This interview was conducted by Chrissy Rutherford at FWD Joy. Follow Chrissy on her social media platforms: Instagram,Twitter!
I recently went on my first real date since the pandemic began. I was in the city one night to have dinner and catch up with a friend. After dinner, we wandered around the East Village, trying to find a quiet place to stop and finish our conversation, and we finally settled in Union Square Park. During our chat, I happened to lock eyes with a handsome guy walking through the park with his friend. I was feeling bold and held his eye contact for as long as possible, and smiled at him—and he smiled back at me. He and his friend continued to walk by and I didn’t think much of it except that it was a cute moment. A few minutes later, he and his friend came back around to talk to us. It felt serendipitous, as I like to believe about most of my relationships or rendezvous’. I love a tangible spark and a good story to take back to my friends.
But as we know, just as quickly as those sparks ignite, they tend to fizzle out even quicker or sometimes even explode in our face. We had one nice date in Central Park the following week, but it ended with him canceling on me hours before our second date with a shitty excuse.
I can see a very clear pattern in the men that I tend to attract. Over the last few years they’ve seemingly become better and better on many levels. What I’ve imagined as being my “ideal” as I work on setting boundaries and defining what I am and am not willing to accept. But they still tend to lack something incredibly important for me: emotional maturity.
As I try to navigate my dating life, I often think about what Matchmaker Maria would do. Maria Avgitidis Pyrgiotakis, founder of Agape Match and host of the Matchmaker Maria podcast, is one of New York City’s most sought-after matchmakers. I met her in 2017 when I interviewed her for a Bazaar story. We connected so effortlessly that we became friends, and she also became a bit of a mentor to me as I was figuring out career changes. Her advice is simple, straightforward, and no-nonsense. It honestly almost seems too simple, but if you have difficulty enforcing boundaries or are confused about what you really want in a relationship (guilty!) it can seem challenging or anxiety-inducing.
Today, Maria and I break down how dating apps have affected her job, what to do when you get ghosted, the best first date questions, and how to meet people IRL again.
|Read the edited interview below, or you can listen to our full conversation that includes Maria’s fortune teller exercise for manifesting and the full story on my most recent date.|
You’re a 5th generation matchmaker, how did you know this was something you wanted to do?
I still don’t know that this is something I want to do. I love owning a business and helping people. My specialty is single people or people in relationships that are looking for clarity. But I’m being facetious, I mean, I didn’t know this was even an option. Yes, my grandmother is a matchmaker, and so was her mother and her grandmother. But at no point did I think that was something I wanted to do. In fact, I pursued a very expensive masters at NYU in Global Affairs, thinking I would like to go into the foreign service. But I’m a master networker, I’m good at connecting people and using my extraversion as a superpower. Suddenly, I found myself with people asking me, “hey, can you introduce me to this person” for the connection, but then also on a romantic level. I think that’s when Matchmaker Maria began. But then it became a business, Agape Match. Matchmaking can be really fun, especially when you do it with your friends. But I’m a business owner first and a matchmaker second. As a business, I have to decide who I can actually match. Yes, I wanna help everyone, but I can’t help everyone. My network doesn’t attract, for some people, the kind of people they want to date.
What was matchmaking like for your family?
It’s not like my grandmother had a business. Matchmaking when my grandmother was matching, and her parents, what that meant was that you were a hustler. They were basically the people who knew all the good gossip in their village, made the best coffee, and knew not to share that gossip. So when someone came by and was like, ‘my son Constantin needed to get married.’ She could be like, ‘okay you can’t consider Anastasia, her olive tree farm is next his and that would monopolize the town. So maybe we should set him up with Sofia who has an apple orchard.’ You’re talking about community leadership, and that’s a different kind of hustle.
You’ve been married for a few years now, did people ever think it was weird that you were a matchmaker when you were single?
I started my business in 2008 at 23 or 24, and I met my husband at the end of 2012. Prior to meeting him, I was dating like everyone else. I would lie about my age, and say I was 30 so people would take me seriously. It was very tough. I didn’t give people the opportunity to know about my business. Also, because I was always dating too. There was never a month I wasn’t out. So, by knowing the struggles of what people were facing, I knew exactly how to market my business to those particular people.
