How it Works

eHarmony matches people based on their compatibility in, as the radio ads say, 29 categories, chosen based on a fairly extensive study and their founder's clinical experience. The eHarmony web site is a bit short on details of the matching algorithm, but Neil Clark Warren--their shrink-founder and spokeshead--provides more in a slightly overpriced book: Falling in Love for All the Right Reasons. I make fun of it and him only for effect; it's not bad reading.

eHarmony's 29 dimensions are as follows:

  • Screening Dimensions: good character (honesty and trustworthiness); good self-conception (liking and understanding yourself); absence of red flags (addictions, lying, cheating); anger management (neither blowing up nor being passive aggressive); obstreperousness (being a psycho anatomical euphemism); understandings about family (kids? no kids?); family background (can you get along with the inlaws?).
    The other dimensions are negotiable, although most should match; these "screening" dimensions should not be negotiable.
  • Core Personal Dimensions: intellect, energy level, spirituality, education, appearance, sense of humor, mood management, traditional vs. nontraditional personality, ambition, sexual drive, artistic passion, values, industriousness, curiosity, vitality vs. security, autonomy vs. closeness.
    These are qualities that are almost impossible to change. The particular score doesn't matter--you needn't be Super Smart, for instance--but most of them should match; if you're Super Smart, your partner should be, too.
  • Skills that can be developed: communication, conflict resolution, sociability.
  • Qualities that can be developed: adaptibility, kindness, dominance vs. submissiveness.
Flagging any of the first five "screening" dimensions in eHarmony's online test automatically knock you out of the matching database: marriage isn't the way to fix depression, anger, or addiction. I suspect that this is the source of scuzzy's experience; I got the same message a couple of years ago when I was rather depressed.

Not feeling quite ready for Actual Commitment, I haven't yet used eHarmony seriously. I was impressed, though, when I re-joined this last year and filled out the profile: there are some amazing young women out there, hiding. Someday, when the time is right, I'll find one.