By Cindy Atoji Keene
As a professional matchmaker for eLove dating agency, Brenan McGarrigle claims to have helped facilitate over 600 marriages in her 29 years on the job. She has reportedly hooked up people from all walks of life, from single moms, retirees, teachers, and nurses to policeman, engineers, and plumbers. “No matter who you are or how old you are, so many people have a basic need to share their life with someone special,” said McGarrigle, 52, who said that love and affairs of the heart are rarely logical. “Just like earning a college degree or landing the perfect job, finding a good relationship takes this same level of goal orientation and commitment.”
eLove, located in Norwell, formerly named The Right One and Together Dating, has an online registration process for singles ages 21 to 70, followed up by a detailed questionnaire and one-on-one consulting, where “relationship coaches” like McGarrigle interview singles for their likes, dislikes, hobbies, and values. eLove members, who pay a fee of $3,000 and up to join, are then provided with brief profiles of potential matches, then given the opportunity to contact each other and eventually meet in person. “Unlike a lot of online dating services, candidates are prescreened and then matched according to compatibility,” said McGarrigle. “There is a huge human factor involved and a lot of gray areas which online searches just can’t manage.” eLove, which calls itself a “personal introduction service” has received negative reviews for its business practices but McGarrigle claims that many singles want to blame their bad luck in the dating game on anyone but themselves. “The stakes are high, and we live in a time of instant gratification. This isn’t like ordering fast food where you meet your soul mate after the first or second date,” said McGarrigle.
Q: How did you get into matchmaking as a line of work?
A: I earned my degree in counseling from the University of New Hampshire and interviewed for some social work jobs, but I found this type of position just didn’t interest me. I saw a newspaper ad for this position and discovered I really enjoyed helping people break negative relationship patterns and expectations and setting them up for success instead.
Q: How do you know if a match will be suitable or not?
A: We start with extensive attitude profiling and a battery of tests that ask about self-image, conformity, sexual-attitudes, and religion as well as height and weight, education and income. For example, I wouldn’t introduce someone who is very old-fashioned to someone who is independent and of the now-generation. But I really place more importance on what is underneath, whether it’s a strong work ethic or sense of humor. As members meet each other, I help them fine-tune their preferences.
Q: How have online services changed the dating landscape?
A: If you wanted to, you could go out on three dates a night, starting with a drink with a man or woman, then an appetizer with someone else and wind up with dinner. It’s more about quantity than quality. I don’t want to be sexist, but a lot of newly divorced guys initially like the volume but even they get tired of this, so places like ours start to make more sense. My sister recently met someone online but it took five years and a 100 bad dates and my clients don’t have the stomach for that.
Q: What’s an example of a successfully relationship match?
A: A great woman from South Shore, a widow in early 70, finally met someone a couple of months ago. He was a widower from Rhode Island. I had to call him and see if he would be flexible about the distance, because she was about an hour and a half away. They both had become discouraged, and he had started saying, “I had the love of my life, and she died, and I just can’t replace her. I’ll just hang out with my kids and grandkids.” But they decided to meet, and now they’re in a serious relationship and barely spend a night apart.
Q: How do you tactfully give advice when needed if someone has bad breath or some other big turnoff?
A: When leaving the office, I give them a little sticky note and tell them to put it on their mirror. It’s meant to be a kind but joking nudge in the right direction. I might write, “Get a haircut that makes you look like you live in this century,” or “Stop being so self-depraicting.” I’m coming from a position where I am only trying to help.
Q: How did you meet your husband?
A: It might sound a little contradictory, but we met at a bar during homecoming. I didn’t know he was ‘the one” and didn’t even like him until the third date. I have been happily married for 23 years.