6 D.C. Dating Coaches Help You Find Your Soulmate — No, Really!



UPDATE: This story was originally published on August 24.

If there's one thing we know about dating in D.C., it's this: It ain't easy. Even though we've earned a rep as one of the best cities in the country for singletons, that doesn't make life (and love) any less complicated. Between dodging lame pickup lines, sifting through online profiles, agonizing over the perfect first-date outfit, and hunting for that elusive spark, finding real, lasting romance in the nation's capital can feel like a full-time job.

So, if you're not happy with your love life, it's time to bring in the big guns. Enter, six of Washington's savviest dating coaches, who've made careers out of helping singles hone their romancing skills. We picked their brains for answers to some of dating's biggest FAQs — like "Why can't I meet anyone decent?" — and were surprised by what we uncovered. Click through for the scoop on first-dates dos and don'ts, where to meet singles in Washington, and the best way to chat up that cutie across the bar. Okay, Cupid — let's go!

erika

After writing her own perfect online profile and finding the love of her life on JDate, Erika Ettin turned her talent for writing dating profiles into a business. As the founder of A Little Nudge, the D.C.-based dating coach guides her clients through online dating, helping them post profiles and photos that result in real-life dates. A Little Nudge's services also include hand-picked matches, tips on date planning, and relationship advice.

Where are the best places for singles to hang out in D.C.?
"Take a Groupon cooking class, join a kickball or bocce ball league (which are both huge in D.C.), or find a group that does something else of interest to you. While not everyone in these groups may be single, these are all great ways to meet new people. And you never know — they may have friends for you to meet.  There's also singles events, such as speed dating. A few options in the area are Professionals in the City and HurryDate. And the third option is online dating — my forte. This is where you’ll find the largest number of singles, especially those who you may not cross in your regular social circles."

How should you dress for a first date?
"It’s important to put yourself together nicely. Some first dates are right after work (a happy hour drink), so that’s easy — just go in your work clothes. But some aren’t. I always have to laugh because on my first date with my boyfriend, I wore a very heavy sweater dress because I had actually made plans afterwards to go to this après-ski party in case he was a dud.  (Luckily, he wasn’t, and I ditched the party.) But that was not a good first date outfit, since it didn’t show my shape at all, and we still joke about it.
For women, if you’re coming from work, a nice business-casual outfit works well. Try not to look too 'business' and no fun — a nice pair of pants or skirt and a top that shows off your shape but isn’t too revealing works well. Other than that, just go with your style. Check your teeth, make sure there are no stains on your shirt, and you’re good to go."

Any first-date (and general dating) dos and don'ts?
"Do: Go in with an open mind. Meet for just drinks or coffee, especially if it’s a first online date. You can always add dinner, but you can't take it back. Smile — it goes a long way. Ask questions.
Don’t: Have your phone out on the table. Talk about yourself the entire time. Be rude to the server. Drink too much."

Let's say you've met your match. When do you take your online dating profile down? 
"I’m a firm believer in e-mailing and dating many different people initially to see who’s out there. But at some point, when you think you’ve found the right person, it might be time to scale back on your online dating life and start to enjoy your offline dating life. But remember, don’t log into the online dating site immediately after a date. Even if you didn’t like your date, try to show some respect by not logging in until the next day. When things start to get serious with someone — even before you’ve discussed your relationship status — it’s a good idea to minimize your online dating to give the relationship a chance to bloom. And finally, when you’re ready to be exclusive with someone, the only surefire way to make sure you’re both on the same page is to openly discuss taking your profile down. Heck, you could even have a 'profile deletion party' with a glass of wine in hand. That actually sounds like a pretty fun date!"

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Photos: Courtesy of Dickson Wine Bar and D.C. Bocce League
mixology

Kim Rosenberg, president of Mixology, and Meghann Novinskie, executive director, specialize in personalized matchmaking and date-coaching services for the gay and lesbian community. With over 14 years of experience in the dating industry between them, the business (and real-life) partners currently dish out LGBT dating advice in their biweekly "Mix in the City" column in the Washington Blade.

