‘Must Love Dogs’ – Lessons From The Date Coaching Frontline
By Melanie Schilling, Psychologist and Dating Coach
Do you remember the movie Must Love Dogs?
It was made nearly a decade ago, just as the online dating trend was starting to build.
Although light and rather fluffy, it communicated some great messages about being single, strategic dating, the numbers game and our tendency to be overly rigid in relation to deal-breakers.
This movie came to mind when I spent time with one of my male clients recently. Let’s call him K. As we sat together to review his eHarmony matches, two things struck me:
– The power of profile photos, and
– The problem with deal-breakers
A male perspective on profile photos – less is NOT more
K lamented his disappointment that several of the women he was curious about didn’t make the most of their photo opportunities. He pointed out three specific cases with:
1. No photo
2. Only one photo
3. A single photo of a woman’s dog. Yes, her dog
He was disinterested in the woman with no photo. Despite some great content in her profile, K guessed that she was either insecure and camera-shy, or had something to hide – both factors he considered a turn-off. Whilst the woman with one photo sparked some interest in K, he felt that a single photo was not enough to give him a sense of who she was.
As for the woman with the dog’s head as her profile picture, K could not take her seriously. Firstly, he felt she was hiding behind her dog and may have had some ‘issues’ in relation to this. Secondly, this picture triggered one of his deal-breakers and he was instantly repelled.
When I asked him about this he replied; “I won’t date any women who have dogs”.
There it was. His hard-wired, habitual deal-breaker.
K revealed that he had been in two past relationships with women who had dogs and found them to be overly focused on the K9 rather than the K, and that their general obsession with the dogs was a great turn-off for him. Clearly, K was not a Dog Person.
Deal-breakers versus preferences
This revelation led to a long discussion about K’s choice to block out women with dogs. The rational side of his brain acknowledged that of course, not ALL women with dogs place an unnaturally high priority on the dog in their life. But the emotional side of his brain had been hurt and wanted to protect him from being exposed to any additional dog-crazy women.
As we all know, in love, our emotions generally win out.
K and I explored his deeper values, lifestyle preferences and genuine deal-breakers. We discussed the idea that a true deal-breaker is usually linked to a value or deep, unchangeable need in one’s life. After some discussion, K realised this was his choice not to have children. For him, staying child-free is a genuine deal-breaker and any woman who wants children would not be a good match for him. Once he understood this distinction he realised that the dog factor was probably not a deal-breaker, but more of a preference.
A personal note
Reflecting on the Must Love Dogs movie and my discussion with K, I was forced to look at myself and my own history with inappropriate deal-breakers.
Having grown up in the 80s, attending a school full of boys with an obsession for heavy metal music, I developed an aversion to men with heavier music tastes (to put it mildly). In fact, I openly stated that I would never date a man who enjoyed heavy metal or wore black t-shirts.
What would you say if I told you I’m now engaged to a man who loves heavy metal and I have made a habit of lovingly washing, drying and folding his black t-shirts?
We met on eHarmony three years ago. Because we were initially matched based on our compatibility, we quickly developed strong rapport and found a whole range of important things we have in common. When his alternative music taste was eventually revealed, it was in the context of his broader musical appreciation ranging from classical to thrash metal, and I found it to be diverse and interesting.
I wonder if K will end up with a woman who runs a dog breeding business?
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