Durban - It's the month of romance – when everyone seems to be in couples. And if you are single not out of choice, you need to do something about it, says dating agency boss Fiona Dorse, who has been playing Cupid for 15 years.

Dorse believes you are not going to trip over Mr or Miss Right. You have to make it happen. So, why isn’t it happening for so many singletons?

“Single people all make the same mistakes,” she says. “They don’t present themselves correctly and they have the wrong attitude.”

Dorse has had hundreds of men and women join her agency in their quest to find a partner. She started New Beginnings in Durban in 1998 and, as her client base attracted the yuppie generation, she decided to home in on that market and renamed her business Corporate Dating International.

Soon her books were filled with high-flyers and celebs, but she says she has plenty of ordinary, hard-working people too. She expanded to other provinces and now has clients abroad. The criterion for being part of her agency is that you are successful at what you do and you are emotionally stable.

Today she has 1 700 people on her database and the registration fee of R4 500 ensures that only people who are serious about finding a partner join. You stay on her books until you find someone special. Thereafter, if you are in an exclusive relationship for more than four months, you have to make a decision to stay in the relationship or continue dating the client base. This prevents serial daters from joining.

What, exactly, are reluctant home-alones doing wrong? Dorse gives some pointers:

Most people overvalue themselves.

“There are very few people over the age of 40 who don’t tell me on the first phone call that everyone thinks they look 10 years younger. Interestingly, the truly drop-dead-gorgeous people don’t say a thing.

“We are all looking 10 to 15 years younger nowadays because we lead healthier lifestyles and we dress in a younger way. But we do start to show signs of ageing. Men start to sprout nasal hair, bushy eyebrows and ear hairs that their younger counterparts don’t have. Women develop lines on their upper lips and crépey necks. You have to be realistic.”

The same goes for women and men wanting younger partners.

“Many women tell me that they have had relationships with younger men and they can’t bear to be with an older man. Did their relationships last? No.

“Men also come to me saying that they are simply not attracted to women in their age bracket. On the odd occasion, I have sent out men with girls 15 or so years younger and the girls have come back saying: ‘I had an enjoyable evening with X but I felt as if I were out with my father’.

“In general, the statistics show that more than an eight-year age gap has a 25 percent chance of not working out and more than an 11-year age gap has an 85 percent chance of not working out, so why would anyone want to go into a relationship with such poor statistics?”

Look inwards, not outwards

Age aside, the biggest factor in whether a relationship will work lies not in the person you date, but in yourself, says Dorse.

What determines whether a relationship will work is imprinting – how your childhood and past experiences have coloured your view of the world. We are attracted to people with whom we feel comfortable and you will feel this within the first 90 seconds of meeting someone.

Present yourself well.

If you are overweight and badly groomed, you convey a message that you do not care for yourself. We do not live in the Rubenesque era and being overweight is not considered beautiful, it is considered unhealthy, says Dorse. First impressions count.

Forget finding Mr or Ms Perfect

“The essence of true love is not falling in love with each other’s perfection; true love is the subconscious effort that we make of overlooking each other’s imperfections. None of us is born perfect and we all have bad habits and behaviour patterns. You can make a list of what you want in a man, but you won’t find a perfect match and, very often, a quality that you did not want initially is compensated by others.”

Don’t think you can change someone

People are not able to change for long and they will revert to their original type eventually – especially men. A woman is more able to change and usually it is she who learns to play golf because her man enjoys it, and not the other way around.

The three steps are reversed

“There is a three-step emotional tango when we meet someone. With men it is lust-trust-respect-commitment. In women, it is respect-trust-lust-commitment. A woman needs to respect a man first, then she begins to trust him as a friend, perhaps assessing him as a potential husband and father, then she gives herself to him in lust. There are, of course, girls for whom the sequence is reversed… but this will not result in a long-term and meaningful relationship as it is just based on physical attraction.”

Be positive and fun

“Your first date should be full of interesting, fun conversation. I introduced two fun-loving, vibrant clients who met for coffee (my recommended first date) and they went to Italy for their second date. Today they are happily married. If you start telling your date all your woes or how hard it is to meet someone nowadays (which they already know) it is a turn-off. They want to meet someone charming, polite, intelligent and, most of all, pleasant company.”

Keep trying

“The only way that you are ever going to find someone, is by making an effort. This is like your university degree, your driving licence or a sport or hobby. The effort that you need to make is to go out on at least 17 to 30 dates before you find someone with whom you feel that old-fashioned magic. Keep at it.”

* See

* Dorse’s book Alone? Why??? is available through the website or at bookstores. - Daily News