Dating coach explains what ‘success’ in dating looks like

Marriage, she points out, doesn’t necessarily mean success

As a dating coach, I get more than a few confused looks when I tell people what I do. I wasn’t always in this field. For 7½ years, I worked as an economist for a financial services firm. But given that on the introversion/extraversion scale of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, I’m about as “E” as it gets, the job wasn’t a great fit for me.

I was, however, an early adopter of online dating. And since I still do have that numerical mind, I tracked my online dating success… in a spreadsheet (naturally). I created some A/B tests. I tracked my response rate for messages I sent and my conversion rate from responses to dates. Seemed logical to me... and it was working. I was getting more dates, and with better-quality people. And then I started doing the same for my friends, and they were having more success, too.

That’s when an idea was born — I’ll start a business. For the past 11 years, I have been helping people market themselves on various online dating sites by writing their profiles and choosing their best pictures. I also help save people time by selecting potential matches from the online dating sites, writing starter messages and even planning dates for my clients. Lastly, I coach my clients on the ins and outs of dating in the present day. It’s an extremely rewarding — and sometimes draining — job. I love it.

If that’s not interesting enough, I was in a very serious relationship when I started my business. He and I had met online, and I never foresaw the relationship ending. But it did end. Before that, when a potential client asked, “Did online dating work for you? Were you successful?” I had always responded with a resounding “Yes!” But, when it ended, in a circumstance that was out of my control, that was no longer my answer. Yes, of course it had worked. We had a loving, long-term relationship. If that’s not a notch in the belt for online dating, then I don’t know what is.

I was in an odd place after that. As someone in a professional services field, any professional services field, people naturally jump to conclusions about what your own personal life should look like. Can a doctor get sick? Of course. But you want to go to the doctor who doesn’t. That’s impossible, though. When there are outside factors that you can’t control, people still want you to be able to control them.

People have called me and, before saying that they were interested in my services, asked, rather aggressively, “Are you married?”

First, marriage is not success — happiness is.

Second, do you necessarily want a married person helping you date online? I can’t even imagine my mom, who has been married for 40-plus years, giving out dating advice. As smart as she is, she knows nothing about the modern dating world, nor should she!

I don’t share my personal information or choices with my clients, because, as long as I’m the best at my job, only I need to know what I choose to do in my personal life. Judge me on the success of my clients… that’s a testament to my work. And if I’m honest, I am so much better at my job now having seen both sides. I have had several relationships since then, and all have made me markedly better at my job, even if or when they end.

Remember that you can control some things in life, but certainly not all of them. Just as we aren’t immune to sickness, I, like everyone else, am not immune to a relationship not working in the end. But I believe there is so much to be learned from every relationship, and there is never only one definition of “success.”

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Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating. Want to connect with her? Join her newsletter, for updates and tips.