Not all therapists, marriage counselors and life coaches are effective. Some are even unethical. Learn how to spot bad therapy on this episode of The Love, Happiness and Success Podcast.
Finding the Right Person
Finding the Right Person
— With Dating Coach Damona Hoffman
FINDING THE RIGHT PERSON: Are you looking for “the one” and feeling frustrated with the fact that despite giving your best efforts to online dating apps, you still haven’t connected with anyone? You're not alone. Many of you reached out through the blog and on Instagram regarding the difficulties of finding true love. I've spent many years as a dating coach, and know that it can be incredibly confusing and frustrating to make progress in your love life.
But! I also know, from the same years of experience, that you just might have more power to achieve the love you're looking for than you know. It's super easy to fall into thinking traps that can subconsciously block you from connecting with the love that IS out there for you. What do I mean by “thinking traps?” Those are the core beliefs or inner narratives — your internal script — that you operate by without even realizing it. Once you become consciously aware of this script and how it may be impacting your dating experience, things change. Really!
While I've been on this journey of discovery so many times with my private dating coaching clients, and witnessed the power of thinking traps first hand, I'm not alone in this. For example, dating expert Damona Hoffman has much to share on the subject of how to find the right person as well.
A little bit more about Damona: She is the Dating Expert of The Drew Barrymore Show and NPR, a dating coach & TV personality who starred in the A+E Networks' (FYI TV) series #BlackLove and A Question of Love. She’s a contributor for CNN Headline News (HLN), BET.com, The Washington Post, LA Times, Match dating app, e News and more. Her advice has been featured in hundreds of publications, podcasts, and TV shows and she was the subject of an Oprah O Magazine cover story in 2019. She hosts The Dates & Mates Show as well as the “I Make A Living” podcast.
Today, on this “How to Find The Right Person” episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast, I am getting Damona to spill ALL THE BEANS about the strategies you can use to navigate the perils of dating and find the right relationship for you.
Damona is sharing her thoughts about why dating is not as simple as we may think — it is really about our personal growth and understanding. You'll discover why it truly starts with overcoming fears and self-reflection. You will also find out why character is better than chemistry and how to bring curiosity into your dating life. Finally, you will learn the nuts and bolts of successful online dating strategies and making sure that there are no weak spots.
In This Episode…
We're dishing out dating advice and success strategies like:
- How (and why) it's so important to understand yourself first before finding the right person.
- How to tell that you may hold limiting beliefs about relationships that are creating obstacles to your success.
- Learn that rejections in dates are not about you but the situation.
- Find out the five simple steps in the dating process.
- Discover the power of being deliberate and focused on the dating process (and what that entails).
- Recognize the importance of overcoming your fears.
- Become aware of what makes a person compatible with you.
- Uncover some biases you may have.
Tune in to the full interview to learn how to finally find the right person while being at your best and most confident self!
You can listen to “Finding the Right Person” on Spotify, on Apple Podcast, or wherever else you like to listen. Or you can scroll down and listen to this episode on the player at the bottom of this page.
While you're listening and soaking up all the great dating advice Damona shares, don't forget to rate, review and subscribe to the podcast. (You can follow us on Instagram too, for a daily dose of positive, affirming, Love, Happiness & Success advice.
Thanks for listening!
Finding the Right Person: Episode Highlights
First: Knowing What You’re Looking For
Cultivating and finding the right relationship is much like any skill — it’s a skill to be learned and honed. The first step is finding what we want in the first place. Damona notes that “the biggest mistake that I see is that people have no clarity on what they're looking for in a long-term relationship.”
Clarity does not mean a checklist about how the other person should be. Instead, it starts with self-reflection and a deep understanding of your values and beliefs.
Here are some questions to consider:
- What is your ideal partner like?
- What are your needs in a relationship?
- What are your goals for the future?
- What kind of person can be compatible with my personality?
Misconceptions About Dating and Relationships
It is easy to fixate on things that we think are important — money, status, career, and similar interests. We need to change this mindset and understand that empathy and communication will ultimately be the cornerstones of a relationship.
Damona lists out a few things to remember about dating and relationships:
- It's not about a list but about doing deeper work. Dating and relationships require learning skills over time, such as building better profiles, communicating better, learning how to follow through, and so much more!
- Don’t confuse chemistry with love. Chemistry may be a response to familiarity with a past attraction or just a physical attraction. Remember, build your relationships on something more substantial. For more, see “Don't Let Over-Focusing on ‘Chemistry' Ruin a Great Relationship”
- Instead of looking for chemistry, be driven by curiosity. Let the connection grow and see if the interest develops over time. “If you get to the third date and you're not feeling anything, you're not more curious, then I think maybe there isn't a love match,” Damona says.
The Process of Self-Understanding and Acceptance
“A lot of people are looking for reasons to say no before they're looking for reasons to say yes,” Damona says. In dating, people may resort to extrapolating the other person's personality and values. She invites us to ask instead: How can we possibly judge and stereotype someone if we haven't seen them in practice?
Rushing and looking for closure is the root cause of this extrapolation. In this era where everything is fast, it pushes some to want relationships even though it's not a good fit.
So what if it’s not a good match? Damona says to move on — this is not a rejection of you but just a rejection of the situation.
The process of dating can be crushing if you keep looking at the perspective of your self-worth. Damona gives this golden advice: “You date your best when you feel the best.” When you have fears and limiting beliefs, these may lead to finding validation from others. Work through these first and find self-love and confidence.
The Real Reason You’re Still Single
From her work as a dating coach, Damona was able to simplify the process into five simple steps:
- Mindset. What is your mindset going into this? Are you serious and willing to give time to put in the work? What is your foundational thinking about looking for a mate or about yourself?
- Sourcing. Where is your dating pool? Is it large enough for good choices?
- Screening. How do you determine if someone is the right date or not?
- Presentation. How are you showing up as your best self?
- Follow Through. Do you follow through and close the loop?
If your love life is not flowing, Damona says that there are likely leaks in any of these areas. We need to patch those up! She encourages, “You just have to believe it's possible. And you have to be willing to do that. The biggest myth is that Prince Charming is just going to come up and knock on your door.”
