Call in the Dating Detectives
Thursday 17th January 2013, 10:55AM GMT.
Forget horror stories associated with online dating – a service tailored especially for people living in the Channel Islands is here. And as Kay Leslie reports, its brand of bespoke matching is already notching up successes for those seeking love…
AS SOMEONE who was once set up on a dinner date with a tall dark handsome ‘stranger’ who turned out to be my ex-partner, I’m perfectly placed to understand the need for the island’s first ‘personal match’ dating service – one that ensures that sort of thing can never happen.
‘That situation is not as rare as you might think in a small community,’ said relationship guru Julie Madden, who hears tales of electronic pairings resulting in ill-matched friends turning up for dinner – and even, in one instance, a parent.
She and Heidi Almonte are behind Guernsey’s new Dating Detective, which they believe is the first bespoke matching service specifically designed for people living in the Channel Islands.
Meeting people in such a way is mainstream these days, firmly established as an efficient and sophisticated option used by people of all ages.
In fact, one in five of today’s relationships start online.
Some of the sites available make it instantly plain how they operate but if you are not in the market for ‘Hot Russian Brides’ or ‘Uniform Dating’, or even ‘Veggie Romance’, then Julie and Heidi are confident that they can help.
Dating Detective has no online profiles or website – and that’s what makes it different. Making personal matches, rather than computer-generated ones, is hugely important to ensure true compatibility, said Julie.
‘There are lots of pitfalls with matching services which are purely internet-based. It can be something as simple as a very outdated photograph, but the potential for finding someone truly compatible is far less than with our personalised service.’
Heidi is well-known here through her salsa band events and dance lessons. The connection between salsa dancing and matchmaking is a natural one, she said, because people sometimes join a class as a way of trying to meet someone.
‘I’ve been asked fairly often if I could think of anyone as a partner for someone who wanted to learn to dance, so it seemed quite natural to take things to the next level and actively involve myself in a business which aims to bring people together,’ she said.
She likes the personal basis of it and the fact that the ‘softly, softly’ approach to introducing people means they never walk into a cafe or wherever and find themselves meeting someone they know instantly is not suitable – or worse still, who they already know – and are terribly embarrassed.
Julie agrees and emphasises that the Dating Detective’s careful approach stands more chance of success.
And it’s proving an effective one, with 86 matches in the past few months.
‘It is all very well going through some sort of tick-box exercise on a computer, but that will never be able to tailor personal preferences, or personalities, in the way that we can.’
She explained that there is a degree of instinct involved: ‘Because you get to know the clients so well, your understanding of them makes sourcing matches more likely to be effective. There is still a degree of chemistry involved when they meet, but at least we can help along the way,’ she said.
She also candidly revealed that there are times when no one suitable is signed up. ‘People sometimes have to wait. We make it clear that there is no magic wand. They might have to be a bit patient because we will not set up coffee or meetings with potential partners unless we truly believe that they are the right ones.’
Her own patience is tested at times when ‘seekers’ arrive with a long and demanding list.
‘There have been occasions when I have gently pointed out that meeting a long list of requirements is extremely unlikely. Being honest is the kindest thing to do at that point and it can be a trigger for persuading someone to be more realistic.’
How it works
The first stage in registering with Dating Detective is an informal and relaxed chat, perhaps over coffee.
‘We have had all sorts of people and all age ranges, from 21 to 86,’ said Julie.
Being in tune with their requirements is key to finding them a good match: ‘I need to know them thoroughly to be able to create proper connections.’
Unlike some computer-generated dating sites, the service is geared to finding a partner for those signing up, rather than allowing people to become ‘serial daters’ with no real intention of settling down.
Major life areas, such as whether those joining have children, or are happy to be with someone who has them, are determined, along with physical preferences.
Other aspects factored into the service include smoking, age range and height: ‘Women, generally, do not want a partner who is shorter than them.’
Hobbies and interests are key areas but Julie and Heidi are aware that a shared interest is not enough if fundamental aspects are not in tune.
‘Children are probably the biggest single factor because people who have them tend to want to be with someone who, at the very least, understands family life and usually, at best, wants the same thing.
‘If the other person is not a parent, that is a fairly fundamental difference in lifestyle.’
Confidentiality is key.
‘We don’t have premises, because in a small community their situation would soon become known and people might hesitate about going in there.
‘It is better to use a variety of meeting points so that anonymity is assured. People can also use Skype as a form of contact.’
And don’t be put off if you’ve previously tried online dating and it hasn’t worked for you.
Julie has found that the huge majority of people contacting them have already tried it with unsuccessful or even ‘fairly disastrous’ results.
‘Computer matching is probably fine to a degree when you are dealing with large areas and huge communities, but it really cannot work well on a small island. Confidentiality quickly becomes an issue and being computer-matched to someone who lives far away from Guernsey is unlikely to prove a hit – it can work, but it will involve a great deal of upheaval somewhere along the line.’
‘It was so difficult to meet someone…’
THE idea for setting up the business came as a result of the experiences Jersey-based Julie, a former police officer, went through after a marriage break-up four years ago.
After a period of mending, she wanted to date again with a view to finding another relationship.
‘It was so hard,’ she said.
‘There was nobody in Jersey acting as a central lynchpin to arrange things and it felt so difficult to meet anyone.’
Although sociable and frequently out having fun, Julie found that there were few proper connections.
‘I found that I wanted to step away from outings with groups of married friends and needed to rebuild my social life.’
She discovered there was no focal point for doing that and the Dating Detective idea was born.
‘If you are newly single and not working for an organisation that has a busy social scene, it can be very difficult to meet new people,’ said Julie.
And she blames our natural reticence for causing some of the problems.
‘The English attitude still appears to be reluctance to admit that we would like to be in a relationship.
‘In fact, it comes down to a very basic human need…
‘To be loved.’
The matching process
DATING DETECTIVE sends out emails to potential matches to ask them to confirm that they do not already know each other. The only information given is first name, age and profession and/or the general area of employment.
When both clients have confirmed that they do not know each other, things progress to an email picture swap. If there’s no attraction in principle on either or both sides, the process stops there.
Once a potential match has been established and both clients have confirmed that they are attracted to each other in principle, mobile phone numbers are passed on.
It’s recommended that people speak to each other by phone before meeting, to give them a chance to get a feel for the other’s personality and break the ice a little.
It costs £120 to sign up for 12 weeks.
- The first point of contact for the Dating Detective should be by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org