Meet Your Match

Personal matchmakers give singles an alternative to online dating

Thomas Gregory and Alaina Elliott have lots of things in common. Both went back to school to earn a college degree, have adult children from previous marriages and value their Christian faith. And at one time, they had lived across the street from each other.

Alaina Elliott and Thomas Gregory spent a decade living across the street from each other — never meeting until professional matchmaker Kate Freiman-Fox introduced them.

A year later, the couple are planning their wedding.

“We met at a local restaurant and were instantly attracted to each other,” said Gregory. “We shared a bottle of wine, never got around to dinner, and three hours later, we were making plans for the next date.”

Online dating has become almost conventional, with most of us knowing someone who has found a spouse or partner that way. But many like Elliott and Gregory, find the digital experience unsatisfying and inauthentic.

Kate Freiman-Fox

Enter the personal matchmaker.

Freiman-Fox, founder of Authentic Connections and a former clinical psychologist, offers services for adult singles at every age. If finding love is important to you, she says, then using a professional shouldn’t be out of the question.

“A big myth is that only losers use a matchmaker, and that is not true,” she said. “Even Michael Jordan had a coach.”

Freiman-Fox founded her matchmaking service after hearing horror stories from friends about the lies and exaggerations common in online dating.

Online & After

Be real: Online dating is a great tool to meet people, but get out of the virtual world as quickly as possible.

Tell your story: Create an inviting profile that shows your personality; nix the list of demands.

Be open-minded: “One woman was so particular, I told her ‘You’ve got to expand your criteria,’ and she did. She’s married now.”

Have fun: “Some people go into a first date like a job interview. It’s got to be more light-hearted and fun. The box in which you think your honey-bunny is going to fit needs to go out the window.”

Be present: Show interest in your date and be an active listener. “If you don’t ask questions, it implies that you’re not interested.”

— Kate Freiman-Fox

Building trust with her clients is vital to effective matchmaking, she says. Having compassion for individuals while maintaining hope for the future is one way of nurturing that trust.

“I will never tell a person I’ve got somebody for them — never. Nor will I tell a person that I don’t have anybody for them, because next week I’ll meet somebody who’s right for that person,” said Freiman-Fox “They have to maintain hopefulness or it doesn’t work.”

She also advises clients to approach each date as an opportunity for growth.

“I can’t think of hardly anybody you can’t spend an hour with,” said Freiman-Fox. “Even if you decide otherwise, you can still practice your social skills through that dinner.”

Although friends introduced Freiman-Fox to the man who is now her husband, her journey to love helps her understand her clients. In the late ’90s she was 37, divorced, yet determined to have a family. This was so important she turned her search into a nearly full-time job and joined a Raleigh dating service.

“I did meet some awesome guys, but it was a lot of work on my part,” said Freiman-Fox. “Nowadays you just go online, but no one has met those people. At the dating service, someone had met the people who had become part of the system.”

Success isn’t measured in matches alone, she says. Marriages and engagements are ob-vious goals, but personal breakthroughs, self-discovery and jumpstarts into dating are successes too.

“If I work myself out of a job, I feel like I’ve been successful,” she said.

6 First Date Tips

Location counts: Pick a place or activity where you can talk. Avoid movies and other group activities where your date isn’t the focus. Walking dates are inexpensive, good exercise, and the boost of adrenaline will make you more attractive.

Meal plans? Dinner is okay, but brunch is better. If the date goes well, you can plan another activity for the rest of the day. Rethink coffee dates, as they are often too short to get to know a person.

Relax: The first date is an opportunity to decide whether or not a next date is warranted. Are you having fun? Do you feel comfortable with the person?

Don’t drink too much. You want to get to know each other sober.

Who pays? The man usually pays for the first date, but not always. Women should be prepared to split the bill.

If things go sideways? Say you had a nice time, and thank your date. Tell them to “take care,” but resist the urge to say you will call them. It’s dishonest. If they ask for another date, say you don’t think it was a good fit. A mature adult will take the information graciously.

— Angela Kelley

Like Freiman-Fox, Angela Kelley founded A+ Introductions as a respectful and dignified alternative to online dating.

“We live in a society now where everyone is in that cafeteria mentality, and you can thank online dating for that. People want to be able to say, ‘Oh, I like this. I like that,’ cafeteria-style,” said Kelley, an Apex-based clinical researcher.

“Unfortunately, doing it that way — all that swiping left and right — they’re only looking at a snapshot of that person. They’re not given a complete understanding of who that person is, and that’s important.”

Getting to know her clients is an enjoyable process for Kelley, who says you have to like people to create successful matches. Meeting with clients face to face and developing a rapport over time helps Kelley convey to her clients why she considers a particular member a good match for them.

“I’m not a big corporation; I don’t have a lot of people to answer to, aside from my clients,” said Kelley.

She serves a niche clientele — single professionals who are 35 years and older, residing in the Triangle, and are actively seeking a romantic relationship. Her clients submit to background checks and are contractually obligated to update their relationship status when they are no longer single.

Pick a public place for your first date, says Angela Kelley, founder of A+ Introductions. “Not only do you not want anything inappropriate to happen, you don’t want to be accused of doing anything inappropriate.”

For effective matchmaking, Kelley assesses three components: an individual’s value system, personality type and personal preferences. She also actively listens to feedback so she understands her client as completely as possible.

“There are seven billion people on the planet, and the right person is going to be there,” she says. “You just have to be patient and strategic.”

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