Things have changed since the divorce tsunami made its American landfall in the 1960s. In the old days no emotional holds were barred to the first marital war opponents, and revenge by alienating children from one parent, usually the father, was de rigeur in shipwrecked marriages. In the last half century Americans have learned a thing or two about the need for co-parenting after a split-up, and experienced Lantana mom Teresa Grawe stands ready to help struggling single parents move forward.
“Texas divorce decrees impose a geographical boundary beyond which both divorced parents may not relocate while their children are legal minors,” she said, “For example, my son’s father and I agreed to live in Denton County until our son is through high school. My current husband has a less mileage-friendly agreement with his children’s mother.”
Residential boundaries make it easier for non-custodial parents to participate in their children’s lives.
“Driving across three counties during rush hour to attend a Donuts with Dad/Mom event discourages the co-parenting of children by divorced couples,” she said.
As Teresa learned from personal experience, residential boundaries create other problems for parents trying to rebuild their own lives.
“What’s the point of becoming acquainted and involved with a person who lives outside your court-imposed boundaries?” Teresa asks.
Life can get complicated if both Texans are divorced with children.
Pondering her own experience with legal boundaries vs. dating, Teresa invented an ingenious matchmaking solution she calls “geographically desirable introductions.” She serves single parents looking for a committed relationship in Denton County, Grapevine and Coppell. However, several clients from outside this geographic area have contacted Teresa, all of which are willing to relocate for love. The response to the service she is providing has been overwhelming.
“I welcome clients without children, and people who have never married or widowed, but my service focuses on people with life experience who seek family life,” she said. “If you want to play the field, I’m not the matchmaker for you.”
Teresa recruits mature people for social introductions inside the residential restrictions of their divorce agreement. The objective is to find quality people who are interested in committed relationships.
Her company, Love Locally, is a niche business in the professional matchmaking world.
Teresa is a member of the Professional Matchmakers Association, a division of Matchmaking Professionals Inc. that boasts 400 members worldwide.
“I have participated in their training program and attended a bootcamp in Miami, Florida in May which included Matchmakers from around the country and Canada,” she said. “My passion is helping other people,” she said, “and matchmaking is the way to do what I love.”
She is certified by the Matchmaking Institute which conducts a mandatory member recertification every two years.
The Institute’s code of ethics includes items like customer service, attention to personal dignity, nurturing the human relationships, integrity, competence, adherence to federal state, and local laws, and effective complaint response policy.
“In my first interview with a new client I want to know things about his/her lifestyle, partner expectations, relationship goals, core values, interests, professional and family background, religion, and personality characteristics,” Teresa said.
Every client leaves that interview with a lengthy questionnaire to fill out in private.
“The questionnaire forces my clients to think about what they really want from themselves and a new companion, and goes a long way toward answering the question Who Am I? You have to take some time alone to think about that,” she added.
Love Locally’s database is not public information.
“I offer complete confidentiality as one of my safety features,” Teresa said.
Clients submit a photo with their questionnaire, but that also is confidential.
“I make sure my clients are the person in the photograph,” she said.
Appearance is important, but Teresa believes a successful match requires more than personal beauty.
“I am not particularly photogenic,” Teresa confessed, “and I would not want someone making a decision about me based on a photograph. I extend that same courtesy to my clients. There’s more to a good man than his abs!” she laughs.
Photogenic or not, toss out your matchmaker stereotypes because slim, chic Teresa is anything but a frumpy old maid in Cupid’s employ. Her big smile, good cheer and upbeat attitude are infectious.
“One of my jobs is to help divorced people with children get back into the swing of socializing. Sometimes you have to rediscover your lost mojo,” she says with a twinkle in her eye.
This may include etiquette assessment, life coaching, and image consulting.
“Sometimes new single parents need to make a trial flight,” she said.
When a client lacks confidence, Teresa offers a unique social warm-up she calls the Wing Man/Woman Event. Teresa arranges a small gathering with a few other Love Locally clients, to which the client brings a same sex friend to be his/her wingman or woman along with Teresa, they help the client get more comfortable in a social setting.
“Nervous single parents do not have to pilot solo before they feel socially ready,” Teresa said, “You don’t get this kind of social nurturing from online dating services.”
Does she ever terminate services to clients?
“Yes, if they fail the criminal background check!” she said. “Also if I discover intentional inaccuracies in a client’s personal information, and of course, if I learn about bad behavior during an introduction. This is another area in which I differ from online matchmaking.”
Matchmaking has gone digital, but online services don’t offer many safeguards or spot possible relationship problems then wave a red flag.
Teresa filters and qualifies all clients via personal interviews, criminal background checks, and she does personal follow up interviews after every introduction she makes.
After a 21+year career as a marketing executive - which includes 15 years as the Senior Vice President of Marketing for the company that developed the Lantana, Lake Forest and Phillips Creek Ranch communities – Teresa says her intuitive feel for personal character is well developed.
“No computer database can substitute for the subtleties a client communicates in person,” Teresa said.
A matchmaker has your back.
She broke into a smile, and said, “If a match doesn’t work out, I break up for you. What’s better than that?”
Although Teresa has an office, she schedules interviews in small local venues like coffee shops where she is known by the owners and managers.
“I use these same establishments as partners to schedule the short introductory first dates too,” she said, “It’s an added layer of security.”
What advice does Teresa offer single parents who wish to start life anew?
“Well, the number one concern is for you and your children’s personal safety,” she said, “This is where a matchmaker’s pre-qualifying of any dates is helpful. Number two, you must keep a wall around your children. Never introduce them to anyone you date until the relationship turns serious. The third thing to keep in mind is honesty with others.
“When you meet someone or use a matchmaker,” Teresa said, “be completely honest about yourself, your wants, needs, and expectations. It will not do to portray yourself to anyone as an outdoorsy type if you would really prefer to sit by the fire with a latte, and read.”
“The truth is, you or a matchmaker, are marketing your personal brand,” she said, “No two people are exactly alike, and there is someone out there who will love who you really are, and that’s what this is all about.”
Read Teresa's Love Locally column here and in The Cross Timbers Gazette each month. Learn more about Love Locally at www.lovelocally.net.