7 First Date Tips

Take the initiative

Make a good first impression and plan your date. Are you into food trucks or craft cocktails? Hit the local food truck scene or bar hop with your date around town. That way you explore different places while getting to know each other.

Just make sure to pick spots where you can have a conversation—a really loud bar or a movie theatre are not good options. A quiet (and public) place is the way to go.

Don’t be late

You’d be surprised by how many people show up late to a first date (editor’s note: not to mention meetings with their matchmaker!). Don’t be one of them. Your date will stress out, thinking they’ve been stood up—which is one of the reasons why first dates induce so much anxiety.

On the other hand, if you end up being the one waiting, consider leaving for your own sake. A genuinely interested person would not leave you hanging on the very first date.

Be honest right off the bat

If you’re shy or you’re nervous, say so right away and break the ice. It’s hard to open up like this on the first date, but you’ll be helping the other person understand how you feel. And they won’t blame themselves or assume you don’t like them when you’re a little quiet at first.

Be mindful of boundaries

Your date’s body language can be a source of information on what their boundaries are, so take note. Hugging might be okay for some people, but out of line for others. Everyone has specific boundaries and being mindful of them matters, especially on the first date.

Listen up

If you truly listen to your date, you will know them faster and get along better. Actually, active listening is a key ingredient in building lasting relationships. And according to a study by the International Journal of Listening, paying attention to what your date is saying can even make you more socially attractive.

Take it slow

Don’t think of a first date as the be-all-end-all. Take it slow and get to know your date by asking questions and sharing some details of your life. Dig deeper when you’re genuinely interested, but still try to take your time. When the pressure to connect fast is off the table, a date can run more smoothly.

Don’t go ignoring them

After that first date, you should have a pretty good idea of whether or not you want to go on a second one. This is when honesty comes in handy. Don’t be afraid to reach out saying you had a good time and want to meet again. And don’t shy away from being honest if there was no connection at all. Whatever you do, just don’t ignore your date after the first meeting. Ghosting is bad etiquette.

These tips are courtesy of our friends at Consumers Advocate.

Are you dating someone who reminds you of your ex?

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If your new love interest reminds you a bit (or a lot) of your ex, you’re apparently not alone!

According to a fascinating new study, people tend to gravitate towards those with similar traits. So if you’ve always dated stilt-walking clowns who have a thing for sushi and NASCAR racing, there’s a good chance your next relationship will also be with a stilt-walking clown who likes sushi and NASCAR. (Okay, perhaps that’s as wildly specific as it is unlikely, but you get the general gist.)

From the study:

“The results revealed a significant degree of distinctive partner similarity, suggesting that there may indeed be a unique type of person each individual ends up with.”

The study used data from 332 participants and was co-authored by Yoobin Park and our legit IRL pal, Geoff Macdonald of the University of Toronto.

Draw your own conclusions, but we here at Friend of a Friend Matchmaking tend to match people who are similar in character and/or interests and/or values to one another. They say that opposites attract, but we think the opposite of that is true. People tend to date people they are similar to, and so it follows as a matter of course that exes and new loves will be similar in some ways.

How about you? Have you ever dated someone who has reminded you of an ex?

Spring Clean your Dating Life

There are few things in life more satisfying as spring cleaning. Purging belongings, digitizing media collections and unearthing your crisper drawer take time and effort, but the end results can boost both productivity and happiness. (Marie Kondo has built an empire on this idea.)

While it may not be as scary as your long-neglected garage, dating can still get pretty messy.

Don’t worry! Spring cleaning can also be applied to your dating life. Sometimes you need to carefully sift through everything to decide what’s worth keeping, what needs to be shelved and what needs to be burned in a colossal trash fire.

“I’ve had clients bring up the question of how to approach dating in an efficient and effective manner,” says Clare Kumar, a productivity and organization coach and an expert at the art of streamlining.

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Having applied her knowledge as a professional organizer and declutterer to the world of online dating, Kumar offers up some insights that will help any online dater save time, effort and serious frustration.

Here are some of Clare Kumar’s tips on how to best spring-clean your dating life:

Get clear on who you’re looking for

Is it important to you that your future partner is vegan or vegetarian? Are you looking for someone who will be supportive of your faith and open to raising potential future children in those traditions? Do you need to be with someone who can keep up with you on your morning runs? If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Articulate the attributes you’re looking for, and write your profile to support the selection of such an individual. When you help those who are not a good fit opt out, you’ll both save a lot of time.

Choose a dating site that works for you

Different sites and apps attract different clienteles. Focus your efforts on one or two and get really comfortable with how they work. A little research goes a long way. If you’re juggling a few sites at a time, be prepared to make some mistakes. For example, if you swipe “up” on Bumble, you’ll see more photos and information about your person of intrigue. If you swipe “up” on Tinder, you’ve just super-liked someone. Yikes! Not the end of the world, but no need to cringe your way through the process. Getting to know the features of a website or app can save you time and spare you from embarrassment. (Want to ditch annoying dating sites altogether? Hire yourself a matchmaker!)

Tighten the funnel

If the site or app allows for it, raise the bar for those who wish to communicate with you. “Hey, what’s up?” can get old pretty fast. Certain websites such as Plenty of Fish allow you to filter out messages that don’t hit a minimum word count. You can also filter out profiles that don’t include photos. Don’t feel obligated to respond to any and all inquiries out of guilt or politeness — only respond to messages where you sense the potential for connection.

Meet sooner, not later

Nothing gives you a better idea of what someone is truly like than meeting them in person. The quicker you can move from messaging/texting/calling to an in-person meetup, the faster you’ll be able to make an informed decision.

Stay close to home

Whenever possible, select a venue for your first dates that is reasonably close to your neighbourhood. The more convenient the location, the easier it will be for you to manage your time and energy.

Kiss notifications goodbye

Turn off notifications for all dating apps and websites. They break your focus and your productivity throughout the day. Dip into dating sites only when it’s convenient for you. And if you find you’re spending more time swiping or browsing online than you’d like, set some strict time limits — for example, thirty minutes a day. Like anything else — diet, exercise — dating has got to fit your lifestyle to be sustainable.

