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COMMITMENTS : The Art of Falling in Love : Singles today have a tough time finding Mr. (or Ms.) Right. What with long hours at work and the gym, who's got time to meet people? The experts say you do if you go about it the right way.

July 18, 1994|ANDREA HEIMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Once upon a time, boy met girl; boy and girl fell in love; boy and girl got married.

Nowadays, nabbing Mr. or Ms. Right is apparently not so simple. In fact, like California cuisine or tai chi, soul-mate hunting is an art--and an art that must be mastered, say experts in such matters.

"People think they can start a relationship by seeing someone across the room, floating into each other's arms and then be set for life," said Hilary Rich, author of "Get Married Now: the Definitive Guide for Finding and Marrying the Right Mate for You" (Bob Adams Inc., 1993).

"In order to create relationships, you have to sink your teeth in; you have to become involved in the process," she added. "It's a mistake to think it will happen by kismet."

Rich, who is completing a "Get Married Now" infomercial, is among many specialists tapping into the vast reservoir of singles' Angst. Rich and others have generated dozens of seminars, classes and books designed for hapless relationship-seekers.

A sampling of titles: "The Mating Game," "At Long Last Love," "Yes! You Can Find a Soul Mate . . . Even in L.A.!" "How to Marry Rich," "10 Ways to Attract the Opposite Sex . . . Immediately!" "How to Attract Women," "If I'm So Wonderful, Why Am I Still Single?" "How to Get the Woman You Want with No Money Down" and its counterpart, "Protect Yourself From Men Who Want to Take Advantage of You and Learn How to Get the Man You Want at the Same Time."

"There are great people who take these classes," said Toby Berlin, executive director of the Learning Annex, the largest adult seminar organization on the West Coast and home to many such classes. "They're well-spoken and well dressed, with a couple of initials after their names--they just need a little help in this area."

Indeed, singles today face some very contemporary issues when it comes to mating. Commutes, long work days and the ever-important hour at the gym can leave very little time for meeting prospective partners.

But an overfilled Filofax is the least of the problems confronting the dateless and desperate. Singleness has become not just a state of being, but a way of life.

"Singles are so frustrated these days," said Richard Gant, author of "How to Get the Woman You Want With No Money Down" (Aware Publications, 1993), and star of his own infomercial, "For Men Only."

"They are either apathetic, afraid or cynical. And if it seems like too much effort, they don't want to try."

Gant and others also say that expectations, especially in Los Angeles, land of celluloid and movie stars, are way too high.

"I refer to it as the 4-6-8 syndrome," he said. "A person is a 4, thinks he's a 6, but thinks he deserves an 8."

It is important, however, to make a list of your ideal mate's desirable qualities. But that list should narrow necessary attributes down to 10, the experts recommend.

It's also a good idea to separate the "must haves" from the "would likes." For example, "gainfully employed" or "of child-bearing years" might be a "must have," while "blond and broad shouldered" or "36-24-36" might fit the "would like" list.

"Many people say they want this, this, this and then wind up with nobody," said Carole Kirschner, who produced the ABC-TV special "The Search for the New Ideal Man" and who teaches "Yes! You Can Find a Soul Mate . . . Even in L.A.!"

"Some people in the world just meet their soul mate and they're really lucky," said Kirschner, 41, who met her boyfriend at a singles function while doing research for her class. "For the rest of us, we make our own soul mate. It's about finding someone who has qualities you want and also has the willingness to grow. The important thing is to end up with what is most important to you, and the rest is a compromise."

Suzanne Brierley, a psychotherapist who runs Romanceworks--For Those Seeking Love, which includes one-on-one counseling, tapes and seminars, takes a different approach. She focuses on understanding the differences between the way men and women view marriage.

Women think of marriage in terms of financial and emotional security, children, family and, in short, as life enhancing, said Brierley, who practices in Newport Beach.

But when men think about marriage, she said, they think about a loss of independence, additional responsibility, financial risk and how it will disrupt their lives.

"A man must be madly in love with a woman and know that the only way to keep her is by marrying her," Brierley said.

One of the best ways a woman can successfully court a man, Brierley said, is by making her home "male friendly." Key elements include a large, deep sofa; a large, raised coffee table, and, of course, the TV remote control and a bowl of finger food within easy reach of the sofa.

"His unconscious thought when he sees your apartment should be, 'I could live here,' " said Brierley, who has gone to clients' homes to help decorate.

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