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EMMA PAGE - Sunday Star Times | Sunday, 28 December 2008

Labours of love can be lucrative

MEET DRLOVE - the university lecturer helping the dating industry come up with ideas to help singles find romance.

Prompted by interest in the business opportunities arising out of societal changes, Massey University senior lecturer Marco van Gelderen has previously explored the potential of the funeral trade and new age education in his homeland, the Netherlands.

In his latest research he has turned his attention to the dating industry in New Zealand and Australia, with one agency owner dubbing him "Dr Love".

Van Gelderen presented academic research on love, and the causes of attraction and bonding, to a group of 10 people running businesses such as dating websites, introduction services and events companies.

The research was used as a springboard to help business owners at an informal brainstorming session come up with ideas to help clients. The suggestions it generated included blindfolded speed dating to avoid stereotypes based on appearance and combining a weight-loss clinic with a dating agency, based on evidence that people tend to choose partners similar in attractiveness and weight to themselves.

The ideas may not be put into practice and van Gelderen is not involved with feasibility studies but he says his research takes ideas usually confined within university walls into the realm of business where they can be applied.

And the response has been positive. Sasha Madarasz, owner of Two's Company, an Auckland-based introduction company that arranges around 100 dates a week, says working with van Gelderen and reading his research has been useful.

She was impressed by findings that people tended to bond better if they accomplished a task together and has suggested that her clients try an activity such as dancing or taking a cooking class together.

Another body of research showing that repeated exposure to a person creates feelings of trust and safety backs up her view that hopeful lovebirds should always go on more than one date.

Van Gelderen, who lectures in the university's Department of Management and International Business, acknowledges that some of the research could be abused because it deals with emotions and people who could be vulnerable, but he says it is not simply about commercialising aspects of life that shouldn't be commercialised.

"I think it's valid because I think these needs are serious. And I think if a business comes up with something that's really good and that helps people to connect or deal with death or find meaning, I mean, why not?"

He also points out that not all dating organisations are commercial. Many are run by individuals who have lost partners or gone through a divorce and simply want to help other people meet each other.

Two's Company Dating Agency is Auckland's most selective dating service, dedicated to personalised matchmaking and introduction services for professional singles since 2003.

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