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How to find your soulmate
Mary Balfour tells Sainsbury’s Magazine how she used to dream about what her ideal job would entail – drinking coffee on a chaise longue, meeting new people and talking to them about their life.
It occurred to her that those elements, combined with the fact that she’d already acted as a matchmaker (sometimes successful, sometimes not) to numerous friends, would make a dating agency a venture she could succeed at.

So, in 1986, newly married herself, she resigned as head of an adult education centre and started an introduction agency, Drawing Down the Moon, which concentrated on the professional end of market. It is still thriving, and she has since added more strings to Cupid’s bow (and her own) with Only Lunch loveandfriends.com (an internet introduction agency), and a gay dating agency called Significant Others (which she later sold). Her book, Smart Dating: How to find your name, will be published in May (Thorsons ?10).

I think I’m good at my job because although I’m a fantastic dreamer, I’m also realistic about what will work and what won’t. I try to get people to visualise the outcome they want and to think about what obstacles they put in the way. Why are they not in a relationship? Can the problem be resolved?

A lot of people have unrealistically high expectations, expecting perfection from the first date. In my experience, the best way of finding the right person is to meet lots of people who are roughly right – the more people you meet, the greater your chances of success.

I think, in an average life, each of us probably comes across around 20 people we could spend the rest of our lives with but don’t recognise, either because we’re not ready, or we’re too blinkered about the type of person we’re looking for. If you can find about 60 or 70 percent of what you’re looking for in a person, that’s good. The person with 100 percent of the characteristics you’re looking for probably doesn’t exist – and if they did, you might not like them.

Some people argue that going to a dating agency takes the spontaneity and romance out of the relationship. I say that if they’re serious about finding a partner and it hasn’t happened yet, why not try it? In a few months, people can compress a whole lifetime of introductions. Also making a positive move to meet someone means that you’re open to the chances of romance, and that makes you happier and the happier you are, the more attractive you are. It’s no coincidence that people join the agency and then meet someone on the bus on the way home. Really, It happens.

Of course, we get it wrong sometimes, and people ring up to say that a meeting didn’t go well, but I don’t regard that as a failure, more like useful feedback. Now I can mostly tell if people aren’t ready for a relationship, or if they keep repeating the same mistake.

“How many successful relationship have we been responsible for? Thousands, definitely. And many, many children”.