Learning to Love – Irish Independent

The yearning for love and intimacy never truly goes away. With that desire in mind, Constance Harris put herself in the hands of the US’s premier dating guru and suddenly the world seems to be full of nice, interesting and available men

You can’t avoid this day, keep your head under the pillow, not read the papers, or ignore the pink, heart-festooned shop windows — it is St Valentine’s Day. Get over it, or get with it.

From my teens until my mid-20s, I looked forward to the post on this day like no other day in the year. But unlike my first year in school, when I got loads of cards, by the time my teens passed, Valentine’s cards had ceased to be a feature. But still, for many years after, every St Valentine’s Day, I wished and hoped for some secret, noble and true love to be revealed. But it didn’t happen, and as the years passed, so too did the hope for true romance.

What I find even sadder than my loss of faith in romance is how many gorgeous, wonderful, warm, interesting, kind, affectionate people I know who are single — and wish they weren’t. They have been so for years and secretly they expect to stay that way for the next couple of years. They are quietly, intensely sad about the situation. Suffering, in fact. They yearn for a relationship, they even think they are open to the possibility of one — but they just don’t meet people.

They are right to think nothing is going to change on the relationship front — because to create one they have to change the way they behave, and many are unwilling to do that. Fear is one reason not to change, but I think not knowing what action to take is an even bigger one.

Being single and living alone often renders even the most successful career people susceptible to feelings of isolation, being invisible, rusty at social skills and very unconfident when it comes to dating and attracting. Which is why I believe people such as Lauren Frances are going to feature more and more on our radar, not as a novelty, but as an need.

Lauren Frances is a love coach. She teaches people how to flirt, how to find true love and how to recognise what they need, and want, in a relationship. And also how to achieve it, all without the assistance of self-help phraseology or fluffy spiritual talk. Originally from New Jersey, she now calls Los Angeles home. Gorgeous, compassionate, flirtatious, witty, and above all clear visioned and with clear opinions, she is revolutionising mating in America. Though she can conjure up smartass, jingoistic phrases as well as any of the self-help merchants out there, Frances is much more than that.

She wrote a book called Dating, Mating and Manhandling. It was turned down by every publisher she approached, all of them represented by male editors who made no bones about saying to her: “We don’t understand your book.” Had they been women, she believes, they would have got it instantly.

A few years later, when she was dating Simpsons creator Matt Groening, he said to her: “You’re funny; you should write a book.” She said: “I did!” He read it and couldn’t believe nobody had taken it up.

Encouraged by Groening, Frances tried again to find a publisher. This time, the book was understood: this time, women were in the editors’ chairs. This time, she sold it. Now she works as a one-to-one love coach to Hollywood celebrities, as well as ordinary men and women. She runs online courses and web seminars and has just completed a pilot show about her dating and mating beliefs.

Her book was borne of her own experiences, and of helping her friends with dating. Unlike most self-help books, which are full of nice, well-intentioned advice, Dating, Mating and Manhandling is a highly practical, no-nonsense, funny, man-respecting-yet-playful manual for women who have forgotten, or never knew, how to flirt, date and mate.

Last year, I heard Lauren Frances talk in an online seminar and she blew my mind with her clarity of vision and grounded, seriously helpful advice. I decided to meet her in person to see was she really as genuine as she sounded, or if she was just another self-promoting self-help guru out to make a lot of money from other people’s vulnerabilities. She was organising a makeover weekend in New York for some clients of hers, taking them through the process of coming out of the closet of isolation and into a whole new life.

There, in Fitzpatrick hotel on Lexington Avenue, I bumped into John Fitzpatrick who, when he heard why I was in New York, told me about dating events run in his Fitzpatrick’s Manhattanhotel which have already resulted in two marriages and several couples. He told me that in his business he sees all the time people’s desire for and need for help in romance, hence his creation of a very romantic honeymoon suite and lots of Valentine events in his hotels. (By this time I was becoming a Lauren Frances zealot, so John scampered away in case I tried to bring him to one of her meetings!)

Lauren Frances, I am glad to report, is the real deal. She is passionate about what she does, she loves her clients and she truly wants to see them find happiness. It was amazing to witness that group of 13 women in New York, aged 34-64, teachers and lawyers and CEOs, who were physically gorgeous but who had lost sight of themselves, emerging over the weekend from low self-esteem and hardness to fresh-faced girliness and optimism.

Frances was once an event manger in Hollywood, the orchestrator of huge parties and launches, a career she loved. She told me she used to meet loads of wonderful people who were single, well educated, well off, and powerful but who could not get a date and, amazingly, lacked confidence to change their status.

They often confided in her and she soon found herself coaching them and being successful in her endeavours — her website has a stellar list of testimonials. And her friends kept saying: “You never have a problem finding guys; will you help me?”

Attracting guys was never a problem for Lauren — she had not one, but three boyfriends at age four. She teaches women how to move out of the detrimental world of Hans Christian Andersen passive mythology into a passionate reality where all women can be man-magnets like her. She coaches men in finding what they want from a relationship and in how to ask for it, rather than feel the need to barter, or buy it.

Unlike other so-called dating gurus who seem to have a ‘catch it, fuck it, and kill it’ attitude to the opposite sex, Frances is respectful of both sexes and she talks bluntly, as well as humourously, about both. No wonder men like her so much — she is witty, sexy and fair. Women admire her because she is what she espouses — gorgeous, sexy, happy in herself, powerful, attractive and attracting.

