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Romance Adviser Rebecca Sydnor Is a Real Heart-Broker

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Valentine’s Day is upon us. Love-sweet, innocent, trusting love—is in the air. Guys are meeting girls—and they meet, as the song says, not merely by chance. Before you know it. June will be here, probably bustin’ out all over. Dewy-eyed brides will go tripping to the altar. Everyone will live happily ever after.

Nice sentiments, Lovely scenario. Just don’t try it on Rebecca Sydnor, 35, a San Francisco romance consultant who takes a distinctly bottom-line view of love and marriage. “You must research a man the same way you’d research a company you’d purchase,” she advises.

To skeptics, Sydnor cites her own landing of Dr. Neal Dickler, 43, an emergency-room physician to whom she has been married for seven years. “I like to tell people I advertised for my husband,” she says, “and he came to me quicker than an outfit ordered from Spiegel.” In 1982, divorced and on the rebound, the Memphis-born Sydnor took out a personal ad (“Attractive blond belle…seeks the Rhett of her dreams”) in the San Francisco Bay Guardian. It generated 70 responses, of which she rejected outright all but seven. The prospects were interviewed, one after the other, in a restaurant. “I surely wasn’t telling them that I was interviewing them for the position of my husband,” says Sydnor. “or they would have run away.”

When Dickler showed up (he was No. 3), Sydnor says, “I knew he had potential.” They began dating, but Sydnor kept her options open, seeing two other candidates as well. “You never invest all your money in one stock,” she says tenderly.

A year later her hedged investment in Dickler panned out, and they were married at city hall. Sydnor’s success so impressed her single friends that they began asking her for tips. In 1986 she gave her first romance-management seminar in San Francisco. It drew 17 women, who paid $25 each. Now Sydnor has a revolving roster of 25 or so clients who pay $100 an hour for her advice (she claims a 90 percent success rate for those looking to wed). She has published a book, Making Love Happen: The Smart Love Approach to Romance Management in the ’90s. And the Korbel champagne company has hired her as its romance director, a job that entails promoting the company, chiefly through romance-related polls whose results appear in publications across the country.

Sydnor encourages her clients to do what she did—place personal ads. “It’s very efficient,” she says, “because you’re advertising specifically for what you’re looking for.” If a man who makes the first cut doesn’t work out, Sydnor doesn’t believe in simply discarding him. “Recycle him,” she says—either as a business contact or a date for a friend. If all this sounds a bit calculating and utilitarian, that’s exactly what Sydnor has in mind. She advises clients, most of them successful, financially secure women in their 30s and 40s, to go after a man the way they would a promotion. “In a job interview,” she points out. “you would never say, ‘Pay me whatever you like,’ but that’s how women conduct romance. They should be asking, ‘Is he good enough for me?’ ”