Steve and JoAnn Ward
A dynamic duo, Steve Ward and his mother, JoAnn, are shaking up the matchmaking scene. On VH1's Tough Love and in their book Crash Course in Love, their savvy, down-to-earth advice often produces successful relationships and long-term love. And even though they come from different generations, their experiences show that if you break down your walls, get rid of your bad habits and get honest, love will walk right into your life. You both believe in a "tell-it-like-it-is" philosophy about matchmaking—you're known for not sugar-coating your opinions. Why does tough love work?

Joann Ward: I think a lot of times people only hear what they want to hear, and family and friends are usually very delicate when they speak to someone they truly love. So, somebody who is an outsider looking in can really be brutally honest with them as a professional and share an opinion about what they can be doing differently to better their relationship.

Steve Ward: I appreciate Mom's choice of words because "brutal honesty" is the truth of the matter. When you have to try to get through to people that are very guarded and blocking for whatever reason, sometimes using blunt force is the only way to get through to them. A lot of people out there wondering, "Are there any good men or women left?"

JW: I think good men and good women are everywhere. You just have to have the skill set to find them, know what to look for, find the positive things and you will find that person. I think what is really great is that Steven is young—he is at a really great age range, and he's been raised by a young mother who still holds traditional values. I think the combination of Steven's youth and my experience in life and keeping my traditions makes us a great combination of coaches and matchmakers. . In the book, you say to find your perfect match, you need to know what you are looking for. So I wonder: What is the difference between visualizing your most compatible match and being too picky?

SW: I think we try to look for the most important requirements to any healthy and successful relationship, and this goes beyond romantic ones: communication, respect and trust. Those are sort of the principles that we try to live by and try to teach people to live by. I think what happens is people get caught up in other things that aren't nearly as meaningful or consequential when it comes to a relationship. There are a lot of women, even very petite women, who say, "I will absolutely not date a guy shorter than 5'11"." Nine out of 10 women will tell me that and the average height for men in the country is 5'9". My mom's response would be, "You mean to tell me that if I have a guy who is a perfect fit in every single way—strong, fit, manly, makes you feel like a woman and this and that—but he is 5'9" and you are 5'3", you won't date the guy?" We'd label that person too picky. If you won't open your mind to someone who is a couple inches shorter than you prefer, then that is a real problem. That is part of the challenge of Tough Love—being brutally honest.

What are the cardinal rules of dating? Are there any cardinal rules of dating?

JW: Be positive. That is a number one. For example, "It is a good thing it is raining outside because it is April and we need beautiful flowers for May." I don't care what it is, you just have to take a negative and turn it into a positive when you are dating. When you do that, everything just falls into place.

SW: Aside from being positive, the next cardinal rule would be to make [the other person] a priority. There are a million things going on in our lives, whether it is a yoga class, some community board, friends we hang out with. Both of you are very busy, and you really need to make the other person a priority to develop the relationship.

JW: Also, don't discuss money, politics or religion right away. Those are the rules, and if you could just stick to them, people could find relationships.

And, don't talk about sex. You don't talk about sex on a first date!

SW: Sometimes it comes up, Mom.

JW: Steven, how could you possibly talk about sex?

SW: I am going to tell you why it is important to discuss sex in the first stage of dating. You know when it is important to talk about sex? Before you have sex.

JW: I agree, just not on the third date.

SW: I think what my mom is really passionate about getting across in regard to this particular question is the fact that most people aren't able to communicate as effectively and as perfectly to have an understanding about sleeping together.

JW: You are 100 percent right—you can't lead someone else into a relationship when that is not where it is going. If a girl thinks she is on a third date with a guy and she is going to sleep with him, but there isn't a possibility of a relationship developing and they don't speak about it first...well, that is no good.

SW: That is the point we agree on. What we are saying is the probability of being to able to form a relationship by the end of the third date is not very high. So, if you are looking for a committed relationship, it would probably serve your interests to wait until you're both confident that a relationship will come about once you cross that bridge.

How to keep the love alive once you've found it In your book, you talk about how the rules for finding love also apply to the rules for keeping love. What is the most important skill an established couple can practice?

JW: I think there are a lot of things, but you have to keep the relationship alive, fun, interesting and entertaining. I think that is so important. I have been married for 25 years plus, and I still feel like a high school kid. When I am with my husband, I feel like a school girl. We never forget the little things, like leaving each other a note. Don't get too comfortable. You have to keep working at it and have fun working at it. If you really love what you do for a career, you're going to be successful and get up every day and be happy going to work. You have to love what you do to have happiness, and it is the same when you're in a relationship.

SW: Mom often sounds like Confucius: "If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life."

I am a big fan of Oprah and the work she does. My mom and I are trying to embrace the spirit of change and spreading the message for people to wake up to this shift, this consciousness. I think people in general need to be more aware of what is taking place in their own society, as well as other societies around the world. We need to stop sitting in an environment of fear that things are going to work and start being positive of what is coming and move forward with that.

Steve Ward is the host of the VH1 hit reality show Tough Love and the upcoming spin-offTough Love Couples, which premieres April 12. He is the CEO of Master Matchmakers, an exclusive matchmaking service founded by his mother, JoAnn. He is also the co-author of Crash Course in Love, a how-to guide to getting your love life on track.

JoAnn Ward, a happily married mother of three adult children, is the founder and president of Master Matchmakers, which has been successfully connecting single men and women for more than 20 years. She is a frequent guest star on VH1's Tough Love. She is also the co-author of Crash Course in Love.
The opinions expressed by contributors are strictly their own.


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