Melanie Matcek, Matchmaker

Photograph by Sarah Sudhoff

A San Antonio native, Matcek runs Heart and Soul-Mates, a personalized matchmaking service for clients across South Texas. She is also a licensed relationship coach.

After becoming single again in late 2006, I started to do the online dating thing. I had heard the horror stories, and I quickly realized there was no accountability. It wasn’t “what you see is what you get.” I’d meet someone in person who looked nothing like the picture he’d posted online. I met one guy for dinner who seemed to be targeting divorced women just to buy their diamonds wholesale. I felt like I was being hustled. According to statistics, three out of ten people on dating sites are married.

I used to run a central monitoring station, and I was licensed through the Texas Board of Private Investigators and Private Security Agencies. So before I would meet anybody for a date I’d run a background check. I started brainstorming how I could help other singles do this. Years ago I had seen a story on 20/20 about the Matchmaking Institute, in Manhattan, which is the industry standard, so I enrolled in its training program in New York. I attended seminars on how to maintain clients’ integrity and confidentiality, and I went through role-playing sessions to learn how to handle particular client situations. It was important to me that I be credentialed, because I don’t know anyone else in the San Antonio or South Texas area who is.

I opened for business in May 2008, and I started getting great word-of-mouth referrals from people who knew singles who needed my help. A lot of my clients are busy professionals who don’t want to do the bar scene and don’t want their information blasted on a national Web site. I primarily work with people in their thirties and forties, many of whom are in the second-time-around demographic. I take on a maximum of ten singles at a time, and I generally work with someone for a minimum of six months. My clientele is pretty evenly split between men and women, but I’ve met people from every background, religion, and profession. Everyone has a basic need to be with someone.

When I first meet with a client, I go through a pretty invasive line of questions. I’ll ask about their lifestyle, their family, their hobbies, their religious background, their education, their previous relationships, everything. I ask really specific questions, like “Are you a door opener?” “Does your dog sleep on your bed?” As silly as they may sound, they’re important questions.

After the initial meeting, I’ll spend the next month looking for potential matches. I am continually networking and building a database of available singles in the area, who I take through the entire interview process and background check. When I’ve found someone suitable, I’ll introduce the client and the match and let them set up their date. Then they each call me afterward to give me feedback and tell me how things went. When I initially sign a client—my pricing ranges from $3,000 to $10,000—I agree to make five introductions. So far my matchups have been so successful that no one has needed all five.

As a relationship coach, one of the things I teach is that you have to be a successful single before you can be part of a successful couple. You have to be able to stand on your own. I’ve refused clients because they haven’t done their self-work and still have too much baggage. It’s evident when someone hasn’t worked through their past. You need to be very self-aware about what you need in a partner before you start seeking one out. I’ve encountered people who expect much more than what they’re willing to give, which is tricky. I will not take on a client, of either sex, who is looking for financial rescue. Gold diggers know not to come to me.

A lot of people, even those in their forties and fifties, are still uncertain about what they need, and they’ve been so busy raising kids or building careers that they don’t remember what their particular passions or hobbies are. And you need to know what you really like to do and what drives you. That’s where my coaching comes in. It takes a certain skill set to be in a relationship, and I help a person learn how to be completely aware of who their partner is and how to not ignore the red flags.

A big mistake people make is that they let chemistry take hold. There’s actually a physiological aspect to it, but you’ll have that feeling for a maximum of, like, eighteen months. Beyond that, if you’re not compatible, you’re heading for divorce. Men do seem to be a little more particular about aesthetics than women are. But I tell everyone to stop and take a look inside a person before you sort them out. It’s also an old wives’ tale that opposites attract. Maybe so, but they also make great divorce cases. I can pair an introvert with someone who’s moderately extroverted, but you can’t join two people who have polar-opposite personalities.

There are a few hazards of the job. A couple weeks ago I actually got a call from someone who thought I was running an escort service. It was so insulting. And occasionally during the interview process a client will say, “Oh, I’m looking for someone about your height, with your hair color, your background.” I just look down at my notepad and continue to write. When I first walked into my business attorney’s office, he asked, “Are you just doing this for yourself?” I’m not. I keep my personal life separate.

I had never really set anyone up before I started Heart and Soul-Mates, but I’ve always been able to get a good read on people. There’s an intuitiveness to it. Plus, people have always told me that I’m very easy to talk to. And thanks to my background in the security

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