Be deliberate and focused. People may have impressions that dating apps like Tinder are only for people who want to hook up, but we need to stop giving too much meaning to the app — it's just a connector. What we use it for is what matters.
Overcoming Limiting Beliefs
For Damona, she needed to go through a deep understanding and awareness of her fears. It was during that time that she met her person. Whatever stage you are in, she encourages you to face and work through your fears.
Damona reminds us:
- We are always works-in-progress. Don't be too hard on yourself when you're not getting the results you want, whether in personal growth or dating. What matters is that you keep moving forward.
- If you don't like yourself, how can you expect someone else to do it for you?
- Everything starts with self-acceptance and develops with change.
Finding a Good Match
There are certain aspects of compatibility that we need to watch out for. These include attachment styles, love languages, basic orientation around planning, values, among others. Beyond compatibility, it can also be about how we accept and love people who are different from us.
Relationships should not be chaotic and full of drama. These may feel wild and exciting, but know that a good match may feel more peaceful and consistent.
When looking for a match, you can widen your dating pool. These can be through online meetup groups, setups from friends, interest groups, and more. Don’t limit yourself and think that there’s no one around — look for them!
Unconscious Biases in Dating
“I would encourage people to just look beyond your traditional parameters, even within your own city, just expand your search criteria a little bit and see what else might be out there,” Damona says.
Damona shares in The Washington Post that people may still have associations around race that affect their search criteria. She notes, “That may not be reality. It may be part of their history or may not even be their stuff. It could be their parents’ stuff or their parents’ parents’ stuff.”
She shares that we may need to expand our thinking and maybe find our person that way.
Damona shared valuable insights into taking dating seriously for long-term relationships. What did you connect and relate to the most? Feel free to share your thoughts by leaving a comment down below.
I'll be watching for your comments and questions!
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Finding The Right Person
Music Credits: Vivian Girls, “Tell The World”
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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She's the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.
Finding The Right Person: Podcast Transcript
Access Episode Transcript
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: This is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, and you're listening to the Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.
That is the Vivian Girls with a song, Tell The World. Tell the world about the love that I've found. And that's what we're talking about today because finding the right person can be really challenging. And I know that that is on the minds of many of our listeners, is to figure out how to create the kind of relationship that they really want. And you know what? There's a lot to be said for creating a good relationship with your partner. We talk a lot about that on the podcast. And finding the right person to have a relationship with is that first foundational step many times. I've been hearing from so many of you through Instagram, through the blog of growingself.com, that this is a point of frustration for so many. It is really hard to connect with the right person and find the true love. To think this is the one that I've been looking for, and know what you want in a relationship, and feel like you're able to get it. You deserve that, and that is what we're talking about on today's episode of the podcast.
And in that spirit, I have to say something. Many times, people come to Growing Self. We— if this is your first time listening, so I do Growing Self counseling and coaching. I'm the clinical director, so we do love happiness and success. We do a lot of couples counseling. We do a lot of career coaching, believe it or not, life coaching individual therapy. Also, though, a fair amount of dating coaching. Right? And so, people often show up to our practice and they believe. Sometimes rightly so but sometimes it's not the whole picture. But the belief is, I just haven't found the right person yet. And if I could just find the right person, everything would sort of fall into place. And so it's, “what dating apps should I be on? What should my profile say?”, and “Where do I find the one?”. Right? And while this is an important piece of being successful in dating and creating a healthy new relationship, what many people are sometimes interested—sometimes maybe uncomfortable in learning about themselves through the actual process of deep, deep and authentic dating.
Coaching is not so much that—it's just a matter of like literally finding the right person, and meeting someone and saying, “Hello”. It is, first of all, understanding that there are a number of things going on inside of themselves—in terms of the way they think about relationships, the way they think about themselves, the way they think about other people, the way they feel the core beliefs that they're carrying into the dating experience themselves. They're their own sort of mythology or like story about how relationships should be. That they are carrying with them into all kinds of situations. Be it new relationships, new friendships, romantic partnerships. It's one thing to date, but there's also this like new relationship experience that lasts six months to a year, that can be a really trying time for many people too. And it's through these experiences that they learn about themselves that it's not just about finding the right person. It's about in some ways, becoming the right person—becoming someone who is in the right kind of mindset, mental state, emotional state, to cultivate a happy, healthy, enduring relationship. And that is where the real growth is, particularly when it comes to dating, coaching, relationship therapy, and personal growth therapy that really focuses on that relational component of our lives.
And so I thought that this topic was worth revisiting because I've heard again from a lot of you through Instagram at @drlisamariebobby, or through our website at growingself.com, that this is something that is very much on your mind. And so in order to really go deeply into the nuts and bolts of what's really going on, what it feels frustrating to find the right person, I have a very special guest joining us today. And I'm so excited to introduce you to Damona Hoffman. Damona is an incredibly busy woman. Among other things, she's the dating expert of the Drew Barrymore show. She shows up on NPR, on the reg. She has her own podcast. She is doing things with the Washington Post, LA Times, Match Dating App, CNN, bet.com. I think Oprah and you are friends.
Damona Hoffman: Oh, I wish. I wish one day. But I was in her magazine so…
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: Congratulations. I mean…
Damona Hoffman: I mean basically…
Dr. Lisa: And now, she's here today to talk with us about only one of her specialties, which is dating and relationships. It's gonna be good.
Damona: I got very excited for a second because I thought you were saying Oprah was here. And I was like, “Where? Oh my gosh. Am I gonna get something? Am I gonna get a prize or a new car?” But no.
Dr. Lisa: Diamond earrings? I'm not nearly cool or interesting enough for Oprah to even have heard my name. But…
Dr. Lisa: …but you are. So…
Damona: I'm so glad to be here. Thank you for having me.
Dr. Lisa: Well, I'm excited to speak with you. And just from our little chat prior to jumping into this interview, I have come to understand that you are incredibly knowledgeable. This conversation could go in many directions. So I'm excited to see where it takes us. But first of all, I think many of our listeners today are extremely interested to hear your insights when it comes to dating and new relationships because this is like a huge specialty of yours. You have hosted a podcast on this topic for eight years?