The essential premise of Frances’s work is that men are better shoppers of partners than women. They know what they want, be it casual sex, a girlfriend or a wife, and they look only for that.

Women, however, have a tendency to not know what it is that they are looking for, and they are reluctant to become self-aware when it comes to love and relationships. When women meet men, they are so caught up in the ‘does he like me?’ stuff that they aren’t actually listening to what men are saying to them — which is ‘I want sex/girlfriend/wife’ — until it is too late, they are involved, and they are in the wrong place, wasting years of their lives with men who only wanted to date, when the women wanted to get married.

Frances says women are reluctant to state their needs in case they “frighten off the guy! But that is exactly what they should be doing. He doesn’t match what they need and they are wasting their time on him. If they knew what they wanted in the first place, they should hold out for it and the right guy. It’s easier to get rid of a guy in date one than in year one.”

But instead of listening to that little voice — the same one Michelle Rocca talked to me about — women work at what they shouldn’t bother with, and waste their time and their lives.

I have long felt that women are grateful for men’s attention and this leads them to compromise themselves and their desires — and mislead men into the bargain.

Frances agrees. She believes that our attention is the most valuable commodity we offer — not sex — and that women squander their attention on unworthy choices because of lack of focus, as well as a lack of self-esteem.

“Part of the reason women are single is they are uncomfortable receiving attention,” she told me. This is especially true of Irish women, who are confused as to sex, self-worth and desirability. For this we can partly blame the Catholic Church and the feminist movement, which focused on women’s rights and downplayed women’s arts.

In her work, Frances sets out to get her clients to clarify their needs, secret dreams and ambitions. She looks for their blocks, she tries to help them through them, and she comes up with practical help to seek romance in their lives again — and not just with a view to marriage. Frances believes we need love and affection on our terms.

While most of us may wish to meet someone through our friends, or something reassuring like that, Frances says that is happening less and less. She sees internet dating sites as the true future of dating. With statistics such as eHarmony’s claim that each day, 236 couples in the US marry after meeting on an internet site, you can see how she would have that kind of faith.

A problem, according to Frances, is that most people don’t know how to work internet sites properly, that internet dating is misunderstood and suffers from a bad image and that people are embarrassed to put themselves on them.

Until I met Lauren Frances, I had never been on a dating site. I found them scary and somewhat shameful, like porn. Since meeting Frances, I have talked to many single people about internet dating, from multimillionaire entrepreneurial, successful men to proactive, intelligent, women, and most of them recoiled when I suggested they go online dating. So I know my feelings are shared. Some people feel that to have to resort to internet dating it is a sign of desperation. Frances says this is nonsense. She thinks sites are great because so much key information is already there for you to assess — relationship ambitions, attitude to drink, children, religion, earnings etc. You have the opportunity to assess and sort without wasting time on fact-finding dates.

She believes boundaries are clear on sites and that with some knowledge, which she can give you, you can learn to separate the chancers from the true hearts.

I have many gay friends who hate the gay scene, saying it can be predatory and scary and not at all ‘them’, and who choose the internet to meet romantic partners. They tell me that it is a lifeline for any gay person who wants to lead a private and healthy life. One pal has met most of his relationships via the web and I have always been impressed by his finds!

Yet, still I hesitated.

When I finally did work up the courage to register on a site and read the profiles of about 30 men, only one guy was openly sleazy, while most were astonishing in their honesty and heartfelt desire for a relationship, outlining who they were and what they were looking for. It was the women who were cagey in stating what they wanted.

Frances has now decided to launch an online course especially for Irish and UK singletons, which will launch in a fortnight. To give people an idea of who she is before they sign up, she is giving two free seminars over the next two weeks, details of which you can find on her website. The course itself will consist of 90-minute coaching sessions, once a week over six weeks, which she hopes to follow with a makeover weekend here like the one she has done in New York (that part won’t be cheap, but if you have the cash, it is worth it).

Lauren is also going to do a men’s coaching course.

Her online courses are pure gold. Having completed one, my sense of self and self confidence has shot up, even if I still haven’t got online properly as yet. But I intend to.

Frances, and her clients I met in New York, showed me that age really is nothing but a number and not a barrier to dating and having fun, and that we meet no one because we can see no one, and that is because we can’t actually see ourselves. We don’t believe we are able to find and deserving of finding love — and so we don’t. Frances helped me to see how easy a shift it was from being unseeing to seeing.

Frances reminded me of that adage: “what we give out, we get back”. I was giving nothing out, be it the desire to meet someone or a faith I was going to. So what happened? I met no one.

But more importantly, Frances has convinced me that living without love is truly sad. And that men believe in romance just as much as women and that it is we who need to believe in the dream we profess to want.

So on this Valentine’s Day, though there may not be a surprise card in my letter box, I am not sad, or feeling lonely or like a failure. Having completed Frances’s course, I can see that, yes, actually, the world is full of nice, interesting, available men, as Bridget Joneswould describe them — and I can meet them. I am now aware of all the possibility that is out there and I am engaged with it in a proactive way.

It feels like a much happier place to be. I wish it for you, too.

– Sunday Independent