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Matchmaker Maria Avgitidis has helped set up over 5,000 first dates.

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Across the country, singles are swiping left on dating apps. Some are instead looking for love on other apps (see: Strava, Yelp, and Duolingo), while others are letting matchmakers make them a match. To learn more, we spoke to Maria Avgitidis, CEO of Agape Match and host of the “Ask a Matchmaker” podcast. Here’s what the fourth-generation matchmaker, who has helped set up over 5,000 first dates, had to say…

Q: There have been many articles recently about the ways dating habits have changed. What are some of the biggest things you’ve noticed?

You have two [groups] participating in online dating. The first — millennials and Gen X — remembers what dating was like before apps, so for them, a dating app is very much a tool … [But] Gen Z has never participated in analog dating. They only know dating as opening an app and meeting someone through [that]. And it doesn’t have to be a dating app — it could be Snapchat, LinkedIn, Instagram, or Facebook … Since COVID, people are feeling a lot of [online] dating fatigue, so they’re now asking, ‘How can I meet people through friends? What community events might introduce me to new people?’… I actually think online dating is a fantastic tool for meeting people — [but we also] have to fix [it] … [in some ways], if Tinder came out today, it’d be a crown achievement because [it] has a lot less filters. On other dating apps, you can filter for things like race, religion, and height. But you can’t do that on Tinder because they just want you to meet people …

I don’t think most people are picky — I think [most people] don’t know how to articulate what they want. As a matchmaker, it’s my job to tell [them] you’re not going to get 100% of [what’s on] your list. You’re going to get a lot, just like I hope they’ll get a lot — but compatibility is a 50-50 equation. You have to be willing and enthusiastic to be with them, and they have to be willing and enthusiastic to be with you ... Expectations have soared so high. No wonder everyone has dating fatigue.

Q: There’s also been a rise in matchmaking, perhaps in part due to shows like “Indian Matchmaking” and “Jewish Matchmaking.” Have you seen them?

As a matchmaker, I do this all day. So when I’m off the clock, I‘m watching a murder mystery, a documentary, or the news ... I think just one person [on my staff] watches. Everyone else is like, ‘Unless you’re paying me to watch this, I’m not interested’ … [That said], I do think more people might be aware of matchmakers and maybe more people are searching for matchmaking. There’s certainly an increase [in that regard], and I love that. 

Q: You’ve been at this for more than a decade. How has matchmaking changed during that time?

The thing that’s changed the most is the deal breakers. When I started my business in 2009, the biggest [one] was smoking. Around 2015, [it] became, ‘They have to be a Trump supporter’ or ‘They can’t be a Trump supporter’ ... In 2021, it shifted to, ‘They have to be vaccinated’ … And in June 2022, it shifted to, ‘They have to be pro-choice’ ... So what’s shifted the most is the weight of politics ... Of course, I’ll hear other deal breakers, and I’ll try to convince people not to make those deal breakers. They’ll say something like, ‘If they’ve never traveled.’ But maybe they didn’t have access or they didn’t have a travel buddy. Or someone will be like, ‘I’m vegan, so they have to be vegan.’ But that’s a lifestyle choice. And what happens if three years from now they realize they want a cheeseburger? ... One deal breaker, though, that’s really important is: Do you want kids? Do you have kids? Are you open to raising other people’s kids? [Those] answers shift everything.

Q: Social media is flooded with all sorts of dating and relationship theories or tests. Do you have any of your own?

I have the 12 date rule … which, basically, says to wait 12 dates before having sex ... [Keep in mind] a date can be a phone or video call, or something in-person that’s between 20 minutes and three hours. And you could have up to two dates in one day. Let’s say you spend eight hours going to brunch, seeing a movie, and taking a walk. That’s two dates ... So it’s very easy to get to 12. The point is to see if you’re emotionally compatible without the distraction of physical compatibility … What you discover in those 12 dates comes down to four things: What are they like when they’re [having] a good day? What are they like when they’re [having] a bad day? How do they treat you when you’re having a bad day? And, most important, how do they treat you when you’re having a good day? People really swear by [the rule].

Q: Recently, a list of unacceptable date spots went viral. What’s at the top of your list?

I think movies are unacceptable on a first date — but that’s about it. I’m not a hater ... [Honestly] any date that lets you stand or sit side by side or perpendicular is in my top three [favorites] because it’s a lot easier to date a stranger when you don’t have to look them straight in the eyes the whole time ... My number one date is a walk date ... I also love tapas — small plates and some drinks. And the third is if there’s live music ... Anything can be fun if you’re with a good person, and you can recognize they’re a good person. You just have to think about meeting them, not dating them.

Psst, this interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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