Damona: Eight years? Yeah.
Dr. Lisa: Tell us a little bit. Not just about that but I'm always curious to know, how did that even become a thing for you? Like, how did you get interested in helping people in this part of their life?
Damona: Quite by accident. I was working as a casting director and television, and I was— maybe like some of your listeners—frustrated with the dating scene. And my boss at the time had just gone through a divorce, a semi-amicable one. But she was like out on the town right away. And she was like, “You have to try this thing called online dating”. This is like 2001. So it was very new then and…
Dr. Lisa: Right. Trying to like make it work on your flip phone. I was there.
Damona: Oh yeah. No. This is like—not even like—our phones weren't even used for that. Literally just straight up desktop. And I was like, “Online dating? Isn't that what like weirdos do in their mom's basement?” And she was like, “No. There's all these guys. It's like man shopping”. So I started online dating. And I really—I had the same experience she did. I was like, there are all these great guys, and I can really find what I'm looking for. And then I began to sort of fine tune my approach because I was working in casting the whole time. And I was also teaching classes for actors and marketing because I'd see all of these really talented actors that had no idea how to get their foot in the door. They would have headshots that were completely forgettable. They would come in the room and ruin the job before they even had an opportunity to get it, like the minute they opened their mouth. And I was like, “Gosh, if only there was somebody that could teach them—just the marketing piece and the presentation piece to help them be more successful. So I started doing that. And then it clicked for me that basically the headshot was the same as the dating profile photo that I was using, and the first date is an audition. Let's be…
Dr. Lisa: Realistically, right?
Damona: Oh. I kind of systematize that for myself. And I ended up meeting my husband online. In 2003, I think. And then people started coming to me saying, “Well, you met this great guy but online dating doesn't work”. And I started polishing their profiles doing the same techniques. And after I got a number of calls saying, “I met someone. I'm getting married. I'm having a baby”. I thought, “Oh, wow. I might have something here that I could actually teach to other people”.
Dr. Lisa: That is so cool. What an interesting story.
Damona: You don’t hear it every day, certainly.
Dr. Lisa: No, really. Okay. And so then, I wonder if we could start there because like—as I was reading through your things and thinking about the sorts of things that I would like to ask you about. Do you know what came up for me? And so, I don't know if you know about me, but so my background is as a therapist. I'm actually a licensed marriage and family therapist. And so what I often do with clients—do a lot of, like, couples counseling, and all couples invariably have stuff that they run into sooner or later that needs to be worked through. And couples who are fundamentally not as easy of a match have a lot more stuff that they need to work through. And it's also more complicated and difficult to get into alignment, when from the very beginning, they weren't just quite a good fit. Some relationships are just easier than others.
And so also, I think too, like when I do relationship coaching, it's from that viewpoint of what's a healthy relationship? And like, how do you connect with people that you can have that kind of partnership with? And what is also true is that there are these lovely loving people who are so compassionate, and they have so much to give, and they would be the best partners. And like that piece right there, they are having so much trouble even just connecting with people. And certainly through that online world, or connecting with people who from the get go don't feel like a good fit. And I think it can be very easy to talk about, like best practices, and do this instead, and just to get like straight to the point. I'm wondering if you would feel comfortable with talking about some of the things you've learned over the years? As, like, some of the mistakes that people are making, without even realizing that they're making them. So it's like not conscious, just sort of blindly walking into things from the very beginning. Like even with the profiles. Does that make sense?
Damona: Yeah. I can talk about the mistakes, certainly. But I'm really curious to hear from you—about the partnerships that you see that have that friction, and what was foundationally missing? Because I do think that the biggest mistake that I see is that people have no clarity on what they're looking for, for a long term relationship. And most people come to me for coaching for relationships. Plenty of pickup artists out there, if you're looking for that you can find somebody else. I move people into relationships.
Dr. Lisa: Yeah.
Dmaona: And I see that, like, I'll ask people, “Will you tell me about your ideal mate?” And they're like, “Oh. I never thought about it, or I'll know it when I see it”. And I'm like, “Well, if you haven't seen it yet, then maybe you—maybe you wouldn't know. Maybe you haven't done enough of the foundational learning about yourself and about your needs”. Somebody will do these lists—the little lists. Still do these long lists of all of the qualities that they think that they need. And ultimately, it's a lot of superficial stuff. A lot of the time, it's not the deeper. I focused on—I focus on values and goals for the future. And so when I was building my life that I wanted to lead, I was not fixated on how much money my husband made. I was fixated on being a career woman and having a partner who would support me in that who'd be a 50-50 partner. I didn't care about chivalry or how this fantasy would play out. I was just like, “This is the life”. I need a guy that is okay living in that dynamic. And now that is the life that I live today. But I think it's because I built it so long ago. And that's what I'm really passionate about—helping people figure out so that they don't continue to make the same choices, fall into the same kind of relationships that aren't serving them, and then end up frustrated, heartbroken, or in the same place again. I want to know from you what some of those mismatches are because I think a lot of people do miss the cues and the signals early on. And then they just kind of get caught up in the momentum of the relationship, and it leads them down the wrong path.
Dr. Lisa: That I could not agree more with every single thing that you're saying. And what I see is the same as that many times people get fixated on things that they think are important in a partner. Somebody yeah, making a certain amount of money, or looking a certain way, having a certain type of career, being interested in similar things. And then what they find is that those things have no bearing on the quality of a relationship going forward. And what really matters is someone's capacity for empathy, their emotional intelligence, their ability to communicate even when they're not feeling good. The way that they show love and respect is tremendously important. And what I see, many people—even beyond that kind of mistaking is that—many people, I think, mistake that chemistry or sense of attraction for love. And they will prioritize many things under that feeling of chemistry or attraction.
