Who’s fooling who – do we need a dating coach?

Back in 2008, Ellen Carter quite succinctly summed up why so many high-earners are paying relationship experts to find them a date from whichever of the dating sites both the loaded single and the mentor subscribe.

The main justification, as far as I can tell, for anyone wanting to part with so much of their cash in return for a dating site being able to deliver what they, so far, have been unable to find themselves – namely a long term partner – is that they simply don’t have the time. I’ll just summarise some of the arguments put forward by the therapists, mentors and University boffins for your digestion and then ask you a simple question at the end of it all.

Online dating is booming; for us mere mortals who do not earn a five-figure monthly income, comitting to a mediocre membership fee is cheaper than a night out, traipsing bars where you may not find one individual who’s interested or interesting enough to warrant the expense. Online dating, pretty much guarantees a captive audience with all but the odd exception gathered in the same place for the same thing – to meet other singles. They’re good at it, they work (if you put the effort in, as we harp on about on dating.org.uk quite a lot).

And that really is the crux – if you put the effort in. When I was in my youth, my beloved aunt (she gets mentioned quite a bit on here and I’m darned sure she’d make a better matchmaker than some I’ve seen referenced in recent articles) tried everything to get me together with her well-to-do clients’ nieces and other mateable-aged female family from the hair-dressing boutique she ran in Staffordshire.  Dates which, inevitably, met with varying amounts of success, but mainly indifference on either my part or the matchmade other, rather just tagging along for the ride, with the odd exception in Katherine. The key thing missing about those liaisons was their downfall from the outset: the element of ‘me’ that went into choosing those dates was knowledge of my make-up that aunt had gleaned over the twenty or so years of knowing me – and even then, that was rarely enough.

Now, you’re not telling me that someone, no matter how much money is thrown at the cause, can impart as much knowledge of themselves to a dubiously-qualified stranger as can be gained from over twenty years of upbringing? And that promise is the premise on which high-end dating sites attract their clients; even if you go to extremes, referring back to Ellen’s 2008 article, that clients are persuaded to commit to a three-month immersion program for $5,000 (heaven knows how much that is now, given that UK top bosses payrises have risen from £1M to £4M in the same period [BBC 6pm news, 23/01/12]), that’s very little time for a mentor to categorically state they know what’s best for a client’s love-life.

And now that question: if someone approached you, via a third party because they were too ‘hyperconnected’ to their job and the real world to come and find you themselves, would you want to date that person? And what sort of life are you plotting for yourself, if you did? I think you’d be fooling yourself if you thought life thereafter was going to be anything other than playing second fiddle to their job and the big-earners kidding themselves if they believe an ‘expert‘ can find them love without them actually being there to make the call; the only winners are the high-end dating sites hoodwinking everyone into making believe it’s possible. To be ‘in true love‘ can only ever be ‘inert love‘, without the element of ‘u‘.

Relationship experts – according to whom?

Every relationship expert is expected to don more than one hat, over their time. However, to become a qualified ‘coach’ in this very human sector, much of the emphasis is placed on analysing and correcting issues after a couple have been together for some time, which is not necessarily what you’re paying through the nose for when you sign up to a high-end dating site.

Sure, dating is certainly covered in the syllabus, but only those who’ve qualified recently – and I mean very recently – may have had any of their curriculum devoted to meeting a perfect partner online. So, when the dating sites with higher-than-average membership fees are offering the services of “mentors”, exactly what school of graduation are they plucking these cardboard cupids from?

Who qualifies for a dating site mentor?

A recent report by a relationship expert who had put the hours in to gain her qualification was astounded when, after looking to enhance her newly-gained skills by attending a session promised as a think-tank for the ‘experts’ in this field, she discovered that she was the only one amongst the assembled, self-proclaimed set with anything that resembled a dating qualification, at all.

There is some mileage in stating that the people who study what works and what doesn’t work on a dating site are qualified to preach about the mechanics. But, in a field that requires a deft, understanding human touch, are data scientists the best placed to be counselling a dating single who is having no luck with their ads?

Perhaps they are indeed more suited, as singles who approach such information technicians know in advance that any queries they have are going to be met with pure logic.  They then have the choice whether to put their faith in dating science or seek advice from a faceless mentor who may be as straight as a meandering mountain path, for all they know. Certainly, for men at least, if you have a choice of IT, carpentry, soccer or relationship expert for your career path, the latter will have grass growing over it before the end of the first term.

There’s a very interesting article from The Washington Post from a couple of years ago recanting tales of singles who, even before the dating site boom, were relying on guidance from experts and paying extortionately for the privilege. It needs bringing in line with 2012 figures, but it does exemplify just what we’re talking about, especially as more singles are distancing themselves from the madding crowd and putting their whole lovelives in the hands of someone who may be helping a dating site out part time, just to get them through that last year of uni, or pay off their student loan…

You know you’re not doing your dating, but who is?

We have written to some extent about the value of paying for paid dating site services on dating.org.uk/ for some time. The one role that we’ve not significantly considered is that played out by the actual relationship expert.

A recent report by one self-styled matchmaking guru claims to have been present at a session for such practitioners to find that they were the only one present who had any relevant experience in the field, let alone any sort of certification to exonerate the fact that they were qualified thus to perform what was asked of them.

