When Dating Felt Like A Job, One Woman Hired A Matchmaker
If there is one universal claim about dating, it's that it's tough out there.
With online dating apps on mobile phones, it's easier than ever to find new people — but that takes time. Filling out dating profiles, swiping through matches and going on dates can be all-consuming and frustrating.
That's how it felt for Kat McClain, a 26-year-old attorney based in Los Angeles, who considers herself a long-time user of dating apps. After law school in Illinois, she moved to LA and entered the dating scene. She updated her online profiles and went on dates, but ultimately wasn't meeting the right match.
"I had a really scattershot approach to who I was going out with," she says. "I was getting burnt out, I was bored. It felt like another job, and I definitely don't need another job, I work enough."
Feeling exhausted and discouraged, in October McClain sought the help of a professional, personalized matchmaking service called Three Day Rule — but not the Fiddler on the Roof Yenta-type. Three Day Rule and other matchmaking companies like it take a modern approach — finding matches for their clients and offering date coaching while also helping to optimize online profiles.
The frustrations of online dating may have actually made way for modern matchmaking companies. For example, Pew finds that one in five online daters has asked for help — generally from a friend — with their profile and 31 percent say that online dating keeps people from settling down because there are always options.
McClain told her matchmaker, Alexa Geistman, what she was looking for a serious relationship, and they spent months getting to know each other. Then Geistman went to work.
"I meet every single match in person. I ask them all the tough questions," Geistman says. "I really get to know the people and make sure that they're like-minded."
The company also has a database of 90,000 singles — and partnerships with online dating companies like Match, OkCupid, Christian Mingle and J-Date.
The service doesn't come cheap. McClain paid around $6,000 for a package that got her six dates over six months — as well as Geistman's personalized support and advice.
Geistman vetted potential dates for McClain, and she also encouraged her to continue her search online. To that end, Geistman helped McClain craft responses to online dating messages, revamped her online dating profiles, took professional photos and suggested she write about herself more generally.
"I've always put really specific references and whatnot into my dating profiles," McClain says. "You'll get me if you catch my really obscure 30 Rock joke. But that's not fair. The fact that you've watched 30 Rock as many times as me is not a good indicator of compatibility long term."
McClain says the advice has helped her become a better online dater. "I'm better at picking people, I'm better at presenting myself accurately," she says.
The dinner date
Geistman suggested McClain needs someone with a quiet confidence who shares the same values as her.
Enter Kevin Biely.
Biely, who's 35 years old and works in e-commerce for a nonprofit, was in Three Day Rule's database, and Geistman introduced him to McClain over email. The two set up a first date last month — and allowed producers from Morning Edition to record their conversation over dinner.
Before the date, Geistman gave McClain some advice: Be a thoughtful listener.
"She's so vivacious, and she is extremely extroverted and outgoing. So with McClain, I kind of told her that less is more on a first date," Geistman said. "I think it's really important for her to make sure that it's a two-way conversation with her date instead of really taking control."
Despite the awkward setup with mics at their table, the conversation is constant. They even seem to revel in wearing mics and having a photographer with them in the dark, lively restaurant.
"I bet you at least a few people here think we're famous," McClain said.
As conversation flows, they become less conscious of the microphones and flashing camera and focused on each other, bonding over having been in military families and about dating.
"If she's got a job, and she chews with her mouth closed, that's like 90th percentile," Biely said.
"That sounds like stunningly like my criteria!" McClain said. "Like, job, decent table manners, OK."
"I can work with the rest!" Biely said, finishing her thought.
The chemistry was clear. They talked so long, they closed out the restaurant — after they split an ice cream sundae.
'Sometimes stuff just works'
Nearly a month and a half later, the pair is still together.
"Things are really great! Literally just a couple of days ago we had the 'define-the-relationship' conversation," McClain says. They've agreed to exclusively date each other.
McClain says even though her Three Day Rule experience made it possible, none of the rules – like the one referenced in the service's name — seem to matter anymore.
"It didn't matter that we talked about marriage on the first date," she says. "It didn't matter that I told a bunch of stupid jokes, and it didn't matter who texted who first afterwards."
"Sometimes stuff just works," she says.
Working with a matchmaker helped her go into dates with more confidence, McClain says. "I guess it's like therapy. And I don't regret any of the minutes I've spent in therapy, either."
A partner through the process
So is paying for a service like Three Day Rule the key to finding a relationship? Even Geistman says no.
"Not everyone obviously needs a matchmaker to be successful in finding their match," she says. "But it really is helpful if you want more of a personalized, premium experience where you get a partner throughout the entire process."
McClain agrees that not everyone needs to pay for a matchmaker but is confident she wouldn't have met Biely without Geistman's help. She also says looking for love online on your own can work, as long you hone your skills in communicating what you really want on dating apps.
"It makes all the difference in the world when you reorient your free dating profile," McClain says. "Even if you can't vet everybody, even if you can't have someone working on the back end looking [for matches] for you. It's really important that you take it seriously and that you tailor your profile such that it is attractive to the kind of people you are looking for, and such that it reflects what it is you want."
Laura Roman contributed to this story and adapted it for the Web.
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