Why aren’t there more dating coaches?

Once a week, I go to some guy’s house and pay him a fairly significant
sum of money so he can tell me in which order I should pluck strings on
my guitar.  I would like to learn to play guitar well.  But it’s nowhere
near as central to my happiness as my lovelife.  Yet I’m allowed — even
praised — for seeking expert guidance there, but would be roundly
shamed if I sought a dating coach.

That’s Ezra (and here), with nary a mention of the single payer.  I’m all for the idea, but I see at least two reasons why the concept does not thrive. 

First, many of the people with dating problems are their own worst enemies.  Paying for advice won’t much help because self-sabotage is the goal and the advice-giver can’t disassemble the relevant weirdnesses.  And many people would hire the coach as a substitute for actually making themselves emotionally available.

Second, I do not believe it much benefits "losers" to learn additional slickness.  The more likely result is that the coach tells the loser about seven of his mistakes, thereby discouraging him altogether.

Whereas when the guitar teacher screams "Ezra, that ain’t no G7!", I suspect Ezra still goes home feeling pretty good about himself, as indeed he should.  But even guitar teachers (and I have had several) rely on lessons for income and they aren’t so inclined to give honest feedback.  They fear making their students feel bad and thus losing them.  After all most guitar students are terrible (except for me all my teachers told me I was pretty good.)

The bottom line: It is much easier to sell aspirational goods than honesty.


I completely disagree. Some people are really bad at understanding how their behavior is perceived by other people. Psychologists have shown that people tend to overestimated how much people notice a faux pas. A person can have particular difficulty if he or she can not make subtle, but important distinctions, between social missteps. For example, a guy might be completely mortified that he accidentally put on one blue and one black sock and think, incorrectly, that people are noticing and criticising him for it (in reality I doubt that anyone would notice). The problem is that exhausted from all that mortification the same guy might pick his nose in a crowd (that faux pas people are going to notice). If you can't tell the difference between social reaction to each faux pas then life is both difficult (one is constantly berating oneself) and ostracizing (others don't want to be around you because of the extreme missteps). A coach could help people distinguish between the two and thus have both greater peace and a better social life.


Same goes for bad psychologists. But yes, you and Anonymous have it right. Our host's notions about how and why poor daters date poorly seems largely an unfounded personal view.

This sounds reasonable at first blush. But then, how to explain the ridiculous proliferation of makeover shows over the last few years? Apparently you can get people not only to be criticized, but to do it on national TV, if they get a snazzy new wardrobe out of it. And I do think the makeover pros and the hypothetical dating coach have substantially overlapping jobs; how many people's dating problems could be ameliorated with a better wardrobe, a nice haircut, and attention to hygiene? And how many makeover shows have gone well beyond that to incorporate life-coach sorts of stuff, dancing lessons, etc.?

OK, I have just admitted to the entire world my secret, mortifying weakness for makeover shows. Shoot me now. But I do think there would be a market for dating coaches -- not for the worst cases (I've never seen a makeover show that tells someone, "well, your problem is you're a creepy narcissistic ass"), but for the borderline folks who want to make a change and are mystified at what they're missing. And that would be a worthwhile marginal revolution, indeed.

There is the "seduction community," of "The Game" and "Mystery Method" fame. http://www.fastseduction.com/

I (partially) disagree with Tyler on this one. The two reasons he gives would make a dating coach ineffective, rather than a hard-sell. I think dating advice (and advice about behavior in social interactions) can be very effective, but hard to sell.

It is true that it is much easier to sell aspirational goods than honesty, but that begs the question, why can't dating services be sold as an aspirational good?

I think this is because it goes against a self-deceived image of being high-status individuals. By signing up for a dating coach, I am not only accepting as true the social perception of my low status, but I am also signaling it openly.

