In the world of Internet Dating eHarmony bills itself as the "#1 trusted relationship site" and boasts of an average marriage rate of 236 per day by its subscribers. What allows them to make this claim and is it a valid claim? That varies extensively by viewpoint for both users and outside observers.
Profiles & Matching
The premise behind what differentiates eHarmony from other sites is that it bases its matching function on psychological profiles rather than on a laundry list of "I wants." Rather than fill out a profile and have your matchlist fit a slew of criteria you check off, you are first required to answer a bevy of questions about yourself. This aids the selection process by determining what the best personality matches for the subscribers are based on psychological data rather than simple "tall, dark and handsome." This makes perfect sense considering if the subscribers had all the necessary skills to choose the perfect mate without a little assistance they would not be signing up in the first place.
What are the pluses that eHarmony offers? The profile process, while daunting, weeds out those that are not serious and really delves into who you are as a person. The hour it takes to fill out the questionnaire is spent answering questions on everything from conflict resolution to child rearing. There is nary a stone left unturned in screen after screen of self-analysis. This results in matching with people that are psychologically suited to you, the yin to your yang, and who have a similar life view. The site is not designed to encourage random searching that would pair you with a partner who is not suitable. As you would expect with a site that is based on promoting real relationships and fostering marriage safety is high and communication is easy, but controlled. Unlike some sites, one isn't inundated with live chat messages that aren't welcome. The "Reports" section is something unique, and I found the evaluations of my personality to be spot on. The "Can't Stand" and "Must Have" categories are written pretty well and encompass most of the aspects that are sticking points for people.
The drawbacks of eHarmony run the gamut from subtle and slightly irritating to glaringly obvious. While the "Can't Stand" and "Must have" categories are amusing and effective adding the option of having just one write in line for each category would increase their usefulness greatly. The default settings on the matching process are not the easiest to find compared to other sites and the ranges they are set to, especially for age, seem a bit old fashioned; with the male to female range going from only three years younger to 15 years older. This leads into the most glaring issues with the site; the rejection factors and the complete exclusion of gays and lesbians from the site. The site routinely rejects potential subscribers after they have spent an hour filling out the questionnaire without offering a reason. It also excludes those that have been married four times, the ones who probably need the most help. And eHarmony has absolutely no matching for the homosexual man or woman in quest of their perfect life partner.
Overall, the positives far outweigh the negatives on eHarmony. And after settling a New Jersey lawsuit there will be a gay and lesbian version of the site as of March 31, 2009, Compatible Partners. The conservativeness of the site is plainly visible in many of the selection options and to my knowledge is the only major site that has a "saving oneself for marriage" category. The basis of matching based on the most extensive questionnaire available on a sizeable dating site emphasizes the difference of eHarmony, the goal of the site, and its soon to be initiated sister site, is finding a long-term partner and it seems to do very well at doing that.
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