Matchmaking websites take a scientific approach to dating. They require members to complete a detailed online questionnaire and then use an algorithm to match singles with compatible profiles. Because of the time investment required to complete the questionnaire, you may find members at matchmaking sites are more serious about finding a long-term relationship. Users warn, however, that even the matchmaking algorithms recommend inactive profiles and inappropriate matches. These systems also tend to ignore preferences like age and geographic area when sending matches.
Due to an extensive advertising campaign, eHarmony.com (*Est. $60 per month) is one of the most well-known matchmaking sites. The website launched in 2000 and says it uses "29 dimensions" to predict the potential success of a long-term relationship. This information is collected through 256 questions that are grouped into core traits (like emotional temperament, social style and intellect) and vital attributes (like relationship skills, values and family background). The process takes at least 45 minutes to complete, and if the questionnaire identifies you as "emotionally unhealthy," you won't be offered membership. With a lengthy questionnaire and higher subscription fees, reviewers agree that this site has a higher potential for long-term relationships and fewer unsavory suitors.
Once you are accepted into the eHarmony.com community, you can receive matches for free, but you must sign up for a subscription of a least a month to begin communication. Critics say eHarmony.com's high cost is a risk because members can't perform their own searches. If the system is matching you up with singles outside an acceptable age range or geographic area, which users say isn't uncommon, there's not much you can do about it. This also lengthens the matchmaking process as you may have to wait a couple of weeks until you're sent potential mates. Matches sent to your inbox may often be inactive or nonpaying members, but there's no way of knowing this (except through non-responsiveness once you pay the subscription fee and communicate with them).
Reviewers also caution that the site has a more conservative worldview than diverse dating sites like Match.com or Lavalife.com. About.com's Bonny Albo notes that it was billing itself as a Christian dating site at one time, but the company no longer attaches itself to a particular religion. Initially, eHarmony was for heterosexual couples only, but following a series of lawsuits, it now matches both heterosexual and same-sex couples.
Chemistry.com (*Est. $50 per month), an offshoot of Match.com, is a direct competitor of eHarmony.com, but a little cheaper. It virtually copies the eHarmony.com process with a detailed personality test and no searching allowed -- you wait for the service to send you possible matches. According to NextAdvisor.com, however, unlike "eHarmony, Chemistry.com goes beyond matching similar personality types to insightful analysis of how different personalities are likely to compliment [sic] one another." The tests take a little less time than eHarmony.com's, at about 30 minutes (as opposed to 45 minutes).
The emphasis on compatibility is reflected in the way information on profiles is provided. Users complain that the system tends to ignore other factors like demographics and interests. Although people at Chemistry.com are clearly more serious about relationships than on a site like Match.com, the dating pool is more limited, especially when compared to competitor eHarmony.com. And like its competitor, the matchmaking process isn't immediate and includes inactive and nonpaying members, who are not labeled as such. Similar to its parent company, Match.com, many users report a suspicious flurry of matches in their inbox just after canceling their subscription.
PerfectMatch.com (*Est. $60 per month) is unique when compared to its two closest matchmaking site competitors in that it has an extensive compatibility and personality test but also allows members to search profiles themselves, which greatly accelerates the matchmaking process. As with eHarmony.com, you can register and take their compatibility test for free. The system matches personality, lifestyle, values and preferences based on relationship expert Pepper Schwartz's 30 years of experience. However, some reviewers complain that the true/false nature of the tests presents too black-and-white a picture of their personalities.
With PerfectMatch.com, you can make initial contact with an "icebreaker" question, but Brad of LittleRedRails.com writes that those available to nonpaying members are more superficial in nature than the choices offered for paying members. To correspond with people via email, online chat or instant messaging, you need to become a paid member. Reviewers note that PerfectMatch.com doesn't require (or encourage) members to use their own words in their profile, so many members' profiles are simply quotes from the results of their compatibility and personality tests, making it difficult to get a good "feel" for these people's voices.
The website offers a guarantee of at least four matches during a two-month subscription, or another two months are free. Similar guarantees are available with the three-, four- and six-month subscriptions. The trouble with this guarantee, past members report, is that many matches that come to your inbox are inactive or unsuitable (since preferences outside the compatibility/personality test are often ignored), so it's not as worthwhile as Match.com's guarantee, which is based on whether you meet someone suitable.