And at the end of the day, and I say this as somebody who's been—oh my god, what year is this? I’ve been with my husband since 1993. And it was absolutely thoughtless. I met him when I was 19 years old. I had no idea who I was or what I want, so there's that. And with that in mind is that I am attracted to my husband, and he's a wonderful man. But that is not nearly the most important thing in terms of his character. His—the way he shows up. I find him interesting after all this time, and so it's like going a little bit deeper. And I was a teenager when I met my husband so I did not have that kind of insight or self-knowledge that I might have as an adult. But what I see, sometimes adults doing, particularly very successful adults who've been able to achieve amazing things and other parts of their life, is that they sort of approach relationships with a similar kind of like checklist mentality. Or they're looking for things that are ultimately not the connection, and the attachment that they really not just want but need and deserve. And they're disappointed, and frustrated.
Damona: Yeah, yeah, I see that too. And I work with a lot of, particularly women who are very career-focused and successful in that area of their life, and are perplexed as to why they can't seem to work through their love lives. And I actually take an approach where I want them to use the skill set that has made them so successful in their professional life. But it's like you said, “to use it in the right way”. So it's not to make a list but it's to do the deeper work. And it's also—I really have people put a process around dating. And that's where I feel like I see the biggest shift because we just—if we haven't—I look at dating as a skill set. It's a series of skills that you can learn. You can learn how to have a profile that draws in the right dates. You can learn how to text message someone to build anticipation. You can learn how to connect with someone better on a date. You can learn how to have better follow through all of these things that we think should be innate.
Like I should just know how to attract someone because we've seen fairy tales. We've seen romcoms in which that happens. But I just feel like in our society, it is a set of skills, and nobody's really teaching them. It's the same thing I'm sure that you end up having to counsel people through is that the emotional learning, but then also just the interpersonal communication learning that gets glossed over. So in my program, we do a lot of just putting a process around dating so that it doesn't feel out of your control. And then I just wanted to address what you said about chemistry because I've been known to say that chemistry is a lie. A lie to you because you're responding to maybe a familiarity that might have been something that made you attracted to someone in the past who wasn't necessarily that helped me for you. And, or maybe it's something else that's making you feel that physical spark. But true relationships are built on more substantive stuff, and I encourage my clients and my database podcast listeners to be driven by curiosity. All you need to know at the end of the first date is, are you curious enough about that person to spend another hour? Maybe an hour and a half with them? Not overstaying your welcome on the first and second dates especially, but to really practice a little love and let that connection and that curiosity develop over time. If you get to the third date and you're not feeling anything, you're not more curious then, I think maybe there isn't a love match. But I find that a lot of people opt out after the first date or the second date, and they never get to the juicy stuff, and that sort of connection like you were talking about you have with your husband, and I have with mine. Where I'm just like, I love his mind. I love the way he looks at the world. I love his heart. And I love just seeing how he navigates through the world. And I look forward to continuing to see how he and I evolved together throughout this journey.
Dr. Lisa: Yeah, yeah. But even I mean, it's based on empathy, and appreciation, and admiration for who he is, as opposed to the sort of, if only XYZ, then it could be feedback.
Damona: A lot of people are looking for reasons to say no before they're looking for reasons to say yes.
Dr. Lisa: What do you make of that?
Damona: Yeah. Instead of thinking like, “Okay, this is coming in a different package”.
Dr. Lisa: Yeah.
Damona: But I can see his empathy. I can see his heart and I'm curious. They're like, “Oh, gosh. At least I hear this all the time”. I'm just thinking through all of these stories of clients in my mind who came to me and said, “Well, he has this, this, this, and this”. They're going against the checklist again. But I don't know about this or that. He doesn't have the same—like they'll pick on things that are very ultimately inconsequential. They'll say, “I'm really close to my family and he doesn't have a good relationship with his family”. So therefore, and they extrapolate out meaning that may or may not actually be there. If you don't know the work that someone has done, you don't know how they show up in their daily life…how can you possibly make a determination about what those set of facts may mean about them if you haven't seen it in practice?
Dr. Lisa: Yes, and it's like that one of like those primary ladies award mistake. But like things that we could easily fall into is sort of like rushing for closure. Like we have a little bit of information about someone, and so we are extrapolating, and assuming all of these other things about them that may or may not be true. So we're sort of closing the door in our own mind, when in actuality—and I think this is the hard part about relationships—is that it takes a long time to get to really know people and characters revealed over time. And that a lot of people seem great when you first meet them. But it's like, I think that there can be anxiety that comes up is that you do need to take time and invest before you really do get a sense of who people truly are. That can be difficult I think and sort of goes against the grain of what our immediate gratification kind of control culture says. It should be that you just know just the one and that I don't think that's true.
Damona: I agree with you. And the speed of dating is the thing that I've seen shipped the most since I started coaching 15 years ago. We are in such a rush like you said, to get to the end of the story. And I'll hear so many times from people, “Well, I know that he's not right but I just don't want to have to go through this all again and start all the way over”. And it's like—I don't know that that's the way that you want to live your life. Trying to fit a square peg into a round hole because you're afraid of having to go and hunt for another peg. But I've just seen so many times, like when my clients are in these situations or relationships that aren't really fulfilling, and that they're willing to be brave to express what they truly want. And let go of the outcome. We're so—we're always trying to manipulate the outcome of getting the other person to see it in, through our eyes, or to behave in the way that we want. And if we could just give ourselves a break by releasing responsibility for that.
And say, let me just speak my truth. And then if it's in alignment, then we can move forward. We can figure out a path forward together. If it's not in alignment, what if instead of looking at it as a rejection—just speaking with a client about this this morning. She didn't get the response she had hoped from after a first date. And she was like, “Well, I…” She kind of placed all of these additional meaning on it. Like, “Well, it's because he didn't like the way that I looked or my…my—I'm…I'm heavier than he thought I was”. And that was not something that was ever discussed on the date, but that's how she assigned meaning to it and then imprinted it on herself as a rejection. And if we can just step back and look at it not as a rejection of you, but as a rejection of the situation. Maybe they're just looking for something completely different. Or maybe I mean, we have to take responsibility for our side of the street. Like, were you showing up authentically? Were you listening? Were you responding? Were you asking them questions? Were you letting them know you were interested in hearing what they had to say? But once you've done all of that, sometimes it might look great on paper. It might feel great from your side of the street, but you don't know what's happening on their end. And you cannot internalize that because that's crushing—that will crush you from being able to continue to show up the next time.
