Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Counseling, Schmounseling

The Partner and I recently filled out elaborate questionnaires regarding our marriage. They were generated by eHarmony Marriage, a spin-off of the popular dating Web site. eHarmony Marriage is something of a counseling program wherein a computer assesses various aspects of your lifestyle and world-view to come up with a detailed marriage profile to help you understand how to build a better marriage.

We dove into the lengthy process with gusto. I call their introductory assessment tool a questionnaire, and so does eHarmony, but it is actually a series of statements on issues ranging from communication, to family, to trust, to sex. Respondents must ask all the questions of themselves, as they look at each statement on their computer screens and move a small carat to the spot in the spectrum that shows how much they agree or disagree.

45 minutes after we embarked on first leg of our introspective journey, The Partner and I finished the questionnaire. As soon as both of our responses were tabulated (and that was instantaneous), we had a 61 paged eHarmony Marriage Profile (EMP) and a Marriage Action Plan (MAP) that was all about us. The EMP is a sort of reference resource analyzing the sources of agreement and disagreement in the marriage, while the MAP is a personalized and practical set of interactive video exercises, expert articles and other practical tools designed to maximize the positive impact on your marriage.

It was impressive. There was a lot of information and, through the miracle of the high speed processor, it spoke with utmost attention to the details of our strange and imperfect marriage. It was, as eHarmony touts it, extremely personalized.

It was enlightening. On the third page of our EMP was a directory of emoticons that represented how each of us felt about issues pertaining to eHarmony's list of the ten components to a healthy marriage. With one exception, every emoticon was a frowny face. Frowns denote when a person is "usually unhappy" with a facet of his or her marriage. On the positive side, at least we're in agreement about how unhappy we are.

It relied on our own drive. Whereas a visit to a real-life counselor would require a drive in a car, this program rests on the couple's internal drive to enhance or fix their marriage (actually, it can work even if only one spouse is interested in putting in the effort, as it is not required for both partners to participate). The problem with self-motivation is one of the factors that makes marriages falter in the first place--it's hard to find the time to focus on each other. The Partner and I were consumed with so many other projects and activities that finding a way to get past our disheartening EMP and into the MAP realm of doing something about it was difficult.

It was good to talk. When we did find the time, the exercises were helpful in sparking conversations that helped each of us better understand where the other was coming from. And it was all done in the comfort of our own home.

In conclusion, I have no conclusions. Our marriage is in the same hole it's been for the past three years, although now we have depressing analytical statistics to prove it. Like any form of self-help or counseling, the success of this program relies on the willingness of the participants to embrace it. As wise ol' Anonymous once said, "when the student is ready, the teacher will come." If you are ready, the $39.95-$49.95 monthly price tag is a small price to pay for the teachings of this highly personalized and detailed marriage assessment with workable action steps.

This review is part of the Parent Bloggers Network.


Mary-LUE said...

I like the idea of eHarmony looking at points of compatability. I think they are on to something. There is also a book by a doctor who discusses the importance of reconciliation attempts, finding something to laugh about after a quarrel, etc., as being more important than the point of conflict being resolved.

If it is any encouragement, I know the first few years with a baby are very tough on a lot of marriage. A lot.

Mary-LUE said...

Marriages. Plural.

Shelly said...

Thanks for the insightful review. I have always wondered how E Harmony worked.

Boz said...

I am always cautious of these tools because they are programmed by people, and are therefore prone to human failings. I am happy you have found a tool that is useful for you. Remember, though, that it is only a tool, not a solution. Your best resources will always be in each other.

Best wishes.

slouching mom said...

I appreciate your honesty here. Know that you are not alone.

Did the results take into account how stressful trying to sell a house is on a marriage?

jen said...

wow. i am a bit at a loss for words, that program sounds a bit terrifying in an inquisitive sort of way.

but your review rocked. and talking is good, too.

i want to say more but am somehow feeling mute. xo

Andrea said...

Honestly, I think that recognizing the problem is a giant part of improving any situation. That printout you've got in your hot little hand possibly does that part for you, right? I would imagine just knowing some of the things that are making you and The Partner unhappy might make you both more aware of your contributions to that unhappiness, and awareness could lead to improvement in behavior.

Sounds like you've got an excellent place to start. But also, consider the stress you're under -- three failed offers on your house and also parenting a toddler. I'd say that's enough to color anyone's outlook a little black and blue for awhile.

Holly said...

Thanks for sharing your experience with eHarmony. It actually sounds very practical to me. Talking and sitting at a computer is a lot easier than going in and talking with someone face to face. And, of course, it gave you more concrete and objective feedback.

toyfoto said...

wow. you are so brave.