On the effectiveness of a dating coach, I highly recommend the (somewhat cheesy) reality show by VH1 called "The Pick-Up Artist". Where an expert not only gives advice but coaches participants through (and puts participants to compete against each other) at picking-up women, until one of them is crowned the pick-up artist. (Sure, the guys there are not "dating" women, but the advice they receive on short occasional social interactions with women follows many principles from evolutionary psychology).

I think a single man taking guitar lessons (or a cooking class, or an art class, etc.) is almost surely using it as a sort of "dating coach" anyway. "I want to learn to play guitar" and "I want to know how to cook Thai food" are just other ways of grooming yourself to be more attractive to potential mates.

I think the point on the method of compensation is important. My mother used to pay my violin teacher, a family friend, a big gift roughly every half a year. Even though my teacher had never said anything good about my playing, she was markedly harsher on me weeks after receiving a gift. I got used to be called a hopeless.

My boyfriend has three guitars, and is planning to get another one. In spite of all his many virtues and talents, he is no great music genius. But I can always count on him telling me to f-off when I tell him the truth about what I think of his guitar playing.

I think that some of the more successful "dating coaches" both highlight the inadequacies of the student AND present the student's new knowledge in an inspirational manner. There's no reason for a dichotomy.

"the distribution of men by their attractiveness to women follows an uneven continuum where at the extremes a small percentage of alphas monopolize an immense number of quality women and a much larger blob of omegas struggle to rut with warpigs"

I'm not really sure what the author is trying to say here. By attractiveness does he mean physical attractiveness? If so, I can safely shoot that down, every woman that I've ever gone out with has been markedly better looking than myself. On the other hand, if by "attractiveness" the author means the entire package, then i agree, but how and why should it be any different?

Isaac Crawford
Blogging in Yemen

I have Asperger's and could really have used a dating coach n college, but I'd hate to be the coach who had me as a client. I don't notice posture and voice signals that are, apparently, obvious to most people; in a noisy or crowded environment I clam up, and get a headache after about ninety minutes; I'm not interested in alcohol, sports, or other typical conversation-starters. A coach who advised me to "just be yourself--act natural" would find me in the library's astronomy or medieval history aisles.
In contrast, playing guitar (or in my case, piano and saxophone) is rule-based--"see this notation, make that motion with your hands"--so it's easy to learn. Takes practice, but at least I can see the signals.

because most people dont want to be certified as a loser.

The reason there are not more dating coaches, is that dating is an extremely inefficient way of relating to the opposite sex. Believe it or not, people who care about fixing their lovelife don't "date": they join the seduction community and get good results at little to no cost (the basic information is freely available, but there's a thriving "paid support" ecosystem). A "dating coach" is just hard to take seriously.

It seems like the market has found a way to work around the stigma of hiring a dating coach. Its called ONLINE DATING. Of course it mainly helps singles who find it hard to get a first date rather than those who have serious social issues.

And the popularity of online dating supports my hypothesis that a "successful" lovelife is really mostly about the luck of the draw. Online dating facilitates the matching process. I'm single and therefore biased, but I don't believe that everyone who might want a dating coach or some close substitute is a "loser" or "his own worst enemy" as Tyler asserts. Many of us are just not lucky or smart enough to get the right match!


You misspelled "spam, sausage, spam, spam, spam, spam and spam festival". Ever tried signing up as a woman to ANY online dating service? It's a waste of time.

just about any woman who signs up for online dating will be absolutely inundated with replies from top-quality men. She can pick and choose to her heart's content.

Of course she can. And if you think it does her any good, I've got a bridge I'd like to sell you.

Most of us know what we are doing wrong in social situations. We learned that in elementary school also, be nice and treat each other the way we would like to be treated.

Uh, speak for yourself. Being nice and agreeable has lots of advantages, but when it comes to dating it's almost counterproductive. You can be "nice" and have a good lovelife, but it takes a lot of subtle technique and skill; whereas we all know jerks and assholes who are quite successful.

I would see problems in demand AND supply.

On the demand side, hiring a dating coach is of course admiting (and signalling) that you are a loser. Much like online dating.

