To Marry or Not to Marry?

To Marry or Not to Marry?

There’s a fascinating story about professional matchmaking in the New York Times Magazine this week. What I found particularly interesting was the way that the matchmakers discussed in the piece profile their clients and make a match. It’s a lot like the way that top sales people and customer intelligence specialists operate.

As the piece shows, there are numerous problems that prevent people from finding an appropriate mate. One is that they are not exposed to enough potential spouses. (Their sample sizes are not large enough — or their samples are not appropriate.) Perhaps they work too many hours or they are too shy to go to parties. They don’t get out enough. Professional matchmakers keep a special database of possible mates that’s based on particular characteristics and profile elements. They have these people fill out a brief questionnaire and they rigorously interview them. The best matchmakers are very selective about who goes into the database.

Another problem that marriage hopefuls face is that they are not always a good judge of character. They choose to date people that may seem attractive at some level but turn out not to be good marriage material. Professional matchmakers, however, have experience — way more than the typical matchmaking client does. They’ve seen the patterns. They’ve seen the results associated with putting certain types of people together. In some respects, they know you better than you know yourself.

The final problem is that people cannot advise themselves. They just can’t be objective — or diligent — enough. It takes a matchmaker to play the role of coach and drive some sense into some people. Many have unrealistic expectations of their potential mates. It’s the matchmaker’s job to be tough — and drive clarity. One matchmaker mentioned in the piece even scolds her male clients who cannot make up their minds. She’ll say, ”Are you like a little boy in a candy store who can’t decide? Because I’m not here to provide candy. Do you want to get married or not?”’ Indeed, they pay tens of thousands of dollars for this type of treatment.

While some people may see hope in the Internet as a vehicle for matchmaking it turns out that many Net daters tend to lie on their questionnaires. and may not be able to effectively link you up if everyone is lying in cyberspace just to get laid. Unfortunately, this happens a lot. When the decision is as high stakes as the person you are going to marry, it may be worth the investment of $20K (plus a marriage bonus) to have some personal guidance and attention.

What struck me about this piece, however, was how much professional matchmaking runs in parallel to world-class selling. Sales people that are considered “eagles” tend to be as trustworthy (and well compensated) as professional matchmakers. Their enlightened self-interest lies not in persuading someone to buy, but rather, in making successful matches. They know their clients well and they also know what needs to happen to make them successful (and happy). Customer intelligence helps companies (and their people) make the right matches.

But here’s where the romantic types will resist. It’s not about magic. It’s not about love at first sight. Professional matchmakers think in rational and objective terms. “They have a finely honed ability to instantly classify people anthropologically, according to socioeconomic type, and pair them off accordingly,” states the article. “Behind this kind of matchmaking lies a deep distrust of romance, as we usually imagine the word. Matchmakers believe that people should stop their agonized search for soul mates. After all, a soul mate can be glimpsed in many inappropriate objects: the soul may be located in someone who is too young or too old or too poor or the wrong religion or a convicted felon who is married to your sister. Half of literature concerns the perils of falling for a soul mate: the Victorian heroine runs off with the gardener; Romeo decides he can’t live without the daughter of a family with whom his is feuding. And these tales always end badly, with disgrace and death, so that the normal order of society can be soberly restored.”

As with sales and marketing, the profession of matchmaking is becoming increasingly scientific and left-brain. And though intuition and experience are still important, the matchmaker’s primary weapon is not cupid’s arrow, but rather insight and analysis. Some might consider the new matchmaking a bloodlessly rational process. That may not fit the romantic fantasies of courting that we’ve always had.

The question is not: Do you want to Pursue Love Deliberately ? or Do you want to wait for Serendipity to knock on your door?.. The question is: “Do you want to get married or not?”

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