Though he’s now such a successful matchmaker that Paul Carrick Brunson is often referred to as “The Real-Life Hitch” in the press, the 36-year-old dating coach was living a very conventional life until just a few years ago. For years, he worked as a securities analyst for First Union Bank — until he turned his analytical mind away from economics to a different kind of free market: the dating world.
Taking his career from finance to romance...
Brunson was helping run an academic summer camp for low-income teens in D.C. called “Give Love Build Hope” when he observed something striking about his mentoring subjects: “In 2008, not one of the 100 students in our program had two parents living in their household,” he recalls. Troubled by the idea that not one of the kids he was helping had the support of both parents, Brunson started talking to his wife about the rampant divorce rate in the U.S. Wondering why so many Americans were either not interested in marriage at all or seemed to be struggling to find lasting relationships of their own, he began hosting parties at his home for his single friends hoping not only to set a few of them up on dates, but to also show them that (in his words), “marriage could be cool.” The parties were a success; one of the couples that he introduced this way even got married. Thinking that he should take his set-up skills more seriously, Brunson then attended a matchmaking conference — and while there, Brunson realized that he was not like any of the other attendees. “I looked around at the room full of 250 of the world’s top matchmakers and realized that I was the only male, the only person under the age of 40, and the only African American,” he recalls. “At that moment, the light bulb went off — and I realized that I had a unique background to bring into the industry.”
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Since then, Brunson — who writes a popular weekly column for Essence.com — has gone on to great success as a matchmaker. Through his company, One Degree From Me, he’s helped to set up more than 300 happy, long-term couples. He’s also attracted the attention of Oprah Winfrey, who tapped him to co-host Lovetown, USA — a season-long series for her television network that ended on the first Friday in October of last year. On that show, Brunson helped eight singles from Kingsland, GA find partners. “Paul is much more than a matchmaker,” Winfrey has said. “He’s a love coach.” He’s also a genius of social media, with over 100,000 followers on Twitter — and a Klout score of 80. Now, he can add “author” to his list of accomplishments with the publication of his book, It’s Complicated (But It Doesn’t Have to Be): A Modern Guide to Finding and Keeping Love (Gotham Books, October 2012). When we spoke with him recently, Brunson had some tips for people who are looking for love — find out more in our exclusive Q&A below.
Q: Is there one thing that you think most single people should be doing differently?
A: Most of my clients haven’t truly thought about their “relationship vitals” — and by that I mean their values, what personality types they like and don’t like, and their deal-breakers. Knowing your vitals is necessary to knowing who you are, and self-awareness is the key to success in all relationships.
Q: Is there one thing that you think most online daters should be doing differently?
A: The “get to know you” process for many of them is too long. I’ve heard stories of people who communicated via messaging for as long as six months before they even got around to considering having a phone conversation. This is crazy! Online dating sites are great introduction platforms, but you can’t know whether someone is a good match or not until you meet in person.
Q: Over 300 long-term couples have gotten together thanks to the matchmaking events you host. Can you say anything about what the people who have partnered up did right?
A: Being open to new experiences is a great asset in dating. Over 90 percent of the people who attend my gatherings have never participated in a “singles event” before. The ones who got together never would have if they hadn’t tried something different.
Q: What kind of advice do you have for Match.com users to keep in mind when they are going out on their first dates with people?
A: It’s important to accept that you can’t figure out how well someone’s values jibe with yours on the first date. Values have to be evaluated over time, not simply discussed. All that said, I do encourage my clients not to be so analytical on the first date. Stop trying to figure out everything’s that wrong with this person; instead, try figuring out everything’s that right [with your date]!
Q: If you’ve gone out on a number of dates with someone and you’re wondering if you should become more serious, what kinds of questions should you ask yourself?
A: Start thinking about how easy it is to talk about problems, and resolve them. If these two areas are strong, you’re on the right track with the right person! The key to a long-term relationship is communication.
Q: Do you any great stories about helping someone find love online?
A: A client hired me a few years ago. She hadn’t tried dating for more than a year. We created an online profile for her and she started reaching out to guys. We contacted over 100 men, and within three months, she had “meet-ups” with 30 of them. From that batch, we worked our way down to five men that she continued to date concurrently for about two months — which is a strategy that I recommend. Long story short, within a year of coming to me, she was in a committed relationship — and a year after that, she was married!