On the other hand, being a dating coach is much, much harder than I think many people here think it is. Which is why all the "advice from friends" will very rarely help at all.

"Cdboe" above touched on a classic problem, the dating coach who says "Just relax and be yourself" isn't going to help at all. That works for HIM, he is a natural flirt who is charming to ladies (which is why he is a dating coach). When he "relaxes and is himself" then he is relaxed, witty and charming. Unfortunately, when a shy person who can't pick up girls "is themselves" then they are shy and can't pick up girls.

I didn't get anywhere until I learned to stop relaxing, and work hard at dating. This involved ignoring what all my friends told me.

Any dating coach will have to have a much better understanding of how a poor-dater works than what any succesful dater I've ever met has. Or even half the above posters.

It seems to me that Tyler may be suffering from the same bias. When he sees someone fail at dating he thinks this is due to self sabotage and other such problems. He probably can't imagine that the poor guy is so clueless as to be unaware of what he is doing wrong.

Eventually I overcame my reluctance to admit my failings, tried online dating, got a success rate about 20 times my previous level (say 10 girls per year rather than one every 2 years on average) and finally met my wife there.

"Online dating is an absolute miracle for women and a complete disaster for men. Because far too many men are chasing far too few women, just about any woman who signs up for online dating will be absolutely inundated with replies from top-quality men"

So far, I have not found any "top-quality men". Mostly what I see is a lot of exceedingly boring, overweight and immature slobs on the one hand and boring, vain and horny idiots on the other. And then in the middle you have a seemingly endless supply of "Fun, well rounded guy! Love to travel, see the sights, go sailing!" which you can't tell apart, no name void men with absolutely nothing distinguishable about any of them. I would literally do just as well stopping every single guy on the street and asking him "Are you single? Wanna go on a date?" - At least then I could be more sure of whether or not I was initially attracted.

The whole point of online dating is supposed to be that you can do an initial filtering first. But it seems like only about 1 in 1000 of the men in those sites have put anything in their profile that actually distinguishes them at all. Either they are all completely horribly uninteresting people, or there is something that they need to learn about putting up profiles-- like perhaps be honest rather than trying to write what you think girls want to hear. Whether a coach would help or not, I'm not sure.

There is that and then there is the possibility that I am just more picky than other girls or am looking for something different than other people, or something rare.

And by the way- I am neither a hooker nor a mail order bride/scam so there must be some real women on these sites too.

I believe these days that people go to "things" to make themselves feel better about themselves. Whether it's dating coaches, pills, or alcohol, these provide confidence when needed. However, these items are only temporary and require funds. Of course if you're paying someone good money, he's going to tell you what you want to hear.

I did see a previous post that mentioned the TLC program: "Confessions of a Matchmaker." The host of the show, a woman, was straight up with her clients which was surprising to see. I remember her almost convincing a man he was gay because of his dating history. After an unsuccessful date with a woman, she set him up with a man.

So, I guess dating coaches can go both ways. I just believe people of that profession know how we as humans work these days. They'll corner you any way they can too. I say gain your confidence elsewhere--in something that lasts!

I think that you are making a really great point. As a relationship coach, I know that most of the men that are dragged (yes, dragged) into talking to me and feel as though I am on the side of the woman. Although my focus is on family and married not dating, I completely understand that guitar lesssons have a "win" ending and dating endings are not always as fulfilling, especially because there is not always a tangible reward. However, great coaches make people feel comfortable and help them connect with what is truly important to them. As individuals connect to what's important, it's easier to find relationships that work. There are no prefab templates, such as written music or finger patterns and the fast food society that we live in tends to make you believe that a book or seminar will fix your life. I think that you are speaking for a lot of men, when you say that we as therapists and coaches need to focus on what is going to work for each person (male or female) that we deal with. I think that the psychiatric, psychological and coaching communities have focused on women and given men the shaft. Thanks for your commentary and your insight, you've given me some great ideas.

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