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Missive from a Midwestern Matchmaker PART I

It seems that on a regular basis, someone I meet says to me, “Oh, you’re like Hitch!” or “Are you like that matchmaker on TV? The lady with the long dark hair who’s a little mean?”

And recently I had the opportunity to give a gentleman a crash-course in how he could protect himself as a consumer the next time he thought of hiring a matchmaker – because unfortunately, not all matchmakers are created equal (in knowledge, in skill, or in ethics) and often times people don’t understand the difference between a dating service and a concierge-style matchmaker. (It’s huge. I’ll save that lecture for another day. But ask me anytime and I'll tell you.) What movies and non-scripted TV shows don’t tell you is that “the love business” is – as one of my colleagues put it – “a very challenging and thankless job because its basis is complete subjectivity.” The “product” the client pays for is intangible; it’s not a product at all but rather a service based on time, expertise and intellectual property.

I deliver introductions to carefully vetted potential love interests who possess specific criteria that we (client and matchmaker) have defined together as being of the highest value. That's the job description. (You won't see THAT on LinkedIn or Indeed! lol)

When a client hands over the fee, he hopes that he becomes the man of every woman’s dreams. Likewise for women. But retaining a matchmaker doesn’t magically increase your appeal to the opposite sex nor does it provide a guarantee that you will find everlasting love with someone you consider your intellectual, social, psychological, spiritual, sexual equal. You still have to, you know, BE the dream partner you want to attract and date!

One-way attraction doesn't get the job done. While I might introduce a client to her dream guy, she might not be his dream come true incarnate. And no one truly has a clear, concrete idea of what goes on behind the scenes in finding you someone who fits most of your criteria. (Criteria which were likely developed, by the way, as a result of a lifetime of experiences with your original “love objects” – your parents or whoever raised you – and especially by the perceived faults or deficits of your most recent ex.) Some clients come to me with a long list of must-have’s, non-negotiables, deal breakers, and strict requirements. And if they don’t, I encourage them to think about who they are and what they want – as well as what they have to offer. But if you treat my service as if you are a kid in an ice cream parlor that’s filled with an abundant array of perfect people with tantalizing toppings who will all fall head-over-heels in love with you at “Hello,” you are misunderstanding not only my job but everything science tells us about human attraction. What is helpful to understand is that the men or women you want may or may not be interested in meeting you. I'm not saying that to be hard on you; it's just the reality of dating no matter where or how you meet (online, at a bar, through a friend, etc.) And that’s OK. It may be the timing, the circumstances of their life at that moment, or it may be that you (or the way they are perceiving you) just aren’t the right fit for them. And that’s still OK. It may be for significant, legitimate reasons, or it may be for completely petty, superficial reasons. And that’s also OK. It’s my place to gently inform you of this without dashing your hopes or crushing your feelings. I do try to provide constructive feedback after each date; it’s fundamental to the coach-client relationship. The client always gets it; their date can receive it upon request. But I never offer it without first being given permission. If it wasn’t an immediate “home run,” more often than not, it is a matter of a lack of chemistry. And chemistry is that magical, ineffable element that even the most talented and experienced matchmaker can’t always perfectly predict. Another thing that’s tricky to predict is the whole spectrum of human behaviors given the millions of possible scenarios an individual can find themselves in. A few years ago, I introduced an incredibly sweet, lovely woman to a handsome man who came highly recommended to me – and then suffered the egg on my face of learning that he was a boorish pig during and after their date. (Geesh, he looked great on paper AND he was a perfect gentleman when I vetted him!) Fortunately, she was patient and kind and I was able to add a few additional “tests” on my intake interview process to guard against guys like him slipping through again. I was also able to introduce her to a nice-looking, wealthy gentleman at a later date who more than made up for Alpha-Jerk.

I will always strive to introduce you to the type of man or woman you desire – unless there is something askew between your wants and your needs or something that’s not ultimately serving you in what I call your “attraction template.” And that’s where the coaching comes in: We examine and in some cases shift or mend your attraction template so that your picker is pointed in the right direction! I want you “picking” using a compass that’s set to your best and highest good. I can’t save everyone from the sting of rejection. It is a risk inherent to dating and seeking relationships. But I do my darnedest to frame rejections as learning opportunities and opportunities for growth and personal improvement.

Do you see how my life differs wildly from that of a reality show matchmaker or a dating coach who is the creation of a screenwriter’s imagination? There isn’t a camera crew following me around or bearing witness to my clients’ dates. The work is real, it is complicated, and most days it is far from glamorous. I have been studying gender communications and human sexuality since 1990. To give you some context for that, I was wearing Birkenstocks and Baja-jackets and listening to Nirvana. (And I am unashamed!) Fast-forward to January, 2011 when I completed my formal training to become a dating coach and matchmaker and established The Date Maven on February 14 of that year. And as best as I can estimate, I have a 93% success rate among clients who complete my programs. My work is demanding in ways most people can’t imagine. But I am passionate about it and immeasurably satisfied by the confidence I have helped instill in singles who’ve sought my guidance and by the relationships and marriages I’ve had a hand in making!

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