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Relationship expert who went on 150 first dates before finding love has set up an app to help couples stay together

A relationship expert who went on 150 first dates before finding love has set up an app to help couples stay together. Ali Maggioncalda, said she went on her epic date journey after an "amicable" break up with her college sweetheart at the age of 25. Her five- year dating period started in April 2017 in London where she was studying at the Royal College of Art. She had several month-long breaks in between before returning to the Bay Area in California in August 2019. Over the next five years she "grew a lot" while using dating apps to meet potential suitor. The Stanford University graduate, 31, from San Francisco met her partner Cameron, a tech specialist, in August 2022 in San Francisco. After graduating Ali founded 'Lovewick', an app which helps couples deepen their relationship with questions to explore together, date ideas, and research-led relationship advice. Ali said: "When I found myself single and completely new to the “dating strangers” experience the idea of dating apps and having thousands of possibilities was exciting but quickly also became a bit heartbreaking. "On dating apps there’s this perception of infinite choice, we are so freaking critical and quick to reject someone based on one little “ick” in their profile. "I made a lot of mistakes here initially. Instead of saying, “eh, he’s not tall enough” or “Hmm, they didn’t go to a very good school”, pause to really reflect on the underlying values associated with those criticisms, and then search for those values in profiles instead. "For instance, going to a good school was a poor shortcut I used to measure whether someone was curious, disciplined, and able to support themselves financially. During her dating years Ali said she learned more about herself by meeting so many people - as well as what she wanted from a relationship. She said: "The biggest learning for me was to stop apologizing for or minimizing my relationship needs. It took way too long for me to realise that I needed to stop trying to convince people to want a committed relationship. "I found myself being very accommodating, shrinking my needs to not seem like I’m too much or too needy, but that always eventually eroded my confidence in relation to the people I was dating. "I learned that dating someone who is reassuring and consistent between their words and actions became my number one priority, but it took years to be honest. "I took having to chase someone a bit, or them being a bit ambiguous about their interest in me, as a challenge rather than a pretty obvious signal of incompatibility for way longer than I’d like to admit. "Another big one: someone who is an actively “good listener”, who is curious and who actively tries to understand opinions and beliefs that conflict with their own. "And finally, I realized a big need of mine is to feel appreciated and seen for my “quirkier” qualities." Ali met her partner in August 2022 when he had just left a three-year relationship and she had taken a two-month break from dating. They fell in love through unique dates such as renting a motor scooter on their first date, drinking wine by the ocean in San Francisco, making candles and going to jazz clubs. She said: "We connected very early on about shared values and just felt an immense sense of ease and comfort with each other. "Through all these experiences, that both of us had a hand in planning, we continued to see new sides of each other and our relationship just grew and grew. "Over the course of our first few dates, I shifted from thinking, “Am I into him? I’m not sure, but I’m definitely enjoying our time together and like kissing him…” to “Oh my gosh, I’m ridiculously into him, and I want to kiss him and be around him all the time!” It’s kind of wild how quickly that intimacy can grow and evolve. In addition to these activities the couple also used Ali's app to connect on a deeper level. Cameron started adding date ideas and memories straight away which Ali said was "incredible". Instead of focusing on "pretty superficial and arbitrary filters" such as height, education, or geographical proximity, Ali said hopeful romantics should be patient when looking for love. Her approach is based on research showing attraction can grow over time - with one study conducted by Match in 2022 revealing 49% of people have fallen in love with someone they were not initially drawn to. She said: "I don't mean you should “settle” for someone who you have zero physical chemistry with or force yourself to go on dates with people who you could never imagine yourself kissing. "I think just recognize that a lot of what we are initially attracted to stems from what we’re familiar with, and once you get to know someone, you start appreciating and even being attracted to what you initially view as imperfections or quirks. "Look for reasons to rule a person in to a first date, not out." Ali also shared that a common dating mistake is mixing up the dopamine hit of making a match with genuine attraction. She said: "Try not to confuse anxiety with a “spark”. "Someone who is hot and cold or replies to texts with huge variability may elicit a much stronger feeling of an obsessive crush or “spark” than someone who is consistent in their pursuit of you. "It can take some real intention to override your biology here, at least in the early stages of dating, and try to disentangle the “spark” from just anxiety about whether or not they are that into you." Another "myth" Ali wants to dispel is the idea of a "soulmate" - which she believes are "made, not found". She said: "I think the biggest myth is that you “find” the one. Soulmates are made, not found, and research suggests that people who frame soulmates as a “perfect match” tend to experience overreactions to conflict and lower relationship satisfaction compared to those who define them as a 'fellow traveller on a journey'.''