As most reality shows prove, particularly the much-maligned ABC show The Bachelor (and Bachelorette), finding the ideal mate (or true love) is not that easy — after 18 seasons of The Bachelor and 10 seasons of The Bachelorette only six couples are still together. (These lackluster results notwithstanding, The Bachelor’s fairly steady ratings can only confirm that America loves watching a drawn-out, globe-trotting emotional train wreck of epic proportions.) A more effective approach is to harness the broad reach and mindboggling (or should we say heartboggling?) data-crunching power of the internet to find true love. Online matchmaking sites differ from dating sites in that they attempt to mine their extensive data bases (considering critical variables like personality, beliefs, values, and emotional health, to name a few out of the list of 500) to find the most compatible person for its members. And unlike The Bachelor’s terrible track record, matchmaking sites are extremely effective. One of the most popular sites, eHarmony, was founded by Neil Clark Warren, a clinical psychologist and marriage counselor. In two decades, the site has racked up some impressive statistics: 33 million members from more than 150 countries, 15,000 people fill out a questionnaire each day, and an average of 542 members marry each day. Not that’s amore! In reviewing their extensive data, eHarmony claims “Not only are eHarmony couples 35% more likely than other married couples to report that they enjoy spending time together, but we found they are nearly twice as likely to report that their marriages are ‘extremely happy’ or better versus other recently married couples.” Take that Chris Harrison!
When it comes to romantic love, no one is more knowledgeable than Dr. Love, Dr. Helen Fisher (sorry Dr. Phil, and apologies to the late Dr. Leo Buscaglia). Fisher is a biological anthropologist, currently a member of the Center for Human Evolutionary Studies in the Department of Anthropology at Rutgers University, and chief scientific advisor for Chemistry.com (a matchmaking site that is a subsidiary of the popular dating site Match dot com). Fisher has published several books that focus on the fascinating (and perhaps even titillating) evolution of romantic love, human sexuality, and marriage and divorce. Fisher and her colleagues collected personality data from 523,000 members of Chemistry.com to arrive at some noteworthy conclusions about optimal mate attraction — especially those individuals who plan on joining the cast of The Bachelor or Bachelorette in the future. Fisher writes: “Preliminary analysis suggests that humans are attracted to those with complementary traits of temperament, data that suggests we are unconsciously drawn to individuals with whom we can create genetic variety in our offspring. I also collected personality data on 500 married couples (average length of marriage 16 years). These data suggest that humans also marry and breed with individuals who have an array of complementary, rather than similar, traits of temperament.” So there you have it — directly from the research of the love doctor.
The time has finally arrived, of course, to bury that old adage — “opposites attract” — and replace it with the more accurate truism “complementary people attract.” So remember that bit of wisdom when you hand out that “final rose.”
For further reading: Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love by Helen Fisher, Henry Holt (2004)