Valentine’s Day is just around the corner – and it seems as if the world (and his girlfriend) will all be happily enjoying romantic dates. But the reality is that these days increasing numbers of women are remaining single and finding it harder than ever to find the man of their dreams. Why is this?
Lifestyle teamed up with up-market introduction service Berkeley International and followed the fortunes of three attractive and successful women on a series of dates to discover exactly why they were failing to find love.
The women all went on a couple of dates with eligible, professional men and we then asked everyone how the evening went. The feedback was analysed by Mairead Molloy, director of Berkeley International, which charges clients a £10000 joining fee.
We next enlisted the advice of leading specialists to give sessions of appropriate, practical advice aimed at setting them on the path to finding their ideal partner. The women then went on two further dates with different eligible bachelors to try out the tips they received.
So how did they get on? And did the advice work? Their experiences make fascinating reading for anyone hunting for love.
FORGOTTEN HOW TO FLIRT
Karin is a jewellery maker, from south London. Karin has a wide circle of friends, many of whom are married, and enjoys travel and sport.
Relationship history: A couple of serious relationships in the past, of which the last ended in 2000. She has been on a number of dates and has tried internet dating since then but has not met anyone special.
The dates: Karin’s first two dates were with Otis, a 40 year old property developer, and Harry, a 39 year old accountant. Her verdict? “We got on quite well but there was no spark.”
The problem: Mairead Molloy says: “Karin’s dates commented that she looked tense, preoccupied and even worried throughout the dates. One said that she didn’t come across as a very open personality. They also felt she hadn’t made much of an effort with her appearance.”Karin is an attractive woman with a great figure, but she’s so busy concentrating on whether she’s met her soul-mate that she has forgotten how important it is to make an effort with your appearance, particularly on a first date. “It may seem trivial but men like to think a woman has taken trouble with her appearance. It also makes a big difference to how confident and attractive a woman feels on a date, which in turn affects the way she responds to the man. Karin also needs to make an effort to rediscover how to flirt and have fun, so that she enjoys the date for its own sake instead of seeing it as some kind of test.”
The specialists: Karin met fashion stylist Camilla St John who gave her advice on how to make the best of her good features and what clothes to choose to make an impact on a date.Camilla said; “Karin has a lovely slim size 10 figure but tends to wear smart, but unfeminine clothes, mainly in black or neutral colours. On a date, this could help to make her seem professional but dull.
“Women often tend to stick to wearing black because they think it’s flattering, but the truth is that most men prefer to see some colour. I picked out a Roland Mouret-style tailored dress in red for Karin because it’s a flattering, vibrant shade and because the dress emphasizes her slender but curvy figure without swamping her – which is important as she’s also quite petite.
“I added a belt because she has a great waist and needs to emphasize it more.
“In general, I would advise all women to wear a dress for a first date – it’s feminine and there are styles out there to suit every shape. If you wear jeans and a top, no matter how fantastic they are – you risk looking as though you haven’t made an effort. A dress is also the simplest outfit to wear. Galaxy-style dresses suit slim shapes and wrap dresses show a bit of cleavage while still looking classy and suit most figures.
“You don’t need to spend a fortune: the high street is full of excellent dresses. Karin also needs to make sure she’s well groomed. She should make sure that her nails are nicely manicured because men notice those kind of details, especially if you’re on a dinner date where your hands are on show.
“She should also make sure she’s had her hair blow-dried, particularly on the first couple of dates, as this can make a massive difference to your overall appearance. However, she should also take time applying her make-up, making sure it is natural looking as most men hate women appearing over made-up.
“We sent Karin to facialist Shenaz Shariff at the Face and Body clinic in London for an exfoliating and complexion-boosting Oxypeel facial before having a Mist Air Airbrushing fake tan to give her skin a flattering, glowing colour. She then spent the afternoon at leading celebrity hairdresser Richard Ward’s Hair and Metro Spa off London’s Sloane Square, where she was given subtle highlights to add warmth to her mid-brown hair, which was also re-styled, adding layers to create a softer more feminine effect. She also had a manicure and pedicure.
