Read an Excerpt
A Match Is Just a Click Away
Michael: Falling in love for all the right reasons was turning out to be a real chore. Straightening up in my chair, I ran a hand through a thatch of hair and contemplated the bluish glow emanating from my PowerBook. The eight-hundred-pound gorilla in the cyber world of online dating, eHarmony.com, couldn’t wait to match me with the woman of my dreams, but getting to the altar was taking some time. No sooner would I finish clicking my responses to one set of questions when another fresh set would leap before me.
“Please use the scale below to rate how well you believe each of the following words generally describes you,” the screen directed. In the left-hand column, fifteen adjectives were listed, including these four:
All I had to do was click a number on a scale of 1 to 7 with 1 being “not at all” and 7 meaning “very much so.” Let’s see…content…I’m pretty contented these days. That’s a 6. Humorous? People do say I’m funny. I’m going to give myself a 7. Efficient. Can’t say I’m a world-record holder in that department…better give myself a 2. Am I a perfectionist? That’s an easy call—not in the least. I’ll take a 1. And so it went. But after a half hour of point and click, I was only onethird of the way through eHarmony.com’s self-personality test. The electronic information gathering was getting more interesting, though. On one screen page, I was asked to rate myself on another 1 to 7 scale regarding the following statements:
• “I enjoy mingling with people on social occasions.”
• “I like reading everything I can about a subject.”
• “I have a high desire for sexual activity.”
Oh yeah, I’m a 7 on all of those! Ninety minutes later, I finished answering the last of 436 questions. I sent my completed eHarmony.com profile into cyberspace, where a massive server churned my reams of personal information for several nanoseconds, seeking to match me in twenty-nine areas of compatibility with the millions of eHarmony.com ladies in its database.
Several minutes later, some very good news was waiting for me in my in box. I had some matches! An eHarmony.com e-mail informed me that five totally foxy women were waiting to hear from me, but before I could see what they looked like or read their profiles, a little business had to be contracted: a payment of $49.95, which would give me access to eHarmony’s little black book for the next month. At that point, my research was over, since I’m a married man. In addition, the knowledge that my wife, Amy, would do a “John Bobbitt” on me for following through on that step was more than enough incentive to let things go with eHarmony.com.
Amy: If you don’t know who John Bobbitt is, just Google his name. I’m glad Michael wandered through the garden of online dating, though, which these days is more like the size of Central Park than a backyard plot. According to the research firm Pew Internet, 11 percent of all American, Internet-using adults—about sixteen million people—say they have gone to a dating Web site or another site where they can meet people online, making online dating one of the most lucrative Web businesses out there.1 (Unfortunately, porn is probably number one, but those revenue figures are hard to track.) In addition, men and women are meeting each other through community Web sites like MySpace.com, Friendster.com, Facebook.com, and Bebo.com, which are free services that use the Internet for communication through an interactive network of photos, chat rooms, Weblogs, and user profiles.
The more serious-minded gravitate toward online dating sites to find a perfect match rather than just a date, and some serious matching has gone on: Pew Internet said that 26 percent of American adults—fifty-three million people—have gone on a date with a person they met through a dating site. About two million Americans have met their spouses through online dating, according to a Wall Street Journal article.
The explosive rise in online dating has sparked some interesting ancillary Web sites. VerifiedPerson.com tracks age, residence, criminal record, and marital status of people you’re interested in. DontDateHimGirl.com provides women with a forum—including a place to post pictures and an easy-to-use, searchable database—to share their experiences with men who have allegedly cheated. And LookBetterOnline.com lets you put your best foot—uh, face—forward by linking you with a local photographer who can provide professional, date-stamped portraits for your dating profile. Looking your best for Mr. Right or Ms. Right has swelled to a fivehundred- million dollar industry, with most of the action happening at online dating companies like eHarmony.com and Match.com as well as hundreds of rudimentary “post-a-picture” sites. Once seen as the refuge of the semi-desperate, online dating is more than a trend—it’s here to stay.
Singles have discovered a brave new world where boy-meets-girl is no longer limited by the boundaries of geography. In cyberspace, a match is just a click away.
Michael: The online dating site that intrigues me the most is eHarmony .com, founded by Neil Clark Warren, who has a doctorate in psychology and was once dean of Fuller Theological Seminary’s graduate school of psychology. Anyone who watches cable TV is sure to have seen one of his folksy pitches for eHarmony.com. I smile each time I see one of those brightly lit commercials because I knew Neil Clark Warren before he was known as Neil Clark Warren. Back in the 1980s and early 1990s, Dr. Warren wrote several books in the same vein as my father, Gary Smalley—self-help titles like Finding the Love of Your Life and Date…or Soul Mate? How to Know If Someone Is Worth Pursuing in Two Dates or Less. Like my father, Dr. Warren was a frequent guest on the Focus on the Family radio broadcast, batting ideas back and forth with Dr. James Dobson on how listeners could find the right mates, improve their communication skills, and build marriages that last.
Then the World Wide Web brought the Internet to the masses in the latter half of the 1990s, and the entrepreneurial Dr. Warren and his investors (who included my father), jumped into the dotcom craze with an idea that actually worked. Since its debut in 2000, eHarmony.com has become such a financial and cultural success that Jay Leno parodied Neil Clark Warren by wearing a wig in a Tonight Show skit: “Turns out that Saddam Hussein is a neat freak who likes to eat Doritos and Cheetos all day,” joked Leno. “At least, that’s what he said on his profile for eHarmony.com.”
The buzzword you hear about online dating these days is compatibility, which is promoted as the key to success in a long-term relationship. With a warm and encouraging demeanor, Dr. Warren reminds TV viewers that eHarmony.com creates compatible matches based on twenty-nine dimensions proven to predict happier, healthier relationships. The happiest couples, he says, tend to have similar levels of intelligence, energy, and ambition, and they clearly enjoy doing things together. I nod my head in agreement, but only up to a point. Sure, compatibility is great. Who would want to spend the rest of his or her life with someone who doesn’t share similar outlooks, desires, and tastes? Where Amy and I part ways with the online dating world is with the notion that all you need to succeed in love is to sprinkle the pixie dust of compatibility in the relationship and you’re a match.
Wrong! Compatibility is not the most important element to a successful relationship. Every person should enter a dating relationship with as much knowledge and skill as possible, and then continue on the same path of gaining more wisdom and understanding. Unfortunately, some people scroll through a list of matches and create images in their minds, and rarely do those images match up with reality.
Amy: What these online dating services overlook is that finding a compatible person is far easier than mastering what it takes to make a relationship work long term. Compatibility is the easy part; learning how to love is the more difficult task. Compatibility doesn’t mean happiness. What are some things that couples need to master before they are truly compatible? I believe couples on the road to marriage must learn how to communicate, how to forgive, how to get rid of anger, how to create safety in their relationships, and how to resolve conflict. That’s why Michael and I are writing More Than a Match. We want to teach couples how to arrive at win-win solutions for the issues threatening to divide them. When you really like someone—someone you think you may marry— it’s imperative that you ask the big questions. Many times couples in a relationship assume they know all the big questions to ask. Our encouragement to you is, don’t let any of these questions fall through the cracks.
A third party can help guide your discussion, possibly seeing areas of weakness you might miss. Michael and I know that More Than a Match cannot be that third party, but we can guarantee that you will be far better prepared to answer many of the biggies if you stay with us throughout the pages of this book.
From the Hardcover edition.