I know this is going to sound cheesy, but meeting my husband infinitely made me better at my job. There were things about him that I had never found in other people, things that I was experiencing in the relationship. I’ve seen this with many clients too, there’s this idea that you have to feel sparks, it has to feel 100% on day one. And no it does not. In fact, anytime I experience that with someone, just as quickly as that sparked that was as quick as it fizzled. It definitely felt like a rollercoaster, you’re going really high, and there’s definitely going to be a drop at some point. And that made me really scared too. You meet someone and you have a really strong connection on day one, you’re like oh this is gonna end now. I felt like I was manifesting the end.
When I met my husband, George, it was like, okay I think I like him. Am I attracted to him? I was asking myself these questions. I’m having a great time with him, he makes me laugh, he’s smart, so qualitatively, he’s everything I’m looking for in a partner. Am I attracted to him? In the beginning, I was not physically attracted to him. I was kind of attracted to him, but he looked really different from any of my ex-boyfriends. So there’s all these things that I was kind of learning about what makes a strong, healthy relationship. And not just through me, as I said, I’ve been doing this for 13 years, I’ve seen even through my clients how they react when they finally meet the one. It’s never like, yes good job 100%! It’s always like, you know I think I had a good time, I wanna get to know them a little bit better. There’s almost this trepidation, but the curiosity is at 100%. I don’t think that’s how every relationship or marriage is, but that’s something I keep seeing.
I’ve definitely experienced that crazy chemistry, and I’m someone who fully operates on feelings and energy I get from other people. I’m not calculated when it comes to dating. So, those feelings have led me down some interesting paths, but as you said, it fizzles out… or sometimes it explodes in your face.
I’m with you on that. I’ve experienced it so many times. Sometimes that explosion is shocking. The height of my imposter syndrome was the summer before I met my husband. I was dating someone for 3 months. We traveled together, it wasn’t just that I’m going on a date once a week, we saw each other every day. One day, he said to me, ‘I have to go to Italy for a conference over the 4-day weekend, I’ll be back on Monday. Kiss goodbye.’ Monday comes, and I’m texting him, should I pick you up from the airport? No response. It’s not even being delivered. As time is passing, he’s not at my house that night. Now I’m like, where is he? After a few days, I emailed him like, ‘I just need to know if you’re alive or if I need to have an uncomfortable conversation with your mom.’ This was before the word ghosting had come out. He wrote back within 5 minutes, ‘I’m alive.’ That’s it. I had to find closure on my own. I felt like I can’t tell anyone about this because what kind of dating professional does that make me? I’m awful at this. I dated someone for 3 months and couldn’t tell he was going to disappear. I only became public about this story in fall 2018. I remember the response to it was just insane, how many people found that relatable.
How have you seen your business evolve with the inception of dating apps?
Dating apps existed when I started my company. I remember OK Cupid being out. I remember In 2008, I was working at a big company, and my coworker had just joined and was dating someone and it was hush hush. I feel like it became more socially acceptable to be online in 2010. So it was ok, we were kind of working in tandem. The people that were coming to us were people who could not possibly use online dating. We were attracting celebrities, lawyers, politicians, or doctors, or professors, who couldn’t really utilize online dating. Then Tinder comes out. I remember thinking, okay let’s give this 3 months, lets see what Tinder does, this is going to change everything. Within a year, something like 60% of online dating companies collapsed. It really hurt the overall dating industry. For matchmaking, every time a new dating app came out, I suddenly was getting a higher influx of clients. Especially now, after 2019, 2020, it’s dating fatigue. They just don’t want to be swiping. But it’s no longer like 2008, omg dont tell someone you met on Match.com. Now it’s 2021, if you’re not online dating, it’s like not having an email. So if you’re the kind of person who’s single, who cannot use online dating sites, how are you going to meet someone if everyone’s online dating? So, I feel like online dating has only helped professional matchmakers.
That’s actually one of the reasons why I reached out to you originally to interview you for Bazaar. I felt like even then that we were getting to a point where people felt burnt out on the dating apps. What other ways are there to meet people? And matchmaking might feel a little antiquated to our generation…
It’s so funny, the last few years, all of my clients have been under 45. I know we’re expensive, but some people want to afford that, or we can refer them to another service that is in their budget. But it has become a bit more popular to have the privilege of matchmaking. You know, when you came that year, right before that there was an amazing website called How About We.com. It was an online site to get you offline. You saw someone’s profile and their date idea, and to message them was to accept that date idea. Match.com saw this, and they bought it. And they just made sure it did not exist anymore. I remember when the website came out, I thought this is what’s gonna break online dating. That’s what people’s biggest complaint is. They’re tired of swiping, they want to go on dates, but they also want to go on dates with people who also share their same values and lifestyle. I don’t know if a profile can do that now. Especially when we’ve gotten used to swiping culture.
