August 23, 2021 10:30:02 pm
Written by Abby Ellin
How much is too much to find the love of your life: $5,000? $10,000? $15,000?
Sabrina Cohen considered this question one sweltering day last July. She had just ended another failed romance and was, in a word, flummoxed.
“I was like, how did I let this happen again?” said Cohen, 42, a real estate agent and life coach in Miami Beach who runs the Sabrina Cohen Foundation, a nonprofit group that provides access to the ocean for people with disabilities.
Around that time, she logged on to Facebook and an ad for something called Meet to Marry popped up. Run by a dating coach named Bari Lyman, the program is designed to help people find their “soul mates.” Lyman describes a soul mate as the person to whom you’re attracted who shares similar visions and goals. (The “marry” part isn’t meant to be literal, but it was a lot sexier than calling it “Meet to Find the Person Who’ll Be Your Emergency Contact.”)
Cohen was intrigued, so she scheduled a free phone consultation. During the hourlong talk, Lyman helped her understand that she was deserving of love but had hidden blocks that had gotten in her way since she was young.
“She was operating from fear and childhood trauma,” Lyman said. “A lot of people think ‘I’m past it.’ But there are psychic obstacles that she was unaware of.”
By the end of the conversation, Cohen had forked over $10,000 for three months of twice-weekly coaching calls with other women in the program, access to a private Facebook group and unlimited hand-holding until she found her “person.” There is also a $2,500 option, for a mini experience called “Bye Bye Blindspots,” designed to “reveal and heal” hidden blocks from the past.
“I guarantee that if the person does the work, they will transform their experience of themselves to wholeness and have everything they need to meet their soul mate,” said Lyman, 56, who has been working with singles for 10 years.
Cohen is among the many lonely, vulnerable and fed-up women and men seeking a breed of dating coaches who believe that finding healthy love isn’t about swiping right or “putting yourself out there,” but curing yourself.
“There’s that old paradigm that even though we think we’re self-aware, there are parts of us that are still wounded, ” Lyman said. “And we attract people who are a mirror to our fears.”
Unlike matchmakers, who introduce potential love interests to each other, Lyman connects people to themselves. She believes that finding love is within your control — “manifestable.” The problem is that most singles are operating without a strategic plan that’s tailored to them.
For a hefty price tag, she’ll teach you to date “consciously” and with intention.
Lyman lives on a 5-acre nature preserve in Homestead, Florida, with her husband, Michael Lyman, and five rescue dogs. She says $10,000 is “a bargain,” considering how much money her clients have invested in therapy sessions, yoga retreats and energy healing, along with “pain, divorce and time.”
Megan Weks’ “Manfunnel Dating Method” ranges from $24.99 to $2,499 for digital programs. Her private coaching for men and women starts at $5,000, which includes five calls with her that must be used within 60 days. For $2,500, clients can work with a coach certified in the Manfunnel program.
Macy Matarazzo, a love coach outside Boulder, Colorado, charges $9,000 for her six-month program, SuperLOVED, which includes weekly group sessions, daily meditations and two 75-minute sessions with her per month.
“Our relationships are the most sacred thing we can have,” said Matarazzo, 52, who mainly works with women over 40. “The interesting part of the pandemic is that so many people are waking up to that.”
Weks, Matarazzo and Lyman believe that people attract those who reflect themselves at their core.
Most of Lyman’s clients are heterosexual women between 30 and 70; many are highly successful in their careers. But she said she also sees factory workers, nannies and teachers who have scraped up enough money to “invest in themselves.”
The concept of self-love and re-creating patterns isn’t exactly revelatory. Harville Hendrix, a bestselling author, spouted similar theories in “Getting the Love You Want,” published in 1988, which Oprah deemed “the best relationship book ever.” Rachel Greenwald’s “Finding a Husband After 35: What I Learned in Harvard Business School” came out in 2003, and it was all about the necessity of making a solid love plan. There’s also 2004’s “Calling in the One,” written by marriage and family therapist Katherine Woodward Thomas, which was recently updated.
Lyman insists she’s different.
“Everyone I know has read these books, but they’re not solving the underlying problem, that they’re not integrated,” she said. “Part of them is not showing up clear and healthy. And they’re left to wing it and wonder why they still keep meeting the wrong people. Or they say they can’t meet anyone in their city, which is so silly. It’s not about the town, it’s about you.”
Lyman wants her clients to set a date for when they want to meet their soul mate, and then to declare their intentions to others.
“Like, you tell your friends, ‘I’m getting married this year,’ even before you meet him.” Then, she said, clients start clearing the barriers: “the limited beliefs. The incompletions. The trauma that many think they’ve already handled but haven’t in this way. And from that place, they have tools.”
Lyman said she knows of two divorces out of more than 1,000 marriages she’s helped create.
“I can’t guarantee that someone will do the work,” she said. “I can guarantee that if someone does the work, they will get the outcome they want.”
“Because of her I have a husband,” said Beth Salinger, 53, who lives in the Chicago suburbs. Salinger, who runs an event company, never thought she would find a great man because she is zaftig, she said, using the Yiddish word for plump. Lyman told her she was a catch. Eventually, Salinger believed her.
“Her program is really detailed, there are a lot of steps, and you have to do your homework,” she said.
A few years after finishing Lyman’s program, Salinger went to a party and met the man who would become her husband.
Tina Williams-Koroma, 41, who works in the cybersecurity field in the Baltimore suburbs, reached out to Lyman in 2014. Lyman had her put together a “Dreams Become Reality” vision board of what she wanted her future to look like.
Williams-Koroma initially balked. “I was like, ‘Glue and cut-and-paste? Really? I’m not the artsy-craftsy type,” she said.
Nonetheless, she gathered magazines and some friends and made a party out of it. In October 2017, she married Marvina Koroma. She believes that Lyman contributed to her success by helping her discern what she really wanted.
While the stories are inspiring, none of these methods are scientifically provable. Like so many alternative remedies, it’s simply a matter of faith.
“Love is something you build, not something that just happens to you,” said Logan Ury, 33, director of relationship science at dating app Hinge, and author of “How to Not Die Alone.” “It’s worthwhile to be clear with yourself about who you are, what kind of relationship you want and how you show up in dating.”
Cohen of Miami Beach said she and Lyman went through the reasons she had been making bad romantic decisions all these years.
“I spent 20-plus years blaming the wheelchair for my failure at love life,” said Cohen, who was in a car accident that left her paralyzed at the age of 14.
“I’ve done months of intense work. I’ve written forgiveness letters. I spoke to my parents, my brother. I’ve had an in-depth look at myself. I’ve learned how to meet my own emotional needs.”
And the money? Worth the $13,500 investment, Cohen said.
“Before, I felt like I was always traveling through time where something was missing,” she said. “And now, the hole that was there is completely gone. The disability will always be there, but it’s not a limitation. All of who I am is my strength, not my weakness.”
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.