Sunday, September 21, 2008

Following up on Post Separation Reader Comments

In a comment, reader and blogger sixdegrees writes:
So I gather that you've worn your wedding ring pretty much since your wedding. Taking it off - and leaving it off - will be nearly as big of a change as having the house to yourself.

That would be correct. Early on in the marriage, I would take the ring off when I went to bed at night just because I wasn't used to wearing rings. But then within a month or so after we were married, I forgot to put it on before going to work, and it my wife expressed disappointment in me. From then on, I just stopped taking it off.

After I stopped wearing the ring, I felt physically naked in some sense. I also had to cope with some lingering emotional fusion with those around me because my mind started to wonder whether people would notice the absence of the band and what they would think of it. I've since gotten past that.

One day, on my way to the bus stop, I looked at my hand sans the ring, and I noticed that my ring finger actually had a groove from where the ring usually sat.

You can see it in the photo above. The groove leaves a visible indentation near the gap between the ring and middle fingers.

While we're on the subject of physical changes, I know that my hair has gray in it. I got my first gray hair as a senior in high school, and every time that I get my hair cut, it seems like an increasing percentage of the clippings are gray. At work about a month ago, we had our pictures taken by a professional photographer. One of the head shots of mine was done in black and white, and it really brought the gray out, moreso than I had noticed before.

While I am grateful my hair remains, I can't help but feel just plain... old.

John writes:

I'll be curious to read about your experiences with the site. Part of me wants to believe that relationships can be quantified enough to make matches using computer algorithms. And another part of me isn't so sure. Either way, I suspect you won't really know until you finish the questions.

I think computerized matching has several limitations:

  • There is no universal formula for a successful relationship. We have empirical research, which gives us the characteristics of long lasting and maybe even happy relationships, but people are diverse enough that what works for one couple may not work for others.

  • Using multiple choice testing severely constrains the nuances of someone's preferences and motivations. Given a choice among four or five options, someone may not agree with any of them or agree for reasons that the question author may not have imagined, meaning that the conclusions inferred from the answer may be off base.

  • Not everyone completes a dating profile with the same goal in mind. While some may be answering honestly with the hopes of finding someone similar, there are others who try to answer the questions in a way that paints them in a way they want to be seen, or perhaps what they envision will be most popular.

  • Low levels of self awareness may result in an answer that is believed to be accurate by the person filling out the questionnaire, but may be way off base because the person has not really considered desires and motivations beyond the superficial, or worse yet, has illusions about the true state of their own nature.

The types of questions being posed on OKCupid, I would imagine, differ greatly from the 29 dimensions of compatibility patented formula used by eHarmony.

While I haven't taken the eHarmony test (and have no intention of doing so), I have taken 400+ questions of OKCupid's matching system. Many of the questions deal with sexual compatibility, recreational activity, ethics, fidelity, and spiritual leanings. A lot of these things are definitely questions that could highlight deal-breakers and give a rough idea where chemistry might be strongest, but I don't think it's any indication of the success potential of the relationship.

I have been reading some of the personals, more for entertainment value than serious prospects, and I think it would be safe to say that 75 percent of the profiles could follow the same formula. They are so generic and devoid of substance that you don't get much meaningful out of them.

The generic women's ads could be summarized as:
I've had a history of getting involved with men who are bad for me, but that's not my fault, and I'm going to avoid this by running an ad that says that's not what I want. It will cost you time and treasure to win me over. Don't expect sex.

If the ad involves a single mother, the following phrase or a semantic equivalent is mandatory:
I have X children and they are my world.

The ads over in the men section tend to read like this:
I'm not one of those guys.

The ones who dated or married all the women in the ads above have ads that read something like this:
I like to have fun.
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