I want to talk about your coaching session, the Agape Intensive. Of course, I have seen you promote this for so long but I always thought, oh I don’t really need something like that, I know how to date, I know how to talk to people, I’ve been very social in my life, and I never saw it as being an issue for me. But after the pandemic and not dating, I was curious and I love to learn. So, I wanted to take it to have the experience. It was so enjoyable, first and foremost being in this group with other women from all over, but hearing their similar dating experiences made me feel less alone.
It’s so validating to be in a group like that. You mentioned the hesitations, and Intensive doesn’t cover anything about dating. For 3 days and 9 hours, we talked about compatibility and chemistry. I think one thing many women do is say, ‘I’ll know the guy when I see him.’ But the problem with that is you have a subconscious list you created when you were 21 or maybe even 16 of what you want in a man. And it’s hard to defend some of the things on that list or even talk about it. If you don’t have a map, it’s hard to find the treasure. So Intensive tries to give you a map, Chrissy is her own person, who would she be compatible with based on her chemistry report, based on x, y, z factors. So that’s what the first 2 days are focused on. The third day is heavily focused on reverse engineering your search. So I’m not telling you how to date, I’m just telling you, based on this thing you made, who you’re compatible with, here’s where you’re going to find him. Now it’s up to you, and maybe your group (I know many members from each group they meet up and go out now) to meet that person. To put in the work. Especially if you don’t wanna online date. There are plenty of opportunities online with listed events to get off line to meet people.
We also talked about attachment styles. You were the person who introduced me to Attached by Amir Levine, and now I recommend it to everyone under the sun because every human needs to read this book. It really equips you with information that helps to understand why some relationships have more friction than others, or helps to explain some of the feelings that we have when we’re engaging in romantic relationships, but I think the same happens with interpersonal relationships in general. When I first read it I learned that I have an anxious attachment style. It just made me feel like, ok I’m not crazy. I understand why I’m having these thoughts, where they are coming from—it really was a game-changer. It inspired me to break up with my last therapist. For me, the biggest thing is knowing when I need to walk away.
It’s about giving yourself permission. I think people that are naturally anxious, sometimes they’re really people-pleasing as well. They just think, let me give this another week, let me see if this changes, let me see if 3 more days, suddenly it’s been 5 years. Avoidant people stay because what are you doing in that process? You’re ego-stroking, you’re providing a lot for them that they don’t need to be secure. Their needs are met somewhere else, maybe by their mother. It’s a never-ending cycle between anxious/avoidant styles.
I believe in the Intensive I asked you if it was possible to make it work.
Yes, absolutely. Communication is critical. Plenty of women are avoidant as well. They also have to communicate. You can describe what that experience is like and say, ‘I need patience.’ If you’re anxious, you can say, ‘here are the things I need to feel acknowledged and not confused. Can you do these things? If not, I can’t be with you.’ There are plenty of avoidant people that can make you feel acknowledged and not confused. It becomes just a matter of respect.
I think it’s hard because so many women feel scared to ask for what they really want. And I definitely can say I’ve been in that boat.
I’ve been there. You have to remind yourself, do you wanna get married? Do you wanna have kids? You can’t be scared to ask questions about your own emotional needs when you eventually have a baby with each other. There you won’t have any problems asking questions. So it’s best to get ahead of it. If you’re prone to anxiety, talk about it, be open with the person you’re dating on your dates. Tell them, ‘here’s the things I need.’ Let’s talk about the outcome of you talking about this. He’s going to react in 1 of 2 ways: 1) Thank you for telling me this, I will keep this in mind. Sometimes I can do this, but just let me know and I’ll make sure to do better. Or 2) he’ll just disappear. He’ll be like, ‘I don’t want to deal with your shit.’ That’s on him, that’s not about you. And that’s ok, they should walk away. That means you have less confusion with that person.
When do you think is an appropriate time to bring that up?
