Thursday, October 14, 2010

Matchy Matchy?

This evening, I had to access my Gmail account, which I rarely ever use. And upon logging in, I found 280 profiles of men that eHarmony said would be a good match for me.

Yes, I have an eHarmony account. No, I am not a huge fan of online dating. And until tonight, I had forgotten that even had an active profile.

One week before I left for my European adventure, and one week after my 30th birthday, I decided that I needed to put myself out into the dating world, and a coupon-bargain price for eHarmony seemed like just the ticket. So late that Friday afternoon, I gathered my employees into my office, made them help me answer all of the questions, and within an hour, presto! I was live in the world of online dating, fresh with six “matches of compatibility.”

The next night I met a guy the old-fashioned way: at a party.

It’s the kind of universal karma I love: just when I feel the need to online date, the universe rewards me with not having to.

So we spent a wonderful Labor Day weekend together, and off I went to EuropeTraveling around romantic European locales while high on a new love interest can’t be beat. We texted, we chatted. It was fun and new and exciting. I came home and we had another fabulously wonderful weekend together.

And then we got to know each other a bit more. And turns out, we have very little in common. He is conservative, I am liberal. He is religious, I practice the dharma of “be nice to people.” He likes the suburbs, I live in the city. He’s up early, I sleep in.

But we have fun together, he holds my hand, and he makes me smile. And I kinda like him.

So as I logged on and quickly viewed a couple of the hundreds of Angeleno men who were “compatibility matched” for me by eHarmony – mostly liberal, “Other” religious, marathon runners - it made me wonder, “What really makes a good match for a relationship?” and, more importantly, “Is it better to date someone like you, or can opposites attract?”

Research tends to prove the former.

"People prefer their own kind," says J. Philippe Rushton, a psychologist at the University of Western Ontario. "Extroverts favor extroverts; traditionalists, traditionalists."

And in a recent study, researchers from Cornell University, Berkeley, and the University of Michigan concluded that, “Similarity is the rule and complimentarily is the exception.” They found that, “we are attracted to people who have similar attitudes and values because they validate what we believe, they are more likely to experience the same emotional reactions to the same situation, and they are more likely to react to the same situations in the same ways.”

And although one of the most expansive studies on the topic, performed at the University of Iowa and reported by the American Psychology Association, found that couples who had, “more in common personality-wise (agreeableness, anxiety levels, extroversion), as opposed to attitude-wise (religion, politics), were more likely to be very happy and satisfied with their marriages,” people generally tend to be with those who are “similar in attitudes, religion and values.” 

So where does that leave me? I have never dated someone with such opposing views. But I also think it could make things interesting (and for this, I would be in the majority: a recent article in the journal Evolutionary Psychology found that 85.7 percent of participants claim to want someone who has their opposite traits).

Outside of all of the academia, I think I tend to agree more with marriage and family therapist Isadora Alman’s position that the bigger question should be not “are we compatible?” but, “how good are you at negotiating?” and “how invested are you in always getting your own way?" These questions, she believes, are far better predictors of a happy time together. 

If both parties can respect the others’ views and be okay with the differences - then there is a good chance things could work out. And if not, then it would probably be too much of a challenge.

And I am an optimist - and he’s so very cute, and we do have a couple of other very important things in common, like country music, college football and … other things. So I in for giving it a whirl. And I will be sure to give him the space he needs to watch Fox News in private.


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