In the distant past we would all have relied on the services of a canny matchmaker, a trustworthy elder in our community, probably female, intuitive, wise and well-connected. Every culture had one, someone who discreetly introduces social or religious equals to preserve the family interests.
Fast-forward the odd century or two, and the traditional matchmaker had all but died out. Until now. With the appetite for online dating – one in five relationships in the UK now begins online and the number is rising – they’re enjoying a revival. The taboo of paying for introductions has gone and, crucially, a large percentage of people who now try a dating website often decide it’s not for them. Instead they want something more exclusive, enter the modern matchmaker.
Psychologist Dr Robert Epstein, who has studied arranged marriages, says a relationship arranged by a matchmaker may even have more chance of working. ‘You can have the opportunity to really go in depth about what you want in a relationship; some of them even talk to friends and family to find out what you’re really like and that’s all good. Once you pay the fee, and go through the process, you’re more committed and serious than with other forms of dating.’
Zara Heber Percy, who runs The County Register, an exclusive matchmaker in West London, says: ‘We used to match older clients but these days we’re seeing much younger people coming to us; they have tried dating websites but felt disheartened. Or they’ve discovered they haven’t got time to trawl through hundreds of profiles online.’
The most successful matchmakers – see the panels – are never off duty. Like their ancestors, they have to be continually networking, ever present in their community, intuitive, diplomatic and supportive. They also work best when they operate in a small pond; if they expand, they lose that personal touch.
As psychotherapist and author Martin Lloyd-Elliot says: ‘If you’re not in a relationship, then a matchmaker offers you that relationship right from the start – you’re with someone who wants to understand and help you, even before you go on a date.’
To read the secrets of top matchmakers around the world, including Terah Harrison from Therapeutically Chosen in Texas and Tamara Brown from GenePartner in Switzerland which uses a scientific formula to determine the level of genetic compatibility, see Psychologies, July 2013.