Maureen Tara Nelson is Long Island’s Cupid. For over two decades, her relationship expertise, dating coaching, and matchmaking services have been lauded by those who found love — and applauded by those couples who overcame obstacles with her guidance. As a trusted source on the best practices of dating, her advice has been singles’ North Star when looking for love on Long Island and in New York.
Over her 20 years in business, certified matchmaker Nelson has helped connect over a thousand couples, building meaningful bonds and strong connections that evolve into long-term relationships. In her approach, unlike today’s trendy dating apps, compatibility often breeds chemistry, two of the main elements of successful relationships.
“The problems with today’s dating culture is that too much emphasis is placed on chemistry,” says Nelson. “While chemistry can be immediate — and oftentimes is based strictly on looks — chemistry does not breed compatibility, which is why oftentimes relationships fail in the early or secondary stages as the proverbial shine wears off.” However, she has been quoted many times as saying that compatibility often breeds compatibility, and that is why she recommends her clients to go on three dates with each other.
Nelson’s approach has won awards for her matchmaking service, MTN Matchmaking, headquartered in Melville. She has been recognized by Dan’s Papers — the Press sister publication — Best of the Best each year as the top matchmaker on Long Island, after serving the East End of Long Island. Her methods have also lent themselves to national media attention, having her expertise referenced in publications and mainstream news articles and broadcasts, including Good Morning America, TODAY, Good Day New York, NBC The Match Off, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and several other top-rated programs across the country.
In short, Nelson is the dynamo of devotion — and her job, she says, is heating up ahead of Valentine’s Day, but not for the reason one would expect.
While the hallmark holiday of Valentine’s Day casts love into the air and the storylines, Nelson says that singles’ searching for love is a product of relationships ending ahead of the holiday season in November and December. Combine that with a major move towards commitment that was seen throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, and the proverbial fish in the sea are biting around this time of the year.
“What you see is increased stress on relationships around the holidays, be it financial, or pressure to take major steps. Expectations are high around Christmastime, especially for those who have been dating for a year or two, and an engagement is expected,” Nelson says. “Because of these letdown expectations and unfortunate split-ups, business booms in early January, as people get back in the market and look for love again. January is a time when people resolve to improve themselves, their happiness, their health, and their life: This includes their love life, too.”
Nelson says that this is the time for singles to begin dating, but there are important steps a person must take to make sure their next relationship is built to last, and not a “few dates and done.” She relayed these steps on a recent edition of her KJOY 98.3 Sunday morning radio show, Long Island Matchmaker, which airs weekly at 7 a.m. with varied guests and co-host Lauren DeFranco.
“People must learn to love themselves again before others can fall in love with them. That is why my first advice to people is to work to become your best self, meet your personal goals, and regain the confidence you need to get your best foot forward to find love,” Nelson adds.
In her capacity as a relationship coach and a matchmaker, she advises clients that once they feel confident and positive about themselves — physically, emotionally, and mentally – they need to identify a realistic description of Mr. or Mrs. Right, which is what MTN Matchmaking helps people locate.
She recommends identifying five must-have qualities for a companion and when finding one with several or all of those qualities, a bond can be forged that fosters a strong and lasting relationship from which love can emerge. A big mistake singles make is having more than five must-haves, which is unrealistic and almost impossible to find.
“When you find someone with those qualities — and everyone is different, (not every pot has the same top) — take the opportunity at all costs. And, if that doesn’t work out, try again, and do not get discouraged,” Nelson says.
But, as we all know, this can present its challenges – especially in the colder months, when people are less inclined to be out and about.
“While the winter is a time when many of us like to hibernate, we are actually seeing an uptick in the number of people who are out and about, looking for someone and going on dates,” Nelson says, citing how people feel more inclined to look for a long-term, committed relationship in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The pandemic brought a mixed bag of emotions for people. People felt sheltered and alone for quite some time, which has changed people’s mindset and brought about a new desire to ditch the serial dating lifestyle for good and find someone to settle down with,” Nelson says.
“Nobody wants to have to quarantine alone,” she adds.
Nelson says that it is normal to not find a committed relationship, though, immediately into the new year. It takes people time to locate the right one. Dating is not always easy, she says, but there are steps that singles can take to prevent failed first dates.
“Everyone’s worst fear in dating is going out, finding a person who looks great, sounds great, and seems like a catch. Then, when you get to the first date, the person does not look like their dating profile, or have the qualities you expected to find — or, quite frankly, the qualities they said they had on their dating profiles,” says Nelson.
This, she says, is where she gets much of her business. People are discouraged from dating and are suffering from dating app fatigue, after being catfished (dating slang for misled), and are in need of another way to find trustworthy candidates who are, in fact, who they say they are.
“What we do at MTN Matchmaking is research. We speak to people. We find out their likes and dislikes, their hobbies and passions. We ask them: ‘What are you looking for?’ And, since everyone has passed our screening process and are all looking for long-term companionship, we can match them with the people who are compatible, with similar interests and the intangibles that are on a person’s must-have lists,” said Nelson, adding that this time-tested methodology is at the heart of her success.
“We also assist our singles on the best practices of dating and help people be prepared for the first date. I always advise people to come equipped with conversation topics and questions that lead to stories. The main part of identifying compatibility with someone is learning who they are on the inside, if you have shared experiences, opinions, and thoughts for the future. There are ways to get indications of these with early-dating conversation,” says Nelson.
However, Nelson says, the cardinal rule to avoid first-date disaster is to leave politics, religion, sex, and other hot-button issues off the conversation cue, until you learn a little more about the could-be special someone.
“Then you can ask your date about their pets and their background, and be prepared to share a little about yours. Ask your date questions about what makes them unique, their coolest experiences in life, or the best day of their life so far.”
The go-to questions, she says, help avoid the devastating awkward silence that is the pillar of a bad first date.
Nelson says that honesty, positivity, and truthfulness are key to ensuring a second, third, fourth, or fifth successful date. “Compatibility can not be fooled or falsified, and if you try too hard to make yourself what someone else is looking for, the only person who will be hurt is you,” she says.
MTN Matchmaking is a family business that serves communities that Maureen calls home. Maureen always felt a calling in this industry and her family has always been a huge part of her life. Almost all of her siblings have worked with Nelson during one time or another.
Matchmaking is more than a full-time career for Nelson as she lives her life with the hopes of being great at two things: Being the best mother to her two children, (Brendan 27, and Ryan 25,) and being the best matchmaker on Long Island. Nelson hopes that one day one or both of her children will carry the MTN Matchmaking business.
“Matchmaking has never been more important and relevant since Covid. There’s nothing better in this world than finding, and inspiring, love in others — which is why it is my calling and what I am proud to do each and every day of my life,” Nelson says.