Dr. Lisa: It turns into this, like, this means something about my fundamental worth as a person, my love ability, when we sort of internalize it. And what I hear you saying is that it's a good thing when you realize at the beginning that it's not a match, through no fault of your own. That it's, I think, much harder and more soul crushing, ultimately, and has very difficult long term consequences when you try to force a relationship into being with someone that it's not quite a good fit. That they are looking for something that's maybe a little bit different than what you have to offer. Not that there's anything bad with what you have to offer, or vice versa. To let that be a positive thing, as opposed to something that becomes like internalized and made into a negative thing about me. We can release each other and…
Damona: And it's really interesting how we marry those fears with whatever is happening out in the world. Like if I have concerns about my body image, and I take the actions of this other person to confirm…I’m limiting belief about myself. And I just especially, I'm really passionate about working with women. I work with men as well. But I just—I hate seeing us beat ourselves up in that way. And people always ask me like, “What's your style as a dating coach? Are you like Patti Stanger? The Millionaire Matchmaker? Are you gonna get in people's face, give them some tough love?” And I just don't believe in that. I think you date your best when you feel your best. And so I'm all about positivity, lifting people up. I'll be direct and real with you. If there's something that you're not looking at that you need to address, but I'm not going to send you out in the world to date feeling depleted, or like there's something wrong with you, or like, you need to get that validation from someone else.
Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Very wise. Yeah. Well okay, so let's go there. And so I, again, I caution other people from doing exactly the thing that I'm about to do, which is trying to find simple answers to very complex questions. Because I know—you know, that dating coaching is a process that there is a multi-step thing that you do with people, and it's not like specific to answers with a capital A at the end. We all have individual answers. And I am curious to know, if over the years that you've worked as a dating coach, you have seen sort of even patterns, or like kind of the usual suspects. If your classic client is a woman, and she comes to you, and she doesn't know yet that she has been maybe operating in a way that has been getting in the way of her achieving what she wants, which is a happy, healthy relationship. What have you found over the years, as being some of the usual suspects, that through your work with them you sort of slowly gently take away from them over time. But what are some of those things if you had to identify them?
Damona: Well, I actually—I love finding simple problems. Because I think a lot of times we overcomplicate it, and that's why I actually have systematize my program. When I started and I was doing only one-on-one coaching, I was like, “It's so personalized. There's no way that I could create a system that's going to work for everyone”. And then I really started to look at what I was doing year after year with clients. And I was like, “Wow. It is the same thing. process every time”. And pretty predictably, I can tell if somebody is going to get results from my program within about—with probably with two sessions. In my program, my one-on-one coaching program is only three months long.
Dr. Lisa: Oh, really?
Damona: So, I was thinking one way that they're showing up, first of all. If somebody—if it's like very hard for me to schedule sessions, and they're like running around busy, and like…I've had people that are like, “Oh. I'm driving to my next meeting, but I thought we could talk in the car”. No. Like, you know from being a therapist. No, no, no. We can't do that deep work. If you can't carve out one hour—and we meet every two weeks—so it's like, one hour every two weeks to just focus on this, and to make this a priority. I guarantee you, that's how you're going to be showing up in your date.
Dr. Lisa: Like how they have a relationship with you is other—making other people feel as well, which is something they're kind of cramming in, as opposed to being intentional about it. Okay.
Dmaona: And then we give homework every week. And if you show up to the second session, and you have nothing but excuses about why you couldn't do the homework, then I can see also that you might not be ready to to do the work. But of the people who actually show up, I had a 90% success rate from my program last year. COVID kind of threw a wrench in everything. But that means 90% of the people who committed to three months of focusing on their love life were dating someone exclusively by the end of three months.
Dr. Lisa: That’s so hopeful. I mean… I hope it feels hopeful.
Damona: I hope people aren't like, “Well, good for her. Good for them. That's not me”. Because I just seen that. When you come in with that kind of clarity, like, “This is the thing I want to have happen, and I'm ready to make a shift”. And I know that there is a system. Literally, if you just follow the plan, it just works. So there's five steps. And I'll give you the overview. Its mindset, sourcing, screening, presentation, and follow through. And that's it. So I call it the dating funnel. There's an area—if your love life isn't flowing, there's an area where you have a leak. I'm like the plumber of your love life. I go in and I patch up the funnel. And then love life—your love life flows. So it's either something in your mindset, the way that your foundational thinking about finding a mate or about yourself. Sometimes we repeat. We loop these steps. But basically, we just keep running it until it clicks.
It's either sourcing where you're finding the dates, and maybe your dating pool is not big enough. It's screening, how you're determining if someone is the right date for you or not. It's presentation, how are you showing up as your best self on the date. Or its follow through, “Well, I didn't—I wasn't sure if he was interested in me. So I wasn't—I'm not that—I didn't follow through. And I don't know, I didn't really give him the message. And I don't know how to close the loop”. And then we just kind of get stuck in this no man's land situationships. Clarity, clarity, clarity the whole time. It's that simple. And of course, people have different—like you could get…you could be in that mindset phase for a long time. And I'm a big fan of therapy. I have worked with therapists pretty much my entire life. And a lot of my clients are in therapy simultaneously. But usually, by the time someone comes to me, they've already done a lot of that deep inner work that we really do need to do before we can be our best selves in the relationship. But once you learn the dating steps, that is a—that's a process in and of itself. Then moving into the relationship might be another place where you might need to continue your therapy work as well.
Dr. Lisa: Well, I hear what you're saying. That, and I mean, this is really such a hopeful message Damona. You're saying that it really, actually isn't that complicated. That there are sort of best practices. There's actually a funnel, and that if you kind of figure out what to do in these different stages. The part about connecting with someone who has the potential to be a good match for you becomes much, much easier.
