THE BLOG
07/11/2017 09:02 GMT | Updated 07/11/2017 09:02 GMT

Why Humans Are Better At Finding You Love Than An App

I'm an amateur match-maker. It's a hobby fraught with perils, but I maintain that despite the new-tech innovations in online dating sites, and the simplicity of 'swipe and hook-up sites', old-fashioned human matchmakers are the best bet if you're looking for long-term love.

I'm an amateur match-maker. It's a hobby fraught with perils, but I maintain that despite the new-tech innovations in online dating sites, and the simplicity of 'swipe and hook-up sites', old-fashioned human matchmakers are the best bet if you're looking for long-term love.

We're used to online algorithms seeming to understand us, with Facebook mysteriously choosing posts to put on our timelines based on embedded data. So we expect algorithms should be able to find us the perfect match - and that he or she will look like Ryan Gosling or Jennifer Lawrence.

But even if a dating site includes lengthy profiles, most users reject candidates based on the first image to pop up - which is crazy in these days of ubiquitous photoshopping. We add an average of two inches to our height and deduct several pounds from our weight, but if we're lying in our profiles, how on earth is that algorithm going to get it right?

The classic methods

Arranged marriages tend to last. They have a divorce rate of only 6.3 per cent, compared with around 50 per cent in Britain and America, where most people choose their own partners (and a whopping 68 per cent in Belarus).

Your family and friends often have a better understanding of why your previous relationships failed than you do yourself, and they are not dazzled by 'chemistry', which is a deceptive cocktail of life experiences and pheromones.

Physical chemistry is based on an immune-system response to the other person's scent, which indicates you are more likely to have healthy babies - but it doesn't mean you'll be happy.

Psychological chemistry, when you 'click', is not infallible either. Inner insecurities can easily lead you to the wrong type. For example, someone who had a difficult childhood might be subconsciously looking for a partner who will 'fix' them, and that's not a healthy dynamic.

Some people keep choosing the same type over and over again, even when the result is the same every time. Their friends can see it, their mums can see it, their dog can probably sense it - but they remain blind.

If your relationships always self-destruct, online dating will just give you a bigger pool of people with whom to make the same mistakes. It could be time to talk to a matchmaker.

My matchmaking ventures

Buoyed by the fact that three couples hooked up at my thirtieth birthday party, I decided to try my hand at the traditional art. First I quizzed single friends about the type of partner they were looking for, then I considered their temperaments, intelligence, interests and sociability, as well as their romantic history. When I had a match in mind I brought the couple together at a party, dinner or pub get-together and stood back to watch.

Initially, my friends proved spectacularly superficial. One had asked me to look for a rich lawyer who would take on her two sons from her first marriage. I found a man who ticked all those boxes only for her to complain: "He's not good-looking enough." There go those algorithms, lulling us into a false sense that the ultimate match is a few tantalising clicks away.

I soon realised the matchmaker's path is strewn with landmines. Egos are easily dented if you match-make someone who considers themselves a 9 with someone they consider a 6. Plans are thwarted by the wrong folk monopolising the conversation, or the intended turning up blind drunk, or tiny accidents of fate.

On the positive side, there has been one wedding as a result of my introduction and several relationships are ticking along nicely. Clearly the pool from which I draw matches is much smaller than that of any online agency, but statistics show that relationships are more likely to work between people with similar backgrounds and social circles, so that's not necessarily a drawback.

I don't have any special skills but as a novelist, I have a heightened interest in human nature (some call it nosiness). I aim to create relationships in my novels that readers believe, and that means thinking carefully about what works when it comes to love.

Want to find your own matchmaker? You can hire specialists to pre-screen potential dates based on their backgrounds, beliefs, personalities, genetics - or even their astrological signs. But I would argue that your best friend or a wise family member might be best. It's not just that algorithms are only as good as the information programmed; it's that when it comes to affairs of the heart, we can be the last people to know what's good for us.

Gill Paul's novel Another Woman's Husband, about Wallis Simpson and the death of Princess Diana, is published by Headline