Neil Clark Warren, PhD'67
Owner and CEO of online matchmaker eHarmony.com,
Neil Clark Warren, PhD’67, is
also the author of several marriage and relationship advice books.
In 1961, after three years at Princeton Theological Seminary, Warren
transferred to Chicago to study psychology. For 15 years he served
on the faculty of California’s Fuller Theological Seminary—as
director of research and later dean of its Graduate School of Psychology—before
starting a private practice. Four years ago Warren, happily married
for 45 years, retired to found eHarmony.com, which now has some
3 million members and boasts ten marriage announcements a day.
How does your research
play a role in eHarmony?
Research has always been a fundamental part of my superego. We’ve
done so much research—with more than 5,000 married people—trying
to understand what makes for great pairings and what makes for inadequate
pairings, and the research we’ve done validates my own clinical
experience—at this age I’ve seen more than 7,000 people
Let me give you the two most important findings:
First, you cannot make any relationship work if one person is suffering
some significant emotional deficit. For instance, if you have one
person who’s addicted to anything, the relationship is going
to be terribly hobbled. Emotional health of both people is critical
to a marriage.
Second, you need a lot of similarities—for instance, intelligence,
energy, curiosity, industriousness, ambition. Similarities are like
money in the bank. Differences are like debts you owe. It’s
OK to have a few debts, but you better have plenty of equity in
Why is it hard for people
to find good matches on their own?
This culture has done a pitiful job of teaching people what is necessary
if they’re going to be happy with each other long term.
Here’s the thing that makes it hard: You’re
so individuated. You have so many sides to you. You’ve been
pummeled by media, you’ve been pushed by your very stimulating
education to take so many different attitudes, to assume so many
value positions. So finding a person who agrees with you across
all those dimensions—and you like his appearance and he likes
yours, you have mutual chemistry, you like each others’ sense
of humor, you have about the same amount of industriousness, the
same amount of ambition, energy, all that—is a very complex
For singles in America—there are about
98 million of them—the time has never been so good for the
introduction of something like the Internet because it allows for
two things: one, for you to get into a large pool. And two, it allows
you to take advantage of everything we’ve learned about what
makes a relationship really good over time.
Does everyone have a soul mate?
I honestly believe that it depends on how adaptable you are. Soul
mate for me is defined as someone for whom you have a broad base
of compatibility on various categories: intelligence, energy, values,
spirituality, etc. If you are a person who’s pretty angular,
that is starched in position, then there might not be that many
soul mates for you out there. This is an idealistic, humanistic
assumption on my part, but my thought is that for every emotionally
healthy, single person on earth there is someone out there, at least
one person, who could be a good mate for them. But it’s so
hard for some people to find that person.