Dating: Do You Need A Professional Wingman (or Woman)?

Want to get back in the game after a break-up, or fed up being single? Let the pros help you get out of the friend zone and into the love zone, says Jerry Portwood

After leaving a long-term relationship, losing a lover, or a partner after decades of marriage, the anxiety around finding a date can be crushing. Especially when compounded with the impenetrable new rules and etiquette that go along with online dating.

Luckily for many men, and a few curious women, rather than rely on friends who may not have the patience to handle your insecurities, there is now trained help. Enter the professional “wingwoman”—rent a date, boys and girls!

Although movies like Hitch, starring Will Smith, and Neil Patrick Harris’s character on How I Met Your Mother, and the ultimate wingman Ryan Gossling in 2011’s Crazy, Stupid, Love, have popularized the idea of a wingman to warm up the ladies for his pal to pounce, many turn to women to offer pointers to help men get in the game.

Marni Kinrys has helped thousands of men overcome their flirting issues through the services of her company, The Wing Girl Method. She says most of her clients are men looking to “understand” women—ranging in age from 40 to 60—and are located everywhere from Egypt to New York City, Europe to Los Angeles.

But as she explains, it’s not about learning to “pick up” a woman—there are plenty of “tricks” that guys love to pass around to manipulate insecure ladies—it’s about learning how to have a full life that can include a woman.

“When we work together, I teach and help them understand themselves,” Kinrys explains. “They’re often empty, and they have to find themselves sexy.”

Video: What to Do When A Woman Tests You At a Bar

In fact, Kinrys, 32, has moved away from simply accompanying a client to a location to scope out the room for a potential date—”I’m not an escort, and I don’t want them to think that way”—and is now helping men develop skills such as how to be confident, how to create a social network, and how to “escalate from friendship to sex”. It seems the biggest issue for many is being shoved into the friend zone, where they get stuck.

“Ultimately, the reason I developed this curriculum and method was I wanted to arm men with a skill set to pick up women with or without me,” Kinrys says. “Otherwise, after paying me a lot of money for six months, you’re left with a lot of questions but still have anxiety and confidence issues (not to mention less bread). And you may feel like you’re not a real man if you need a woman to help.”

Thomas Edwards launched his Boston-based company, The Professional Wingman, three years ago, and has since helped thousands. He admits that it’s more like “real-time coaching” and tries to help clients improve their lives rather than just get laid.

The biggest piece of advice these pros give is to get over your fear of rejection. “Fear prevents you from taking a risk, asking for a date, asking for a sale,” Edwards explains. “We always come across different hurdles. Don’t let fear dictate your life.”

Though some have helped women meet men through this approach, the market remains mostly for men seeking assistance in meeting women. Clients typically pay $125 to $250 an hour for most of the services for this sort of “love therapy” or dating coaching, with a range of other on-demand services available for monthly fees, including style consulting and online dating assistance.

But that money seems like nothing when someone is able to break through their hang-ups and finally make a successful match. You can’t buy love, but you can some get help along the road.