tasks to be accomplished, give everyone a chance to speak their minds, and then call for a vote on each issue, schedule the next meeting, hand out assignments and adjourn at the appointed time.

You like order and discipline, and use these to methodically accomplish whatever goals you have set for yourself and for others. And you have a strong sense of obligation if you accept responsibility, you are proactive; you take it on with a single-minded commitment, as if you’ve pledged your allegiance to the assigned task. People know that they can depend on you.

Your personal life is also one of order and discipline. You are likely to have a pretty firm schedule, and to stick to it. You make time for your friends, but not at the expense of your work duties. You can be talkative and funny in social situations, but seldom out of control.

In fact, you are pretty careful; you seldom, if ever, cross the line into impulsive behavior, and you are even careful to control how much of your inner world you disclose, even to your close friends. You keep yourself in check because you don’t want whatever mess might be inside you to leak out into conversation or make a mess of a relationship.

There are things to accomplish in life, both at work and in your social world, and you don’t want to let unnecessary clutter hamper your drive to get all of it done, and done well.

  • When it comes to extraversion, I am “sometimes outgoing, sometimes reserved.”

Lucky you! You enjoy your own company as much as you enjoy the company of others. You are a great conversationalist and thrive in the wonderful kinds of connections you know how to have with your family and friends. You also equally enjoy your own company, whether sitting in a favorite chair with your book and soft music playing or meandering in the woods by yourself. You like coming home to your family or your roommate; but if no one is home, you find quiet, solitary time to be just as pleasurable. What a great combination to enjoy being outgoing and to be just as comfortable being reserved. Lucky you!!

Because you are so amiable and relaxed, you are comfortable with almost any group of family or friends. Whether they are pumped up and lively or calm and subdued, you remain at ease. If someone needs to take over the conversation, you are comfortable taking the lead; you can also lay back and let someone else be in charge. If the conversation gets rowdy, your moderate demeanor will often draw it down to a more temperate level. If someone in the group loses their cool, you will most likely maintain your poise, and if they get nasty you know how to keep a civil tongue.

You may find yourself out of balance on occasion. If you’re alone too much, you may need to get in touch with someone. If you spend too much time with your family and friends, you may need to sneak off for a day by yourself, to putter and read and clear your head of the noise of too much conversation. When you’re at your best, you live with a rhythm of time with others, time alone, time with others, time alone It’s a satisfying, comfortable balance. Lucky you!

I suspect that most people get similarly positive analyses.

When I took a quick peak at my seven eHarmony matches (no photos w/o a subscription), I didn’t see anyone jump out at me.  Most of them were older than me.  I suppose there aren’t many 40ish girls looking online for a 58-year-old guy.  But back in the insurance industry, we used to say that no one went to college looking for a career in insurance.  Nevertheless, the insurance industry managed to attract a lot of talented people.

Guess I will rely on meeting my soulmate on the subway.

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4 Comments »

  1. Guess I will rely on meeting my soulmate on the subway.

    They have subways in Texas?

    You could always start a blog, I suppose…

    Comment by Anonymous — February 12, 2012 @ 2:56 pm | Reply

  2. As a matter of fact, Texas doesn’t have subways. Maybe that’s why I’m having a hard time finding a soulmate. Perhaps I need to move to NYC to find her. My erstwhile soulmate and I would love visiting NYC and spend much of the day on the subway.

    Comment by Mike Kueber — February 12, 2012 @ 3:34 pm | Reply

  3. Right.

    Because there’s nothing like the smell of urine to make romance bloom…

    Comment by Anonymous — February 13, 2012 @ 4:48 am | Reply


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