How much is too much to find the love of your life? $5,000? $10,000? $15,000?
Sabrina Cohen considered this question one sweltering day last July. She had just ended another failed romance and was, in a word, flummoxed.
“I was like, how did I let this happen again?” said Ms. Cohen, 42, a real estate agent and life coach in Miami Beach, Fla., who runs the Sabrina Cohen Foundation, a nonprofit group that provides access to the ocean for people with disabilities.
Around that time, she logged on to Facebook and an ad for something called Meet to Marry popped up. Run by a dating coach named Bari Lyman, the program is designed to help people find their “soul mates.” Ms. Lyman describes a soul mate as the person to whom you’re attracted who shares similar visions and goals. (The “marry” part isn’t meant to be literal but it was a lot sexier than calling it “Meet to Find the Person Who’ll Be Your Emergency Contact.”)
Ms. Cohen was intrigued, so she scheduled a free phone consultation. During the hourlong talk, Ms. Lyman helped her understand that she was deserving of love but had hidden blocks that had gotten in her way since she was young.
“She was operating from fear and childhood trauma,” Ms. Lyman. said. “A lot of people think ‘I’m past it.’ But there are psychic obstacles that she was unaware of.”
By the end of the conversation, Ms. Cohen had forked over $10,000 for three months of twice-weekly coaching calls with other women in the program, access to a private Facebook group and unlimited hand-holding until she found her “person.” There is also a $2,500 option, for a mini experience called “Bye Bye Blindspots,” designed to “reveal and heal” hidden blocks from their past.
“I guarantee that if the person does the work, they will transform their experience of themselves to wholeness and have everything they need to meet their soul mate,” said Ms. Lyman, 56, who has been working with singles for 10 years.
Ms. Cohen is among the many lonely, vulnerable and fed-up women and men seeking a breed of dating coaches who believe that finding healthy love isn’t about swiping right or “putting yourself out there,” but curing yourself.
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“There’s that old paradigm that even though we think we’re self-aware, there are parts of us that are still wounded, ” said Ms. Lyman. “And we attract people who are a mirror to our fears.”
Unlike matchmakers, who introduce potential love interests to one another, Ms. Lyman connects people to themselves. She believes that finding love is within your control — “manifestable.” The problem is that most singles are operating without a strategic plan that’s tailored to them.
For a hefty price tag, she’ll teach you to date “consciously” and with intention.
Ms. Lyman lives on a five-acre nature preserve in Homestead, Fla., with her husband, Michael Lyman, and five rescue dogs. She says $10,000 is “a bargain,” considering how much money her clients have invested on endless therapy sessions, yoga retreats and energy healing, along with “pain, divorce and time,” she said.
Megan Weks’s “Manfunnel Dating Method” ranges from $24.99 to $2,499 for digital programs. Her private coaching for men and women starts at $5,000, which includes five calls with her that must be used within 60 days. For $2,500, clients can work with a coach certified in the Manfunnel program.
Macy Matarazzo, a love coach outside Boulder, Colo., charges $9,000 for her six-month program, SuperLOVED, which includes weekly group sessions, daily meditations and two 75-minute sessions with her per month. “Our relationships are the most sacred thing we can have,” said Ms. Matarazzo, 52, who mainly works with women over 40. “The interesting part of the pandemic is that so many people are waking up to that.”
Ms. Wek, Ms. Matarazzo and Ms. Lyman believe that people attract those who reflect themselves at their core.
Most of Ms. Lyman’s clients are heterosexual women between 30 and 70; many are highly successful in their careers. But she says she also sees factory workers, nannies and teachers who have scraped enough money to “invest in themselves.”
Brenda Babbitt, 68, of South Bend, Ind., hired Ms. Lyman in 2019, two years after she discovered that her husband of 23 years had a girlfriend. After their divorce, she wanted to date again, but felt shellshocked.
“I thought, ‘I can’t just do this on my own, I’ll be right back in the same boat I was before,’” said Ms. Babbitt, a retired innkeeper.
Ms. Lyman insisted that with her help, Ms. Babbitt would meet someone. “If your heart is there and you’re open and you do her program, the universe will have you meet your partner,” Ms. Babbitt said.
In February, she met a man online and they fell in love. It was wonderful — until he disappeared.
Still, Ms. Babbitt remains confident that she’ll meet the right one, especially as pandemic restrictions ease. “I’m going places and getting myself out there,” she said.
The concept of self-love and recreating patterns isn’t exactly revelatory. Harville Hendrix, a best-selling author, spouted similar theories in “Getting the Love You Want,” published in 1988, which Oprah deemed “the best relationship book ever.” Rachel Greenwald’s “Finding a Husband After 35: What I Learned in Harvard Business School” came out in 2003, and it was all about the necessity of making a solid love plan. There’s also 2004’s “Calling in the One,” written by marriage and family therapist Katherine Woodward Thomas, which was recently updated.