Damona: And I wouldn't believe it. That's exactly it. I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't lived it myself and seen it happen so many times over the last 15 years. And I don't know that if I really, really hit this point home at the beginning, but I was a big a cynic around love. Everything else in my life was poppin’. I was like, on the executive track at work. I have friendships that—I've strong friendships. Life was flowing except for in love. And I was like, “Why do I…why does it always feel stuck here?” And I didn't have the system. I didn't have that clarity at the time. So for anyone that's listening and thinking like, “Well, it sounds really simple but she doesn't know me”. I do want to reinforce that message of hope that it really is possible. But you just have to believe it's possible, and you have to be willing to do that. It's not—the biggest myth is that Prince Charming is just going to come up and knock on your door. And like people will say to me all the time, “I just want to meet him organically”.
Okay, well. If we, first of all in COVID, we’re at the grocery store with your mask on. That's how 40% of new couples are meeting today, and I think that number is only going up. I've been on the online dating train for a long time. But now everybody's starting sort of catching up. And look, if you're busy, and you're career-focused, you don't have a lot of time to be out here in the streets, trying to meet a man. You can be really focused and deliberate about the way that you are online dating, not get caught up in the games. People always ask me, “Well, what's the best dating app? I heard that Tinder is only people who want to hook up. I hear that this app is better than that”. It's not the app. We're associating…we're putting too much meaning on the app, and giving it too much—putting too much stock in what the app can do. The app is just the connector. It's all in what you do, once you've connected.
Dr. Lisa: Yeah. I have a couple of questions that are kind of playing musical chairs in my mind that I'll try to sit in the same little space at the same time. So let me organize them here. Okay, one of the—is it okay, if I asked you a…hopefully not too personal question?
Damona: You can ask me anything.
Dr. Lisa: Okay. When you look back at your own process, and kind of—not even what you're doing, but sort of like the mental space that you were in before you connected with your husband, that kind of experiencing that frustration? How would you sort of articulate what that was? And what shifted inside of you that allowed you to ultimately connect with your person? You want to put that into words?
Damona: Oh, yes. I am able to put it into words because I actually was working with a coach at the time myself. I'm not a dating coach, but a life coach. And I—she helped me recognize that I had a lot of blocks and limiting beliefs myself. And I actually had a tremendous fear of being alone. I have no idea where it came from but that was something that was really scary to me. And even the idea like, I would see people out at a restaurant eating by themselves. And I go, “Oh, that's so sad. They're alone”. And I constantly filled my schedule with people, and things, and chatter, and activities so that I didn't have to feel that aloneness. And she made me walk through it. And I tell you, Lisa, that was the scariest thing I ever had to be— had to go through in my life. I was terrified of this process of sitting with myself, and really digging in there. But the more that I worked with her, the more that I really got comfortable. And like people always talk about self love. But I—really, it was even deeper than self love. It was just self understanding, and awareness, and a deep sense of comfort in my aloneness that helped me get to the place where I could stand alone and be okay with that. And could find someone who would be complimentary to me, but not completing my life.
Dr. Lisa: Yeah.
Damona: Right? So I…the time that I met him, it was just a very auspicious time in my life because I had just gone through this very—I had gone through a very deep emotional process. And at the same time, I also had really fine tuned my dating approach.
Dr. Lisa: Sure.
Damona: Simultaneously, and so then now I've just been able to kind of marry those two things.
Dr. Lisa: Yeah.
Damona: They think they do need to work in tandem.
Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Thank you for sharing that. And so in certainly, it was like the approach and the dating stuff. But you're also saying that you had really done a lot of work around understanding yourself. And this self-acceptance piece that was sort of the fertile ground in some ways for the dating approach. To that, perhaps, that hadn't had to happen previously for the seeds to fall on fertile ground, so to speak. That when you did right, people would take?
Damona: Yeah, and it's like, think of it this way. If you don't want to even be with yourself…
Dr. Lisa: Yeah.
Damona: Why would another person want to be with you? And even as I'm saying that, it's like, it's still a little bit raw for me to think that I thought of that. That was the headspace that I was in. But I know it had to be. I know it was. And so now I can look at it from the other side. And even just acknowledge some of those—those thoughts that I had towards myself. And why that tremendous fear of aloneness, why I was not enough for myself then? At that there's no way I could have really been able to move into this relationship if I was not in a place where I had processed a lot of that. And I think, we're always works in progress. I'm sure you believe everything. Not everyone believes that. But I do. And I think also, I think you learn in motion. And I think I learned through this relationship too. So I chose someone who constantly makes me want to be the best version of myself. And I learned so much from him. Hopefully, he learns a few things for me too. But I just want to keep showing up so that I can keep growing and being my best self.
Dr. Lisa: What a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing that with me. And I think it's—I'm glad we're talking about this part of it too. And just like the courage and the commitment that it takes to work on on that level. And even the last part that you mentioned, like connecting with somebody who motivates you to grow. I would imagine, and we certainly not to talk about that, but like that doesn't always feel comfortable in some ways. A bit like—a really good healthy relationship that has a lot of growth potential isn't always going to feel comfortable. And there's positivity in that piece too.
Damona: The pacing of it is different, I would say. And sometimes it's a slow burn with the people that bring you to that place. And did I know that he was my husband when I first met him? Absolutely not. Like I—and we dated for almost four years before we got married. So by the time he proposed, I was like, “Obviously”. But yeah, I think it's—that's why I was so curious by by your statement at the beginning of working with couples because I mostly work with singles, or people who are moving into relationships, and help them shepherd the beginning phase of the relationship. But you're kind of coming at it from the other side, and hindsight is 2020. So that's what's so interesting to me is like, how can we learn in this lab of our life, and see how the choices we've made may be either helping us grow or maybe stifling us from reaching our full potential.
