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Matchmaker's dating dos and don'ts

  • Story Highlights
  • Matchmaker Patti Novak: Women's mistakes keep them single
  • Women shouldn't grill date like he's on a job interview
  • Novak: Women should let men do manly things like open jars
  • Expert tells one client to take a year off dating to find herself
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Oprah

(Oprah.com) -- Unlucky in love? Can't seem to get past the first date? Patti Novak, one of America's toughest matchmakers, says you may be to blame for your single status.

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For the past seven years, Patti has been bringing people together in Buffalo, New York, a city with one of the highest populations of singles per capita. Now, she's ready to share her tough love with men and women across the country.

On the A&E show "Confessions of a Matchmaker," Patti doesn't mince words when counseling single, divorced and widowed clients. The truth might hurt, but her methods seem to work. On average, Patti matches more than 500 people every month.

Patti says her years of experience have taught her one thing -- millions of women have missed the mark when it comes to love. "Somewhere along the line, and I'm really not sure [when], we lost our common sense," she says.

One of the most important steps to finding love is getting past the first date, something Patti says is a challenge for many women.

"I think we approach it like we're on an interview," she says. "We want to know everything right away. You know, we are nosy creatures. We get to be -- we're women."

Patti says there are a few important rules women -- and men --should keep in mind when meeting someone for the first time. To start, keep in mind that you're meeting a stranger, and you shouldn't ask questions you wouldn't want to answer. "[Don't ask] anything that's none of our business," she says.

Another of Patti's golden rules is to never discuss politics or religion with someone you hardly know. "You don't go there," she says. "Eventually you do --you just don't on the first date."

Don't Miss

First impressions are also important -- but don't judge your date too quickly. "Look your best. Feel your best. Walk into the room with confidence," Patti says. "He'll sense that. He'll feel that energy. You walk in, you sit down, and maybe he's average looking. But then you start to talk to him, and he turns out to be an 8 or a 9 because he's fabulous. He's kind. He's wonderful."

Patti says you should only spend 10 seconds determining physical attraction and 30 minutes or longer judging emotional chemistry. "It isn't always about beauty or lack of beauty or whether you're a size 5 or you're a size 14," she says. "It's not always about that."

On "Confessions of a Matchmaker,"cameras capture Patti in action as she offers advice to Brenda, a 46-year-old single woman who loves to party. To help Brenda find a love match, Patti doesn't hold back.

"It's crazy the way you party out there at 46 years old," she tells Brenda. "You go out, and you go after men that are, you know, almost untouchable. It's like delusional."

Brenda says she goes to the same bars as her 21-year-old daughter because she's alone, but Patti sees it differently. "It's because you do that you are alone," she says. "One of the most unattractive things to see in a club is this 50-year-old woman acting up like she's 30. It's ridiculous. It's embarrassing."

By drinking and hitting on guys half her age, Patti says Brenda's sending the wrong message to men. "You offer this energy that says, 'I don't want love. I don't need love. I'm content. I'm having fun,'" she says. "So you get the men that offer the same thing in return."

Brenda says Patti's impressions were very hard to hear. "I was mad," she says. "And I was embarrassed."

During Brenda's matchmaking session, she says one observation really hit a nerve. "[Patti said] that everybody could see my desperation," Brenda says. "And I didn't think so. I thought it was cute and funny -- it wasn't cute."

Instead of setting her up with eligible bachelors, this matchmaker prescribed some alone time. "Patti is the one who asked me not to date for at least six months. A matchmaker asked me not to date!" Brenda says. "She said, 'Concentrate on your education, go out with friends and stop looking.'"

After taking Patti's advice, Brenda says she started to relax, and her life improved. "I stopped going to places where I ran into my daughter and her friends," she says. "Everything just got calm and so much better."

Like many women, Allison, a 35-year-old chef who loves sports, can't understand why she's still single. "I'm cute. I'm outgoing. This should be a no-brainer," she wrote in a letter to "The Oprah Show."

In one year, Allison says she went on 150 first dates but never got asked out on a second date. "It was almost like going on 150 job interviews," she says.

After hearing about Allison, Patti teamed up with local matchmakers to set her up with two eligible bachelors to see what's really going on.

Cameras went along on Allison's dates with bachelors Rich and Dan to capture the chemistry and conversation.

From the start, Patti says it's clear that Allison follows a first-date formula. She asks both men the same test question, "How do you order your steak?" Then, she asks Rich and Dan who they're rooting for in the Super Bowl and if they've ever been to a tapas restaurant.

Allison may think her dates don't notice -- but she's wrong. "It almost felt like she had some pre-planned questions she wanted to ask," Rich says.

Patti also notices that Allison competes with her dates. When Dan mentions he collects wine, Allison says, "Interesting. I have a beautifully signed bottle of Robert Mondavi vintage wine."