Where are the best places for singles to hang out in D.C.?
"The best place to meet other singles is where they gather — outside the bar scene. D.C. is unique in the way that so many single people move here for job opportunities and everything that [the city] has to offer.  To best navigate the single scene, think of what you love the most — museums, travel, food, athletics.  Get involved in local groups that bring together people who also celebrate the same passions you have.  You are bound to meet other singles doing the same thing."

How should you dress for a first date?
"Dress however you feel most comfortable.  First impressions are made within the first few minutes of meeting someone new.  Wear your favorite jeans, blazer, or a top that shows off your figure.  Avoid anything too short, too tight, or too white.  Never wear athletic shoes (unless your first date is a hike, of course)!"

Any first-date (and general dating) dos and don'ts?
"Don’t try too hard.  Be engaging, but don’t interview or be too intrusive.  Do share what makes you you — what you’re passionate about, what a typical weekend is like for you, what you love about your job.  Always avoid talking about past relationships and politics — even in D.C."

How can you get out of the “friend zone"?
"Relationships and strong connections are built by sharing experiences together — this doesn’t include having a chat over happy hour drinks or during a fancy dinner. Go to a sushi-making class, go on a hike you’ve never done before, push yourself 'outside the box.'  Remember to compliment your date.   Whatever you do, don’t gossip with your soon-to-be partner — that’s what friends are for.  Be upfront without coming across as overly aggressive."

Should you go on a second date with someone who was nice enough, but there was no spark the first time around?
"Always go on a second date.  There seems to be some mystery about 'chemistry' in the modern dating world. Sure, everyone wants to have it, but it doesn’t mean it can’t develop over time.  Think about your best friends, or the closest connections you have with people.  These connections didn’t develop overnight; the same goes for dating.  Chemistry between you and your date usually won’t happen instantaneously.  Second dates are always worth it!"

How can you avoid the typical-D.C. “too busy” trap of never being able to schedule another date? 
"Make dating a priority.  No one said that dating is easy, so if you’re serious about finding a lasting partnership, you’ll make time.  If you’re dating casually, there’s nothing wrong with it.  But show your date that you’re interested, and make time to see him/her.   If he/she can’t take time to meet you, reconsider his/her goals in dating you."

How many dates should you go on before you friend or follow someone on social media?
"If you’re dating casually, it’s fine to friend request or follow them on various social media outlets.  But if you’re dating for long-term 'success,' avoid becoming too close too quickly in other 'non-human' ways.  The only way to get to know someone is to spend time with him/her.   Some Facebook or Twitter profiles are purely for business, so follow away.  But don’t immediately 'friend' someone if you’re not sure if they are in the friend zone or relationship material."

How do you re-enter the dating world after a bad breakup or the end of a long relationship? 
"Bad breakups are inevitable, so take the time to mourn your past (failed) relationship.  Take the time to reflect on [it] — what didn’t work, as well as what did work.  Fully realize what you have to offer a potential partner, and own it.  There’s someone out there for everyone — regain your confidence by reflecting and understanding the idea that you and your ex weren’t meant to be together.  Spend time with people that love you the most.  Accept compliments from them, and remember that dating is all about timing.  When you’re ready, be proactive, and don’t let the past scare you from your next relationship.  Breakups happen for a reason!"

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Photos: Courtesy of Living Social and Smithsonian/Timothy Hursley
jefferyPlatts

One of D.C. dating coach Jeffrey Platts' main beliefs is that dating should be fun. To make it more about enjoyment and less about stress, his service aims to help men and women connect more deeply and authentically, both in dating and in life. Jeffrey works with his clients, both men and women, to define their dating goals, examine their positive and negative habits, and realize how awesome they already are. The result? They become the type of person they want to find.

Any first-date (and general dating) dos and don'ts?
"Stand out by asking genuinely curious questions. Let go of the 'what do you do,' 'where are you from,' 'where did you go to school' questions. Do you really care about that? Have conversations that are more emotional and fun, and less about factual stuff you could get simply by Googling them or reading their Facebook profile or resume. You have a live human being in front of you, who hopefully you're also attracted to. Get to know the real them. Oh, and be okay with silences. That's when attraction can actually build!"