This article by Friend of a Friend Matchmaking’s Sofi Papamarko originally appeared in The Toronto Star.

How are you spending your Valentine's Day?

Valentine’s Day is weird.

Sometimes it’s fun, but it can also be (choose one): silly, depressing, expensive, artificial, painful, capitalistic.

Friend of a Friend Matchmaking asked clients, past clients and our friends how they’ll be spending February 14th this year. This is what they had to say for themselves:

”Oh, Thursday is Valentine's Day. It hadn't crossed my mind until Sofi reminded me. I'll be swimming laps enjoying the soothing, relaxing warm water during this cold, snowy day. At the same time, I'm staying fit and strong so that once the weather turns, I can enjoy my enduring love — cycling.“ —B.

“I plan to bother my fella all day by texting punny cards, because puns are the best part of Valentine's Day. I'll probably send some to other friends and acquaintances too, because there's so much hatred for V-Day around that everyone could use the giggle.” —V.

”I’ll be playing Dungeons and Dragons. February 14th is also Hazel McCallion Day, so I’ve created a new character loosely based on her.” —L.

”As soon as I get home from work I'm changing into my favourite PJ pants (they have doughnuts on them) and eating a reuben sandwich on my couch while watching cooking shows and wondering why my boyfriend Roger Federer once again forgot to send me flowers. “ —A.

“Theraaaaapyyyyyyyyyy!” —R.

“On Valentine's Day I will be sharing homemade vegan chocolate chip cookies with all my lovely lady colleagues (I have been told they are the best chocolate chip cookies ever), doing some yoga and then heading to the Doll Factory by Damzels annual 50 percent off sale to hopefully find a cute, vintage inspired dress just for me! “ —J.

“My single friends and I have a tradition of celebrating our anti-Valentine's Day by eating chicken wings at Hooters and going to the strip club to remind us that there are people sadder than we are. :)” —S.

”While I can confirm that even though I’m single, my Valentine’s Day will be full of love. My baby niece was born six weeks ago and my brother deployed fairly quickly after so I’m going to help my sister-in-law with my niece and nephews and get some major baby snuggles in! I also plan on hitting the gym and doing some light meditation because there ain’t no love like self-love! ” —G.

”My husband and I are going out with six other couples and a few more single friends to a great Indian restaurant and then dancing. Not very romantic maybe, but a lot of fun. Not bad for Bangladesh, where we have been living for close to three years now!” —R.

”This year's, Valentine's day is a little different for me; while I am in a relationship, my boyfriend this year is working out of the country for a few months so instead of a romantic night out with him, I'm sticking close to home and having family dinner with my parents. Right now it's a toss up between tacos and fondue!” —M.

”Get up, go to work, come home, get takeout and continue my Star Trek - Deep Space Nine binge marathon.  Of course, I may be still digging out from the snow that just hit Ottawa.  Just another day.” —J.

”As is typical of most calendar holidays, I'm busy this Valentine's Day rehearsing for a show opening this week. My partner lives three cities away, and is coming to spend his reading week with me - but not until next week. Valentine's Day will mean pretty much nothing different - although I might treat myself to a little extra chocolate :).” —K.

”My plans for v-day is pizza and Netflix with the company of my 5 pound chihuahua Koko and bed at 9 p.m. because let’s face it, sleep is the best thing ever!” —A.

”One of my favourite Valentine’s Days involved drawing pictures for people, whatever they requested, on Facebook. I was super touched by the requests from parents to draw pictures for their kids and why they are awesome. “ —C.

”I have never celebrated Valentines day even when in relationships. My theory is I have 364 other days to show I care. Card companies won't dictate when and how I show my affection. This year, I am in a new relationship but still keeping my anti-Valentine’s tradition alive. She is going to visit family in Montreal and I have plans as the third wheel with a couple I am friends with (who feel the same about this Hallmark holiday) to see a community theatre production of Mary Poppins. (Romantic, I know.)” —B.

“Thai takeout and Russian Doll on Netflix with m’boo.” —S.

”This Valentine’s Day, I’m going to do something different. Instead of obsessing over my most recent, I’m going to send my friends poems about how important their friendship is to me. I’ve been single for basically my entire life, and it’s my friends who have truly been there for me - not my random crushes. So they’re the ones who are going to get all of my attention and love this year. ️" —J.

”I’ll be on a post-work flight to New York! I have theatre tickets (Harry Potter & The Cursed Child) on the weekend and it was cheaper to fly on Thursday. (And as a result, this is the most excited I’ve been for Valentine’s Day in years.)” —R.

“My plans are to enjoy the heck out of the chocolate milk fountain at work, write some Valentines cards for patients at St Jude's Children's Hospital, then climb the anxiety wall to get to the gym before hosting some friends for food and an awful movie, and finally supporting a good friend who is gonna be spooky dancing to raise money for To Write Love on Her Arms' "Valentines Day Doesn't Have to Suck" event, where proceeds will directly go towards providing mental health resources for hundreds of people. I'll be finishing my day with some self-care affirmations but just in case you read this at the end of your night - it doesn't matter whether you end up staying home or celebrating Galentines Day with your friends, please remember that you are no less worthy of being loved.” —G.

”Daycare pickup and straight home for picnic + movie night with my wee bug! First, there will be pizza making. Heart-shaped, of course. And bonus for me, my boy likes olives! Then, the movie. Ferdinand perhaps. No, the Lorax I think. We’ll clink to love with our respective glasses of Malbec and apple juice. And top it off with cuddles and books. Truthfully, most nights are some version of this. And I love them all.” —A.

”Having been single for a few years now (more than I care to remember), for me, Valentine’s Day is a reminder of all the reasons why it’s important to share your life with other people. It doesn’t have to be your soulmate, your partner, or that special one, but all those that you love. Family, friends, workmates ...all those who enrich your life. So this Valentine’s Day I plan to just spend time with my friends and family.  To eat some chili, play a board game and talk about shared interests, funny stories, and laugh. Of course, because it’s Canada and we are enveloped with winter and never-ending snow, we will curl up in front of the fire and thumb our noses at both Lady Love and Mother Nature.” —C.

