Most of the time, I don’t really enjoy interviewing people for articles. I enjoy when people send me free things and I get to try them out (my favorite so far being the vibrator that hooks up to your iPod), and I enjoy it when I take my friends places, get them drunk, and tell them we all have to flirt with guys in the name of “research.”
But unfortunately, I can’t drink alcohol or masturbate while interviewing those in the Relationship Expert business. I guess I could, but it wouldn’t seem appropriate, so I just soberly and chastely listen to their pitches on why you should pay $600 month for someone to pretend to be you on a dating site, or how sleeping with a man for money is just like a college loan.
So when Marni Battista’s publicist emailed me asking me if I wanted to interview her about her Dating with Dignity service, I honestly thought it was going to be a load of crap. I went to her website to see how dateable I was (ah! I just went to the site and realized that it gives you a numerical score on your dateability. That’s intimidating), but then realized that I don’t want to pay $99 for someone to tell me what I’m doing wrong when I am already dating someone. However, after this guy and I break up I may try it out, because $99 is not an unreasonable price and, as you’ll see below, Marni has some interesting ideas on what women are doing wrong in the dating world. Yes, I said “women” and that’s not sexist not to say only women need to change—because she specializes in women. And yes, I’m smiling as I typed that.
My interview with Marni is below. My questions are in bold, Marni’s answers are in normal font, and then my thoughts while we are talking are in italics, because how often to you read an interview in a magazine and wonder what the interviewer was thinking? I read one where Oprah was interviewing Jay-Z and I’m pretty sure at one point she wanted to punch him in the mouth, but because there was no “my thoughts in italics” feature, I guess we’ll never know.
Marni Battista and Dating with Dignity
Oh, before we begin you might want to know Marni’s background, and how she’s qualified. Then again, you read this column, so you probably don’t care much about her credentials. I’ll just send you to her website and begin the interview.
How did you get into this business? I was always the person people came to for advice about boys, even in school. I married young, and that didn’t work, and then I had another relationship that ended badly, and I thought if I don’t figure out this relationship thing, I’ll just keep doing this for the rest of my life. (That sounds surprisingly like me. Except more relationships ending badly, or just ending.) I’ve been doing this coaching work for over three years, and Dating with Dignity for a year and a half.
Is that the dating quiz I saw? It’s not a quiz, like in Cosmo, it’s an in-depth assessment—a snapshot of a moment in time that measures your unconscious beliefs, feelings, and thoughts about yourself and others. You take the assessment and then I set up a coaching session with you over the phone, going over this data and putting together a plan for changing and shifting your dating world and how you approach it.
What’s the main obstacle you see with women who want to date or be in a relationship but aren’t successful? That’s a good question. (Thank you) Most people’s energy is around victim thinking, feeling, and conflict. They don’t trust other people, so they have to protect themselves and put a lot of walls up. They tell themselves “I’m too _______ to have love” and cycle back and forth between that and feeling like a victim or blaming external things. A lot of this focus is on their self-worth, and as a result they don’t’ have boundaries or specific expectations.
(This sounds a lot like some of the “transformational leadership” stuff I have seen–on Oprah and The Secret, and other, more reputable sources.) Women think there is no other guy, this is the best they will get, their value is based on sex or looks. The core of the work I do is about creating self love, it’s a transformational process.
(Ah ha! Tranformational! I knew it! At this point I asked her about her training and education, because I know things like self-love and victim mentality aren’t generally discussed in a Master’s program, and we got off on a tangent talking about her training –but it’s ok, it didn’t come from The Secret DVD. I’m kidding, if any of you liked The Secret. But why are you even reading this? The new Twilight movie is out, you should go check that out too. Ok, I’m done making fun of people who are super into both Twilight and The Secret now.)
“Self worth,” “victim mentality” –those sound like issues both sexes struggle with. Why is your service only geared towards women? I have some private male clients, but I want to be a specialist—I feel it’s important to help women. I do have workshops where I bring men in to do commentary, they talk about a man’s point of view and how they feel the energy of women there, what impressions they get. (Now I am imagining the workshop, and it inevitably ending when I tell some guy to go F himself after he gives me a lot of constructive “feedback.” Especially the man in this hypothetical situation says “I’d like to piggyback on that.”)
What is the difference between someone who goes through your service and is successful versus someone who isn’t? The people who are successful have an idea of what they want—I call it “Dating with Intention.” They know who they want to be with, how they want the relationship to look, and where they want it to go.
I also have them list five deal breakers, or non-negotiables and tell them “These are five fights you are never going to have.” That saves them from conflict around those areas that are important to them later in a relationship. As a result, when they are dating someone who isn’t a match, they have the knowledge, skills, and are prepared with the words to end that relationship in a way that is supportive and not blaming. They successful people are enjoying their life—not just enjoying dating.
What’s one thing women need to change to make a difference in their dating life? Women need to look at how often they are putting out there the need to be right, smarter, to be the best or most knowledgeable. Men are repelled by women who put their value around that. They need to be in their feminine energy. (Mmm?)
