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The Short Version: When people turn to friends and family members for dating and relationship advice, they can receive guidance clouded with perceptions. Dating Coach, Author, and Social Scientist Dr. Duana Welch believes scientific studies offer more credible information to help singles and couples succeed. Her data-driven approach shows clients how to navigate the digital landscape, and she encourages them to become their own personal dating service to build healthy relationships.
In the post-Tinder dating world, recent trends have centered on a general confusion about technology and communication as well as an unease about dating apps. That’s according to Dating Coach, Author, and Social Scientist Dr. Duana Welch.
In her practice, Dr. Welch has noticed that clients seem more confused than ever about what she calls the texting trap — when one party is unclear in his or her communication, prefers to chat, and never wants to connect in real life.
Then there are dating apps that can be heavily appearance-driven and shed little light on the personality and character of other singles. It also doesn’t help that studies show that both men and women are trying to date someone who is approximately 25% better-looking than they are.
“Dating apps have been around for a while, and texting has been around even longer, but the objectives are stronger because people have left many other ways of meeting potential matches behind,” Dr. Welch said. “But I hear a lot of the desire to meet more people organically. Even young people are tired of hearing online is the only way. A lot of my clients say they want me to teach them to leave online dating behind and become their own dating services.”
Leaning on both scientific studies and her own personal experience, Dr. Welch created Love Science Media, a dating and relationship coaching practice that imparts the skills necessary to help people find partners who make them happy. Single parents, younger daters, and those who’ve been out of the scene for years seek Dr. Welch’s advice to better understand the data behind dating and what she calls the “human mating ritual.”
“I teach my clients how to send the signals we know attract long-term partners,” she said. “Some signals are geared toward finding a partner, but others are universal. I help people understand the difference and send the ones that work.”
While you may think your friends and family can steer you in the right direction in dating, they often don’t have the evidence on their side that Dr. Welch does.
“A lot of advice sounds great, but science shows it isn’t good at all,” she said.
A study showed that people who met online between 2005 and 2012 had happier marriages than those who met offline, but the rise of mobile apps and new sites has changed that dynamic. Dr. Welch said in the early years, dating platforms focused on the values and interests singles had in common, rather than pushing physical appearance as a priority.
“Apps treat people like the human meat market, and there’s less personal information on which to base a decision,” she said. “Many people have switched to apps because they feel like it’s convenient, or they like sorting through all these people because there is a perception of abundance. But the quality of matches isn’t as good as a website where you get a lot of information — like eHarmony.”
The solution to that problem, she said, is to become your own dating service. She came up with the idea when she studied arranged marriages and discovered that the spouses were, typically, happy.
“Moms and dads, or professional matchmakers, depending on the culture, will engage their entire network, sometimes globally, to find someone compatible with the single person,” she said. “Suitable can mean similar social class, ethnicity, religion, family structure, or social values. And we know that similarities in core values and lifestyles can help marriages succeed.”
She interviewed one woman who accepted her parents’ help in finding a husband while she attended dental school. They narrowed it down to three, and she was attracted to one. He felt the same way, and they’ve now been married for 20 years.
“The way she put it for me was, ‘Why wouldn’t you want to have someone do that for you?’” Dr. Welch said.
The first step is to write down all the qualities you’re looking for in a partner. Then find a few people in your life who are invested in your happiness and take them out to coffee. Tell them you respect them and know they’ve got someone in their social network perfect for you.
Using this method, you can meet people who are genuinely compatible before becoming romantically involved.
Some of her clients use professional matchmakers, and many of those are still looking online, but Dr. Welch’s process helps sharpen their focus on the person they’re looking for.
“When you have people scouring their networks, they’re really motivated,” she said. “I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t like to go to a wedding where they introduced the two parties and are given credit for this wonderful marriage.”
However, if you meet someone whose friend or family member thinks would be a good match, you still need to send the right signals. That’s where you need to understand the deeply ingrained “human mating ritual,” according to Dr. Welch.
“I have read, studied, written about, and coached about data-driven dating techniques in more than 32 countries. There is a human mating ritual that has happened probably since we’ve had language, art, culture, and religion — at least 45,000 years,” she said. “Mating psychology comes from what worked for our ancestors.”
“Women who marry in their mid-20s are having more career success than those who wait. Part of the reason is that women who wait longer, regardless of career success, expend more energy on dating activities, including getting over breakups.” — Dr. Duana Welch
She likened it to the unconscious behavior that lions and peacocks use to attract mates. By understanding what you want in a mate and why you do the things you do to attract a partner, you can use your behavior and words to attract exactly who you want for a long-term, happy relationship.
And if you’re a woman who is thinking you need to focus on your career instead of finding a stable partner, think again.
“Women who marry in their mid-20s are having more career success than those who wait,” she said. “Part of the reason is that women who wait longer, regardless of career success, expend more energy on dating activities, including getting over breakups. They could put that energy into their career if they had a safe place from which to launch their lives. That would be a good marriage.”
Studies also support the idea that you don’t need to achieve happiness to be ready for a relationship. Instead, healthy relationships can make people happy, she said.
Dr. Welch believes that a study-based approach to dating can help people better understand how to find — and maintain — satisfying relationships than they would with online dating technology. And she’s branching out to share her expertise with other demographics of daters — including single parents.
She recently wrote her second book, one she said she could have used herself. Dr. Welch married a man she had found by being her own dating service, but she didn’t follow one of her rules — it turned out he had a problem with drugs and alcohol.
“I struggled with writing this second book because I would have to tell my story. I did it because, otherwise, I would imply that I didn’t make these mistakes,” she said. “But the reason I know so much about the subject is that I made a lot of mistakes, and I suffered a lot.”
The book, entitled “Love Factually for Single Parents [& Those Dating Them],” focuses on the problems that arise from dating after children.
“I wrote my first book, ‘Love Factually: 10 Proven Steps From I Wish to I Do,’ based on science for those looking for their life partner,” she said. “Following the success of that book for everyone, now coming out in five languages, I felt there was a real need for a fact-based book specifically for single parents, and it’s brimming with stories I’ve collected over the years from people who allowed me to share their stories. It’s not a dry academic time.”
One takeaway from her new book is to understand that kindness and respectfulness always matter — including noting whether your date is kind to the waiter. Another piece of advice is to embrace that, when you have found someone special, it will not be easy to integrate that person into your life — or yourself into theirs. A new dynamic can include you, your partner, your kids, their kids, former in-laws, and exes. You need to be patient and focus on love.
Dr. Welch said she writes books and offers reasonable rates on coaching to keep her advice accessible.
“I’m all about enabling lifelong love, so it’s amazing when it happens,” she said. “I’m reaching back in the past, and even though I went through so much pain, as readers of this next book will see, I’m so happy when I hear from someone who didn’t have to go through that because they learned to put the odds on their side.”