New York Times Gathers Field Notes on Valentine's Day with Savoy's Help

Field Notes
Let Your Heart or Coach Guide You

By ERIC V. COPAGE
Published: February 12, 2010


It's Valentine’s Day, and the pressure is on for men everywhere to step up their game— and not just the single ones. Those who are married or in long-term relationships are advised to revisit and refresh many of the skills they once used on the dating scene.

One of the keys, then as now, is knowing how to flirt. And who better to turn to for a refresher course than a pickup coach, arguably an expert in the field.

At the beginning of any relationship, flirting comes naturally. “Happier couples tend to retain some of that flirtatiousness,” said David Croushore, 25, who was a coach until last year and is engaged. Pickup coaches teach “how to cultivate a playful personality — or to let your playful side out,” said Mr. Croushore, a statistical analyst for a government contractor in Washington, where he lives with his fiancée.

A lot of men are too embarrassed or image conscious to expose this playful side, Mr. Croushore said, “But that can be the most potent way to flirt.”

Couples in long-term relationships are often advised by marriage counselors to have a weekly date to keep their bond fresh.

Geoff Graham, 28, who was a pickup coach in Los Angeles when he met his wife six years ago, said that he avoids telling her all the details of a date he has planned for them to keep a sense of novelty in their marriage.

“Tell her to bring a bathing suit, but don’t tell her you’re going to take surfing lessons,” said Mr. Graham, now a software consultant. “It’s more about her having fun.”

Mr. D, a pickup coach in New York, agrees that surprise has its rewards. He advises revealing only “that she should clear her calendar Friday, and wear jeans and sneakers — but don’t tell her you’re taking her to the go-kart track. Get her guessing.”

It doesn’t have to be exotic or expensive, Mr. Graham added, “just someplace that’s memorable.” Sometimes all that’s needed is a seemingly impulsive visit to a photo booth, for “goofy, carnival photos,” or her favorite ice cream shop.

In pickup dates, Nick Savoy, a coach with Love Systems, a dating-advisory service in Los Angeles, said “there is a whole seduction that goes on — social energy, and a physical and emotional tension that builds up.” So he and other coaches often tell men to find comedy clubs or amusement parks for social energy.

Laughter is something that Mr. Savoy insists is vital to a date, a communication tool, he said, “that says we’re on the same side.”

When you are around people who are funny and charming, you tend to be more attracted to them, said Helen Fisher, a research professor in the anthropology department of Rutgers University and the author of “Why Him? Why Her?: How to Find and Keep Lasting Love.”

Eye contact is another way to increase attraction.

“When you’re first falling in love you feel the intuitive sense, that rush looking at her,” Mr. D said. “But in my opinion most people in longer relationships basically are lacking in eye contact altogether.”

David M. Buss, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, and the author of “The Evolution of Desire,” wrote in an e-mail message that eye contact and a steady gaze signal self-confidence, “which is one of the personality traits women find most sexually attractive.”

Dr. Buss cited a study that he said “brought women and men into the lab, and instructed these total strangers to lock eyes for two minutes without breaking eye contact and without speaking or doing anything else. Many women reported actually falling in love with the person.”

Flattery, of course, is sometimes the quickest way to a woman’s heart.

Mr. D suggests that if you want your wife or girlfriend to be more exciting, “you want to find something she already does that you find exciting, and amplify it. Say during the week, on a Wednesday night she bought lingerie, compliment her for it, and that will subconsciously reinforce the behavior you want.”

So what won over Dayana Graham, Mr. Graham’s wife, when they met in 2004?

It was not his opening line, which he flubbed, recalled Mrs. Graham, 28, who lives with her husband and their toddler in Glendale, Calif. “He was funny, outgoing and chatty,” she said. During their courtship, she also loved that “he paid attention to what I was wearing and to what I ate, because he wanted to know everything about me.”

He still does so, keeping one eye on the past and the other on the present. “He always remembers that before we had our son, we had each other,” she said. “The flirting and the touching, I think all of that is very important.”

Like other forms of flirting, negative teasing — what pickup instructors call negs — can be an effective relationship tool. Deploying them effectively, however, requires some skill to avoid genuine insult.

Excerpted from the original article - read it here at the New York Times.  A version of this article appeared in print on February 14, 2010, on page ST18 of the New York edition.

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