Offline Dating Is Back Thanks To Married At First Sight. Here's What To Look For In A Partner
The Debrief: We spoke to a matchmaker to find out if we need to get off Tinder and what kinds of people we need to be looking for IRL
It’s time, ladies. The answer you’ve ALL been waiting for. The finale of Married at First Sight airs on Channel 4 tonight and we’ll find out whether this whole science controlling your love life scenario is at all legit. Or if it’s just like Tinder all over again, only you have to wait six whole weeks before you’re allowed to swipe left.
The down-low on Married at First Sight, ICYMI: A panel of experts analysed 1,500 strangers. Then, they picked couples out of that number, who had to marry – without ever meeting. Last week they got hitched, sharing awkward/terrified/hopeful glances for the very first time while their nuptials were conducted. Entertainment-wise, it was actually pretty good. (But don’t worry, Mum, I won’t be trying it any time soon.)
This week we’ll see the couples on their honeymoon – after which, they have to move in together for five weeks before deciding whether to stay together or not. Personally, I hope it works out. Not because I want to give control of my love life to someone else (no, sorry Mum, not even you), but because it’s nice to know that our understanding of human attraction is a bit more advanced than the success of that quick-win, looks-driven, sleeze-ridden app would have you believe.
And this whole calling in the professionals thing is totally in right now – there’s a growing trend of people spending big bucks to get offline matchmakers to help them find love. Which makes total sense really seeing as we outsource every other part of our lives. Personal trainers, dietitians, life coaches, accountants, cleaners. The busier you are, the more likely it is you get someone else to do it. And really, why should dating be any different. As science advances and our understanding of human nature develops, the more people are qualified to know what’s best for other people. On paper, at least…
One thing which Married At First Sight touches on is the importance of first impressions. Although, of course, the first impressions that these guys get is of each other lurking awkwardly at either end of the aisle, separated by an ominous sea of their nearest and dearest.
But anyway, it’s crucial when we see someone for the first time in determining whether we want to hop to it and bump uglies with them or if the very thought makes our skin crawl. And apparently, it’s all to do with oxytocin. And you totally aren’t realising this lovely little hormone’s full potential when you’re flicking through Tinder.
Which leads me to this guy. If you haven’t seen this film, take five and watch it now, it’s really rather lovely. Actor Tom Greaves sets himself the mission of finding a date, offline. A novel idea, hey. At the time of writing it’s had nearly half a million views. It would appear that a lot of people are on board with this whole, ‘Oh, look, I could actually meet a real person in real life that I know if I like straight away, due to the age old magic of actual, physical attraction.’ (Oh and Tom, I’d totally go on a date with you. Winky face.)
Anyyyyywaayyy. Back to the point. In light of all my dizzy excitement about the prospect of love and lust returning to the real world, I spoke to Jacqueline Burns, senior matchmaker and head of gay and lesbian matchmaking at The Vida Consultancy. We had a chat about whether online dating has ruined us completely and what the future holds for the romantic lives of the human species. This is what she had to say...
So let’s not mess around here. Are we totally fucked? Are Tinder and online dating stopping us from looking for the things we actually need to look for in a long-term relationship?!
‘They are definitely putting the focus solely on looks and physical qualities, which is only a small part of attraction. It’s impossible to gauge on online sites whether someone is kind, ambitious, hard working, family oriented – their values, basically. These qualities are key in attraction, and also in making a relationship last long term.
‘Similarly, someone’s energy levels – how can you know that from looking at a photo? Energy is key; some people like to relax and watch a film and snuggle up on the sofa, some like cycling up steep cliffs in France, some like working on Sundays together with a cup of coffee at the dining room table. All these things are impossible to know when you’re swiping past pictures at a rate of knots.’
How do you think online dating has changed how people look for partners?
‘Everything these days is moving at the speed of light. People, especially in London, who are working and high-achieving, never have time for anything. Online dating can be like doing a food shop online; you have no way of knowing what you’re going to get, if it’s even going to turn up, or if they’re going to bring grapes when you asked for an apple.
‘People need to just meet to see if the spark is there, but the spark is often determined by what I mentioned above: energy, values, and physical attraction. Which you can’t establish on Tinder.’
So you reckon the immediacy of the internet has made us greedy and impatient?
‘You can’t just decide you want a relationship and have it tomorrow. At Vida, we look at whether people are relationship ready, in a positive state of mind for dating, and have well-rounded, happy lives. This is key. If you’re looking for someone to fill a void or complete you, then you’re not ready for a relationship and going on Tinder and lots of dates will not get you into the place you want to be.
‘At Vida we meet everyone before we set people up on dates. We are experts at deciphering those who at the first argument would be back on Tinder and those who are ready to build a relationship, and know that comes with the good and the bad.’
What are the benefits of outsourcing your romantic life and leaving it to matchmakers like yourself?
‘I’m a psychologist, and so are many of our team, so we understand the principles of assessing compatibility. Our members come to us because they don’t want to go about finding a partner by playing a numbers game. They are busy people, who travel, are high achieving and live active, cosmopolitan lives.
‘When it gets to a Friday evening, they’d like to see friends or family, not go and sit in a bar in Soho trying to find someone, when you’re not even sure their values reflect your own. It’s difficult to find a partner who’s similar.’
Can you describe what you think people should look for in a partner?
‘We help each of our clients define their “ideal match” and review their relationship history to build a profile of their ideal partner. Everyone has different primary needs, but focus should be around the blend of values, energy, characteristics, and physical qualities.’
How do you think people can break the bad dating habits they’ve picked up?
‘Sometimes it does take an unbiased third party to step in and say, have you ever considered someone like this? People create rules for themselves based on previous relationships, ie “both of my exes were 5’ 10”, therefore I need to be with someone 5’ 10”. We encourage our members to look beyond that.’
Do you believe science can predict who you will fall in love with? If yes, have you got any examples?
‘There are plenty of people who can tell you what their Myers-Briggs personality identifier is. Like those who can recite what star signs mean, they know what ENTP or ISTJ means and can use that information to decide if someone is compatible.
‘Dating can sometimes feel a little bit like filling out one of the tests. You give your date your answers, they give you theirs, and you see if your types line up.
‘However, breaking down people into 16 types, and 16 types only, is limiting and we humans operate on a sliding scale of traits. This is why we use more than just tests and personality quizzes to find the right match for people.
‘Human intuition and understanding cannot be replicated by a computer, and being able to see the little differences in people is what makes all the difference.’
What do you think the future of matchmaking looks like? How will our kids find partners in 20 years’ time?
‘Really interesting question! I definitely think, as we become more and more transient and busy, it will become the norm to hire a matchmaker. I think it will be like hiring a personal trainer when you feel unfit, estate agent when you want to buy a property. It used to happen years ago, and things have tendency to go full circle.
‘I’m also sure the internet will develop in a way which will be able to sift through everyone’s information and make recommendations. But will those relationships last though? I’m not so sure.’
Like this? Then you might also be interested in:
Follow Tabi on Twitter @Tabijgee
At work? With your gran?
You might want to think about the fact you're about to read something that wouldn't exactly get a PG rating