“Karin also had a make-up lesson with makeup artist Nina Richards who says: “I wanted to give Karin an animated but not overly made-up look so I used a couple of key products to lift her complexion and give her a glow. I applied Yves Saint Laurent’s Touche Eclat under and around the eyes to brighten them up, Max Factor Panstik to give an instant glamorous glow while covering any imperfections, and Lancome’s Teint Idole Ultra foundation, which has the added bonus of lasting for 14 hours.
“I also swear by MAC cream blush on the cheeks because it simply melts in to the skin and can also be dabbed on the lips and Lancome’s L’extreme mascara, which makes lengthens and defines eyelashes almost as well as false lashes.
”The second dates: Xavier, 38, financier and Francis, 39, a lawyer.
The feedback: Mairead says: “Karin really came out of her shell on these dates. Both men remarked on what a confident and attractive girl she was. Xavier in particular really fancied her and also remarked on how interesting, honest and nice she was. He thought she was sure of herself without being showy and said that all the elements were there for him to want to develop a future relationship with her. He was really keen.”
Karin says: “I was amazed at the difference in my appearance – and having all that attention paid to me really gave my self-esteem a big boost. I was much less concerned about the outcome of the dates and, for the first time in ages, I found myself enjoying the evening not worrying about what the man thought of me.
“I also noticed a big difference in how people reacted to me. I noticed more people looking at me ? on one date a couple of men I didn?t know smiled at me in the restaurant. My date noticed too and even asked if I knew them.
“It wasn?t just because I looked more attractive, but I was also smiling much more, so I?m sure I was giving off better signals. I really enjoyed both of my dates and on both occasions felt that we got on well together. I definitely feel ready to make the most of myself and any future dates now.”
ALWAYS GOES FOR THE WRONG MEN
Ruth Offer, 35, lives in Northwood, Middlesex, is an environmentalist working for a recycling company and the mother of an eight month-old baby girl, Nicole.
Relationship history: Deserted by Nicole’s father just after her birth after they had been together for around a year. Before this, she had a few serious relationships including one with an Italian waiter, a two-year on-off relationship with a mature student and a brief marriage to an American barman eight years her junior, followed by divorce.
The first dates: Ruth met Rob, 37, a property developer and Jack, 39, an entrepreneur. Her verdict? “I didn’t find either of them easy company – although they were both in very well paid jobs, they both seemed miserable and didn’t appear to have any fun. Work definitely came first in their lives.
”The problem: Mairead says: “Both of Ruth’s dates commented on how brusque her manner was, particularly when talking on the phone. Rob was also put off by the fact she talked a lot about herself and about some land she owned abroad – he thought she was trying too hard to impress him. He also felt a bit overpowered by the strength of her commitment to environmental issues.” “Ruth is a beautiful girl, but she would admit herself that in the past she has gone for the wrong men – handsome guys she sees as being different or exciting but who, ultimately, haven’t made loyal partners. She’s also understandably still traumatized about being left by the father of her child. ”
The specialist: Ruth had a counselling session with relationship expert Corinne Sweet, a relationship psychologist who is also a regular contributing psychologist on Channel 4’s Big Brother series. Corinne says: “Ruth is someone who has been quite badly hurt in the past. She thought that the father of her child was the love of her life. They had a passionate relationship but he wasn’t father material and left her for another woman. She was very open and friendly with me but struck me as someone who made snap judgements. “I also think that if a man didn’t immediately do what she expected – like ringing on time – she felt immediately rejected, because she has been rejected in the past. I advised her to go into dates with an open mind and not to prejudge men she meets in the future because she will only go in with a hostile attitude. She should also try to have lower expectations of the date. Make friends with the man – and don’t expect a Gone With The Wind–style great passion. But ask yourself ‘could we be friends?’ “This way you’re much more likely to have fun, make a friend – and who knows where that may lead?”My other advice for how to approach early dates is to make sure you listen to your date and ask him questions about himself, rather than volunteering information about yourself. Most men are very turned on by women who listen – but they’re not such good listeners themselves. If you have children from another relationship, don’t keep talking about them, particularly at first, or you will run the risk of the man thinking that you’re only looking for someone to look after your family. “Equally don’t lay bare every aspect of your life because you’re likely to overload someone else with your problems. It’s also important to keep some boundaries in the relationship – don’t talk about yourself too much at first. You may think you’re being open but the chances are that you’ll actually come across as self-obsessed. Instead concentrate on asking about his family and friends and interests. Most importantly, try to live in the present and enjoy the date for what it is – try to have fun.”
