I've spent nearly my entire life trying to help people develop better relationships. I've been particularly passionate about trying to improve the state of marriages, finding keys that will unlock the doors to marital bliss for everyone I meet.
When we began eHarmony, we didn't want to be merely another "Internet dating service," many of which had all sorts of stigmas and negative connotations attached to them. We intended right from the beginning to be a "relationship-building resource." In fact, we made it quite clear: "If you're not seriously looking for a long-term involvement, don't waste your time or money on eHarmony." Our stated goal was to not simply provide people with matches, introducing them and putting them in touch with each other inside a "safe" environment; we wanted to match two people in the best possible relationship that would culminate in a happy and fulfilled marriage for a lifetime.
Early on, we were advised by friends and competitors alike to avoid the "M" word. "Nobody wants to talk about marriage," they said. A top CEO from one of the largest online dating services in the world gave me a friendly warning before we launched our Web site. "I would advise you, don't talk about the M-word (marriage)," he said, "because that will push singles away." Moreover, he also told us, "Nobody is going to take a 430-some-item questionnaire. If your questionnaire takes more than twenty minutes to complete," he said, "you are doomed to fail. People simply won't take the time to finish it."
He was essentially saying: "We don't think the majority of people out there are serious enough about finding a marriage partner that they will take the time to think carefully through the questionnaire and do what you are asking them to do."
I disagreed. I said, "1 don't believe that. Almost all singles would like to be married—if they could be married well, if they could be matched with and be married happily to the person with whom they have the broadest base of compatibility."
Rather than avoiding the "M-word," I instructed our eHarmony staff, "Talk about marriage. Talk about how to have a great marriage. Talk about finding your soul mate for life. That is what people fundamentally want."
Soul mate? What's a soul mate?
When I first began using the term, some groups worried that I had morphed from a respected psychologist into a new age guru of some sort. But after thousands of hours of research, we discovered that "soul mate" was not only a universal term to which everyone can relate, but that everyone is looking for a soul mate when considering a person for a long-term match.
"Soul mate" is not a spooky term shrouded in mystery or a concept that we need to be wary of because of some perceived cultish connection or weird religious connotations. At eHarmony when we speak of soul mates, we are talking about two people who enjoy broad-based compatibility; they fit together.
A soul mate is to his or her soul mate as a Mercedes Benz automobile door is to the Mercedes auto frame. They fit together perfectly; they match. You wouldn't want to put a Chrysler door on a Mercedes car; you wouldn't even want to put a Cadillac, Lexus, or a BMW door on the Mercedes body. Although each one may be a marvelous door in its own right, it would not be the perfect match for the Mercedes automobile.
Similarly, there are many men and women "out there" who might be compatible, who might offer some measure of safety or security, who may be able to shield each other from the heat or the cold to some degree, or keep the rain from falling on one another, but they are not ideal matches for each other. When you find the person with whom you can have the most genuine harmony on the twenty-nine dimensions of a good relationship, you have found your soul mate.
For instance, Linda and Ben have similar intelligence levels. That is one important operational aspect of being soul mates. They also match well in their work ethics, both having grown up in rural north- eastern industrial towns. They are both extremely affectionate, which would lead, they could assume, to a similar level of sexual passion; they are both high-energy people, extremely goal-oriented and ambitious. They love to exercise together, but they are equally comfortable basking in the sun on a white-sand beach. Their list of similarities is long and full, and they match well in many of the essential twenty-nine dimensions. Equally important, they have no major problems such as character disorders or depression. In only a few areas are they dissimilar. For instance, Linda loves working with numbers, while Ben is more of an artist.
Ben and Linda also have spiritual orientations that overlap; they are compatible when it comes to their belief in God and their understanding about how he works in the world and in their lives. The spiritual dimension of a good relationship is an area that is often overlooked, to the couple's eventual displeasure. In an interview with well-known Los Angeles talk show host Dennis Prager, I mentioned that spiritual compatibility is one of the important elements in a good relationship, and it is one of the most difficult to analyze. Just because two people are both "spiritual" does not mean they match. Their spiritual understanding and desires may be worlds apart. On the other hand, after matching thousands of men and women, I've seen extremely few soul mates who were not matched in the spiritual dimension.
All in all, Linda and Ben enjoy a broad-based compatibility. If their personal chemistry matches and they continue to pursue the relationship, I would not be surprised to find them enjoying a happy marriage together for years to come. That is my sincere desire for every person who wants to be well matched and married.