You can’t really bring it up on a first date because the purpose of the first date is to go on a second date. Which means you gotta have fun, keep it light. That is not the place to discuss a lot of things. You’re not gonna talk about your exes. If you wanna talk about politics, I know that’s a very popular topic right now—you can reframe that conversation, instead of it being about donkeys and elephants, it can be about what do you value? What kind of change do you wish to see in the world? But I think there are better questions you can ask on a first date like, what do you like to do when you travel? Can you tell me more about your friend circle? I want to know if he has friends. I want to know how he values his time or money. These are lifestyle questions, these are the questions I think are appropriate for a first date. But talking about your anxiety, I think that starts off on date 2, 3, 4, and lean into it on date 4, 5. Especially before you have sex. Or even after—but if you’re the kind of person that suffers from anxiety, don’t have sex until he knows that, listen if we have sex, I need you to call me tomorrow. And he’s gonna be like, ‘of course I would call you, why wouldn’t I call you?’ OR he’s gonna be like, ‘mmmm I don’t know.’ And if he’s that one, don’t fuck him.
I know for a lot of people, everything I’m saying sounds really simple, but I know for a lot of people everything I just said is producing a lot of anxiety because I know how difficult these conversations are. What I say to those people is, practice in the mirror, practice with your friends, send your friends audio messages. I promise if you do it once or twice to a guy, it will be very easy to do it to guy 3, 4, and 5.
Since you brought up sex, let’s talk about your 12-date rule.
The 12-date rule is a method that I have to help women specifically understand if they are ready and emotionally compatible with a man before having sex with him. This is not going into purity culture, and it’s not about is he going to date you or not. I don’t know if he’s going to date you or not. What I do know is that sometimes when we have sex a little too soon (and the soon is relative to everyone), women especially can get very distracted or excited and not recognize the pink flags that are flying all over the place, or even the red flags. And I like to think if we just wait 3-4 weeks, that’s usually how long it takes, you can discover a lot about someone that you could have sex with them or you might not want to have sex with them.
When I say 12 dates: 1 date = 20 minutes minimum with 3 hours maximum of either on the phone, video, or in-person dating. You can have up to 2 dates in 1 day. So let’s say you went on that 8-hour marathon date that counts as 2 dates. And if you sleep over a guy’s house, that still counts as 2 dates. You have to separate for a bit before you come back together to reset the clock. What I hope that does, (and I’ve had over 300 couples tell me this works for them) it teaches you these 4 things:
By giving yourself that time to learn these things, you’re just gonna learn a lot about their emotional range, their communication range. But also learn about how respectful they are of your boundaries. Listen, you could still have sex with someone after 12 dates and they could fuck off, they could totally disappear. But I could also say that about if someone had sex after the first date. If someone’s not planning on dating you, you’ll know that usually before you get to 12 dates. You’re not meant to go on 12 dates with everyone.
I feel like we get so caught up in… does he like me ? Rather than…
Should you like him?? Because let me tell you. 30% of men are trash. So instead of, does he like me? You need to ask yourself, should you like him? A lot of times, that answer is absolutely not.
How do we stop focusing on whether the other person like us ?
I think even just reading this conversation. It’s just like the book Attached, by giving people awareness and the vocabulary to express themselves you do see change. So, if you’re wondering how to change the mindset, it’s this, this is the mindset change.
Let’s talk about ghosting. I know it’s something we’ve talked about for a very long time now. But is it getting worse? It feels like it’s getting worse sometimes, based on stories I hear from other women in my life.
I don’t know if it’s more prevalent now than before, and by before I mean pre-pandemic. It hurts. But a lot of women do it too. I think people are really scared and cowardice to say I’m actually not feeling this anymore. It’s incredibly hurtful and disrespectful. I always tell women, if you don’t like someone and they’re messaging you, tell them I don’t feel it anymore. That’s okay. You want the good juju in dating. Collect the juju. You can send them on their way with a thoughtful message, I had a really good time on our date. Thank you for being a gentleman. I don’t think there’s a romantic connection but I wish you luck on your search.
Is it ever okay to send the text to a ghoster?