Dr. Lisa: Yeah, yeah. And that the journey I think, goes into our own heads because it's—I think on some level, there are certain aspects of compatibility that are definitely a thing in terms of somebody's basic desire for closeness. Like their attachment style, there can be differences in that. Also people's basic orientation, believe it or not, too. Some people need a lot of structure, and planning, and knowing what is going to happen next, and have just this basic orientation to the world. They're very much thinkers. And there are like a lot of different values attached to that, sometimes around home and sort of stability and community. And there are other people who have a very basic orientation to the world that is much more in the moment, and kind of roll with it, and even novelty-based. And that has the potential to be a difficult pairing, unless there is a lot of real, I think, intentional cultivation of our capacity to love and appreciate someone for their differences. And understand how somebody else's way of being that maybe isn't ours, is also still valuable, and has advantages in certain situations. I mean, like, even this COVID situation. People who have—and you see this in couples have a really strong like planning orientation and kind of need to know what's happening next—falling apart because of the chaos and the uncertainty of this time. And many of them, fortunately, are paired with people who have a different orientation, which is more like, “I don't actually need to know exactly what's going to happen next because I trust in our ability to figure it out, and it's all going to be okay”. And there's been an interesting shift, I think, in relationships because the people who had more of that planning orientation can get a little bit judgey about the way their partners do things. And right now, it's the people who have a more—not type A but type B approach—to the world who are actually handling this whole situation much better. But it's how do we develop the ability to appreciate that, as opposed to believe that people need to be more like us in order for relationships to be successful? So there’s that.
Damona: That whole opposites attract, or like, do I need to be more similar? My database podcast listeners, I swear, have written this question in like ten times. And I just—I don't believe that. I don't believe either end of the spectrum is correct. Right? that opposites attract or the sameness attracts. I do think that you need balance in every way. I do find it interesting. As I've kind of studied the love languages a little bit more. And I'm in no way an expert in this at all. But my husband and I did the quiz and found that we have the exact same three primary love languages in the same order. Yeah. And I was like, “Oh, that makes sense”. Maybe that's why because it's just always been so easy with them. And I realized that maybe it's easy because we speak the same language in many ways. So we're completely different. He's an ex—He's an introvert. I'm an extrovert, in case you can't tell. And just the way that we approach, we're just really, really different people. But at our core, I think we feel love in the same way we communicate similarly when it's just the two of us. I think there are a lot of similarities and complimentary skills.
But it's so interesting how we get caught up on this idea of what it's supposed to look like to be. Right? Or what it's supposed to feel like. And I would say in the beginning, too, because he was a slow burn. I kept feeling like nothing was happening because I had been attracted to so much chaos and drama before that it feels passionate, and wild, and exciting, and you could never anticipate what's going to happen. And then I was like, “Wow, this guy's just like super consistent, and really nice, and a genuinely good person who I could trust”. And like, is anything actually happening? People will tell me this too. What is it supposed to feel like? And it's been really rewarding to see this happen for clients to—who came to me with the predisposition to be attracted to those chaotic relationships. And I've seen so many of them, in the recent years, choose differently. And then realize, like, “Oh, my gosh. Wait. We don't have to have all this friction there. We don't have loud dramatic arguments”. And you can be that way with one relationship and have…be a completely different way in another relationship. And then a lot of times when I see that with them, when they make that shift, it happens so quickly. I've seen clients that were hopeless in love one day, and that were literally engaged within six months. And it's just happened time, and time, and time again. So, if nothing else, just keep the hope that your relationship past does not have to be your relationship future. But you have to reprogram yourself if you want to get a different outcome.
Dr. Lisa: Yeah, and thank you for saying that what a healthy, stable, long-term relationship actually feels like and is like can be very different from what people think it should feel like. And when they make that shift, and begin appreciating—maybe a calmer, more peaceful feeling relationship, it starts to feel much easier.
And hey, I know we're getting to the top of our time here, and you are fascinating. I feel like I could just talk to you all day. You're very interesting to talk to. And I wonder if it's in the last few minutes of our time, I could impose on you a couple of questions, like listener questions of this podcast. Also, at Growing Self, we often have—because there's a—we have a number of therapists on our team. And so part of our process, we do like consultation groups, like talk about things. And a couple of questions that have been coming up in various areas. What would you say to a dating coaching client, who, by virtue of their circumstance, lives in a small town, possibly a more rural town? And even though they're like, “Okay. Yes, open to doing online dating. The actual pool of candidates is not as robust as it might be in a larger area. Or I think, related to this, somebody by virtue of their circumstance is dating and living in an environment where, culturally, it is a different orientation than the one they're bringing to the table. And so, in this sense, somebody who has maybe more progressive values living in an area geographically where just by virtue of the population that isn't shared, and that feels like an important thing. What would you say to those people who are dating but who feel a little bit like they are on an island in some ways, or have limited options?
Damona: Yes, I’ve dealt with this. Both of those situation in the past and in my programs. And it's tricky when your pool—your actual pool is limited. So that goes to the sourcing part of the funnel, where you're finding dates. And I've discovered because people…it's funny. I live in Los Angeles, and I have a lot of clients here, and in New York, and in San Francisco, and in Atlanta, and in Chicago. And they'll say to me, “I think…just New York is just not a good place to date. There just are no men or no women”. Yeah. And I’m like, “Really?” Like move to my hometown, Lansing, Michigan, and then tell me the same thing. There's far more options than you realize are there. It's the overwhelm of sorting through those options that makes us feel like nobody's listening and nobody's there. So you actually, in a smaller market, have a benefit that you have a finite pool. You have a smaller pool to sort through. But the double-edged sword of that is that it is finite. And in all my years of coaching, and many years of hearing, “There's nobody here today”. I have actually only once been like, a dude, “I don't even know…you're—you might have to actually move”. I was working with someone in Lubbock, Texas, and I'm sure there's some people, some listeners that are like, “Oh, yeah. I know. college town”. And he was, I think, in his 40s. So he couldn't date the college people. But a lot of people were in relationships. And like I went through and I get when I'm working one-on-one with someone, I get really granular in their dating app. And I was like, there really isn't anybody here.
Dr. Lisa: You're actually at the bottom of the barrel. Yeah.
