Tough Love is gearing up for its sixth season and I have to admit, I haven’t always been the show’s biggest fan. Any dating show where women are “set up” to fail and then criticized for it makes for entertaining television, but it doesn’t score any points in the dignity department.
I remember when the show first aired, I was put off by the fact that the host, Steven Ward, wasn’t a certified coach. That said, he and his mother are talented matchmakers, and it’s clear that they know what causes a dating breakdown, and what is required to have an epic breakthrough to find real love.
After watching the most recent season, I believe that although Steve and his mama give mostly on target advice, the “line up and shoot ‘em” format still tugs at my dating coach heart. But before I dive into that, here’s a rundown of how the show works for those of you who don’t watch.
How Tough Love Works…
Each season opens with a group of chronically single women, all of whom have challenges that have kept them from finding love. Steve gives the audience a quick rundown of the girls’ “issues”, and gives them nicknames according to their shortcomings.
For example, a woman who gets emotionally attached to every guy she meets would be nicknamed Miss Needy, and a woman who wants a super wealthy man would be nicknamed Miss Gold Digger.
During each episode the girls interact with potential matches and go on dates, all with the intention of following Steve’s advice and making better dating choices now than they have in the past. For example, Steve would send Miss Needy on a date with instructions to practice pacing, and avoid revealing too much, too soon. He would send Miss Gold Digger to a mixer with instructions to refrain from asking invasive questions about a guy’s income or status.
Once a woman has been on multiple dates with the same guy, Steve interferes less, and the challenges become more serious. For example, after a few dates with the same man, Steve will teach the woman how to reveal a red flag to her guy in a positive way that won’t send him running for the hills.
At the end of each episode, the women get all dolled up and meet with Steve to find out how they did that week. Steve gives them his opinion of their dating performance, but they ALSO get video feedback from the men they went on dates with!
This feedback is at times brutally honest and can be difficult for the ladies to watch, but I have to admit, it seems like it’s valuable data, even though the truth can be hard to hear.
Click play below to watch a clip of this past season to see for yourself how Steve delivers his tough love…
Where I think Tough Love falls short…
I really wish there were a better way to give constructive dating feedback that didn’t involve putting the women on trial. That said, I know from my work with Ryan Seacrest’s team that watching yourself on video provides a great opportunity for improvement. And, while matchmakers are not coaches per se, and sometimes the ditzy girls can be a little too much to take, I have to admit: I don’t hate Tough Love! I believe that most women can’t see their blind spots unless a qualified person is there to give them loving, direct feedback. And, ditzy or not, it takes courage to put yourself in front of the camera and be the focus of Steve’s tough love.
I know that if I were the dating coach on the show, I’d convey the same information as Steve, but my approach would be much softer. I like to make my clients laugh with a juicy metaphor or two, as opposed to breaking them down with overly harsh feedback.
With all that said, the bottom line is this: I can tell Steve’s heart is in the right place, and he really wants to help the women overcome their challenges and find love. And although his “tough love style” isn’t for everyone (it’s definitely not for me!), it is entertaining. I don’t think that anyone ever meets “The One” on this show, but the women DO seem to get some great practice dating and being in relationships, which is extremely valuable for them moving forward.
DWD Contest Alert: I want to hear from YOU!
Now that you know how I feel about Tough Love, I want to hear your opinion!
Tell me: If YOU were producing your own reality dating show like Tough Love, how would you make it better? What aspects of the original show would you keep, and what would you change? Leave your opinion in the comment box below by this Saturday, because whoever posts the most insightful comment by then will receive a super amazing free product from the DWD shop!