- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
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 September 19, 2003 

File under Friendship: Lonely hearts play the dating game for love and companionship

Isn't it fun, the process of finding your soul mate?
Agency customers during one of their outdoor trips.

"I'm a person who has respect for promises, I don't smoke, sometimes I drink. I wish to meet a thoughtful man devoted to his family."

"I'm a kind, communicative and hospitable woman. I'm interested in sports, I like to dance and I cook very well, sometimes I smoke and sometimes I drink. I wish to meet a communicative, kind, clever man devoted to his family."

"I'm a cheerful, benevolent and communicative person, I like sports, music and dancing. I smoke and sometimes drink. I wish to meet a moral, beautiful and communicative woman."

In anticipation of responses that will somehow change their lonely lives, these and hundreds of other suchlike applicants take their place in the Yerevan Brabion Marriage Bureau.

"There are too many lonely people in our republic and sometimes one has an impression that there are no married people at all," says founder and director of the bureau Lilit Melikyan.

Melikyan founded the marriage bureau in September 2001 after taking into account the experience of other countries. During its short two-year life, it has already united numerous soul mates.

"Before the beginning of summer we had already had 86 married couples. September is a crazy month and we have already passed 100 couples," says Melikyan. "Two marriages are expected to take place this month. So, it means we will have 102 married couples which is a real result of our work."

Despite such a result, in the bureau both lonely people and those who have already found their soul mates avoid telling their names because, according to public opinion, the kind of people who seek such help are those who cannot find someone by themselves.

Staff at the bureau admit that many customers are ashamed of the fact that they are registered in the marriage bureau or that they have found their partners in life during such meetings of lonely people. That's why the service is strictly secret and no information is released to those who are non-members.

These days there are more than 1,000 members from different regions of the republic as well as from the Diaspora registered in the bureau, who visit the center, take part in expeditions, interesting psychological games and, most importantly, search for the potential soul-mates.

"It surprises me that besides lonely people married people are also interested in our services. In this case it is clear that they don't find warmth and happiness in their own families and feel lonely," says Melikyan. "We refuse them because our service is only for single people."

Visitors learn about the marriage center either from TV advertisements or by word of mouth from friends or relatives. Those interested in becoming members must register and pay 5,000 (about $8). They fill in a form with information about their work, education, nationality, and hobbies as well as what they are looking for in a partner.

Lilit Melikyan (second from the left) with other employees of the marriage agency.

They are advised to be as frank as they can in order not to mislead other people because a lie is not good grounds for creating a family.

"You choose someone after reading their information in the register then you meet with that person However, it becomes clear that she doesn't correspond to the image she described," says chess player Zorik. "Sometimes, in order to find a partner in life, a 30 year old woman attaches to her file a photo from when she was 18, for instance. Another woman writes down her weight as 20 kilograms less than in reality, or has no education but says she has a degree. As a result of all this, there is only disappointment."

According to Lilit Melikyan, men don't exaggerate their qualities and provide accurate information.

Besides looking through catalogues, clients can also establish communications by means of the Internet and correspondence. As workers of the bureau assure, this often creates problems.

When people get acquainted through the Internet, some of them unintentionally involve staff of the bureau in their personal correspondence by seeking help with language or the computer.

"As a result we start to live and feel some parts of approximately 260 couples' personal lives," says Melikyan, "of course, all of that is hard enough. Then for improving their personal lives they start to ask for advice, they are often confused and create difficult situations for us as well."

However, none of this prevents people establishing relations with others in almost all parts of the world especially in Canada and the USA where the Armenian Diaspora is big.

The important aim is to avoid loneliness. To achieve that, customers from 18 to 80 don't lose their hopes and faith.

"I heard about this service from my friends," says middle aged Anahit from Ashtarak. "I have communicated with several men, but so far none of them could share my soul."

Anahit, who sings spiritual songs in a church, says that her first partner was a shoemaker and didn't understand her inner world. The next was from such a distant village that if she had chosen him then she must have denied herself her art.

"It's safer to choose a partner for yourself here than in the streets," says a young girl from Yerevan. "If everything is fine then you find your partner, but if not then the communication and atmosphere are already interesting enough."

"I have already met with 10 people in the nearby cafe, however, still there are no results," says chess player Zorik from Ashtarak. "Maybe my profession causes me problems and I'm reasoning too much."

As clients assure, one can find his or her partner anywhere. But they prefer the marriage bureau, where during measures and meetings some men are checking out the women while some of these women incline their heads like maidens.



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