Originally published on SaturdayNightsAlright with Saskia Nelson
Back in September, I was working in New York scoping out when and how to launch the business over there, and I took the time to meet up with some really big name US dating and relationship experts. I was lucky enough to catch up with Hunt Ethridge, who has been named as one of the top 8 dating coaches in the US. He is best known for co-founding the well-respected International Dating Coach Association (IDCA) and he’s also the Chief Marketing Officer of LiveDatingAdvice.com.
He has been featured on Fox, NBC, CNN and in Vanity Fair, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Maxim, Telemundo, Yahoo! Shine and is considered one of the top in his field. He is consistently called upon for insight, collaboration, and speaking engagements. As a published writer, his dating advice columns appear all over the web. I met him for coffee at the very cool Highline where we chewed the fat about coaching, dating in New York versus dating in London, the importance of taking risks and his tips for the best approach to successful dating.
What are the common themes that people are struggling with when it comes to finding love, or does everyone have a unique set of issues?
We like to think we’re unique and individual but we’re part of an eco system of billions of people going back millions of years and everything that has happened and every situation that could come up, has come up. However, that doesn’t take away one’s own sense that your experiences are unique to you so I never discount people’s individuality. Your problems might be greater than my problems but my problems are still my problems regardless. People are very self-interested, it’s human nature. So, I’d say 80% of issues are similar across the board:
Self-knowledge is one of the hardest things I run into, because you have to explore the darker side and people don’t like to explore that side of their psyche. Typically people don’t like to examine their faults. So that is what I run into a lot. The other 20% is made up of more individual issues.
People think they know what they want when it comes to getting help from me but it’s not like putting on a Band-Aid. I’ve got to dig deeper and heal the wound. You have to understand the question behind the questions.
You mean they think it’s one thing but actually it’s something else entirely?
Exactly. For example a client might say, “I’ve been having lots of first dates but don’t seem to get any further. I must be taking them to the wrong places. Where should I take them?” That isn’t the question they should be asking. But I have to be careful how I say that to them because they’ll tune out or get defensive. I have to say it in a way that helps them understand it.
So do your clients find it tough working with you?
Yes, many come hoping for quick fixes and when they realise there’s nothing to memorise, no quick tips, that a lot of it will require working on themselves, then they find that tough. I equate myself to a tennis coach, you come in and I’ll teach you a forehand and you have to hit 1000 balls against a wall and the next time I’ll teach you a backhand and you will have to hit a 1000 balls against the wall. When they come in they say, ‘I want to play Federer’. I can let you play Federer but you’re just going to get destroyed every time until you understand the basics of what’s going on.
And the basics are things that you’ve already mentioned like confidence, self-knowledge etc?
Yes. With men, I have to teach how to approach and with women I have to teach how to be approachable. Understand, I’m grossly overgeneralising right now, but men have to get the confidence to go out and search or hunt if you will. Women have had to learn how to keep guys away – there are lots of creeps out there. And then they hit 30/35/40, put their heads up over the parapet and realise they need to learn how to let people in, bring people to them.
On the struggles of dating in New York
The thing that you need to know about New York is that there are 36% more women than men here – San Francisco is the opposite way round because of all the guys working in Silicon Valley.
Whoa, that explains a lot about Sex & the City.
Yes, for every 3 men there are 5 women. And you have to take into account that one of these 3 men is undateable for women ie. he may already have a girlfriend, he may be gay etc. So you can have 3 – 5 women competing for the same guy and that makes women’s interactions with other women, difficult and interesting. If you’re at a party and a new single guy walks in, the air changes and women, all of a sudden, sense the competition is on.
This explains so much about the hardcore dating vibe in New York.
Read the book Date-Onomics. It gives you the low down on how dating became a lop-sided numbers game. So it should be easy right? Men have the upperhand. You don’t have to be Tom Cruise, Vin Diesel or The Rock, you just need a good, solid normal. If you’re a good-looking, well-heeled guy, you’re going to have three girls talking to you. And on the other side, this great woman has to fight through that. The women with low self-esteem or who are unsure which approach to take to win him over are willing to offer him anything he wants right there that night. And it’s difficult. In fact a woman contacted me yesterday saying a lot of this and she and her group of friends want to hire me to answer questions – like those Tupperware parties.
