Barbara Santen knows a thing or two about dating. Originally from the Netherlands, the Toronto-based relationship coach now runs a successful practice that helps women transform their relationships. She specializes in offering practical tools and tips on how to approach dating from a place of increased awareness of our intuition and inner guidance system.
Here, we chat about how to date safely during Covid-19, what dating profile red flags to run from, and how to get back out there after a rough relationship.
Briefly walk us through your career path. How did you get to where you are today?
I am a midwife by trade. I delivered babies for 10 years in the Ontario healthcare system when I realized so many couples were struggling through the transition into parenthood. I was having my own relationship issues at the time and started searching for answers.
This is when I obtained my certification in Positive Psychology, my relationship coaching training, and a multitude of other trainings to start my path towards becoming the coach I am today. I left midwifery a few years later and I have now had my dating and relationship coaching business for four years!
What first inspired you to specialize in coaching women in dating?
I started off my coaching career as a couples coach. That never ended well, with each side of the equation always wanting me to take their side. I didn’t enjoy it anymore, and when I found myself single, I realized there was a big gap in the dating advice women were getting. I started using and applying my relationship skills to dating myself and found that dating differently was the way to go!
What is unique about the dating approach you teach?
My slogan, “are you ready to make shift happen?”, stems from a dating approach that is unique and a little out there. My recommendation for women is to get really clear on what they desire to FEEL in a relationship before ever stepping out into the dating world. Focusing on yourself, your desires, what you need, and how to feel good first, and then using that vibration to attract the right kinds of men. It’s radically different than our usual way of going and finding someone to feel good. I teach my clients to feel good first, and specific ways how to do that, before they go out and seek. I do a lot of mindset work to change old patterns and destructive beliefs; this helps them retain the changes and once they’ve got the hang of it, they’ll never go back to their old ways.
In what ways has COVID-19 made dating more challenging? What recent trends have you seen?
A lot more video dating before meeting in person. Usually the first date was always over coffee or a glass of wine. It was time consuming but the “norm.” Now, you could get in a bunch of first dates back-to-back and never have to put on your shoes to leave the house! This helps you eliminate a lot more people faster and to get closer to the one.
What are your tips on dating safely during the pandemic?
Make sure you express your comfort level honestly with your date. This goes for everything, even before Covid, but be clear about what you need, and if they don’t respect it, move on.
What’s your advice to newbies navigating the online dating world?
Go at it as if you’re shopping. Most of us wouldn’t just go to buy “pants” at any store of any size or any colour. You want to go to a specific store, try a few on, and see if they fit your body and your budget. You may leave it and come back another time to see if you still want them; it’s a process of selecting and eliminating. Think of online dating the same way!
What should we look out for on dating profiles that might be red flags?
People that are way too good-looking to be real—they probably aren’t. If they have nothing written, or only state what they don’t want, run. If someone is very hard to see, they’re wearing sunglasses, and are turned around, move on. There are so many nice and great people on the apps; don’t waste a minute on anyone that doesn’t look decent.
What are your tips on overcoming fears of getting back out there after a rough relationship?
Just do it. Get back on the horse and date as if you’re not looking for a relationship, with no expectations. Just enjoy the company, get your mojo back, and start working on yourself and get clarity on your desires.
What do you love about your job?
Seeing women flourish in their lives and finally understand what it takes to create an amazing life. And then watching great men flock to them like bees to honey.
What challenges or hurdles did you face as you grew your coaching practice, and how did you overcome them?
I didn’t understand the business side well and I spent a lot of time and money on tools that just helped me be more organized but didn’t help me bring in revenue, coming up with a loss every year for the first three years. Hiring the right business coach and focusing on serving with generosity has created a huge shift in my business and the financial side of my business is now finally thriving too.
What is a regular day-in-the-life like for you?
I usually start with a few client calls, a group call or Facebook Live midday, and then I use the hours in between (or sometimes evening hours) to do the back-end business stuff.
I have a great team around me now that supports me in the tasks that are too time consuming so I can focus on giving excellent client care.
I also spend time working on my self-development, always challenging my beliefs and pushing beyond my comfort zone in business, relationships, and health. This keeps me sharp on all levels, like a fine-tuned instrument. I definitely practice what I preach.
What are your tips for aspiring dating coaches?
Find a great business coach who will lead you to actual paid clients. Invest in yourself (doing coaching training isn’t enough) and learn how to run a coaching business from someone who has been successful themselves and spend the money to do it. Trust me; otherwise you’ll spend years and thousands of dollars on things that don’t work.
Where do you hope to see yourself in five years?
Right now, I do everything myself. In five years, I’ll have a team of coaches that have trained under me who will teach my dating skills in group and private coaching. I will have a few very elite private clients and I plan to spend a maximum amount of time travelling the world.