Whatever you choose to do today, we hope you are surrounded by people you love (and heck yes, that includes yourself)!

Single on Valentine's Day? No Problem!

Kicking it solo can also be pretty sweet.

Kicking it solo can also be pretty sweet.

So you're single on Valentine's Day, huh?

Congratulations!

Like most people, I have been both single and coupled on Valentine's Day and can admit that I've had more fun as a single lady than as one half of a couple.

Valentine's Day is like the New Year's Eve of coupledom; high-pressure, high expectations, absurdly expensive and generally kind of a letdown.

Boxes of refined sugar are sweet but hazardous. Overpriced plants cut off at the knees are strange symbols of affection. Romantic candlelit dinners are less special on Valentine's Day when every restaurant without a clown as its spokesperson is booked to an uncomfortable capacity and you're forced to pony up for a four-course prix fixe meal with teeny tiny portions.

But lucky you! You don't have to deal with any legislated Hallmark-y malarkey! You are single! You are free!

Many singles feel lame when they don't have plans for Valentine's Day. This is certainly valid. It never feels great to assume that the rest of the world is having loads of fun and sex while you sit at home streaming episodes of The Bachelor.

But it doesn't have to be like that! Make Valentine's Day work for you. Here are a few ideas that will help make this February the 14th far less painful than any other February the 14th you have ever known.

Head to the pub. It's the one night of the year (except for maybe Christmas Eve) when you can safely assume that everyone in your direct vicinity is single... or will be very soon. Brazen flirting ahoy! Also, it's a safe bet that the pub in question has amazing nachos. Do you really need love when there are amazing nachos in this world? Please answer this honestly.

Hit the gym. It will be emptier than usual. And anyone working up a sweat at GoodLife at 8 p.m. on Valentine's Day is single. Ogle at will!

Play video games and drink beer. Look, it''s February. Nobody's going to judge you.

Embrace the pathetic. One Valentine's Day, I put on a full face of makeup, whipped up a massive vat of Kraft Dinner, threw in some sliced hot dogs and plopped myself down on the couch to watch many, many hours of reality television. I felt like Peggy Bundy. It was basically the best.

Go to the movies. Avoid romcoms and sweeping romantic epics. Stretch out in the seats of an action or horror movie with some friends. If you are of age, smuggling in a bottle of "special juice" will make this experience all the more entertaining. Just sip your juice discreetly. And responsibly.

Rent Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Her, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? or Blue ValentineThese movies practically guarantee that you'll never want to be in a relationship again. With another human being or otherwise.

Check out a local singles event. Look adorable. Drink fancy drinks. Meet hotties. It is a triumvirate of win!

Read a book. Have you ever tried reading? Reading is awesome!

Babysit. Take one for the team and give the overtired mums and dads in your circle of friends a break from the lovely tedium of childrearing. They can have a night out as a couple for the first time in 18 months and you'll have someone cute who smells good and doesn't talk much drooling all over you. And -- deep down -- isn't that everything you've ever wanted?

A version of this article originally appeared in Sun Media (now Postmedia) newspapers.

Cuffing Season -- what the heck is it?

Apologies to my friends and family — you’re not going to be seeing much of me for the next little while. I’m a matchmaker and this is the time of year when I’m swamped.

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Most service industries have their high seasons. July and August bring jam-packed patios and daunting lineups at trendy ice cream shops. And January is perpetually peak season for new gym memberships due to the cyclical optimism of New Year’s resolutions.

Similarly, the first of November signals the beginning of dating service season.

It seems counterintuitive, really. Surely spring should signal the start of high mating . . . erm . . . dating season. And yet, summer is a dead zone for professional matchmakers. It’s consistently the autumn and winter months — known to the Urban Dictionary set as “cuffing season” — when singles are feverishly using matchmaking and online dating services to get paired up.

I reached out to pre-eminent biological anthropologist Dr. Helen Fisher, author of Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Mating, Marriage and Why We Stray to ask her why matchmakers get slammed by client applications every November.

“November and early December is the highest time of year for male testosterone,” Fisher says. Testosterone is the hormone responsible for increasing sex drive and stimulating sperm production in men.

“From a Darwinian perspective, if you have a baby in August, that’s really the height of the fresh fruit and vegetable season,” Dr. Fisher says. “There’s a milder climate and more sunshine, so it’s easier for both the mother and child, in terms of survival. It’s less stressful.”

So if you’re feeling keen on snuggling someone right now, know that it’s more than just the inherent cosiness of sweater season making you feel that way. It’s been beneficial to the survival of our species for millennia that we get to baby-making in the fall.

Another reason Fisher cites for this sudden uptick in singles seeking connection are the social pressures of the upcoming holiday season.

“There are Christmas parties, office parties, New Year’s Eve parties,” she says. “It’s a time of celebration. But it’s also a time of stress. We’re taking into account what we did all year and an awful lot of people start thinking, ‘Oh dear, I still don’t have a partner.’ ”

There are also fewer opportunities to meet potential mates organically once the colder weather arrives.

Justin Zoras, 29, finds he really enjoys being single in the summer because it’s so easy to meet people while just having fun and doing what you like doing.

“If I’m going to concerts, food festivals, (or just to) chill in the park, I’m bound to interact with like-minded people,” he says. “Connections should sprout organically, and if I meet someone special, then it’s a bonus. It’s easier to bump into/spill a drink on someone on a patio in the summer than in the winter.”

“I’m ready to be ‘cuffed’,” Zoras says, “But I can’t pinpoint if it’s because of the fall leaves or because I’m ready to fall for someone after a long summer of adventure and mayhem.”

If you’re single and looking to change your status, now is the best time of the entire year to take that leap. So get yourself online and/or hire yourself a matchmaker or risk staring down the barrel of the darkest time of the year without a partner-in-Netflix.

After all, winter is most definitely coming.

(First published in The Toronto Star)

Patience is a virtue when it comes to matchmaking (AKA you can't hurry love)

by Claire AH

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SUBJECT LINE: Just Checking In

Hello, yenta!

Just a quick e-mail to see if you’ve found any good matches for me! I’m really hoping to get dating soon.

Just want to make sure you haven’t forgotten about me!