Damona: Yeah. We'll try like, I'll try that. I love the dating apps because I just think it's the best way to expand your dating pool today. But it's not the only thing. There's social media. There's online meetup groups. There are setups from friends. There are interest groups. There's so many ways that you still can make a connection without using a dating app. But if you go through all of those and you're like, “Literally, there's no one here”. Not like no one that I would date but just literally the pool that small. Then, you have to really ask yourself, “Well, how does—how important is finding a mate versus how important is it for me to be here?” And the interesting thing about COVID is it really is changing the dating landscape because a lot of people are moving to places where they'd rather live because they can work virtually right now. Dating apps are obviously seeing a huge spike in new users and in communications. Many of them are taking down the paywall on features, like being able to search outside of your immediate area. So I would encourage people to just just look beyond your traditional parameters, even within your own city. Just expand your search criteria a little bit and see what else might be out there. Because I always have to remind people, if you're looking for a one-on-one monogamous relationship, you're only looking for one.
And we get really caught up on, send 10 messages. The average response rate is 20-30%. So we send 10 messages, and we get overwhelmed. We get so consumed by the seven that didn't reply when you have three great ones that are sitting right there. And all you're thinking about is the seven that didn't come through. So maybe if you can flip your thinking there and just remember that you're just looking for one. You're just looking for one that can help you in navigating through. If you're in a place where the pool is a mismatch for you, it's kind of the same advice. But I have been through it myself. Being from the Midwest, and being—I am half black, and half white, and Jewish. And growing up in the Midwest and living in Chicago, where the standard of beauty really did not, at the time, was not tilted in my favor. I took it really personally for a long time. And when I moved to Los Angeles, I saw it just—it did create a lot of opportunity for me that wasn't there otherwise, and it actually made me see myself in a different way. And I've seen this also, like I wrote an article for bet.com, about black women who date abroad, and how here in the United States, we don't—we could get into a whole conversation around race and dating…
Dr. Lisa: It’s an important conversation. Yeah.
Damona: But there's so much in our history of unconscious bias and associations we make here from with race, that don't necessarily exist in other places. And you so internalized it, that when some of these women moved to Europe or to Africa, and they found they were not only having dates and attractive, but they were appreciated and revered. It completely changed their perspective of themselves, as well. So it's about not internalizing the results, right? And making that mean something about yourself. It means something only about the pool that you're dating in.
Dr. Lisa: Right. Right. To be able to move away from it where it can be easy to internalize those messages and then having some distance be able to say, “Oh, no. It's actually a white supremacist culture that has been devaluing me, and I don't have to participate in that”. And it's actually not true, what kind of—the basic lie. But getting that perspective…
Damona: Yeah. It's the first step is just acknowledging that it's there, being aware that it's there. And I think this is work for people of all races to do. What is your unconscious bias? I wrote an article for The Washington Post in June, right after the George Floyd protests ,and got a lot of hate mail. Not gonna lie.
Dr. Lisa: Did you?
Damona: Oh, yes. Oh, yes, I got my website hacked. I got attempted to be hacked. People did not like what I had to say. But in the article, I was just asking people to examine their beliefs, and to ask the questions, and really see what associations they've put around race that may not be reality. It may be part of their history, or may not even be their stuff. It could be their parents’ stuff, or their parents’ parents’ stuff. And it was actually really rewarding. A friend of mine who is a dating coach—he's a male dating coach—and he said, “Damona, I've read your article, and I really thought about it, and realize that even though I tell people to date race open, I realized I wasn't doing it. And I had to ask—I used your techniques that you talked about in the article—and I had to ask myself why. And I realized that I didn't have a good reason for it”. Like maybe it's just the discomfort of having to learn a new culture, or go through that experience of maybe people staring at you, and just the awkwardness of being in a new space. And he was like, “and now I've actually started talking to a couple of black women that I probably—I changed my filters on my dating app, and I might not have been talking to them otherwise”. And it was really rewarding for me to hear that because I thought, “Okay, for all of those negative messages I got, if I just cracked the door open enough for him, or for him, and he's pretty open minded as it is. But for him to even have that reaction to it. And I'm sure a lot of other people, if I could just nudge the door open a little bit, to get them to examine their beliefs, then I think I've done my work”. I think that's really what the point was. It's an ongoing conversation.
Dr. Lisa: What was the name of your article? I’ll be sure to link to it and I'd like my listeners to check it out.
Damona: What was it called? Let’s see. I'll tell you in 30 seconds. I write for a column called Date Lab on the Washington Post. So normally, it's…I set people up on dates, and then I write about it.
Dr. Lisa: But wait, you do date lab? I'm so sorry, Damona. I remember, I think reading a couple of those stories.
Damona: Oh yeah, yeah. I’m not the only Date Lab writer. There's a team of us, about six or seven of us who write them. But yeah, I really enjoy it. The article that I was referencing is daters say they don't—you can tell I don't title the articles—Daters Say They Don't Tolerate Racial Bias. Their Actions Say They Do Have Racial Preferences. So yeah, I do. And I also—I have a column in the LA Times called Dear Damona. And I also did one on like some questions I've received around recent dating this fall as well. So I'm just open to having the discussion. I know some people are feeling a little bit triggered by it right now, and that's okay. That's okay. It's just, I'm here to ask the questions that maybe you've been scared to ask yourself.
Dr. Lisa: And I'm glad…
Damona: And I’m glad he’s on the other side. Maybe really transformative.
Dr. Lisa: I'm so glad that we had the opportunity to talk about this. And you're right, I—we could certainly fill a whole other hour on that subject. And it would be time well spent. So we'll have to put that on there. Maybe in the future list. But in the meantime, I'll be sure to link to your articles and columns that you mentioned. And if our listeners today would like to learn more about you, and your miraculous coaching program, where would they go?
Damona: datesandmates.com is the best place to learn about my programs. And then of course, listen to the podcast, which is also on whatever platform you're listening right now. So that's where I give like it's topical advice. I look at studies, and news, and who's dating who, and all of that, and why you should care what you can learn from it, and then talk to two experts, and answer questions from listeners every single week.
Dr. Lisa: Oh wonderful. I'm going to start listening myself. Thank you so much. And this was wonderful. So we will link to that too. And thank you for a really interesting conversation. This was a lot of fun, and I appreciate your being so generous with your perspective and your wisdom. You have a lot of experience in this area. And I'm sure our listeners would have benefited from spending this time with you. So thank you.
Damona: Thank you. I really enjoyed it.
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