Love it, what a cool idea.
But part of it will be hard for them to hear. And on top of that, when talking about the guys in their age range, only 36% are college educated. Then you need to add in the fact that women in New York want to date/marry upwards. Bear in mind that 1982 was the last year that more men graduated college than women.The gap is getting wider and wider every year.
So you have all these super intelligent women who only want to date up?
Yes… and there’s only one CEO compared to all the middle managers, right. In the African American communities it’s an even greater gap, which is why when you watch the Tyler Perry movies, you have the female lawyer married to the hunky construction guy or the District Attorney married to the good-looking fireman. So women want their intellectual equal. What they don’t want to hear is ‘lower your standards’. We have the Disney Effect here – we bring up girls to believe their prince will come and sweep them off their feet. To be honest, it’s not the less accomplished, less desirable women who have a problem with being single right now, because if someone professes their love for them, then boom, they’re good to go. It’s the hot, intelligent women who believe they can do to better.
On pick-up artistry
I wanted to ask you about where you stand on pick-up artistry, given that you’re a male coach working in the dating industry.
I loathe it. I hate it because it focuses on manipulation and misogyny, messing with women’s sense of self-worth. I find it deplorable. Any guy worth his salt can figure out how to get something but, please, always with truth. If you enjoy playing the field and taking women home for one night stands, that’s fine as long as you let them know what’s happening. Be honest about what you’re doing. After the PUA backlash from earlier in the year, lots of PUAs are now rebranding themselves as dating coaches which is bad for the profession of course. I started the International Dating Coach Association and we provide an accreditation service where coaches can get our official seal of approval. We are made up of a team of coaches with a vast breadth of knowledge and experience and our seal of approval gives some credence of credibility to the industry.
On asking Chelsea Clinton out
When I was doing my research on you, I loved it when I found out you asked out Chelsea Clinton.
Ha, yes. The Clintons spent a week in my home town on vacation back in the day so I wrote her a letter asking if I could show her around my town. The point was ‘why not?’. It’s so important to take risks when you’re dating. The biggest challenge in dating is fear. The way I see it, the more interactions you have, the more practice you get and then the better a person you become. Imagine, you take a gamble and speak to that person you like – even if it all goes horribly wrong, you have a great story. I often ask my clients, if you go ahead and talk to someone you like, what do you actually lose? Fifteen seconds of your time?
When you go for a job, if you don’t get it at first you might interpret their feedback as ‘not good enough’ but in actual fact it’s usually a case of you’re either ‘right for the role or not’. Once you accept that it’s not personal, it all becomes much easier to deal. It’s the same with dating. Our use of words like ‘reject’ make dating that much harder. You don’t get ‘rejected’. These people don’t even know you. In order to reject someone, you have to know and understand something and compare it to something else you know and understand. Then you choose one and reject the other. If you take a risk and approach someone and they turn away, it’s not rejection. They don’t know anything about you It’s a non-starter.
On his top tip for dating
What would be your top dating tip for people reading this?
I always get my clients to ask themselves, ‘would you date you?’ If all you’ve done over the last week/month is watch Netflix and chill then you’re not going to have a lot to talk about on dates. My top tip goes back to this; reconnect with fun. The onus falls on you to be interesting. Everyone wants to meet someone interesting but they don’t necessarily want to hold the mirror up to themselves. This is true, if you ask people where they come on the scale then they all think they’re above average!
It’s great to go out and challenge yourself, be afraid, be uncomfortable, that encourages growth. But at the same time you need to connect with what makes you happy. If you like knitting, then join a knitting circle. Yup there may not be guys in that circle but if you’re enjoying yourself, your body language opens up, your face comes alive, people will like you more, they’ll be attracted to you and want to introduce you to their friends etc. A big part of my job is getting people to reconnect with fun.
The goal of dating coaching isn’t to help you go out and get more women or men but to turn you into a person who attracts more women or men to you.
To do this means you need to be interesting, doing things, connecting with hobbies, having things to talk about when out on a date. When you reach dating burnout, take time out to reconnect with who you are and what you like. People have to be willing to work on themselves and when they do and become successful at dating it makes me very happy.