One of the great joys of the Internet has been the spread of dating agencies. It wasnt all that long ago that the physical equivalent, the marriage bureau or introduction agency, was seen as something for losers or the slightly desperate. There has been a long standing tradition within certain cultures of having marriage brokers, but that has never really been mainstream. Most people met friends, lovers and mates either through family connections or sheer geographic proximity (the girl next door, for example).

This has now changed with the way in which we no longer live in such tight knit communities. Women have moved into the workforce in great numbers, and are now a majority on most college campuses. This might, you would think, mean that there was in fact less need for dating agencies, but this isnt the case. We no longer work near where we live; our lives are ever more atomized. We therefore need even more the introductions provided and the social connections offered by those modern institutions, the dating agencies.

Along with the greater choices we have in jobs, location, and even shopping, we also seem to expect greater choice in our relationships. Why be limited by those you work or study with? What if most are already in relationships? What if your circle of friends doesnt include what you are looking for, for reasons of age, religion, race, or some other factor? Thus, the great freedoms and liberties offered by the dating agencies: we want these extra choices and an old model has been updated to offer them to us. No longer is it the cheesy marriage bureau, but the thousands of contacts available through online dating agencies.

Joining a dating agency is a simple step by step process that varies at every agency. You will be walked through everything as slowly or as quickly as you like, taking your time to understand each aspect and feel comfortable.

The first dating agency how-to is to find a dating agency that suits you. Many are specific to a certain population. Some are for Christian singles. Others are for a certain ethnic group only, like African American or Jewish. If you do not identify with a particular group or feel bound to date someone from within that same group, you can join up with a dating agency that doesn't specialize.

If you choose one of the many online dating agencies available, you begin by taking a tour of their site. Check out the testimonies of couples who met on that site and later married or had a family. Find out how they introduce you to potential matches, and make sure that the site is completely secure. Find out the rates as well, if there's a one time membership fee or monthly dues, a certain time commitment, and if they have any guarantees.

Once you've chosen a site, you have only to fill out their questionnaire. You will be asked questions which reveal your interests and goals, your character and lifestyle habits, your traits and spiritual beliefs, as well as the details of what you are looking for in a potential match.

After that, you will either be notified when your profile is matched with someone else's or if someone expresses interest in meeting you, depending on how the site works. Either way, you will have your pick of potential matches in just a few clicks with an online dating agency.

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And the result is...