If you feel like it’s going to provide closure for you, you could send it. But I think when you ask people what that closure means, it’s usually acknowledgment. That is something I wouldn’t bet on. For most people, closure means I want you to acknowledge me, I want you to say I’m sorry, I want you to feel how I feel. And you sending that text is not going to achieve any of those things. What they’re gonna do, they’re not even gonna read it. They’re gonna skim, oh it’s from you? And put their phone back in their pocket and look outside the NYC cab. That’s literally how it’s gonna go because that’s how it would go for you if a guy messaged you that you didn’t want to see again. So, if you feel like you need to send it to make you feel good, you could, but I wouldn’t. I think that you could send that message to a friend. Write it out, send it to a friend. Or send it to your friend group. Or in your case, you can send it to your Agape Match group. Even if they did reply back, then you’re getting into a fight and you’re going to feel so much worse. I think that your energy should be saved for people that can bring you closer to your person, not make you question dating.
I think it’s also a lesson in learning how to sit in that space of feeling uncomfortable, and not having all the answers.
I think that’s why some influencers have become very popular in advice giving. Not just in dating, but in life. Because sometimes you are looking for a solution to a problem you don’t even know exists. Then suddenly you have and you’re like, this is the reason why things are happening. Like yeah, that could be the reason, but I think we’re all just trying to make sense of things. It can be tough for everyone involved in dating. I’m not saying we should sympathize or empathize with people who waste our time, but I think to date in 2021 takes a lot of grace. I think you have to forgive yourself for silly experiences sometimes.
Is it bad to research or social media stalk before a first date?
Yes, absolutely yes. You suddenly fall in love with this caricature of a person online, or sometimes you uncover things you don’t really need to know. Then it’s tough for reality to meet the expectation. Sometimes their online presence is a persona, and not the real person. I think it’s okay to look up their LinkedIn, so you can verify this is a real person. If you’re online dating, it’s okay for men to have their Instagram on their profile. It gives women the reassurance that they’re real and that they’re not in a relationship. But for women, do not, for your own safety, do not connect your Instagram.
Also, talking to someone too long on dating apps, or even on text, and not meeting. I appreciate how you push that the point of dating apps is to get off the apps and meet in real life.
I’m totally against that. If you ask me, 3 messages back and forth and now you need to start planning. And let me tell you, men love it if you do it. Let’s continue this conversation in real life, are you available this Tuesday at 7? That’s okay to ask a guy. Actually, 80% of men have responded that they’d love it if you asked them. Let me tell you, a man’s worst nightmare is being on an app and talking to you forever. If he says he’s not available, but doesn’t give you a reply with other dates he’s available, then you know it’s done. This person wasn’t planning on meeting me, I can move on.
And finally, what are your tips for meeting people in real life?
If you’re experiencing dating app fatigue—and I think everyone is—I really recommend blocking out 2 days a week for the next 3 months in your calendar, actually do it so no one else can book you. Get yourself on Meet Up or Eventbrite where they have event listings. Fill up that calendar with different things to do. And I know what I’m saying is an introvert’s nightmare, so they can get a pass, they can do it every other week. What I want you to do is essentially create social capital in real life out of nothing. By going out, you’re going to meet new people. And if it overwhelms you to meet new people, just keep my goal in mind. The goal is, I want you to just meet 2 people wherever you go. That’s it. Once you meet 2 people, if you’re not having a good time, you can leave. It gets easier over time. By doing this method, so many people would be in a relationship over the next 90 days. Ideally, you’re doing things that would attract mixed genders. You need to create new networks, and connect with people. It can be a great tool to connect with someone in person, that’s what I would do if you’re experiencing dating fatigue, take it offline.
Matchmaker Maria’s Most Recommended Reads
Authors Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá debunk everything we think we “know” about sex.
Relationship expert and dating columnist Andrea Syrtash encourages women to date outside their “type.”
written by a former New York Times Weddings editor who dives into one of the most esteemed institutions, the creators and subjects, and her own coming-of-age love story.
Marlo Thomas and her husband Phil Donahue reveal the rich journey of their relationship alongside interviews with power couples like Deepak Chopra and Rita Chopra, Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick, LL Cool J and Simone Smith, Mariska Hargitay and Peter Hermann and more.
A novel that explores family ties, romance, war, and history set on the Greek island of Crete.
If you enjoyed this interview find more here.
Want to be part of her conversation? Join her community on Geneva chat. It’s a place for you to actually have a dialogue around her newsletter topics, and talk about other things they love like self-care, books, astrology, dating, fashion and beauty. Currently this is only be open to subscribers.