Can you define “feminine energy?” One of my male clients took a woman on a date and she was very adamant on picking the restaurant, the wine, and then showing off how much she knew about the wine. (Mental note to self: All this time I thought I looked like an idiot for ordering “just the least expensive white one you have” but apparently I was being adorable and approachable. Score.) He said he felt like he didn’t even need to be there, she was just talking about herself and how much she knew.
So it had less to do with picking a restaurant and more to do with showing interest in the other person. Exactly. This is the 21st century and men, we don’t need them. But men need to be put in a position where they are needed. Women need to empower men to live up to their biological needs to be men.
(At this point I’m just getting nervous. I like Marni, but the interview has taken an unfortunate turn and I’m worried the next thing out of her mouth will be how we women came out of Adam’s ribs because we are a helper and not equal, but a rib is close to his heart.)
I have a lot of opinions and I’m very open with them. It seems like a fine line between being open with your opinions and being a woman who isn’t “empowering men.” It is a fine line, many women make decisions all day, especially in the workplace, and it’s hard to turn that off and let someone else drive. Turn off the decision-making part of you, you don’t need to be in charge.
Is there the option of an equal relationship? Where both parties make decisions and contribute their thoughts? In a really healthy relationship, exactly, there is interdependence. But there are certain roles that everyone has, that they need to play.
Is that the best way to go into a relationship? Starting off playing roles? I don’t really like where this is going. I’m not very feminine—I have no domestic skills. (Laughs) I’m not either! But I let my partner bring in the groceries or put something away even though I could do it better. Like I said, we don’t NEED men, we want them. And in my research, I have found that women really are feminine, we have that compassionate core, we want to be able to tap into that and be vulnerable and not be right all the time. Men need to feel valued and respected. A guy will vanish if he feels like he can’t make you happy. Women need to be appreciative and show we respect men.
So this goes both ways. Both parties need to feel respected and valued, and know they are contributing something to the relationship. Yes. Guys want to be needed and respected, and take care of their women. Of course, the goal is a healthy, interdependent relationship where the two of you are open and contributing. (Gah! I keep steering her back to both parties needing to be needed and respected, but she’s sticking with the feminine energy thing. I wonder what happens when she counsels gay people.)
So embracing feminine energy is the hook, and then that leads to a healthy, interdependent relationship? Exactly!
(Hmm. This is possible, but it sounds suspicious. I would be worried I would drop my feminine energy too soon.)
Ok. But women who are dating can’t have the guy put away their groceries like you mentioned –how do women embrace their feminine energy in a bar or social situation? Women have to set it up so the man can pursue you. Sure, you can make eye contact, initiate conversation, but ultimately the man needs to come after you. He needs to court you. My clients who are financially very successful are seeing much better results after they let the man pursue them.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to anyone dating right now? The goal of the first date is to get to the second date, and the goal of the second date is to get to the third date. It’s only after the third date you really get to know somebody. Both women and men are constantly ruling people out very quickly, after a conversation or meeting briefly. Give people a chance and get to know them. (I could get onboard with that. The only potential problem being that for some people, 3rd date = sex, so they might end up having more sex just because they have more 3rd dates.)
Overall, what did I think? Focusing on your self-worth and getting clear on what you really want (and making that clear to others) is great advice, and I can see why Marni is so successful as a dating coach. Her assessment probably is worth the fee one would pay (Marni, if you’re still talking to me, I’ll do one in exchange for writing an article about it and the results), and it’s definitely worth a shot if you’ve tried blind dates, group activities, speed dating, bars and online dating with little results. What do you have to lose?
I’d like to address the whole feminine energy/let men be empowered aspect of this interview. I will preface this with mentioning that I think people should embrace whatever femininity they feel, and men–yes, be powered! I’m all for it.
It’s just…if you have a preference on the restaurant you want to go to, or if you enjoy talking about wine –don’t NOT be yourself. Still talk about things that interest you and if someone feels like you are talking too much and that you are too involved with yourself, that could be because either you are too involved with yourself, or they just plain aren’t interested enough in you, and by extension, what you are saying.
Going into a relationship with a certain “role” in mind is dangerous–and this comes from someone who has tried to be a classic “woman” in 2 previous marriages. If it’s not you, it’s not going to work long term. If it’s not you, then the person you are dating doesn’t even like YOU, they like your portrayal of someone who is kind of like you. But…Marni could be right and I could be wrong. After all, she has a successful relationship coaching business, and tonight, instead of just changing the lightbulb, I put my finger into a lamp to figure out if it was working and completley shocked myself. My finger still hurts.
That being said, I like the third date thing. In fact, I’m friends with many people who I went on a few dates with and still didn’t have romantic feelings for, but we kept in touch. I call them ODF’s (Online Dating Fails). Not only are they cool guys, they introduce me and my friends to their friends who are…more cool guys. An ODF and I organized a pub crawl last weekend and it was me and my girlfriend, and thirteen other guys. Now that’s dating with dignity. And don’t worry, Marni. We were all about empowerment, that night, and letting the men be men.