How should you dress for a first date?
"I think for first dates, men and women are best served with outfits that make them feel classy and sexy. Wear what makes you feel most alive and most at ease in your body. While I definitely have my personal fashion preferences for men, there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution. It's about showing off your personality and letting your vibe speak more than your clothes. I like the idea that looking good doesn't always lead to feeling good, but feeling good always leads to looking good."

Where are the best places for singles to hang out in D.C.?
"Don't limit yourself to the belief that your soulmate is hidden in a loud, crowded bar on a Friday night. Engage with the people, places, and activities that feel truly fun and alive to you. From that, you will be more naturally attractive and people will gravitate toward you. And let go of any beliefs that you know when and where you’re going to meet your next partner. You don’t. Ask anyone who’s in a happy relationship, and I’ll bet most of them will tell you that they couldn’t have predicted the time and place where they met their partner. I’m a big believer in stepping stones. You never know if the person that your intuition nudges you to say hello to might have a friend/sibling/co-worker that is single and a perfect match for you."

How can you avoid the typical-D.C. “too busy” trap of never being able to schedule another date?
"If you have no time to go on dates and get to know your potential future partner now, what makes you think you will make time if you actually do have a boyfriend or girlfriend? Use this reminder as an opportunity to create some healthy space and balance in your life, so that you can find time for yourself and your next amazing lover. Maybe cut down on your hours at work, find a new job, or let go of those commitments or friendships that really don't jazz you up!"

What if you go out all the time, but still haven’t met anyone? How can you prevent discouragement and keep your head in the game?
"Take a break from dating. Go on a two- or three-month moratorium on dating. No flirting, no dates, no hooking up, remove your online dating profile. Focus on you during that time. The intention here is to reboot your energy. Let go of the seeking and focus on your own life. Take that tango or kung fu class you've always wanted to try. Use this time to notice if the constant search for love and sex has been running your life. Journal about which qualities are most important to you in terms of health, money, kids, career, sex, travel, spirituality.  Your next partner will likely come to you when, whatever qualities you decide you prefer in a partner, you are expressing and living those qualities, too.  When you get back in the game, you'll have your head, heart, and spirit all clear and ready."

What if you always feel more attracted to the roguish types, rather than the nice guys?
"You need to keep your antennas out for a solid, integrated man.  Not the bad boy who might be good in bed, but doesn't pay attention to you when you talk. Not the tender-hearted nice guy who hides his sexual attraction and lets you walk all over him. What I teach my clients, and the men in my workshops, is to embrace being a good man who has access to a full range of expression in his communication, emotions, and sexuality. There are times when a woman will want a man to be strong and assertive, and there will be times when she wants him to be tender and loving. But to have the wisdom and experience to access what's appropriate is a skill. There are good men out there! I know a bunch. Of course, as a woman, taking a look at what has you more attracted to one type of guy over the other is a good place to start."

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Photo: Courtesy of DC Shaolin-Do and Joy of Motion
kiki

Dating coach Kiki Strickland wants to help African American women succeed in finding the man and the happy marriage. Through personalized coaching packages, Kiki helps her clients discover what they want from a relationship, how to meet men and make a connection, and how to recognize a good man once they've found him. At Kiki's monthly "Flirt Night" classes, she offers tips on how to be more open and approachable, then takes her students out to popular D.C. venues to practice their flirting technique.

Where are the best places for singles to hang out in D.C.?
"D.C. is great for hanging out and mixing with singles! U Street, Chinatown, Georgetown — there are too many to name. Just make sure you are friendly and flirty wherever you go."

How should you dress for a first date?
"Wear something you feel great in, and that makes you feel feminine or sexy — not too risque. Definitely make sure it is not what you wore to the office, even if you have to change before leaving work."

Any first-date (and general dating) dos and don'ts?
"Don't stay too long! The best way to get a second date is to leave him wanting more. Two hours per date is enough. Save the rest for your next time together."

