"Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match / Find me a find, catch me a catch." We've come a long way from the era depicted in the classic musical Fiddler on the Roof, when parents routinely hired someone to find their adult children a "perfect match." We've now got the freedom to be our own matchmakers, but there's still a catch. It's not always an easy task! Consequently, many singles are enlisting the help of professional cupids whose business is bringing together compatible couples.
Today's matchmakers work hard for their money—and they demand a lot of it. Prices for these pros run steep, and only a select few singles are affluent enough to afford the service. But you get what you pay for, and matchmakers are selective about their clientele, finding them via referrals as well as by scouring cocktail parties, political fundraising events and charity balls. Then comes an extensive one-on-one interview and background check. "I'm more than a matchmaker. I become a friend to my clients," says New York-based matchmaker Barbra Brooks. "I'm available to them at all times. After each arranged date, I interview both people for feedback, which I pass on—diplomatically, of course." Over the past 16 years, this personalized approach has resulted in "hundreds of marriages and at least 40 babies," adds Brooks.
No need to be wistful, though, if you can't afford to hire a matchmaker of this caliber. We've asked Brooks and three other exclusive matchmakers for their best tips on how to find love. Here's what they have to say:
1. Be realistic. "If you look like Roseanne, don't fixate on finding a Tom Cruise look-alike," says Brooks. "I also tell women who seem to be on a money hunt—that is, looking exclusively for men with big bucks—they'll have to change their attitude if their goal is a long-term relationship. Men can sense right away if you're out for their wallet, not their personality." In the long run, the most priceless attributes you should want in a mate are not looks and/or money but a loving heart, dependable nature and commitment to you.
2. Be a hot mama, not a prospective mama. "Men have a radar for detecting women who are baby hungry," warns Christie Kelleher, director of the New York office of Kelleher & Associates, an upscale matchmaking service for successful professionals. Kelleher, whose service has brought together about 6,000 marriages in 19 years, adds, "He's thinking, 'Whoa—I don't even know your middle name, and I already know the colors you want to paint your kid's nursery.'" Your best bet: no baby talk!
3. Make dating a priority. Janis Spindel, the self-described "cupid in a Chanel suit" and president of the New York-based Janis Spindel Serious Matchmaking service, suggests that clients approach finding the right man as they would a job hunt. The key is to always be prepared because you never know when or where you'll meet someone. Wear clothes that make you feel attractive and plan ahead for interesting conversation. "You also need to change your routine," adds Spindel, who in the last 10 years has brought together more than 300 marriages and 400 monogamous couples. "Don't get your newspaper delivered. You might meet someone at the newsstand."
4. Nix the ex talk. On the first few dates, Brooks advises her clients to excise the desire to tell the new man all about the previous boyfriend. If your ex was fabulous, your date will feel he can't measure up. But if you bash your ex too much, your date could think, Whoops—she might be talking about me that way in a few months! Similarly, you should be wary of a man who can't stop talking about his former paramour. If he's still hung up on her, his heart has no room for you.
5. Neurotics needn't apply. You both need to be emotionally healthy to forge a successful relationship, says Neil Clark Warren, Ph.D., who founded a cyber matchmaking service called eHarmony.com in 2000. For instance, it's not a good sign if you're in the relationship primarily because you're frightened of being alone. It's equally bad if your guy looks as longingly at the gin bottle as he does at you. Or if he's morbidly depressed. Don't fall into the codependent trap and think you can "heal" him. It's smarter to look for a man who doesn't need healing.
6. Mind your manners. Men are understandably appalled when their bright, attractive, funny date suddenly does something tacky like ripping a piece of bread in half and putting the other half back in the bread basket or applying lipstick at the table. "Men also find it gauche when the woman calls for the check," says Brooks. "The man wants to do the summoning of the waiter and the paying of the bill." Spindel also warns against a few more etiquette faux pas: "Be on time, shut off your cell phone, look him in the eye, not down at the floor. Don't ask him too many questions about his job. He'll think you're a gold digger." You don't need to be Emily Post, but if you display the sensitivity of a lamppost, don't be surprised if the first date is the last one.
7. Similarity breeds success. "This doesn't mean you've got to marry your clone. But when you're getting to know someone, ask yourself if you and he have the same core values," says Warren, also the author of Date...or Soul Mate? How to Know If Someone Is Worth Pursuing in Two Dates or Less. "Think money, intelligence, lifestyle and sense of humor," he says. And think really hard if your major life goals mix well. Both of you need to agree on the merits or disadvantages of marriage, making babies and whether to aspire to living in a tree house or a penthouse. These are things that you can start finding out in as little as a date or two.
8. Present a challenge. "Let the guy know you like him, but don't take his initial interest as a signal to latch on to him right away," Kelleher suggests. She points out that "three dates do not a relationship make." We're not talking The Rules here—don't hesitate to return his call in a timely fashion. But don't build your social life around him (for example, keep your Friday night theater subscription with your friend Beth) and don't press him to talk about his "feelings." Do make it clear that while he's a welcome addition to your life, he is not the whole enchilada. This is all subject to change after you have been dating awhile and the relationship has become more serious.
9. Don't be a babbling brook. Sure, you've got a host of charming stories, but save some for the second date. "Men really want to occasionally get a word in edgewise," says Brooks. Women should pace themselves and think of about two to three great stories to tell on their date. But don't go overboard talking about yourself!
10. Sunny side up. "My male clients bemoan the lack of warmth that women project," says Kelleher. "Guys say many women clearly don't want their date to give them a hug or open the door." Lower your guard, flex those lips into a smile and be nice.
11. Be a girl. Leave your professional persona at the office. "My male clients also complain that women often come across as masculine—dressing in stiff suits and debating their date on everything from what wine to order to world affairs to who gets the check," says Kelleher. (Let him.) In other words: It's a date, not a boxing match.
12. Look beyond his good looks. Don't be dazzled by a handsome face and buff bod. Is this guy worthy of winning your heart? "How good is he at relationships? How does he treat his mother? How does he get along with siblings, cousins and friends?" asks Brooks. If the answer to those questions is not too well, take heed. Once he is confident of your affections, he might revert to type and treat you like everyone else he "cares" about.
13. Be mindful of that ole black magic. At first glance you felt more of an urge to hold his hand than jump his bones? That's not a terrible sign: Physical attraction can deepen as you really get to know and trust each other. But there must be an ember of initial attraction to build from. Without any chemistry, Warren says, you're better off as friends.
14. Hold out before having sex. Spindel is adamant that you should forego sex at least for a little while. The matchmaker feels that until your guy is ready to commit at least part of his soul, you're better off not committing your entire body. Her rationale: "Ideally you should wait until you've had the discussion about not seeing other people. That way you're sure he's operating more out of love than lust."
15. Go with the flow. The real key to making it as a couple, says Warren, is that both people are willing to compromise. If one or both partners must always have their way and are threatened by even small changes, trouble will soon be brewing. For example, if he suddenly has to work late on a night you were hoping to cook him dinner, be understanding of his need to be flexible and have him come over for coffee instead of the main course. Of course, he should be really sorry for the change in plans and should want to make it up to you.
Sherry Amantenstein is a contributing writer for iVillage. Follow her on Google +.
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.