Online Dating

Why on Earth Does eHarmony Offer Real-Life Matchmakers?

When it comes to online dating, we're often our own worst enemies. On the Internet, it's easy to be rigidly selective – to rule out anyone who lives more than 10 miles away, for example, or is shorter than 6'1, isn't vegan, is vegan etc. – thus missing out on some potentially great matches.

Love isn't a science, after all.

The above is a familiar argument, mostly made by individuals staunchly against online dating, those men and women hell-bent on meeting the "natural way." It's rarely, however, a line of reasoning you'll hear from online dating sites, whose core business lies in convincing people that love, in fact, can be solved by an algorithm, and that in our messy world, a high compatibility percentage is a good foundation on which to build a lasting relationship.

It's strange, then, that eHarmony -- one of the biggest online dating sites around -- is essentially admitting that, when it comes to love, an algorithm will only take you so far.

Related: EHarmony Wants to Find You a Job

This past November, the company introduced a service called eH+, which sets users up not by algorithm, but through a flesh-and-blood matchmaker or "personal relationship coach."

The service – which rings in at a very hefty $5,000 a year, compared with the site's average annual fee of $700 -- provides users with a matchmaker, typically a licensed psychologist, tasked with sorting through suitable online profiles that the computer, for whatever reason, would have likely skipped over, The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday.

With the introduction of this service, eHarmony is conceding that its much-touted compatibility ratings, based on a 200+ questionnaire users fill out when they sign up for the site, has its limitations. People still "fail out of eHarmony," Grant Langston, eHarmony's vice president, told the Journal. “They use it, and it doesn’t appear to work for them.”

In general, Langston explained, this is because people are too restrictive when it comes to dating preferences, telling the computer to reject all individuals who aren't athletic/'foodies'/dog-lovers etc., which results in the filtering out of otherwise great matches who lack one or two preferred traits.

Related: New Dating App Startup Aims to Be the 'Thinking Person's Tinder'

The matchmaker's job, then, is to essentially act as a hand-holder, advocating for -- and opening lines of communication with -- suitable candidates their clients would otherwise reject.

But as the WSJ notes, instead of introducing an offline matchmaking service, couldn't eHarmony simply improve its algorithm, alerting two users, for example, that they are highly compatible save for their taste in movies and exercise routines?

According to Langston, people's preferences are often too complex and too subtle for an algorithm to accurately read or even pick up on. “People don’t know themselves a lot of the time,” he told the outlet. “The preferences they’re using may be sabotaging their goals.”

The lesson here is twofold. First, apparently when it comes to love, we don't always know what we want. And second, for all those online daters out there: instead of forking over $5,000 for an offline matchmaker, consider widening your preferences on your dating profile.

Related: HowAboutWe's Founders Redefine Online Dating -- And What It Means to Be a CEO