I filled forms about my interests, my opinions and my personal goals – which was having a family – something I’d been too frightened to mention to my exes in the early days for fear of scaring them off.“But the men I was introduced to were told what I wanted and shared those dreams. From the off we were on the same page and then it was only a matter of finding someone I also found physically attractive and that was Mark, the third man I met.” Wilkinson is far from alone.
But in the 20th century this all changed, with young people deciding they wanted to be in charge of their own domestic destinies.
Matchmakers were viewed as hook-nosed crones from Fiddler on the Roof or pushy Mrs Bennet at the Pemberley ball.
From Romeo and Juliet, to dashing Mr Rochester choosing plain Jane Eyre, we celebrated stories of Cupid’s dart striking randomly.
Anna Wilkinson has been married for seven years, has two young children, and – although exhausted – is delighted with her lot.
“I was 33, had just broken up with my boyfriend and was beginning to think I’d never have a family life.
I’d always been attracted to mavericks, handsome men, who – after a year or so – made it clear they had no intention of settling down.“Although I felt a bit of a loser, I joined an online dating agency.The result is that, rather than being someone that defies all calculation, love is now big business worth an annual $4 billion internationally and growing at 70 per cent a year – with high-tech venture capitalists, psychologists and software engineers reaping vast rewards.Academics, meanwhile, are fascinated by the data being gathered — and largely kept secret — by the dating industry.“We’d love to get hold of more of it, but they’re not keen to share though we’re in discussion with a few of them,” says Robin Dunbar, professor of evolutionary psychology at Oxford University and author of The Science of Love and Betrayal.“They have a huge database and they also can follow couples’ stories through, which hasn’t been possible so far.” For most of history, using a third party to help you find love was the norm.