What are good places to meet guys outside of the bar scene?
"Join activities that interest you or the type of guys you like, such as ski groups, hiking clubs, activity clubs. Also, attend Professionals in the City events, Meetup events, and any other recreational activities that draw men."

What if you go out all the time but still haven’t met anyone? How can you prevent discouragement and keep your head in the game?
"Regroup and re-strategize! If you are going out but not meeting men, you may not be coming off as friendly. A lot of women are closed and unapproachable without realizing it. Come to my 'Flirt Night' to learn how to flirt!"

What if you always feel more attracted to the roguish types, rather than the nice guys?
"Decide if you want to be married, or if you want to keep chasing the men with swagger. They usually aren't chasing you. When you get tired of doing all the work, you will realize what you really want and need — a nice guy who is into you!"

When is the best time to have the DTR ("determining the relationship") talk?
"The best time to find out where you stand is before you get intimate with a man. Keep your skirt on if you haven't been assured you are in a committed relationship yet. You may be one of many, so just keep it friendly until he brings up more. Don't invest your heart or your body."

Is it okay if the guy you are dating only texts you, instead of calling?
"Men will call and get together with women they are feeling. If he is only texting, forget him. If he is texting asking for a date, tell him to call you to work out the details."

Should you go on a second date with someone who was nice enough, but no sparks flew during the first date?
"Yes! Why not? You don't have to feel fireworks to go out on a date again. If he was nice and you enjoyed yourself, keep going! Get to know him better. You never know what could happen."

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Photos: Courtesy of Downtown DC BID; Georgetown BID
jess

Jess McCann is the author of two dating books: You Lost Him at Hello: A Saleswoman's Secret to Closing the Deal and the upcoming Was it Something I Said? The Answer to All Your Dating Dilemmas. Prior to her date-coaching and speaking career, Jess owned her own sales company and struggled with her love life, until she realized that the same proven sales tactics she used in her business could translate to dating success. Now, she teaches single women how to apply sales techniques, such as the importance of knowing and loving their product (themselves) and how to prospect for new clients (dates).

Where are the best places for singles to hang out in D.C.?
"Coffee shops are really great for meeting men these days. A lot of young professionals stop in for their cup of coffee on the way to work, or even sit to check emails or meet with a colleague. You can still meet men the old way, at a bar or club. However, if you are looking for a guy to date seriously, stick to happy hour and avoid late-night."

How should you dress for a first date?
"You should always dress your best! I recommend being as feminine as possible on a first date. All men love skirts and dresses; you can never go wrong with heels. Even if you are not a girly-girl, remember this: A man needs to be attracted to you physically first, so that he wants to take the time to know you mentally and emotionally. I tell my clients to always dress like they are meeting their husband for the first time ... because they just may be!"

Any first-date (and general dating) dos and don'ts?
"Never ever stay more than two to three hours on a first date. When things are going well and you are "clicking" with a guy, you may not want to end the night. But if you want him to want to see you again, you have to leave him wanting more. This is called 'ending your date at the height of impulse.' When the date seems like it can't get any better, say goodnight and take yourself home. Guaranteed, he will call you again."

How can I approach someone I think is cute without it being awkward?
"You can either give him the S.E.E factor, which stands for 'smile, eye contact, energy' (this gives him the sign that you want him to approach you), or you can approach him first by using an icebreaker. Ask him for the time, or to borrow his menu. You don't need to start a conversation with anything terribly witty. He just needs to know that you are friendly, and if he's interested, he will continue the conversation. So, smile at him, ask him if he knows the happy hour specials, and then let him take it from there."

What are good places to meet people outside of the bar scene?
"Try your local bookstore, a sports bar or pub, the supermarket (all guys love to eat!), the driving range, or the gym. Anywhere that men frequent, even if it's not your typical social environment, can be a good place to prospect for dates."

Is it okay if the guy you are dating only texts you, instead of calling?
"Absolutely! It's part of our culture and it's here to stay. Just make sure you aren't having long conversations over text. Keep your texts short and simple, so that you communicate to him that if he wants to chat, he needs to call."

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Photos: Courtesy of Top Golf Alexandria and Northside Social