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Meddling Parents Hire Dating Coaches for Their Grown Children

When a 33-year-old woman learned of her father’s plans to hire a matchmaker to help find her a partner, she asked Dad, ‘What, are you crazy?’

By Rachel Wolfe, WSJ

Dec. 23, 2022 10:03 am ET

Parents who give their grown children a gym membership at Christmas risk a recriminatory, What are you saying, Mom? So does surprising them with offers to pay for dating coaches and matchmakers.

Two years ago, Kelli Kaku’s mother bought her the $797 online course, “Fall in Love by Christmas.” Ms. Kaku, 34 years old, was blindsided.

“I was like, ‘I’m trying!’ ” said Ms. Kaku, a seventh-grade teacher who had moved back home to Fresno, Calif., at the time. She agreed to the course, mostly because she didn’t want to waste her mom’s money.

Dating coaches say pandemic lockdowns and their long aftermath have raised parent worries that their grown children will stay single forever. That has led to a surge of interest from mothers and fathers splurging on premium dating-app subscriptions, relationship classes and one-on-one sessions with dating experts for their children, said relationship psychologist and dating coach Christie Kederian.

“Know if someone is the one for you in 5 dates!” according to an online advertisement for Dr. Kederian’s services. She consulted with Ms. Kaku and her advice was, first, to talk with her mother about maintaining personal boundaries, and, second, be more open-minded about potential partners.

A few months later, Ms. Kaku decided to take a chance on a Bumble profile she had previously passed over. It turned out to be a great match. Nobody is happier about the pair’s coming wedding than Ms. Kaku’s mother, who said she told her daughter, “See, it was totally worth the money.”

About a third of daters lean on their families for relationship advice, according to a survey of 5,000 adults conducted by dating company Match. Still, Stef Safran, a dating coach and matchmaker in Chicago, cautioned that parents need to let the dater take the lead. “Ultimately I work for the kids,” Ms. Safran said.

Match, the dating app company, got an email from Kamille Johnson that, on its face, seems to run counter to Dr. Kederian’s advice about keeping boundaries between parents and their grown children.

“Hello, Match! My beautiful daughter and this handsome young man will be married on December 30, 2022, in Cincinnati and, with your help, I am responsible for setting them up,” said the note from Ms. Johnson, a 59-year-old healthcare marketer in Evansville, Ind.

Her daughter, Olivia Vowels Dixon, moved to Cincinnati just before the pandemic and had trouble finding compatible romantic prospects. She was hesitant about getting on a dating app, so Ms. Johnson set up a profile on her daughter’s behalf.

Every few days, Ms. Johnson would sift through profiles—“online-shopping,” she said—then send her daughter a few favorites. Ms. Johnson would photoshop Ms. Vowels Dixon’s head next to the images of potential suitors.

Ms. Johnson said she didn’t impersonate her daughter or communicate with anyone on the app. “I wasn’t being weird,” she said. “I knew where the weird line was, and I wasn’t going to cross it.”

At first, Ms. Vowels Dixon said she rolled her eyes and laughed. “I can’t,” she recalled telling her mother. She eventually took control of her own dating account—with a $150 six-month premium membership paid for by her mother—and found a match with her now-fiancé, Myron Dixon. Mr. Dixon thinks the back story to their romance is hilarious.

“Some people have financial advisers. Kamille is my life adviser,” he said, deferring to Ms. Johnson’s opinions because she led him to his partner.

The pair asked Ms. Johnson to officiate their wedding, in recognition of her role in bringing them together. They are debating, however, if they should let Ms. Johnson walk down the aisle to “You’re Welcome,” Dwayne Johnson’s song from the animated film “Moana.”

Retired day trader Michael Patoff, 72, tried to play matchmaker for his daughter Molly Patoff, a 33-year-old jeweler. He spoke with Ms. Safran, the Chicago dating coach. He didn’t know the two women had worked together on bridal shows.

When Ms. Patoff found out, she asked her father, “What, are you crazy?”

“And I said, ‘Honey, you know I am,’ ” Mr. Patoff joked.

“I’m like, “Dad, I love you. Love me a little less, please,’ ” said Ms. Patoff, who lives in Glenview, Ill. She has since enlisted Ms. Safran’s services without Dad’s help.

Dating had long been a sore point between Jane Shomberg and her daughter Mindy Shomberg. Ms. Shomberg, the mother, worried her daughter, a 38-year-old recruiter for a New York City staffing agency, would get angry if she intervened.

Driven by a maternal instinct, Ms. Shomberg slipped a business card for Megan Weks, a dating coach who calls herself the “Manfunnel,” into her daughter’s wallet.

Ms. Shomberg hoped getting a professional involved would allow herself to take a back seat in the matter and restore peace in the Shomberg household. After some deep thinking, Mindy Shomberg said she could see she was stuck doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. “And that’s what they call insanity,” she said, softening to the idea.

Ms. Weks charged more than $1,000 for her dating course, and Mindy Shomberg knew she couldn’t afford it. “My parents were like, ‘Do you want it to be your birthday and Hanukkah present from now until eternity?’ ” she said. “I was too busy riding at SoulCycle to devote $1,000 to dating.”

Her mother was more than willing to help. “It’s like getting help for anything. If you need a tutor for math, that’s what it is,” she said. “We love our children. We would do anything, anything that they need.”

“So if you know anybody…”

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