After the dates, it doesn't seem that either bachelor will follow up for a second date. "I don't know if the relationship chemistry is necessarily there," Dan says.

"She tries too hard," Rich says. "[It's like,] 'I love my life. It's great. It's perfect.'"

Although Patti says she thinks Allison is a nice person, she says she felt an unkindness in her on the dates --like when Allison corrected one of her date's pronunciation of an Italian city. After hearing Patti's diagnosis, Allison realizes she has become one of her biggest pet peeves. "I think I'm a one-upper," she says.

Allison's take-charge attitude is what Patti calls the pickle jar effect. "We are so successful today, women. We're fabulous. We work hard. We make good money. We parent. Sometimes what happens when we spend a lot of time alone, we forget to let them open the damn pickle jar," Patti says.

"The one thing I don't think is ever going to change on this planet is men still need to feel like men," she says. "So let them open it."

So how does a woman ask a man to do something without compromising herself? Patti says that if he's not in the room, go ahead and open your own pickle jar. But if he's standing there, Patti says it's just as easy to ask him to open it. "And know that you are the smarter, clever one for doing it," she says. "It's about attitude."

Patti says to keep the pickle jar effect in mind when choosing the restaurant for a first date. "We are clearly the most decisive creatures on the planet, women," she says. "And men, please no offense out there, they are the most indecisive. But stop letting them getting away with it."

Patti says to initially let the man pick the restaurant -- even if you think your choice is better. "Let him pick it and pay for it," Patti says. "And if he takes you out for a hot dog, well, it is what it is."

Jennifer's mother e-mailed "The Oprah Show" because she can't understand why her smart, gorgeous, 35-year-old daughter is still single. Patti made a house call to Jennifer's hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, and found that she hasn't always been flying solo. Ten years ago, Jennifer met the man she thought she would marry. "We were just so in love and so enraptured in one another," Jennifer says.

Eight months into the relationship, they became engaged. Shortly after, Jennifer says she saw a change in his behavior. "There were some embarrassing moments in public. He would get angry with me over something very small or minor, and it would just spiral," she says. Jennifer says she sat down and had a talk with her fiancé about his behavior three or four months after initially becoming engaged. Even though she didn't approve of his behavior, she stayed with him for the next six years.

Jennifer says she stayed for different reasons. "Part loyalty and part me wanting to fix it," Jennifer says. "Me thinking that I could help him get through it, or I would be the one woman that he would change for."

After her first failed relationship, Jennifer says she met another man. "[He] was a family guy. Just all the pieces seemed to fit of a guy with a tender heart," she says. But as Jennifer began talking about the future, she says he withdrew. "That's not normal," Patti says. "You know that, right? First of all, you wouldn't let your best girlfriend treat you the way you've let these two men treat you."

Patti tells Jennifer that she needs to stop walking around with blame. "That's what I do. Self-condemnation, it's all over my face," Jennifer says. Instead of blaming herself, Patti wants her to look deeper. "The kind of men that you've chosen is your problem," Patti says. "Why you choose them is even your bigger problem."

After she meets a man, Patti doesn't want Jennifer to feel the need to stay in a relationship if he's wrong for her. "And loyalty, I love that word, by the way," Patti says. "I'm a very loyal woman, in my opinion. But that [can be] a misguided excuse for staying with someone who's mistreating you. They don't deserve your loyalty."

Jennifer has another problem -- she never fully disengages from her exes. Patti says Jennifer accepts their calls, text messages and e-mails. "She still allows herself to be dusted off like a trophy," Patti says. "You need to disengage. Take time out to heal. Rediscover who you are. Because guess what? This next five, 10 years of your life? We just get better."

To fully find herself, Patti thinks Jennifer needs to take time off from dating. "And I think maybe a therapist is a fabulous idea. Spending some time alone and getting in touch with yourself and saying, 'It's okay to be alone.'"

"You get better if you do the work," Oprah says. "And that is the difference between becoming a real woman and just an aging female -- because some women just age. Some women just get older, and they don't get any better. That's a line from Maya Angelou who said, 'Don't just be an aging female --learn to be a real woman.'"

Patti says there is something all single women can do to turn their love lives around. She says this assignment isn't for everyone -- it's for the women who really want to find love. "Find your inner person," Patti says. "Meditate. Because I'll bet you if every one of you ladies in this room went to the most quiet place in your core, you'd know why you were single. I believe you all have your own answer. Find it.

"Take a new hobby up. Painting. Cooking. Dancing. Say, 'This is what I'm going to do this year.' Okay? But go to that place. Find that place in your last relationship -- who ended it? What did you do? You can't fix them. You can only potentially fix you. So you have to work on you."

From "The Oprah Winfrey Show" E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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