Ms. Lyman insists she’s different. “Everyone I know has read these books, but they’re not solving the underlying problem that they’re not integrated,” she said. “Part of them is not showing up clear and healthy. And they’re left to wing it and wonder why they still keep meeting the wrong people. Or they say they can’t meet anyone in their city, which is so silly. It’s not about the town, it’s about you.”
Ms. Lyman wants her clients to set a date for when they want to meet their soul mate, and then to declare their intentions to others. “Like, you tell your friends ‘I’m getting married this year,’ even before you meet him.’”
Then the clients start clearing the barriers, she said: “The limited beliefs. The incompletions. The trauma that many think they’ve already handled but haven’t in this way. And from that place, they have tools.”
Ms. Lyman said she knows of two divorces out of more than 1,000 marriages she’s helped create. “I can’t guarantee that someone will do the work,” she said. “I can guarantee that if someone does the work, they will get the outcome they want.”
“Because of her I have a husband,” said Beth Salinger, 53, who lives in the Chicago suburbs. Ms. Salinger, who runs an event company, never thought she would find a great man because she is “zaftig,” she said, using the Yiddish word for “plump.” Ms. Lyman told her she was a catch. Eventually, Ms. Salinger believed her.
“Her program is really detailed, there are a lot of steps, and you have to do your homework,” she said.
A few years after finishing Ms. Lyman’s program, Ms. Salinger went to a party and met the man who would become her husband.
Tina Williams-Koroma, 41, who works in the cybersecurity field in the Baltimore suburbs, reached out to Ms. Lyman in 2014. Ms. Lyman had her put together a “Dreams Become Reality” vision board of what she wanted her future to look like.
Ms. Williams-Koroma initially balked. “I was like, ‘Glue and cut and paste? Really? I’m not the artsy-craftsy type,” she said.
Nonetheless, she gathered magazines and some friends and made a party out of it. In October of 2017, she married Marvina Koroma. She believes Ms. Lyman contributed to her success by helping her discern what she really wanted.
Of course, lots of people can call themselves a relationship coach; the industry isn’t regulated. The Relationship Coaching Institute, founded in 1997, trains coaches, and is accredited by the International Coach Federation. But that’s not a mandatory credential.
The psychological community worries about this, especially when it comes to dispensing relationship advice. “Life experience and general education and street smarts and common sense — all of those things may really contribute to someone being really successful in a given domain, said Lynn Bufka, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and senior director for practice transformation and policy at the American Psychological Association.
Ms. Weks has a certification from Rori Raye Relationship Coach Training and Funky Om Yoga. Ms. Matarazzo, the Colorado love coach, has a master’s degree in puppetry arts and spent several years working in change management at Elavon, a division of US Bank. But she said she has done tons of personal development with lots of acronyms, like RIM facilitation with Dr. Deb Sandella and emotional work with SARK.
“I woke up in my 40s still single and sick of it,” said Ms. Matarazzo. “I decided that I was on a mission and wasn’t going to be a crazy cat lady.” She did daily meditation and coaching to get clear on her values and what she wanted a relationship to look like. Instead of approaching online dating with frustration, she went to a “sweet system that made dating fun,” she said. She also volunteered at a senior center, “giving time to people who were lonelier than me. That was refreshing.” At 43, she married.
Ms. Lyman said her history also shaped her ability to coach others. She said she was brought up in a “dysfunctional” family in Brooklyn. By 12, she was in therapy, and spent the next decade or so in one bad relationship after another. After a brief marriage, she decided she needed to understand why she was attracted to — and attracted — “emotionally unavailable narcissists.”
After college, she founded a technology recruiting firm and coached job seekers. During that time she met Mr. Lyman and married nine months after they met. She realized she could do for others what she had done for herself in the romantic arena.
While the stories are inspiring, none of these methods are scientifically provable. Like so many alternative remedies, it’s simply a matter of faith.
“Love is something you build, not something that just happens to you,” said Logan Ury, 33, the director of relationship science at the dating app Hinge, and the author of “How to Not Die Alone.” “It’s worthwhile to be clear with yourself about who you are, what kind of relationship you want and how you show up in dating.”
Ms. Cohen of Miami Beach said she and Ms. Lyman went through the reasons she had been making bad romantic decisions all these years.
“I spent 20-plus years blaming the wheelchair for my failure at love life,” said Ms. Cohen, who was in a car accident that left her paralyzed at the age of 14.
She added, “I’ve done months of intense work. I’ve written forgiveness letters. I spoke to my parents, my brother. I’ve had an in-depth look at myself. I’ve learned how to meet my own emotional needs.”
And the money? Worth the $13,500 investment, Ms. Cohen said. “Before, I felt like I was always traveling through time where something was missing,” she said. “And now, the hole that was there is completely gone. The disability will always be there, but it’s not a limitation. All of who I am is my strength, not my weakness.”
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