Founder of eHarmony’s Advice on Marriage

Like every father, Neil Clark Warren worried about whether each of his three daughters would marry the right guy. But not every father turns that concern into a billion-dollar matchmaking business.

As a clinical psychologist and theologian for nearly 40 years, Warren had counseled thousands of couples who couldn’t get along. He was a front-row witness to what he calls the horror of divorce. Statistics painted a bleak picture for his girls.

“Half the people who get married in America are ending up divorced, and of those who stay together, half say they’re not very happy,” Warren notes. How could he help them beat the odds?

To find out why marriages failed, Warren conducted over 500 “divorce autopsies,” interviewing the former spouses, their children and even their parents. The big surprise was that rifts in the relationship had roots far earlier than expected: “We found that over 70 percent of the couples indicated that they were in pretty deep trouble when they first married.”

Warren wondered how he could help people do a better job at selecting a mate. He decided to administer a series of standard tests to 5,000 married people to assess their compatibility. After a rigorous statistical analysis, he says, “we ended up with 800 really solid subjects. We had 200 people in the very happily married category, 200 who were pretty happy but not totally, 200 who were not very happy at all but not ready to quit, and 200 in the very discouraged group.”

Warren then compared the very happily married people with the very discouraged group and struck gold: The two groups had significantly different answers in 29 categories. He hypothesized that if he could bring together people with similar responses in those categories — which include curiosity, intellect, appearance, sexual passion, sense of humor, anger management, self-perception, spirituality and values — the likelihood they’d find the ideal partner would soar.

In the late 1990s, online dating was in its infancy. “It was almost all men and it was a little sleazy,” Warren says. “But in time, I began to see that was the only way we could put people together in a good way.”

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