Regards,

Your Enthusiastic Client

***

A courteous check-in e-mail! What a nice thing to do…right?

While the intentions are often benign, emails like this give your matchmaker pause.

Here’s why:

We explain our matchmaking process pretty carefully. Between FAQs on our website and our in-person meetings, we endeavour to make it clear that we’re about quality over quantity. Friend of a Friend Matchmaking doesn’t just create matches to fill a quota, so it may take some time before you receive your first match. Very successful matches have occurred late in the membership year for many clients. We’re looking for strong mutual matches, and sometimes that takes time. We’re always meeting new people and sometimes past clients come back, so it’s not a question of either having someone for you right away or not at all. Likewise, sometimes the best matches for you are currently dating someone else, out of the country, taking a break, tending to big life things… but don’t worry because they often come back.

We do our very best to manage expectations early on (website, contract, interview) and yet sometimes there’s a disconnect between what we say and what the client hears (or wants to hear). We’ll say: “We will provide one to five matches a year with an average of two. Please don’t expect a match right away. It can take many months. We’ll contact you the second we have a strong mutual match.” and the client will nod. We’ll ask if they have any questions. The client will say no. I’ve taken to telling people to look me in the eyes when I say it to make sure they remember…and I still get check-in emails like the above all the time. A not insignificant number of people hear about our process and how it can take some time but they think “Okay, but I’m different! I’m special! Can’t wait for millions of dates next week!”

This stems from a false understanding of the situation: that if you’re somehow good enough (and you are! You’re great!), that we’ll have lots of matches for you right away. This is not how matchmaking works. It all depends on who we have in our client base and what they’re looking for in a partner. There are so many moving parts when it comes to matchmaking and we need so many complex things to line up for a solid match. It’s not about you at all. Not having a match for a while should not be a blow to your self-esteem. If things are taking longer than you had envisioned, know that this is part of the process and that you are wonderful and amazing and, yes, even special.

Matchmaking is so much more than meeting people and sending introduction emails. We agonize over Word docs and Excel spreadsheets. We have ongoing email chains discussing the minutiae of personalities, interests, goals and lifestyles. We meet for social gatherings and end up staying hours later than planned to discuss potential matches. The behind-the-scenes action is non-stop, so no, we definitely haven’t forgotten about you. We may have even attempted to match you today, but the person we were considering just wasn’t the right fit, for whatever reason. And we don’t generally think writing you to tell you about a near-miss is productive.

That said, we have been getting messages from clients that they’ve been feeling forgotten about. In the past, we have let client know as soon as we have something new and exciting to share because we don’t want to be in the business of clogging up your inbox with false hope.

We all suffer from the scourge of too many emails, and we have simply wanted to streamline the matchmaking experience so it doesn’t feel overwhelming or periodically disappointing. We have genuinely felt it would be a downer to receive an email from us only to find a message about how we have had a few close calls but no matches for you so far.

We’re realizing that we can do more to mitigate the situation, however.

Going forward, we will include:

  • more discussion in our preliminary meeting around how matches don’t relate to datability

  • an optional brief coaching session at the six-month point and

  • an option for check-in e-mails at customizable intervals, to be discussed

Not everyone wants to hear about the near-hits and near-misses, so we wanted to keep this optional. If your expectations for customizable intervals aren’t in step with your particular matchmaking plan, we can let you know about that at the time of your interview, as well.

Additionally, we’ll continue to email back and forth if we have any questions, if you have any life changes or updates that we need to know about for matchmaking purposes, or if we’re engaged in coaching. We welcome any clarifying questions, we’re happy to give dating advice within reason, and we’re always happy to hear about big things in your life!

We need to co-create trust in the process. It’s hard putting control into someone else’s hands, we get it, but that’s why you hired a matchmaker! We are super upfront about what to expect in terms of communication and quantity of matches so we’re all on the same page, but taking your feedback into account, we wanted to add in a few options so that people feel more secure in what’s going on behind the scenes (trust me, it’s a lot)! From there, we’ll do our best to find you some strong mutual matches. Just know that they won’t follow a strict schedule.

In the meantime, please be patient with us and gentle with yourself.

After all, you can’t hurry love.

Claire AH

RIP Burt Reynolds, you stone cold fox

Burt Reynolds was a babe.

He also had a receding hairline.

If you're a single straight lady/gay man who is looking for love and lists "bald or balding" under your dealbreakers, that means you might be passing over men who look like this guy:

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Hair isn't everything! Heck, even the most luscious manes disappear one day.

Always choose character and heart over hair (or a lack of it). 

This has been a public service announcement.

Sending love (and optimism) into the universe

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Dear friends,

It has been a sad, strange and difficult summer for many of us. Especially for those of us who live in the city of Toronto.

Jack Layton’s words have echoed in my head every time I’ve felt sadness, anger or despair about the state of things: "My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we'll change the world."

We try our best at Friend of a Friend Matchmaking to be continually optimistic and to change the world in tiny, loving ways — like introducing lovely people to other lovely people who they may not have otherwise met. Sometimes, these connections are fleeting — one date and done. But other times, the connection turns into friendship or love, co-signed leases, mortgages, engagements, marriages and even children.

We’re happy to be doing what we’re doing. We know connecting people is a good way to inject hope, optimism and love into a difficult time and we love what we do.

Optimism is a difficult thing to hold onto when it comes to your own love life. Loneliness and past disappointments can easily dash our hopes of finding a lasting relationship. But we have to remember that the past is not necessarily an indicator of the future and that any day now, our love lives could change for the better.

When I started Friend of a Friend Matchmaking in 2013, I had been single for a decade. I had been on hundreds (thousands?) of disappointing dates and I watched with a mixture of happiness/sadness/frustration/anxiety over the years as my friends met people, married them and started families. I wondered if it would ever happen for me. I sincerely doubted that it would. 

This weekend, I introduced the true love of my life to my parents for the first time. I felt nervous and excited but it went well. I know I’ve finally found the person who feels like home to me.

