Online Matchmakers Do the Math—but Does It Add Up for You?

By Josie Brown

pic1Your favorite color is yellow. You’d rather have a cat than a dog. You hum along to country music, and you’re darn tootin’ proud of that fact.Do any of these preferences make you less date worthy?

Well, that depends—on the methodology being used by your dating service du juer. All, one, or none of your quirkyalone traits may trigger red flags that, according to its statistics, indicate a turn-off to some prospective Mr. Right.

In an era when psychographic statistical data is the primary determinant for everything we buy, use, and desire, demographists, behaviorists, and other social statisticians were bound to get into the dating game as well. has the University of Washington/Seattle sociologist, Pepper Schwartz. has Rutgers University anthropologist Helen Fisher. And then there’s eHarmony, which boasts an eight-year track record—not to mention 120 weddings a day, over the past year—for its 29 core trait/258-question personality quiz, developed by USC psychologist Galen Buckwalter.

Professional matchmaking services think they have the stats on the lovelorn. But is attraction a matter of statistics, or is it a leap of faith?

This leads us to an even bigger question:

How do you know if your monthly tithe to your current online dating service is getting you a good return on your investment?

Maybe it’s time for you to do some math, too. Put these four factors into your mating equation:

Factor #1: The questionnaire asks too many questions.
Granted, an honest analysis of your likes and dislikes, your needs and desires, is important if you want to find a lasting relationship. But when does the emotional probing cross the line?
In real life, there are very few Trues and Falses, and many more “that’s true—but only when…”

Life is not black and white, but filled gray matter. It’s not just psychographic, but psychedelic. Not every situation can be determined by a questionnaire. Can reactions be statistically predicted? Sure. But in some cases—the most important instances—our reactions aren’t planned, but impulsive.

That said, if you find yourself in questionnaire burn-out (you know, where your eyes are crossing, and you’re marking just any answer to end the process), then this is not the right online service for you.

Factor #2: The questionnaire asks too many stupid questions.
Why do they want to you your grandma’s middle name? Does it really matter that you didn’t have your first kiss until your sophomore year in high school? Unless you feel comfortable with the dating service’s process and questions, you’ll always be second-guessing whether an answer you’ve given has somehow lessened your chance at true love. Here’s the correct answer: No. (As in, no, this is not the dating service for you.)

Factor #3: You haven’t been totally honest with your answers.
Answer paralysis is common. What if you mark the wrong answer, or don’t express yourself the right way?

And if you think those little white lies won’t matter (you know: about your age, your previous marital status, or any other indicators as to why you’ve been unlucky in love), think again: eventually they will catch up with you.

Like, during those face-to-face meetings with your prospective dates.

So, do yourself (and your dating service, not to mention your dates) a favor: be as honest as possible. It will save everyone involved a lot of time, not to mention a lot of money.

Factor #4: So far, there have been more misses than hits.
What you can expect from a paid online dating service is quantity. A great dating service gives you both quantity and quality. A lousy dating service gives you neither. And since no one can predict the affairs of the heart, your best bet is to a) try each for a while; b) frequently use the one that gives you the best results (again, quantity and quality); and c) date many men, so that you have many choices.

Remember, it’s a numbers game, so play all odds.

More SMW Relationship Advice

Keith Ablow on “Carbon Copy Men”

When Grief Steals Your Love

How to Survive a Break Up with Your Best Friend