‘I’m the Chief Dating Expert at Match, and I’m About To Get Remarried—Here’s What I’d Tell My Younger Self’

Photo: Courtesy of Rachel DeAlto/W+G Creative

Rachel DeAlto, chief dating expert at dating platform Match, has always prided herself on being right, she tells me with a tinge of sarcasm. In all seriousness, the success of her work has always relied on her ability to make (or help others make) the right judgment call—first, as a lawyer “advising people on whether to settle or go to trial,” and over a decade later, as a relationship coach “still mostly telling people not to settle [when it comes to marriage],” she says, with a laugh.

It may surprise you then that she now describes her own first marriage, at age 25, as the “wrong match with the wrong timing.” At the time, the sought-after relationship coach (who’s appeared as an expert on Lifetime’s Married at First Sight and TLC’s Kate+Date) was a new mom eager to settle down with someone who could make her and her son feel secure.

Experts In This Article
  • Rachel DeAlto, Rachel DeAlto is the Chief Dating Expert at Match. As a relationship expert, Rachel DeAlto has incredible insights into the latest dating trends, data, and shares advice on how to find love. Prior to her work as Match’s Chief Dating...

“I look back at that version of me, and I know now that she just wanted to be loved—she just wanted to be accepted,” says DeAlto. And the first person who swooped in and made her feel both of those things was the man she got engaged to after a whirlwind six-week romance.

“I look back at that version of me, and I know now that she just wanted to be loved—she just wanted to be accepted.” —Rachel DeAlto, chief dating expert at Match

Though the marriage was over within a few years, DeAlto is quick to say she doesn’t regret it. Its most obvious gift is her daughter, who was a product of the relationship. But also, after the marriage ended, it was in moving through the divorce (while growing her career as a relationship coach) that DeAlto gained invaluable insight into the kinds of things that determine the longevity of a partnership and what is important to know about yourself and your relationship before entering a marriage.

So much so that she’s about to get married again, at age 43. This time, however, the relationship is one she describes, in a word, as “easy.” DeAlto and her fiancé have been together for six years and “treasure and take care of each other so much that nothing we do, say, or choose would ever cause intentional hurt,” she says. “It doesn’t mean that we don't screw up and problems don’t arise, but there is an absolute feeling of treasuring and being treasured at all times.”

It’s a feeling that DeAlto would tell her younger self to search for in a relationship, if she had the chance—not necessarily so that she could bypass the emotionally fraught relationship she experienced first (“If you don’t go through stuff, how do you evolve as a human?”) but to give her the awareness that the person you should marry is the one you’re “going to want to wake up next to not just in 10 years, but in 60 years or more” if you’re so lucky, she says.

Below, DeAlto shares the other key pearls of relationship wisdom that she’s amassed in the years since getting married, getting divorced, and becoming an expert relationship coach.

What Match’s Chief Dating Expert Rachel DeAlto would tell her younger self about relationships and marriage

Your marriage timeline doesn't matter

Part of the reason DeAlto felt so inclined to get married so quickly upon falling for her then-husband was simply her age. “At the time, I was the third out of my friends to get married by age 25, and it felt very normal and necessary to find somebody and settle down,” she says.

The pressure of a particular timeline may lead you to make decisions from a “place of insecurity with yourself and insecurity with life,” says DeAlto. While she certainly felt ready for marriage at the time when she first committed, in hindsight, she can see that her own eagerness came from a desire to find a sense of security in marriage that she was personally lacking.

You don't always have to be right in a relationship

Despite being a full-fledged dating expert, DeAlto tells me this is a lesson she’s still learning—but choosing which battles to pick is part of what's allowed her current relationship to blossom into marriage. “In those earlier years of dating, it’s easy to think that every single thing matters, and if you give someone a pass on one thing, they’re going to walk all over you forever,” she says, “but that’s just not the case.”

In fact, learning to let the small stuff go, recognize that everyone makes mistakes, and communicate through disagreements is what gives a relationship longevity, says DeAlto. “I would love to tell my younger self, ‘You don’t always have to be in charge, and sometimes when you do that, you make other people feel less than,’ and that’s just an unintended consequence of not being self-aware,” she says.

Your picker will change with age…but it’s okay to date whoever feels right in the present

As you get older, your picker is bound to point more toward the people with whom you connect on an emotional level, says DeAlto—those people whom you could see yourself waking up next to again and again.

Interestingly, Match surveys also show that even younger folks are beginning to embrace this kind of “conscious dating” by focusing more on emotional intelligence, communication skills, honesty, and self-awareness than on superficial traits, says DeAlto. But she hesitates to say that everyone should date in this manner at every age.

“On the one hand, I keep thinking, ‘Wow, these [young people] are really going to bypass a lot of bad relationship stuff,’ so I’m partially jealous,” she says, “but on the other hand, I don’t want young people not to experience tough relationships because I think that’s the stuff that can help you grow the most.” As for what she’d tell her own younger self? Date whomever you’d like to date, but just know that your preferences likely can and will shift with time.

People can grow on you

Having patience in dating, as in all things, can pay off in spades. And this is a lesson that DeAlto especially wishes she could impart on her younger self. “You have to take the time to really allow people to get to a point where they’re vulnerable and all-in on a relationship to assess if they’re right for you,” she says. “Sometimes, a relationship might not unfold in exactly the way you want it to, but you might just need to give someone a chance and be a little patient.”

You can (and should) prioritize yourself

In her current relationship, DeAlto feels more treasured than ever—but that isn’t just the result of her soon-to-be husband’s loving care; in the years since her first marriage, she’s learned to treasure herself, too.

“When you protect yourself and when you protect your heart, you show up differently and you feel differently,” she says. “I wish I had that at 25, and if I did, I probably would’ve ended [my marriage] sooner.” Whether that would’ve been for the best is difficult to say, given that, again, DeAlto’s daughter came from her marriage. But in any case, she says, “I do wish I would’ve taken care of myself more and understood that you don’t have to be beholden to other people in spite of yourself.”

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