I went to a client wedding a few weeks ago (the photo at the top of this post is of their gorgeous wedding arch — the rain cleared up just in time for the ceremony) and I was nearly in tears during their vows because I remembered the loneliness of both of these people during our matchmaking interviews. I heard about their broken relationships and broken hearts and unrequited crushes and vast disappointments. Fast forward a few years and here they both were — in love, looking radiant and surrounded by everyone important to them.

Love changes everything. Time heals everything.

This summer, let’s take steps to heal our hearts and bring on the hope.

Because hope is something we need now more than ever.

Love,

Sofi

The Matchmaker Got Matchmade

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by Lee-Anne Galloway
Toronto Matchmaker (straight clientele)

Last month, I got engaged on the top of a mountain near Calgary.  We stood at the summit for a photograph when he nervously reached out his arms, ring box upside down, and said nothing. I ugly cried. The woman taking our pic said “What’s your answer?”, I smiled and said “YES!” He yelled into the mountains “SHE! SAID! YES!".

We were set up by a mutual friend and introduced at a party.  A party full of artists, of which he is not. He was a bit quiet and reserved and wearing a fitted green t-shirt that showed off his athletic physique. My immediate thoughts were “This guy spends too much time in the gym, and we really don't have much in common.” Next!

He sent me a message on Facebook, I messaged back, he sent me his number and then... I ghosted. WHAT?! A professional matchmaker blew off a match?! Yup.

I was stuck. I thought I was being positive and proactive in my dating life, but I was actually jaded and so rigid that I was unwilling to give anyone a real chance -- or even a second date, for that matter. I knew what I wanted, and if a guy didn’t show up exactly how I had envisioned him, I was out.

I realized the irony of the situation when our mutual friend nudged me to reach out a month later. I called him, apologized for blowing him off, and asked him out. It took a few dates for me to really get to know him. And when I did, he was everything. He was thoughtful, generous, funny, supportive, intelligent, adventurous, positive, stylish, understanding and full of spunk!  All the things I had on my list!

So, what did I learn from ditching my judgements and fixations and going for a second date?

First impressions and even first dates are not enough time to get to know someone. We judge harshly instead of staying curious and open. The best way to get to know someone is to spend some time with them. I tell clients, “if your date looked nice, smelled nice and you had a good time, then go out again!”

There will never be a perfect time to meet someone, so stop waiting for it.  When I met my fiance, my mother was very ill with cancer and I was a mess. He listened, was understanding and so kind. Not a fairytale beginning, but it was real and it made us stronger by facing it together.

It’s not always sparks at first sight. A slow burn is what to watch for.  If there’s not a lot of chemistry on date one, but you weren’t turned off, go out again and see if it smoulders.

Finally — and this is the most important point — you must realize the traits and attributes you are looking for may show up differently than you expect! You have to be open and present in the moment to see traits revealed in different packages and combinations.

I am so lucky I recognized the irony of the situation and smartened up. 

I am so lucky I called him back. 

And I am so lucky he fell for me! This marriage will be epic.  I am so in love, and it’s just the beginning. I am forever grateful to our matchmaker. You should get one too! ;)

 

Have I Been Ghosted? Nope, Just Jarred!

Thanks to Portia Corman for interviewing me for this CBC Life piece:

Like many Canadian kids who went to the cottage every summer, I put a lot of things in jars. Toads, beetles, fireflies — anything I felt I needed more time to admire was held prisoner until I tired of it or my Dad forced me to release it back into the wild. I always poked holes in the lid because these were not things I wanted to kill or keep.

In fact, I wanted the opposite. The joy came in the releasing; the knowledge that this beautiful, mysterious creature was headed back into the wild to continue living. I imagined it arriving home to worried toad parents and telling the story of being held in a glass cage by a lonely sunburned girl with big, blue peering eyes.

Seems I am a serial jarrer when it comes to dating as well; catch, admire and release.

The pattern became apparent to me after a particularly magical first date. A handsome, professional man approached me on LinkedIn (yes, LinkedIn is a dating app for some people). He sent me a witty email, we exchanged a few notes back and forth and agreed to meet for brunch the following Sunday. I didn't expect much other than a stack of world-famous blueberry pancakes but after a couple of Caesars, the chemistry was undeniable so when he suggested we go to the liquor store, pick up a bottle of red and head back to his condo, I said yes. We had a natural connection; we laughed, sipped wine, swapped stories and yes, there was some affection as well.  

So it came as a shock when I told him I wasn't interested in a second date.

At the time I couldn't articulate why I didn't want to pursue a relationship but it became clear to me in the cab on the way home; I like to store up perfect moments like snapshots in a photo album that I can flip through later. These precious moments become stories to recount as I lay in bed in the morning or take a long drive; always perfect, never tarnished.

A process I've come to call, 'jarring'.

And I'm not alone. Dr. Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist, senior research fellow at The Kinsey Institute, and Chief Scientific Advisor to Match.com admitted she once fell out of love after returning from a vacation with her partner that was so fantastic, it made the prospect of returning to their normal life seem lackluster by comparison.

Sofi Papamarko, Founder of Friend of a Friend Matchmaking has seen a lot of good dates end up in nowhere land; "I've heard enough stories from friends and clients about amazing dates that, for whatever reason, were never followed by a second date. Maybe it's not a matter of the other person not having as great a time — maybe they were just 'jarring'".

But 'jarring' seems counterintuitive when you consider that 45% of single Canadians have admitted to trying online dating. If so many of us are looking for love why are some of us running in the other direction?

Hina Khan, a Registered Psychotherapist and Success Coach speculates, "It could be that on a gut level, they know that this person is a bad fit. But, if this is a pattern we have to look at it a bit deeper. Why are they 'attracting' or dating people that are ultimately not the right fit? This could indicate that the person may want a relationship but they don't feel they deserve one. So they keep dating people that reflect how they feel, not what they want."

 

Papamarko says, "It's one thing to never visit that amazing gelato place in Florence ever again; keeping that memory of creamy nocciola goodness perfect and pure. It's quite another thing to avoid getting too close to another human being after having a magical time with them — especially if you're yearning for connection or companionship in your life. To me, 'jarring' behaviour seems rooted in fear and pain avoidance."