The second dates: Ruth then went on dates with Rory, 38, a businessman, and Andy, 37, a banker.
The feedback: Mairead says: “Both men were very taken with Ruth and both wanted to pursue things further. Rory said how comfortable he felt with her and that he thought she was really interested in what he had to say. He was particularly desperate to see her again. Andy said he’d found it hard to relate to some of the girls he’d dated but he felt he was really on the same wave length as Ruth and thought she was lovely. He’s also keen to see her again.”
Ruth says: “I found talking to Corinne very helpful. On my next two dates I really made an effort to ask them questions and listen. Even if you’re not interested in what they’re saying, feign interest. I did – and I felt that the dates went much more successfully: everything flowed better. I also made an effort to steer the conversation around to man topics like cars. “My first date, Rory, has been texting me ever since the date, although I think he’s not my type looks-wise and he was a little intense. But he’s asked me for a second date. I really liked my second date Andy – we really liked each other looks-wise and personality wise and I’d be interested in a second date. I do think the fact the date went successfully was because I was trying to be interested in him.”I think that Corinne is really right about men – in general you probably do need to pamper their egos on the first few dates to get things off the ground. I also think that if you don’t volunteer too much about yourself you keep some mystery about yourself. “I’m definitely going to use these techniques the next time I’m on a date.”
TOO HIGH EXPECTATIONS
Emma Robertson, 32, is a TV producer who enjoys running marathons, eating out and going to the cinema. She lives in Hampstead, north London.
Relationship history: Three previous serious relationships including living with a boyfriend for five years when she was in her 20s. She has been single since May 2005.
The First Dates: Emma went out with Steve, 40, a lawyer, and James, 36, who runs his own business.
Her verdict? “Neither of them was remotely sporty which is quite important for me so there was no physical attraction. Both were well-educated and polite but they were also quite shy and I’m usually attracted to quite outgoing characters with some charisma.”
The problem? Mairead says: “Emma is a lovely woman, with a great figure, a successful career and a friendly personality. But she is quite uncompromising about the attributes her future partner must have: she wants a man who is sporty, good looking, charismatic, yet reflective, keen on travel and also has a good sense of humour – which adds up to quite a list. “Both men liked her but found her quite distant and not very forthcoming. Both Steve and James said they felt they had to do most of the talking – James said he felt as though he had to coax answers out of her. He also felt she was quite distant and was holding him at bay. Another factor is that Emma spends a lot of time working, which makes it hard to meet someone.”
The specialist: Emma had a consultation with relationship psychologist Corinne Sweet, who says; “Emma is extremely cautious about relationships and this results in her having too high expectations about what a perfect partner would be like. “May be she’s trying to find the impossible. It’s a defence mechanism which stops you getting too involved with someone. I think she’d decided before even meeting her first dates that they weren’t for her. The problem with having a shopping list like this is that there is no room to be favourably surprised by someone and no opportunity to allow any relationship to develop organically. “Also, you may simply be wrong about the kind of man you would be happy with. “Many women also expect to have that instant-attraction, falling-head-over-heels feeling but in fact true love often comes out of a loving friendship.”I advised Emma not to pre-judge men and to go into dates with an open mind. She should go out simply with the idea of having some fun – and give the guys a chance to reveal their good qualities. “She has a fascinating job and works hard – but she’s also been using this as a defence against going out on dates or getting involved. If you’re always working, you don’t allow yourself any space for something else, like a relationship, to happen. Emma needs to make an effort to work less and to make more space for other things in her life.”
The second dates: Emma then went on dates with 34 year-old Robin, who runs his own company and Jack, 36, who works for a large corporate firm.
The feedback:Emma says: “The most useful advice Corinne gave me was to have a more light-hearted attitude to the whole thing. I can see that I’ve become quite negative about the dating process. I’ve seen quite a few people get trapped in relationships that ended up being monotonous and grinding them down – and I’ve been determined the same won’t happen to me. “I haven’t dated much at all recently. I tried to be more relaxed and less uptight on my last two dates – and I did enjoy them more. In particular, I went into my date with Robin with a really open mind and it was fantastic, the best I’ve had in ages. I still feel that I have high standards about the kind of man I’m looking for – but I’m no longer going to let them get in the way of having a go.”