If you are a straight male who is genuinely hard pressed for time, earning enough in a month to feed a small African village for twice as long, do you really want a gay graduate or ageing professor deciding who is your best prospect in the online dating community? What say do you get, as the venerable dating site member, in deciding who takes on your case, other than at the point of sign-up for whichever of the growing number of ‘high-end’ online dating facilities you opt for?

Money talks and those who feel empowered enough by their sizeable income to allow someone else to do their matchmaking for them would, you’d think, move in circles where they expect only the best service for their outlay.  From having a personal assistant who knows how to get the coffee just so (amongst their other duties, obviously) to only buying from clothes shops that get the fit ‘just so’, service is almost expected and only noticed when it’s sub-standard.  Is this message getting through to the top niche of the dating world, delivering a service second to none or are they leaving their clients hanging on because, let’s face it, their can only be so big a market for entrepreneurs willing to part with such commanding monthly fees?

If the recent report is true, those gathered at the recent council of relationship experts included those who done their dating training before the Internet was a force to be reckoned with, was littered with people who had a same-sex orientation and even those who took on the role of cupid only on a part-time basis to fund their passage through college.

In a deviation from our usual path, over the next two days, we will unearth the secrets behind who’s doing your matchmaking for you and once again pose the question: is anyone really suited to find your perfect partner other than you? Look forward to your company.

Newbie dating, high end stylee

Picking up from the last article, ‘Who’d be a relationship expert?‘, we look at just what that job entails for those who can afford to date high end, but don’t know how to…

Once you’ve spoken to your counsellor – and it is only after this point that your membership may be accepted, these high end dating sites retain the rite not to have you as a member – and you reach the common agreement that you are inept at dating, the counsellor will go away and work out a personal program for you. This is the high end we’re talking about, I mean 4-figure membership fees per month!

Usually, by the time the relationship expert comes back to you, based on the information you’ve submitted/they’ve gleaned, they will have searched through their database to find you a date. If you’re paying top whack for this online dating service, you are normally guaranteed one or two dates a month.

From there, you may not get sent straight on a date, oh no. It is becoming more of the trend that you have an ‘introduction’ before you actually hit the town with your new dating site beau. Here, you mutually agree whether you feel comfortable enough with your opposite number to go out with them on that all important first date.

The counsellor will then arrange everything, providing that the introduction has gone swimmingly. The services do differ from site to site but one would expect the date, time, place and transport to and from to be all included, even the menu may have been approved by your counsellor.

You will then take all the tips your relationship expert will have given you in the subsequent one to ones – and this is everything from the art of grooming to conversational tips and body language posture and attentiveness – and hope that you’ve learnt enough in that short space of time time to woo your loaded prince or princess.

Yep – it is like a fairy tale – just waiting for the wicked aunt to arrive on her broomstick, but your fairy god-mother’s already seen her off by flashing the greenbacks at her that you’ve shelled out for this exclusive dating service.

Now, bearing in mind the type of clientele that will have been in work for long enough to have built up enough spare or lived with mom so have had nothing better to spend their cash on, you can see, even with all that forethought and planning, that relationship expert job, although it may sound a breeze, is certainly not one for the meek and mild.

But, if you’ve got the dime but not the time, why not pay someone else to do all the chatting up and arranging for you?  For those not in that bracket, we have a fair few dating sites that don’t command a month’s wages, just to guarantee that one date.

Who’d be a relationship expert?

Now here’s a job that can either be a breeze or a right royal pain in the ‘arris: the relationship expert.

Don’t laugh – it’s a real job and you can even take a degree in it. What’s more, people on high-end dating sites are paying top dollar to use their service when they sign up to these exclusive dating sites. Talk about taking the hassle out of dating!

Relationship, or dating experts act like a human algorithm, talking to each and every client to assess their individual needs. This can be everything from arranging a bespoke program or, for the more experienced dater, just the best way to get the most successful experience from their facility.

I mean, we’re talking sizeable fees for the big city boys and girls who work hard, long hours and just don’t have the freedom to put the time and effort into their love lives in the same way that they do their high-profile jobs. So, yes, they can afford the personal touch that this type of all-in dating site offers, which is not cheap and pretty much out of the range of anyone who’s not got a couple of thousand dollars spare at the end of every month.

Entry level fees differ, to suit your needs

There are usually different entry levels; if, after the phone call from your dating expert, you think you’re savvy with the majority of the services they offer, then you go in at the low-cost end.

And this is where it gets testing for the relationship counsellor. If you’re absolutely clueless about dating, got a bit more money than (common) sense, these specialists will walk you through every step of the process.

And there is another very real reason that these dating sites make calls. Just because singles have money, does not mean they are automatically safe. In order to enhance their reputation, not only for delivering value for money but also for being secure, you, prior to being accepted by the high end dating sites, undergo a full vetting service. This could include both your criminal record and your credit history being investigated. I’m buggered, then.

But, if you’re paying that much cash up front, as an exclusive member you expect to be safe, both personally and financially. There’s no ‘Oh, I forgot my wallet’ excuses at these first dates.

In the follow up article, the step-by-step process of walking the newbie through the dating routine, high end style.