But couldn't it be a natural outcome of the times? Recently, two men set up a site called Life Faker. The site ostensibly sells stock photos that people can pass off as images from their real, flawless lives. Packages include, "My Sexy Girlfriend/Boyfriend", "I Just Happen To Live Here" and "I Can Be Arty And Deep". The idea is that you choose the images you want to purchase and share them with your social network so your friends and followers think you have a perfect life. After you've chosen your desired packaged and clicked through to pay, the real intention of the site is revealed to you. It's a fake. Its purpose is to remind us of the "unhealthy behaviours on social media and their harming impact on mental health." Very tricky, Life Faker guys. However, the fact that people fell for it is a reflection of how valuable we perceive these flawless moments to be.

Indeed, the pursuit of perfection and FOMO isn't good for us. A UK study looking at mental health and social media found that the image-based platforms of Instagram and Snapchat ranked the worst for mental health and well-being and made young people feel inadequate and anxious.

In a culture where perfection is lauded and the prospect of deficiency causes dissonance, 'jarring' romantic connections could be seen as a tempting proposition.

And striving for perfection is facilitated by an incredible amount of choice. There are a plethora of dating apps to choose from. Each offers a slightly different way to separate the wheat from the chaff. If you're attractive, have a decent profile and download enough apps, you can receive literally hundreds of messages from potential suitors every day and go on an endless number of dates.

So why experience the inevitable downs of a relationship when you can constantly bask in the glow of the exquisite ups (aside from the obvious fear of dying alone of course)? You needn't. As someone who has been married before, I know exactly how putting that final lid on the jar would feel and like a lot of my friends, I'm clearly not willing to do so right now. Maybe I haven't met the right person, maybe I have unreasonable expectations or maybe, like a lot of people I know, I have a full, rich life and a network of emotionally supportive friends so all I need to complete my personal picture is a series of memorable dates to recount at will.

Whatever your reason for serial jarring may be, the key is to be honest and respectful about it.

Papamarko's advice is, "Make sure your dates are aware of where your head is at when it comes to meeting new people, because you don't want to inadvertently hurt or deeply disappoint another human being."

If you're a serial jar-er looking for a long term relationship Khan suggests establishing a clear idea of what you're after in a mate: "Get clear on what you do want and the character traits you're seeking. Once you get clear, an important question to ask yourself is, 'do I feel I deserve this person?' and if the answer is 'no', then there is some work to do around your self-image and how you see yourself."

And if you were ghosted after what you thought was a magical first date, take heart. Maybe you weren't ghosted because the date sucked, maybe you were jarred.

Friend of a Friend Matchmaking is Five Today!

Five years ago today, a new matchmaking service was born.

Hundreds of dates, dozens of couples and a handful of babies later, we're still growing and thriving and connecting people in Toronto -- and now Hamilton and Ottawa.

It's been a wild five years! Thanks for joining us on the ride.

Spring is a time for growth and change. Don't be afraid to launch your own business or side-hustle. Life is too short, friends. Sometimes you've got to stop and smell the roses.

Speaking of roses, here's a photo from our official launch party in 2013 (it was a party of one in Sofi's kitchen and the "champagne" is Canada Dry).

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Meghan Markle and Prince Harry have a matchmaker to thank for their love

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Happily ever afters don't always happen by themselves. Sometimes they need a little nudge.

As you're likely well aware, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are tying the proverbial knot in Windsor this weekend. Something you may not know is that the royal couple were matchmade by mutual pal, Violet von Westenholz.

"It was definitely a set-up," says Markle. "It was a blind date. I didn't know much about him and so the only thing I had asked her when she said she wanted to set us up was, I had one question, I said 'Was he nice?'"

("Nice", by the way, is our #1 ask from our straight female clients. Not rich. Not tall. Not a legitimate prince. Good on Meghan Markle for getting her priorities straight!)

Matchmaking your single friends is one of the kindest things you can do for them. But it can also be one of the biggest disasters. Good thing Violet von Westenholz has a knack for it! 

Last year, I wrote a column in The Toronto Star about how to matchmake your single friends. In honour of the upcoming royal wedding, we're reprinting it below in order to help any budding Violet von Westernholzeseseses out there. Maybe you'll be responsible for the next fairy tale wedding!

***

So you think you can be a matchmaker?

It’s thoughtful and considerate to engineer romantic happiness for your single friends. But if your formula for setting people up is no more sophisticated than “They’re both single and seem to smell OK,” you need to fine-tune your strategy.

Here is the honest truth about set-ups: most people are bad at it. This is partly because most people are not very good romantic fits for each other.

Human beings: complex.

Finding love: hard.

Having been on the receiving end of some nightmarish set-ups and hearing horror stories from friends and clients, I know for a fact that setting up the singles in your life is something of an art. It requires intuition, logic, faith, finesse and a whole lot of luck.

Here are some things every budding yenta should keep in mind before accidentally subjecting their long-suffering friends and relatives to yet another disastrous blind date:

Do their lifestyles align?

If one of your single friends is a steak-loving workaholic corporate lawyer, and their would-be match is a raw vegan visual artist/freelance photographer, exactly what will they talk about on their first date? How about for the rest of their lives? This is a fun pairing for a sitcom but a seriously bad idea for a set-up.

What are their hobbies/interests/passions?

People love to talk about the things they’re most passionate about. Whether it’s the Toronto Blue Jays or health-care policy, indie music or municipal politics, the nuances of the latest HBO series or the craft cocktail menu at a trendy new local, great conversations are built upon common interests. Similarly, great relationships are built upon good conversations.

Do they have similar values?

If your friends adhere to a religious faith (or different religious faiths), consider complications that may arise with their respective families or when potentially raising children down the road. Political leanings are also important. Most people tend to be pretty open about dating those with different political viewpoints, as long as they are open-minded enough for friendly debate. That said, you probably shouldn’t match a left-wing activist with a staunch social conservative. Another solid sitcom idea, though!

What do they want down the road?

Some people want a white picket fence in the suburbs and 2.5 kids. Others want to forgo kids and real estate and spend their golden years sailing around the world. Some want to establish the first human settlement on Mars. Where do your friends see themselves in 10 or 20 or 30 years? Do they ultimately want the same things? Don’t throw them together if they don’t.

Is there the potential for physical attraction?

