Ever heard the expression “all of the good ones are taken”? It’s not true, according to professional matchmaker Leora Hoffman. But the good men, she warns, usually go fast.
“When a good man is back on the market, people look for matches for him left and right,” she said. “The neighbor, the co-worker, the sister – society, for some reason, wants to reach out and match a man, but the same doesn’t happen to women. It’s so unfair.”
Leora said a lot of men get involved with someone new within three to six months after coming back on the market. There are exceptions, of course, including her second husband. He’d been widowed for several years and actively involved with online dating before he and Leora met through mutual friends. “So much of it is timing,” she said. “But I also believe in fate.”
You can read Leora’s Dating While Gray story here. Meantime, let’s look at the business of romance. Everything I knew about matchmaking and matchmakers, I learned from “Fiddler on the Roof.” So when a man I met at a speed-dating event (nice man, no spark, fun time) mentioned he had a friend who was a professional matchmaker, I gave him my email address and asked him to pass it on because I wanted to learn more. You know, for journalism.
Leora graciously agreed to meet and over Happy Hour drinks at the Ritz-Carlton in McLean, Virginia, she talked about Leora Hoffman Associates (LHA), her personal introduction and relationship service for singles in the D.C. metro area. She gave up a career in law 28 years ago to launch it.
“My goal is to find my clients long-term partners, whether I introduce them to two people or 20 people,” she said. “Less is more, as far as I’m concerned, because it’s not about dates. It’s about relationships.”
Most of Leora’s clients are baby boomers. She screens them to make sure they’re a good and safe fit for her network, and meets them to learn their life stories and find out what they’re looking for in a long-term partner.
“Everyone’s had a journey before they come to me,” she said. “I find out what a person’s particular path has been so I can figure out who will be a good partner for them. Some people are looking for the identical type they’re used to. Sometimes I recommend the exact opposite and lo and behold, it works.”
LHA has three membership levels. Clients at the basic level receive referrals to other people in the LHA network for one year, which can be spread over a two-year period. The other two membership levels may include matches outside the LHA network.
“I function like a search firm, really, but for someone’s personal life instead of his or her career,” Leora said. “I’m tied into several networks, and I also have people who give me leads on potential matches.”
Those at the highest LHA membership level receive services including a consultation with an image consultant and a personality assessment by a licensed psychologist.
Gray Dating can be challenging, Leora said, because people who’ve built lives and careers may not be willing to compromise. “Also, people may be very quick to eliminate potential partners without really giving them a chance,” she said. “We’ve been trained to make snap judgments on the job, and that can spill over into our personal lives. People can often be their own worst enemies by making a premature judgment about somebody with very little information. My role is to say ‘Hey, I don’t think you really know this person well enough.’ Or, ‘You’re incorrect about that.’ ”
When Leora evaluates candidates to match, she looks for common values and goals. She called chemistry “the wildcard. And that’s really in nature. It’s not up to me.”
After she makes referrals, “I like to gauge the probabilities they’ll work out. On one end of the spectrum is pure longshot – and I have played the longshots and have actually been surprised. And on the other end is a really strong feeling about these two. If I have that strong feeling, I’ve never been disappointed. They click like that,” she said, snapping her fingers.
Leora said the matches she makes usually fall in the middle of that scale, but the first two people she ever matched “fell in love in 20 minutes and are still married today.”
For those who don’t experience that instant click, Leora advises going on at least two dates.
“Repeated exposure gives you more information and sometimes, that chemistry doesn’t come out right away, especially if someone’s introverted,” she said. “Everyone’s nervous and anxious at first.”
Leora advises her clients to be patient. “You don’t have to have a conclusion after the first date, after the second date, even the third date,” she said. “You just have to know if you want to spend more time with a person. And that will clear itself one way or the other, eventually.”
Speaking of patience, Leora says people should trust their own instincts when it comes to sex. However, she believes jumping into bed too soon can derail a potential long-term relationship. Forget about the so-called three-date rule. Leora thinks a three-month rule may be more prudent.
“Believe me, I had my fun, too, in my single days,” she said. “But I think people should date a few months before they become physically intimate so they know who they’re dealing with. Don’t sleep with someone unless you really think you’re about to embark on an exclusive relationship.”
“What romance really involves, in my experience, is a curiosity. You want to get to know someone, to understand them. There’s something’s drawing you in. The depth is what brings people together. It’s not if they play tennis or if they ski. It’s, you know, do they really ‘get’ each other? Do they really admire and respect each other?”
“So a good match is where you’re strong in this area, I’m strong in that area; we balance each other, we support each other. We tease each other about those little foibles that each of us has. It’s good-natured, and it’s loving. That’s what a good relationship looks like.”
Gray Daters “are usually more evolved and mature,” Leora said. “You’re not looking for perfection, necessarily. You’re just looking for the right connection.”
For more information about Leora’s matchmaking business, go here.
For Leora’s Gray Dating story, go here.