Notre Dame Marriage Pact: A Chance for Ring by Spring

Author: Katherine Holtz and Claire Early

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As everyone knows, the best way to find your spouse is to fill out an online form sent via mass email. Earlier this November, many students of the university found an email in their inbox about the Notre Dame Marriage Pact. The email included a link to a brief questionnaire that asked questions about the participant’s future plans, political affiliation, personality and everything in between. On Nov. 7, a few days after the questionnaire went live, the Notre Dame students who filled it out received the name of their match and a compatibility score from 0% to 100%. But what the students of Notre Dame experienced is only a small part of a much larger picture. 

The first Notre Dame Marriage Pact emails went out three years ago. The idea originated at Stanford University as two students’ final project. The survey was a success at Stanford and soon spread to other universities across the nation. Now, Marriage Pact has reached 78 college campuses across the country, drawing the attention of 265,814 participants and making 131,890 matches, per the initiative’s website

The questionnaire aims to help “match people with their most compatible backup marriage match on campus,” said senior Erin Maron, one of the initiative’s student ambassadors at Notre Dame. “There are a series of questions designed to get to know you and your personal values.” The Marriage Pact website asserts that they use “latest research on romantic compatibility” to design the questionnaire, and their algorithm picks out the most ideal match for a long-term relationship. 

Maron reached out to the official Marriage Pact website after hearing about it from a friend at Georgetown. Now, she is in charge of advertising Marriage Pact at Notre Dame through email and social media along with two of her friends. 

There isn’t a 100% guarantee that Marriage Pact will match you with your soulmate, though its website claims 3-4% of matches go on to date for a year or longer. Certain things can affect your match, like how late you filled out the form and the ratio of men to women. The Marriage Pact’s email announcing matches said that the algorithm is not perfect by any means and only takes the questionnaire answers into account, rather than whether you know your match personally or not.

“We always get some complaints and people asking for new ones,” said Maron.

That being said, in the future the algorithm could be altered to take into consideration other factors in addition to the questionnaire answers. For example, sophomore Mary Menger has matched with someone she knows both years that she has filled out The Marriage Pact, which has made her hesitant to reach out to her matches. 

“I feel like it would’ve been good if they had an option to exclude people from your dorm, because I think it’s a bad idea (to match with people in your dorm) in general, which happened to me this year … It’s crazy that both years, I got somebody that I already knew vaguely, so I was disappointed and didn’t reach out to my matches because it felt awkward,” she said. This year, in Pasquerilla East, six girls in the same section matched with each other, including Menger. 

Additionally, Menger highlighted how she wanted to increase the amount of times The Marriage Pact is offered in a given school year. At Notre Dame, it is usually only offered in the fall semester. Other schools have their Marriage Pact in the spring semester, too.

“It would be good if they did it more than once a year, because the odds of a match not working out for me are very high. Maybe once a semester (in the) fall and spring would be a good starting point,” she said.

This year, the Marriage Pact had an uneven ratio of males to females. Some women who filled out the questionnaire late opened their emails only to receive another woman, even when they indicated their sexuality as heterosexual. Ceci Patrick, a sophomore, opened her email hoping she got a match, only to be met with another woman’s name.  

“I got a girl because I did it an hour before the football game (against Clemson), so I was a bit disappointed, and neither of us reached out to one another,” she said.

External factors such as uneven ratios and awkwardly matching with somebody you already know are difficult to control. However, Menger expressed that she dislikes how the algorithm pairs you based on similarities rather than differences. She stated it might be more interesting if the algorithm could distinguish between core values that are designated as non-negotiable, such as similar political affiliation or sexuality, while matching people based on differences that could be complementary in a relationship. 

“I wish there was more of an ‘opposites attract’ type (of) thinking in the algorithm,” Menger said. 

Without a doubt, the Marriage Pact creates a buzz around Notre Dame’s campus as students share their matches and compare compatibility percentages with their friends. There might be one successful match out there that leads to a ‘ring by spring.’ But even if you don’t go on to marry your Marriage Pact match, it still might be a worthwhile venture. “When we brought it to Notre Dame,” said Maron, “the purpose was to help people meet someone they typically wouldn’t have come into contact with. But some people do find love along the way.” Whether you met the love of your life or were matched with your worst enemy, remember that the Marriage Pact is meant to be fun. As Maron said, “It’s really just all for fun and getting to know people on campus. So, when you do it, be open-minded.”