2016 marks my 7th year as a professional matchmaker. Thanks to the addition of an incredible team added in 2013, my agency has dramatically increased the number of clients we serve and our client geographic footprint continues to expand, as well (last year we coached and matched people in the United Kingdom, Turkey, India, and the United States).
Since 2009, my firm has served over 1,000 coaching and matchmaking clients. For our matchmaking clients, we directly organized thousands of dates in 2013, alone. Some of those dates went incredibly well (and led to committed relationships), some of those led to platonic friendships, some of them there was no “chemistry,” and some completely blew-up with both parties hating each other. All in all, I took notes on everything.
Over the years, I have gained an incredible amount of insight on how commitment-minded singles date and interact in the early stages of a romantic relationship. Here are 20 of the most interesting things I’ve learned:
1) Everyone should be in therapy
I’m not kidding. 1 out of every 5 people in the United States have been negatively affected by someone else’s pathology. This means you have had a relationship with or are currently a sociopath, psychopath, or have a disorder associated with ‘no conscience’. Serious business. You may be out of the relationship, but the relationship may not be out of your mind. The clients I have who are actively engaged with therapists are typically the ones who gain the most from their dating experience.
2) Physical attraction is everything
This post says it all. Even though many hate or are hesitant to admit it, the decision for my clients to move to a second date was 99.9% weighted on whether they were physically attracted to the other person.
3) You can’t authentically date without first being vulnerable
So very hard for nearly all of my clients, but so very necessary. Just like you can’t fill a closed bag, you simply can’t expect love to materialize without first opening your heart to the possibly of it.
4) There is power in dating multiple people at once
I wrote a full chapter about this in my book. You are empowered when you can assess “apples to apples.” The more people you can see at once, allows for better analysis of each.
5) The worst topic to talk about on a first date is politics
I had a client this year tell me he went from the best to worst date in his life (in the matter of an hour), simply because of the stance his date took on a political position. Can people who have differing politics be in a relationship in the first place? Absolutely. That said, you have to give yourself a chance to “get in the game” first and polarizing topics are not helpful.
6) The worst question to ask on a first date is “why are you still single?”
I’m not even single and I hate this question. It sets a bad tone and the answer will have little to no value in your decision to have a second date with the person (because the decision to see someone on a second date is highly based on physical attraction – see #2 above).
7) Most people overanalyze the first date
I once spent 3 sessions (that’s 3 hours) talking to a client about his first date performance. I allowed him to go on and on to prove a point – that the discussion was pointless. While there is value assessing areas you can improve in, most post date discussion surrounds “I wonder” questions – “I wonder if he likes me” or “I wonder if she will call me now” etc. Do your best to stop the wondering and see the next bullet (#8 – it’s all about effort)!
8) Effort is the best indicator of interest
This applies throughout the dating, courting, and marriage. I guarantee this. If he/she pays you LITTLE attention, they’re not HIGHLY interested. If he/she is HIGHLY attentive they’re HIGHLY interested. Hard pill to swallow, but true 100% of the time.
9) You teach people how to treat you by the second date
Everything you do and communicate to your partner tells them how you want to be treated on the second date (and moving forward). Don’t hold to your boundaries, they’ll always be crossed. Don’t hold to your standards, they’ll never be met.
10) Identifying (and holding to) your values is an often overlooked step
One of the most popular posts in my ‘30 Steps To A Better You series‘ was on value discovery. If you haven’t yet established what your values are (if you’re in a committed relationship or not, please do so – this one exercise can change your life).
11) Men (who are ready) seek commitment fast and first
This is a shocker to many women but it’s the truth. Like clock work, I see men who believe they have found “the one,” attempt to shut down the world in order to focus (and get the full focus) of the woman. The guys don’t want “their woman” seeing anyone else. They want to have the exclusive talk and create clarity of their positioning. This is very important to know and also ties directly with #8 above.
12) Going exclusive with someone too early is typically disastrous
The average dating couple in the U.S. becomes exclusive between date No. 3 and No. 5. I’m sorry but that’s just too early. You need to see your partner’s values play out in action. You need to see how your partner can handle adversity. You need to observe your partners consistency of effort. All of these things require time. Making an early relationship commitment is a high risk gamble I’ve seen too many good people get burned on.
13) Long distance relationships can work, but seldom do
I’m referring to the relationships that begin as long distance. I say this so often I should just tattoo it on my face: The only way a long distance relationship can work is if there is a plan to end the distance.
14) Self-love isn’t just a cliche, it’s the first question you should ask yourself
I view self-love as the admission requirement to dating. If you don’t love yourself (meaning actively caring for your mind, body, and spirit) you can’t afford to enter the arena of romance with someone else. Get yourself right, first.
15) Most of us have a disconnect between who we believe we are and who the public believes we are
I’ve been doing a lot of studying on personal branding and I’m in love with the subject because ultimately we all have one – it’s basically our reputation. The issue is that unless you’ve done the proper analysis (this is something we do in my agency’s coaching service) you may be projecting an image entirely different from your true self (and therefore, facing additional difficulty when dating).
16) Your belief in the availability of “good” men/women is exactly your reality
I find it fascinating when a female client will call me up and say “Paul, New York City is the WORST city in the world for dating, I don’t believe there are any “good” men, and I can’t find any.” Then, I’ll hear this “Paul, New York City is one the greatest in the world for dating, I believe there are good men, I date them all the time (but haven’t found the right one for me).” Bottom line is that your belief is your reality.
17) Your friends are not relationship experts
Please read this.
18) There is no “secret formula” to matchmaking
I know online dating sites are spending millions to develop (and market to you) that they have some secret sauce, but nearly 6 years in the matchmaking industry (on the ground, working with people directly) has taught me that there simply isn’t a certain algorithm or formula that will find your perfect person (if their was, the inventor would be the richest person on the planet – seriously). So what can you control? Look for someone who matches your values, who compliments your personality, meets your non-starters, and that you’re attracted to physically. Those four steps together are the most important matchmaking formula you can use!
19) If your dating goal is “outcome based” you’re not going to be happy
There are two categories of goal setting: Outcome based or process based. Outcome based goals suggest it doesn’t matter how much you try if you don’t actually achieve the desired outcome. Process based is another view that says you should focus more on the process (and what you can learn). You can probably guess my opinion on the better to choose. Process based is the way to go in dating! A process based goal is what helps you develop habits and different habits are what change your life.
20) My agency is considered one of the best matchmaking firms in the world!
Okay, shameless plug time. According to one of the largest (and oldest) dating industry conferences, The Paul Carrick Brunson Agency is one of the BEST in the world! We recently won both Best Matchmaking Agency and Best Dating Coaches. This would not be possible without my amazing team – we look forward to continuing to serve, learn, and share.
For Discussion: What is your top lesson learned about dating?