Neil Clark Warren, the genial, Mr. Rogers-like face of eHarmony.com, has written several books, including the eHarmony companion, Date … or Soul Mate? Warren, a graduate of Princeton, Princeton Theological Seminary, who then got a Ph. D. in psychology from the University of Chicago, has years of clinical practice in marital therapy. He also draws on his own and others’ research to back up his claims that he can tell you “how to know if someone is worth pursuing in two dates or less.”
The book is light, unfootnoted, and a little repetitive. It could be reduced to a set of lists and slogans, once you get the basic idea. Still, the basic idea is solid, and the practices behind it, which Warren tells us they employ in eHarmony as well as in his personal clinical practice, are likely to help you find a well-matched mate – and to avoid a bad marriage.
The core of Warren’s advice is that if you are emotionally healthy, have a realistic concept of what you bring to mate selection and what you want in a mate, and are seriously looking for one, you can find the love of your life. If you are not emotionally healthy – if you are too neurotic, if you are an addict, and especially if you have a character disorder which makes you a charming, conscienceless manipulator, you have no business getting married. If are emotionally unhealthy, get help. If you are dating someone like that, run.
For the average person, though, Warren has good news. The core of his argument is that if you really want to find the love of your life, look for people who are similar to you, who bring roughly the same level of personal and marital qualities to the relationship, and who match your particular list of “must-haves” and “can’t stands.” He presents 50 popular contenders for each list, but urges the reader to pick only ten of each. This is a reasonable compromise between being too picky, and not choosing carefully enough. Warren notes that the culture pays the most attention to physical attractiveness, but what proves more worth choosing for in the long run is kindness, chemistry, similarity, and adaptability.
Warren doesn’t really get down to cases in this book on how you can tell all this about another person in two dates. He is probably right, though, that if you are clear on what you want and can’t stand, you will be able to read the clues in another person’s conversation and presentation better than you could explain in words. He reports that most failed marriages were flawed from the start, and very often one or both parties knew it. Having the courage to act on that knowledge, and the firm conviction that a bad marriage is worse than no marriage, could save many couples heartache, and save society the disaster of divorces.