EmunaDating: Looking for a coach

By Shayna Hulkower

I recently went out with a very nice guy, and we agreed that while it was fun, it wasn't worth going out again. Before I got off the phone, the guy asked if I could offer any advice to help him be more successful on his next date. I was slightly taken aback, and asked for some time to think about it. He agreed and promised he wanted to hear anything I had to say, no matter how painful I might think it would be for him to hear. I wrote down the first few things that I thought of that could be unappealing to the next person he goes out with and was about to hit 'send' on the email when I hesitated. I read the message to my brother and asked if he thought it was ok to be so honest. "He asked you for help, so I wouldn't worry." I nodded my head in agreement, added a few more things and sent it. I was nervous to read his reply, but my reluctance was unnecessary. He was so grateful for the honesty and ability to understand things he was subconsciously doing that could be scaring off suitable women. We talked some more over facebook chat about getting feedback on dating and finding people you can trust to help you through the process. I casually mentioned him looking into a dating coach, who could probably be more helpful in helping him polish his image. Finally, he bristled at my suggestion, "I've tried that, those people really just want to take your money."

I smiled to myself and thought, "How would those people be any different from what I was just doing for you?" But it's true, there are some things that seem...superfluous to have to pay someone for. Especially when we live in a day and age when you can crowdsource information you need so easily, why pay for an expert? And what makes an expert?

Just like with anything we want to excel at, it helps to have a coach or an experienced professional help us to achieve our goals.

A dating coach doesn't have to be a 'professional'.  I understood my previous date's reluctance to find someone who does this professionally. It's not like there is any sort of certifying agency that you can check with to make sure this person is actually qualified to do what they say they do. Case in point, I had been contacted by someone who was a matchmaker/dating coach. Somehow she found me on some facebook group for single people and started a conversation with me. I quickly realized that she wasn't just interested in trying to set me up, she wanted to offer me a package of services to help me get married faster. I told her thank you for your time, but I don't feel the need to pay a stranger a large sum of money just to be set up. I live in Israel after all, where you can hardly sit through a business meeting or cab ride without someone asking if you are single and then trying to set you up with their cousin. I continued to receive emails from this person, pushing her services. I finally told her that spamming me isn't going to encourage me to use her product. Only then I was deleted from her mailing list. Instances like this are going to make people reluctant to meet with someone, even when they know they need help. So where to turn?

You could go to the people who know you best and ask for some feedback. This is tricky, because if they tell you things about yourself you aren't ready to hear, it can put a strain on the friendship. A good place to start is with families that know you well. Perhaps they've seen how you interact at their Shabbat table and can offer some suggestions. Another idea is with your married friends. More than a few of my friends laughed when after getting engaged or married I started coming to them with my dating questions. "What changed all of a sudden?" they wanted to know. Simple, they proved that they can navigate a relationship successfully to its ultimate potential. Not that single people can't also offer good advice (and I do have single friends that I go to regularly for guidance), but I look at it this way - do you want to go to someone who has accomplished what you are striving for for advice to achieve this thing, or someone who is also still trying to figure out their way? It should also go without saying that you should only seek advice from married people whose relationships you admire! I have a friend who's dad was married four times - which makes him think he is an expert on giving dating advice. She disagrees and says if he is so good he shouldn't have had to keep dating after the second chuppah. But I will leave that argument between them...

You can always try to seek feedback from the people you've gone out with. They will be able to tell you better than anyone if you are doing things that are a turn-off. This can also be tricky - if a person broke up with you, it can be difficult to maneuver the conversation to constructive criticism without coming off as trying to salvage the relationship or needy. Or, you might be defensive - if this person wasn't smart enough to want to keep going out with you, what possible information could they have to be of benefit to you? Depending on your approach, the other person could be reluctant to tell you how they really feel. The key is to approach them in a calm, relaxed way that offers them ample opportunity to say no without feeling uncomfortable. A good way to do this is by email or text message - then it's much easier to avoid if they don't want to say anything. Asking someone on the phone can put them on the spot and also doesn't give them an opportunity to really think about what they want to say. 

Whether you are a natural people person, or someone with awkward social skills, we all need help time to time navigating relationships. There is nothing wrong with seeking help. In fact, the more proactive you are, and the more willing you are to face your flaws, perhaps the sooner you'll be able to do away with dating mentors all together!

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