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Local matchmaker says she’s in the business of love

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published February 8, 2012

BIRMINGHAM — As we near Valentine’s Day, some folks are getting ready with orders for red roses and romantic dinner reservations, while others will opt for a box of chocolates and a sitcom on the couch by themselves. For some singles around town, the amorous holiday can act as an unfriendly reminder of the love they haven’t yet found. Kerrie Schneider knows how hard the dating market can be, so for nearly two years now she’s been helping people in metro Detroit find their valentines.

“I happen to have a lot of single friends and family, and I know how difficult it is to date. Detroit is just not as date-friendly as other cities, like Chicago, or other places,” said Schneider. “I just saw a need for a quality service for must-meet singles.”

In April 2010, Schneider launched Bella Introductions, a matchmaking agency devoted to helping “upscale” singles find their ideal match and get into the long-term, committed relationships they haven’t been able to find. Schneider said she knows how hard dating can be in this day and age, and it’s been her passion for years to help others find love.

Schneider said her three motivations for starting the Birmingham-based agency were her passion for matchmaking, encouragement from her husband, and most of all, personal experience. As a single parent for six years, Schneider experienced firsthand how difficult it can be to date when you’ve got specific criteria that need to be met.

“I very much understand the delicacies of dating with a dependent. It’s hard enough on your own, but then children add to the difficulties of finding the one,” she said. “Single parents are first and foremost who I want to cater to. That has become a big part of the agency, and I’m seeing more than ever how great the need is.”

In fact, when Schneider met the man who would become her husband, it was her 5-year-old who arranged the first date. The girl had watched the two exchange pleasantries at Lifetime Fitness in Troy for months and finally took matters into her own hands, asking the man if he would accompany her and her mom to get coffee. The pair was married 2½ years later, proving to Schneider that not only is love possible for single parents, but that everyone can benefit from a matchmaker.

The agency also caters to other niche markets, such as sober singles and singles 60 and older. Both of those groups also hold a special place in Schneider’s heart. She has a close relationship with a woman who for years has struggled with alcoholism, and has seen how hard it is to find someone who not only accepts a sober lifestyle, but embraces it.

“Unlike single parents, it’s not an easy conversation to have. What’s the proper time to disclose that? When I was a single parent, I would always say up front, ‘I’m a single parent.’ The significant other of a person battling that disease has to understand their values, be respectful and supportive of that daily battle.”

It was Schneider’s experience growing up and watching her mother try to date that inspired her to develop the 60 and older division of Bella Introductions.

“My parents divorced when I was seven, and my mother was absolutely devastated by it. As she got older, I watched her go through the difficulties of dating as a senior citizen, where most people in that age group are married and tend to surround themselves with others they already know, so it’s not easy to meet new people,” she said.

Bella Introductions will run you quite a bit more than your basic internet dating sites, with services ranging from about $300 through $10,000. The reason, Schneider said, is that she and her consultants personally vet each candidate with extensive interviews and background checks. In the end, Schneider said, she can determine not only who would be a good match for her clients, but also weed out candidates that don’t have the right intentions.

“A lot of my clients are executives who don’t have the time to go on lots of dates,” she said. “Or, many of my clients have been through the ringer, and they’re disgruntled. Some of the people on Internet dating sites are married, and you may not find out for a month or two of talking to them. You can pretend to be anyone behind a computer.”

One fan of matchmaking agencies is Dr. Steven Craig, a clinical psychologist based in Birmingham. Craig hosts Therapy Thursdays on 96.3 WDVD, and his new book “The Six Husbands That Every Wife Should Have” will be released Feb. 7. In the book, Craig, who has experience counseling couples, discusses the complexities of marriage and how, in order to have a successful union, the relationship needs to change and evolve over time.

Craig said that while matchmaking agencies work well to weed out undesirable potential mates, that doesn’t mean the work stops there.

“I think that matchmakers are great, if people go into it with the right idea in mind. You still have to do the work of dating and being a good, datable partner and making a relationship happen.”