After 13 years of service, Michelle Galarza, a former military intelligence analyst in the U.S. Marine Corps decided to reinvent herself and her career. With her extensive background in military intelligence, conflict resolution, and international diplomacy she set her sights on love, connection, and romance.

Michelle Galarza, matchmaker. Image courtesy of Incredible Love.

“I wanted to do something different, where I would help people with their relationships," Galarza said about her choice to pursue love, not war. "Relationships are the most important aspects of our life.”

Today, Galarza is the CEO and chief matchmaker at Incredible Love, a boutique matchmaking and coaching firm launched in 2013. Here, she and her team strive to redefine the transactional nature of modern dating into a practice of intimacy and connection.

In addition to dating guru, Galarza is also a TV personality, author of Relationship SOS: Seven Lifelines to Rescue Your Emotional Intimacy Now, and a professional speaker.

She joined the SHAME Discord server to answer all the community’s questions about dating woes, emotional blind spots, and how to make dating apps suck just a tiny bit less.

Our conversation was condensed and lightly edited.

SHAME: What’s the most common advice you find yourself giving your clients?

Michelle Galarza: Number one is love yourself first; only when you love yourself first, can you really teach other people how to love you.

The second piece works in tangent with that: being clear and knowing your worth. I like to call it red light, yellow light, green light. What are the areas in your life that are red, meaning you won't tolerate them? What are the areas that you're flexible in? And what are the areas that are like "Hey, this is my happy place, this, for me, is fulfilling and makes a great relationship?"

SHAME: What is some actionable advice or task you can give to start working on that first advice? How can someone start working on loving themselves today?

MG: I always recommend journaling. It's is a mirror to you. It’s a mirror of accountability. It's a mirror of "Oh my god, I used to do these things and now I realize I don't do these things."

I recommend breaking up your journal in a format of what is it that you're grateful for? What are the great things that happened today? What are the things that weren't so great that happened today? And then journaling about what it is that you as an individual did to impact someone else's life.

The second piece of advice or tip that I always give is to work with someone who can help you build that muscle. We can journal, we can do gratitude practice, we can do affirmations. There's a lot of things that individuals can do on their own but sometimes, we need a mirror to reflect and sometimes, that mirror comes in the form of someone else being able to reflect our emotional blind spots back to us.

SHAME: One of the things that keep coming up in the conversations we’re having in our Discord server is frustration with online dating; it’s no secret that for a majority of us, dating apps kind of suck. Do you have any advice on how to cultivate a positive outlook despite a feeling of constant rejection on the apps?

MG: The first thing is that we have to to look at dating apps the same way we look at things that we purchase. I'll give you an example. I was talking to a female client and she said "All the guys that I go out on a date with are serial daters or they're only wanting to sleep with me." And I said, "Okay, where were you shopping? [On] what dating apps?" And she was like, "Well, I’m on Hinge, I’m on Bumble, I'm on Tinder," and I said, “Okay, you're on way too many apps. Focus on one app, max two. Really focus on one app and really pay attention and have a structure and a schedule. If not, you're going to become fatigued which then leads to not so great decisions.

So, you have to treat dating apps like a store. If you love Nike, you're never going to go to Target to look for Nike. You go to a Nike outlet, you might go to a TJ Maxx or a Burlington because they might have a couple of Nike products. But if you really want the Nike experience, you go to Nike. Same thing with dating: being clear on what type of partner you're looking for and what fits you is how you should approach dating and [choosing a dating app].

The second part is that we have to understand that everyone is not like us. The sooner we stop having expectations that people are going to treat us the same way that we treat them, the sooner will we really reduce the amount of disappointment and heartache that we experience on an app.

So, in order to cultivate a positive attitude and a positive experience on a dating app, you need, to first of all, be on the right dating app. Secondly, don't take it personally. I know that's a lot easier said than done because we tend to internalize. Especially if you're on a dating app, you're having banter back and forth, and all of a sudden that person ghosts you. The first thing that we're going to do is to scrutinize ourselves.

The truth of it is, it has nothing to do with you. Nothing at all. It has everything to do with that person. I know that there are people who say that we attract who we are and that is true to some extent. But on dating apps, there is a layer, a barrier because it's all virtual and you're not really interacting with a person. I feel like "we attract who we are" is more applicable when you're out organically dating so don't take it personally. We have to remember that. That's why it goes back to you have to love yourself. You have to know your self worth.

Curious about everything else that we talked about? Join the SHAME Discord by clicking the button below to listen to the entire interview and join the next SHAME Q&A.