• Dr. Timothy Smith

The One Thing Harder Than Finding "The One"


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Sitcoms thrive on the joys and frustrations of human interaction, including the complex relationships between two couples. Famous TV couples' relationships such as Lucy & Ricky and Fred & Ethel on the I Love Lucy Show, Doug & Carrie and Deacon & Kelley on King of Queens, and Al & Peg and Marcy & Jefferson on Married with Children, draw the full range of comedy and drama of four friends interacting as couples. They share, do things together, plan parties, confide in one another, and, overall, experience life together, which in sitcoms churns out funny situations.

Friends represent much more than what sitcoms portray. They help form the foundation of a happy, meaningful life, but finding compatible couples poses a difficult problem often when moving to a new city or town. Finding another couple with which all people in the quartet get along poses a massive problem both practically and statistically.

Various attempts over the years to quantify the odds of individuals finding love support the notion that finding someone special is difficult. A group of researchers at the University of Bath in England in collaboration with eHarmony and Rachel Riley, a celebrity mathematician, determined a 1 in 562 chance that a single person in the UK can find love on a given day. (Rachel Riley reveals the Odds of Love) Such tough odds, according to Riley, gets reflected in the nearly 30% of people looking for love reporting have given up looking altogether. Such rough odds come from specific facts, like only 39% of the population matches the right gender and sexual orientation for you. Additionally, people have different preferences such as looks, age, and everything else from preferences for cats or dogs or types of foods, activities, and interests. All these preferences serve to narrow the odds further down to having only 0.2% of finding the one.

Altogether, individuals face an uphill battle to find a compatible match, but that relationship needs only to work between just two people. Many couples having beaten the odds and found someone special often find themselves in a more complicated situation—finding another pair that they can have as friends or, in other words, couple friends. Instead of two people needing to be compatible, all four people need to get along. How many times has a couple found one member of another couple that they get along with well only to find the fourth wheel--spouse or boyfriend or girlfriend--intolerable? It happens all the time, and statistically, it makes sense.

If only for argument's sake, take the 0.2 % chance of meeting someone special on a given day suggested by Riley and eHarmony and multiply that figure by itself four times to represent the interactions between two couples. Each person must not only get along with two new people, but their partner must as well. Odds compound with each other. If odds of a coin flip is 1 in 2 for heads, the odds of four coins flipping heads is 1 in 625. Given the multiple compatibilities between four people, the very rough odds of finding a perfectly compatible couple equals 0.0016% or a 1 in 62,500 chance! Now, finding friends should not have as stringent criteria as finding a mate, but the odds get much worse when trying to match four people instead of two. While this measurement should be taken with a grain of salt, this thought experiment serves to illustrate that it can be hard to find another compatible couple.

Relationship coaches suggest many things for people to improve their odds of finding someone special such as socializing with workmates, going to the gym, and using online dating services. People have embraced online dating. Over 40 million Americans have used an online dating site, and the trend is going up across all sectors and age groups with significant increases in both the younger ages from 18-24 (22%) and the older set from 55-64 (5%) according to the Pew Research Center. The variety of dating sites continues to expand from the well-established eHarmony and Match.com to Tinder and Bumble. Online dating services use proprietary computer programs that match users based on the answers they gave in questionnaires. Through calculating a client's preferences and personality profile, the computer starts the process of finding a match based on similar interests and traits.

Over the past few years, some online matching services have sought to solve the much more complex issue of matching two couples as friends. Note that the friend matching sites claim to search for friends, not swingers. One such site, kupple.com, with the motto "every soul has a mate, and every couple has a match," states upfront that it is family-friendly and not for swingers. Coupleslist.com bills itself as "a place for married and dating couples to find and meet platonic couple friends." The presence of these websites show the demand for couples to find other couples they can hang out with and how hard it is to find them naturally. While it seems that couple-matching has not caught the same kind of prominence as singles dating, couple friend-matching may gain more traction over time.

In the United States and the UK alone, people pour massive amounts of time and money into the process of finding a partner. Such vast quantities of money and time going into finding a partner illustrates the difficulty in locating that someone special. One attempt to quantify the trouble finding real love by eHarmony and Rachel Riley put the odds at 1 in 562 on a given day in the UK. However, finding “the one” may prove less challenging than finding couple friends. The odds are much lower to find two compatible couples as friends because of the complicated dynamics between four people instead of two. Many couples face the problem of finding couple friends, especially when moving to a new city or town. Online dating has flourished across the globe, and now some sites have emerged, such as kupple.com to help couple friends find each other. The couple matching sites may not have the numbers of users of a match.com, but they endeavor to bridge the more complex dynamics of couple friends.

Dr. Smith’s career in scientific and information research spans the areas of bioinformatics, artificial intelligence, toxicology, and chemistry. He has published a number of peer-reviewed scientific papers. He has worked over the past seventeen years developing advanced analytics, machine learning, and knowledge management tools to enable research and support high level decision making. Tim completed his Ph.D. in Toxicology at Cornell University and a Bachelor of Science in chemistry from the University of Washington.

You can buy his book on Amazon in paperback here and in kindle format here.