Looks shouldn’t matter, but they do. A lot. Ask your friend or family member what and who they find attractive (do they have a “type?”) and don’t set them up with anyone who falls too far outside of those parameters unless you feel super strongly that their personalities would really click.

Have you asked if it’s OK to set them up?

You should definitely do that. A few years back, someone introduced me to someone else completely out of the blue via Facebook message. She didn’t know me very well and hadn’t ever asked me what I was looking for in a person — or even if I was looking at all. The man was not my cup of tea and extricating myself from that situation was deeply awkward. Be sure to ask permission of both parties before setting them up. Exception: you feel like being sneaky, so you invite them both to a group gathering. This is a solid strategy for organic interaction but not necessarily welcome if it’s too obvious a move.

And now, for a story: I was very recently set up by a friend and had a lovely time. My date was smart, funny, cute, pop cultured, hosts a radio show (as I once did) and our tastes and senses of humour aligned like planets. Although it didn’t go anywhere (blame our complete lack of romantic chemistry and the fact that he lives in Vancouver), it was still a fantastic set-up and it was crystal clear that our mutual pal has a solid understanding of us both. I appreciated the care he took and the thought he put into it.

Matchmaking your friends is a good deed, indeed. Just make sure you do it well.


This article originally appeared in The Toronto Star

Need an extra $200? Who doesn’t?!

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Friend of a Friend Matchmaking wants to put a little spring in your step. We’re offering generous referral fees this spring that you can put towards a new pair of shoes, dinner at a nice restaurant, books, records, gadgets, groceries, your heating bill from this wretched winter — whatever you want!

All you need to do is spread the word about Friend of a Friend. Simple, right?

 1) Tell your single friends in Toronto, Hamilton and Ottawa about Friend of a Friend Matchmaking. Have them apply here.

2) If your friend is accepted into the service and registers successfully, we’ll e-transfer $200 — your referral fee — after we interview them*. (Your friend will have to provide us with your name and contact information.)

3) Unfortunately, we aren’t able accept everyone who applies to the service, but the odds are ever in your favour if you send men or openminded queer folx (of all ages and genders) our way. We are especially seeking heterosexual men aged 35 - 70.

4) There is no limit to our referral fees. Send us 20 new clients, make $4000! Reach out to friends, family members, neighbours, colleagues — single people you know and trust. You’ll be helping them, helping us and helping yourself, too. Win/win/win!

4a) No, you cannot refer yourself. (Smartiepants.)

5) Offer ends May 31st, so get referring!

Thanks for spreading the word,

Sofi Papamarko, Founder of Friend of a Friend Matchmaking
Claire AH, General Hamilton Matchmaker and LGBTQ+ Toronto Matchmaker
Lee-Anne Galloway, Straight Toronto Matchmaker
Ceilidhe Wynn, General Ottawa Matchmaker

*Only valid on full-price Popular Plan, Premium Plan or Platinum Plan

Matchmaker Claire gives The Goods on our First Television Appearance

Matchmakers Sofi Papamarko, Lee-Anne Galloway, Claire AH and Andrea Bain dish on The Goods.

Matchmakers Sofi Papamarko, Lee-Anne Galloway, Claire AH and Andrea Bain dish on The Goods.

by Claire AH
Hamilton Matchmaker
LGBTQ+ Toronto Matchmaker

The day of reckoning is upon us! And by that, I mean that we’re going
to be on daytime TV today! Sofi, Lee-Anne, and myself are guests on
The Goods on CBC and we’re talking about matchmaking as well as offering
general dating advice
. We actually shot the episode a few weeks ago,
so we’ve been keeping it a secret until we got the green light. Keeping
exciting secrets is not my forte and it’s natural to want to talk
about how great Friend of a Friend is, but we all did it!

The prep for our segment felt pretty rigourous. We had a long e-mail
chain, met up in person, went through a few revisions, and had
individual and group phone interviews. This all felt like it upped the
ante for the experience, but the group phonecall flowed naturally thanks to
our amazing interviewer, Andrea Bain. She totally put us at ease and
it became less of a series of questions with perfect responses and
more of a conversation about why we do what we do, what it’s actually
like, and what we think people can learn from our work to apply to
their own lives.

Andrea is the author of a really great book called
Single Girl Problems, which takes the idea of singleness and asserts
that it’s not actually a problem to be solved. Even though we’re
matchmakers and we obviously want to make matches, this message is
really important for perspective on dating as well as issues of
self-esteem and even quality of life. Needless to say, Andrea knows
what she’s talking about and it was nice to contend with someone who
could put herself and her experiences into the discussion, instead of
just asking us questions on a list.

On the day of the shoot, we were mostly excited about the makeovers.
We spent what seems like an inordinate time planning our outfits,
making sure that our hair was just right, and finding the best nail
colour to match our aesthetics. Once we got our badges, we were
whisked into makeup chairs and given lewks to die for. If it had ended
at this point, it would have been juuuuust fine. Having a professional
do your eyebrows is almost as valuable as airtime, right? We caught up
with Andrea backstage, took a few deep breaths, and then went out to
sit in front of the live studio audience.

Now, we all have different relationships to this experience. Lee-Anne
is a regular performer in musical theatre. Sofi is a journalist, so
she has a way with words and has experience writing about pretty much
every facet of matchmaking and dating. I do radio and podcasting, so
theoretically I’m good with speaking off the cuff. That said, none of
that is the experience of being yourself on television. We had
varying degrees of pre-taping nerves (EDITOR’S NOTE: 2/3 of the yentas
could have puked from nerves), but it was actually completely
smooth. There were no awkward pauses, none of us lost our train of
thought, and we actually said coherent, useful things. It’s almost as if
we spend a lot of our lives talking about dating and matchmaking!

On top of our comfort with the subject (doing a segment on nuclear
physics would have been a whole different ballgame) we knew that we
could rely on each other. Without getting too saccharine, we’re a
team. We approached this as we approach Friend of a Friend: quite
collaboratively. Even if you meet with only one of us, you get the
benefit of all of our points of view. That’s what happened on The
Goods, too.
After we returned our badges, we grabbed some celebratory
cocktails at a nearby lounge and looked out from over the Toronto
skyline. Our first TV appearance was a success… Onto the next?

