Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Love Stories...and Everything in Between Interview with Dating Coach Annie Gleason

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Annie Gleason, the West Coast’s mid-life dating coach specialist, and in honor of Valentine's Day, thought it would be great to interview her for my blog. I also thought it was interesting that she focuses on midlife and dating, which is an unusual niche that many of us don't think about as having particular themes and concerns. Here is a brief bio about Annie:

Annie launched Get A Love Life and began coaching full-time in September, 2007. She is the "Dating Examiner" for San Francisco, dating expert for Fifty+Fabulous, and the author of "Ask Annie." She speaks about dating at various singles events, and has been featured on KGO/ABC-TV’s The View From the Bay, and other venues. Gleason studied dating coaching with Susan Bradley, RN, who is one of the founders of dating coaching. She has a background in business and solution-based sales. For over 20 years, over 98% of her clients were men, many of whom repeatedly sought her advice about dating. She realized that there was a huge disconnect between how men communicated their feelings and how women perceived them. She was inspired to help men and women understand each other better and entered the world of dating coaching.

Gleason learned from her own dating experiences that if people don’t break out of certain patterns, they may not achieve their romantic goals. She helps her clients identify and conquer their limitations, understand their souls, and pursue their personal goals. 75 percent of Gleason’s clients are in satisfying long-term relationships, and many begin to see results after just a few weeks of working with her.

Gleason is currently engaged and lives with her fiancé. They plan to wed this summer.

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Carrie: What do you think is the biggest myth both men and women share about dating, and relationships for that matter?
Annie: Both believe that you can tell if someone is right for you just by looking or by having a short conversation. You might be able to tell if someone is absolutely not a match. But if you find them interesting, you don't know if they will turn into a friend or a lover. Chemistry is not always apparent immediately, and physical attraction often grows with time. Instant attraction typically results in quick disconnection.

Carrie: What is your suggestion for a good first date activity, and if it involves eating out or having a drink or coffee, is it still considered old-fashioned for the woman to expect the man to pay?
Annie: Almost any activity that takes an hour or two is a good first date. I don't recommend movies, because there is no real talk-time. I don't recommend hiking in isolated places, or visiting each others homes, because of the safety factor. If you both enjoy an activity, such as walking, dancing, sightseeing, etc., go and do it. Going out for a meal or coffee is always appropriate. The man should always offer to pay, as most women will feel that he is cheap if he doesn't. I believe that if the woman doesn't want to see him again, it's only fair for her to insist that she pay her way. The first date should not be a lavish affair, simply a fun event to get to know each other better.

Carrie: How much should a man and woman talk on the phone or via e-mail before they actually go out?
Annie: I think they should exchange 4 - 6 emails and have at least two twenty-plus minute phone calls before going out. It saves first dates for those whose company you have enjoyed. If you spot incompatibility beforehand, you won't waste your time on a date that goes nowhere .

Carrie: Based on your experience and what your readers write in about, what do you think are the biggest differences between men and women in terms of what they expect out of relationships?
Annie: Both men and women want to find a lasting relationship where they are loved and appreciated for who they are --they just don't agree on how to get there. I get a lot of e-mails from women who have fallen for a man's charm and persistence, gotten involved physically and/or emotionally, and then he suddenly disappears. Men often pursue women, "catch" them, and only then wonder if "she's the one." Physical attraction is more important to men than it is to women, and women will often forgive physical flaws if she believes that the guy is loving, trustworthy, emotionally available, etc.

Carrie: All of us have at one time or another been alone on Valentine's Day. What kind of coaching approach do you take to help singles get through this, when there are so many societal pressures surrounding Valentine's Day?
Annie: Like the song says, "Get by with a little help from your friends." Have a party, hang out with a couple of friends and watch movies, or invite all your single friends and their exes over for a potluck. Or, get dressed up and attend one of the many singles Valentine's events around town. If you're going to be home alone, indulge yourself with whatever makes you feel best, like a special dinner or a spa night. Remember - your reward for being single is that you get to do whatever you want whenever you feel like it!

Carrie: Sometimes, people aren't sure how much personal information they should discuss early on in relationships, and they're afraid that if they open up too much too early they will "turn off" their potential partner. Any advice on this?
Annie: It's best to get to know someone gradually. You don't need to "tell all" on the first couple of dates because you feel that it's honest. In fact, many people are put off by too many intimate facts when they barely know someone. As you go from dating to being in a relationship, usually in the first few months, you should be sure to reveal important personal information. Most people will feel privileged to learn it at that time, because they know you haven't just been telling everyone you've ever met all of your secrets.

Carrie: Many people are so confident in their careers and professional lives, and yet so nervous about dating they feel like little kids or teenagers again. Why do you think this is, and how do you advise people to not feel nervous, especially on first dates?
Annie: It's normal to feel nervous on first dates, so don't make it worse by telling yourself that you shouldn't. Look at it as feeling excited about the opportunity to get to know someone new. Remember that you are checking the other person out just as much as the other way around. Keep it in perspective - if it doesn't work out, there are many other people out there for you to date.

Carrie: Do you have any great success stories you like to tell about clients who never thought they would meet their special someone, and then they do?
Annie: I had a client who had only had a couple of dates in the last 15 years. She had tried many dating services, but nothing worked. I coached her on image, body language, and meeting people. Within a month, she was dating several men, and met "Mr. Right" shortly thereafter.

Carrie: What do you think of personal ads or online dating services, versus meeting people "naturally" as part of your everyday routine. Are there any statistics that show one being more successful than the other?
Annie: The #1 way couples meet is through friends and family. However, in 2007, 1 out of 7 marriages resulted from meeting online. I believe that the best strategy is to tell your friends and family that you're looking, join an online dating site (I give seminars about how to use this medium in a very effective way), and join social groups that reflect your interests. People who are proactive about finding love will find it.

Carrie: I read a recent NY Times article that said couples who lived together first but planned on eventually getting married, had a higher rate of getting married than those who just lived together with no particular plan in mind. Any thoughts on this?
Annie: Usually, if you have a goal, you'll move towards it. If you eventually want to get married, but don't discuss it before you move in together, you may inadvertently move in with someone who has no intention of ever getting married. It's really important to let your partner know what you want.

Carrie: What's the worst mistake a man or woman can make on a first date?
Annie: The worst mistake is to bring a checklist (mental or physical), and interview them to see if they meet your qualifications. The other worst mistake is to talk about yourself for the whole date and never find out anything about the other person. The only thing you want to do on a first date is to see if you enjoy your date's company. Wait at least until the 3rd date to get out that checklist!

Thank you, Annie.

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