You can watch the episode online here. Segment begins at 17:00.

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Am I Being Too Picky?

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Sometimes we have matchmaking clients who wonder if they’re being too picky.

To them we say: it’s great to be picky! Choosing a life partner is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make. So much of your future happiness hinges on it! It’s absolutely vital for you to be choosy in order to choose wisely.

But sometimes we have matchmaking clients who roll out a list of what they need/want in a partner that is eleventy million items long.

These are clients who won’t be happy until they find a 39-year-old Christian Grey clone in a pinstriped Gucci suit who is exactly six foot two inches tall, drives a Ferrari, has a full head of hair and has never been married before (no kids either, please).

Or clients who won’t settle down until they find a blonde, fit, large-breasted Swedish ski instructor and former Olympian at least 15 years their junior who is adventurous in the sack but who hasn’t slept with too many people (maximum four. Maaaaybe five if one was a chick).

To them we say: perhaps you’re being a little too picky, Chad/Becky?

There’s a fine balance we all must strike in dating. We have to ensure that the person we date is the right fit for us (similar values, similar worldview, similar interests, complementary temperaments, compatible senses of humour, treats us with respect and tenderness, physically attracted to each other, want the same thing/s out of life, etc.) but we also have to live within the realm of freaking reality. 

Something we have to gently remind clients from time to time is that, when you come to a matchmaker, you still live in the exact same world you lived in before. And the exact same people inhabit this world as they did before you met with your matchmaker. We cannot create a Black Mirror-style new reality for you — one where a Swedish ski instructor finds you utterly charming and you can reprogram her personality to suit. And your matchmaker certainly cannot create new human beings out of clay and breathe sweet life into them specifically so that they may date and ultimately wed you. Sorry!

So how can you get away from being unrealistically picky?

First — I need you to throw away your grocery list and focus on what really matters. Ask yourself: what are three things you absolutely need in a partner to be happy?

Three things that you cannot live without in a person.

Go ahead. Write them down. I’ll wait.

 

...

 

Have you written them down yet? Really, I'm very happy to wait!

...

 

 

 

...

 

Okay, yay! What are your three things?

If the first thing you request is something physical (height, body type, eye colour), kindly rip up your list and start again. 

I used to have a list of about twenty items. Then, I distilled the list down to three items that I absolutely cannot live without in a partner and they have served me well. Because I finally discovered where my true relationship priorities lie.

My Top Three, in no particular order:

1) Smart
2) Funny
3) Kind

What’s your Top Three?

1)
2)
3)

That’s good! That’s great!

The Christian Grey clone in the Ferrari may not exist (and if he does, he’s probably not single). The Swedish former Olympian may not exist (and if she does, you’re probably not her type).

But that person you just described up there?

That person exists. And they’re wonderful. And they would be delighted to date you.

Now go find them.

(Or hire us to find them for you.)

xo,

Sofi Papamarko
Founder and Platinum Toronto Matchmaker
Friend of a Friend Matchmaking

How to increase your dating odds in 2018

We can still talk about new year's resolutions, right? Good! 

Here's a piece Friend of a Friend Matchmaking's founder Sofi originally wrote for the Toronto Star. We've tweaked it ever-so-slightly. The advice, while one year old, is still very sound.

***

A wise man or woman once said: “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” (It was either Albert Einstein, Mark Twain or Drake, depending on how well you Internet.) Want to increase your odds of finding a romantic relationship this year? You’ve got to change things up! Here are some practical dating resolutions that will increase your odds of finding love in 2018.

Ask around

Do your colleagues and neighbours and dog walker and lawyer and dentist and condo board and knitting circle know you’re single? Tell them! And ask if they know anyone who might be a good fit for you. Feel weird about it? You’d do the same thing if you were job hunting, right? Networking your way into a date or two isn’t desperate; it’s proactive and resourceful.

Do stuff

Do stuff. Lots of it. The more you do stuff (join clubs, volunteer, take classes, etc.) the more likely it is that you’ll meet people who also like to do the stuff that you like to do. Doing stuff also makes you a more interesting person with more conversational ammo when you do go on a date.

(Note: do not fall into the trap of doing stuff that you don’t want to do simply because it might offer you a chance to meet someone. If it turns out there’s no one viable present, you’ll feel like a chump who wasted both time and money. Now let us never speak of that recreational curling league again.)

Second chances are key

You’re on a date. They’re nice but do not look like Ryan Gosling/Halle Berry. They crack a joke or two that makes you laugh and puts you at ease, but there are no firework or angelic trumpets in your heart. Do you go on a second date? Heck yes! Your former 2017 self probably would not have gone on date No. 2, but this shiny new 2018 version of you will!

Why? Because first dates are deceiving. People are nervous and awkward and not always their genuine selves. Plus, physical attraction can grow over time.

But wait -- there’s more! People in general can be annoying and awful, so if you find a person who makes you laugh and doesn’t strike you as immediately terrible, you should definitely bother getting to know them. Go on the second date already!

Go public

It’s easy to get into hibernation mode in months that include the letter R. Unfortunately, unless you’re online dating, your future spouse isn’t going to magically materialize while you’re eating Kraft Dinner on your couch (although this has always been a fantasy of mine). Even if it’s cold outside, head out to festivals, community events, fundraisers, fashion shows, birthday parties, concerts and comedy nights — anywhere you can mix and mingle with carbon-based beings who are not your cat.

Get a new job

I realize this is an extreme measure, but considering how many people meet their partners at the workplace, it’s worthy of your consideration. An inordinate number of our single female matchmaking clients work in fields dominated by women, such as teaching or book publishing. They tell me their colleagues are 90 per cent women and 10 per cent gay or married men. Seeking out a different career trajectory that still aligns with your interests and talents might just be worth exploring.

If you work from home, dedicate at least a couple of days a week to working from a pub or café. If you become a regular somewhere, you’ll likely start seeing some of the same faces and might even work up the nerve to strike up a conversation . . . eventually. (See next resolution.)

Actually engage strangers in polite conversation

Good luck with this one, Toronto!