Inside Oprah Winfrey’s ‘Lovetown’

By Paulette Cohn for eHarmony

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This Sunday, August 19, Oprah Winfrey takes us to “Lovetown,” where she challenges the population of what is really Kingsland, Ga., to “open their arms and hearts to the possibilities of all kinds of love.”

As part of the social experiment, Oprah hired relationship coaches Paul Carrick Brunson and Kailen Rosenberg with the unique goal of bringing love to the town. Their task is not just to find love for six singles in Kingsland, but to mend some of the town’s ongoing feuds.

“I think this is going to go down as one of the  most authentic looks at the coaching, counseling, and matchmaking process. I watch a lot of reality dating shows and I haven’t seen anything like this,” Paul tells eHarmony Advice in an exclusive phone conversation.

We asked Paul, who has been so successful as a matchmaker and relationship coach that he has been labeled the “Modern Day Hitch,” and Kailen, who has found healthy relationships  for thousands of clients through her elite matchmaking process, what they know about love.

But before we get to that, one thing we did happily discover is that Paul is a believer in online dating: “I think the better matchmakers don’t compete with the online dating services. I send my clients to eHarmony. I think an all-inclusive nature is what leads us to success.”

So, if you are still looking for love, read on to get advice from the experts that were handpicked by Oprah Winfrey for her experiment in love: “Lovetown.”

eH: What do you love most about your life now?

Paul: I feel that I am living out my passion. I feel as if I have the personal life I have always strived for with my wife. We have a toddler. He is almost two years old.  My grandfather passed away not too long ago, so the family members I do have, I am now of an age to really appreciate them. That is a lot to love.

Kailen: I have more awareness and even a higher level of gratitude than I had before. Not just because of filming this show, but because of the time of my life. My husband and I have a beautiful friendship and marriage and we are always growing together — not only as a team, but individually, spiritually and we have three boys — two left at home — that we continue to connect with and enjoy watching them learn and experience life. There is little better than being in a position where you can experience your passion, being in love with what you do and who you are in a way that brings something better to this world.

eH: Do you think it is more important to love or to be loved?

Kailen: To love. When we love each other, when we are in a place or a position of having awareness to give love to each other and kindness to each other, it brings a higher energy to any circumstance you are in and to the reality you are experiencing. And that lifts you. It brings a higher level of fulfillment to you. It creates a better world.  It is so much more important to love.

Paul: I will piggy back on that. “Lovetown” is a great example of what Kailen just mentioned. In this show we are working with various people, various entities, that had to exhibit love. In that exhibition of love that came in the form of forgiveness or compassion –  whatever forum it manifested itself in — they, then, in turn realized love. It is definitely much more powerful to love.

eH: What is the hardest thing about love?

Kailen: I think it is the misunderstanding. People look at love as something that has an imperfection to it or that is difficult. Love in itself is perfect. To love is beautiful and love is whole. It is we as human beings that sometimes have our own areas of brokenness or things that need healing. We infiltrate something that creates a negative feeling around what we expect love to be for us. So, I think, if we can just let go, release trust in love as perfection within itself, and trust in something higher than ourselves, then all the amazing things of what love already is and is intended to be will come true.

Paul: For me, what is interesting is with a lot of my clients I find myself repeatedly saying this same phrase: You can’t try to love someone and at the same time try not to be vulnerable. It just doesn’t match. So, I think, vulnerability is a big challenge because really in essence what you are saying is: Here is the most precious thing I have, my heart, and I am going to hold it out for you. Then that person has the opportunity to crush it or step all over it, or they can cherish it. But you can’t realize that until you are vulnerable enough to allow it to happen. So, I think, that vulnerability is one of the most challenging parts about love.

eH: What was the first time you really found love?

Kailen: That is a tough one for me because I see it on so many different levels. My first heavy duty experience with love was with my grandmother. I just worshipped the ground she walked on. She was my guardian angel through life. She has passed away and I still feel her presence. So, I am going to have to give you three different answers and you choose what you want. It was with my grandmother as a little girl. Then at age 15 with my first  high school sweetheart. That was a really beautiful love. It was really cool and unique and different from most of my peers or friends. It was really special. And I would say now the love that I have with my husband. Obviously, my children, of course, but my husband and I have a very intense, real friendship and marriage. It hasn’t been easy. We worked like hell for it but it has been worth it.

Paul: It is dependent on how you define love. Kailen gave great answers. Initially, I can’t think of anyone I adored more in life than my mother. And that played itself out with my father, and that played itself out with my younger brother being born. After that, it was definitely a series of crushes that I had. I was a very early romantic going back to kindergarten. I remember taking naps with the ladies. Of course, this is going to sound like a canned response but I am keeping it real. I met my wife many, many moons ago — 18 years ago. When we met, everything that I was doing after I met her became better. It wasn’t a figment of my imagination. It was real. We were in school. My grades got better; I became healthier; I became more spiritually connected. It was like she had this Midas touch, so I can’t equate that magnitude of love with anyone else romantically. My wife was my first true, heavy, romantic love. But first, without question, was my mother.

eH: What does love mean to you now vs. ten years ago?

Paul: Ten years ago, I was in my 20s and love was more of a magical thought — kind of mystical — not very real or a tangible thing to me. At that time, I was dating my now wife, but I can’t say I knew that I was with the person I would be with for the rest of my life. Ten years ago, it was kind of misty to me. Now, it has become much more grounded. I don’t think it is necessarily because I am ten years older. I really think it is because I have matured in my relationship with my wife. Then, also, because of the profession I am  in. Because of the fact of the clients that I work with and the studying — everything from the biology to the sociology — so now it becomes more concrete to me. I would just sum that up by saying that right now to me, it is a lot more tangible. It is a lot more real to me than it was ten years ago. Ten years ago, it was magical.

Kailen: Love now vs. ten years ago is universal. I always looked at love as a romantic love — something that had to be attached to a person of the opposite sex. That is sort of the first place that I went. Now it is something that I see that is desperately needed to be shared and experienced with those around us and, again, to bring peace and healing to this world. It is something that is intense to me. It is something that I connect with more than ever before. It is a really beautiful thing to me. It is a very serious and real thing to me. Two very different ways of looking at or experiencing love.

eH: How do you know if someone is The One?

Kailen: Here is what I believe through my personal experience with my husband, who I believe is my soulmate, Paul doesn’t believe in soulmates. The clients that I have swear they have a soulmate. We have all had the same experience. It is really that you can’t explain it. You just know. It is mutual. It is on both sides. When you meet The One you are meant to be with, there is no doubt whatsoever. That doesn’t mean it is easy. It doesn’t mean there isn’t hard work still, but at the same time, there is this deep, spiritual, intuitive, gut knowing that you have. Nothing can infiltrate. It is a unique thing. It is something that I hope and want for everyone. But you have to be patient. You have to trust. You have to be okay waiting for it because it is worth it when you have it. It is that extra glue and bond needed to pal up and get through the tough times. 

Paul:  This may be the only area where we disagree today. I believe that you never know if someone is The One until the end. I know that may sound a bit morbid. I think about my wife. We are now married now more than 11 years. Depending on the day, she may not say I am the one. I think it is something that ebbs and flows. You never truly know until the end, until you can look back and reflect back upon your relationship. The reason why I believe this is because of the whole fact that love is a renewable kind of resource. So, if you are in a relationship today, and God forbid, I walk out of this house and I get struck by a car and die, I know that my wife will be able to love again. She will be able to be in a relationship again. And when she is in that relationship, and she looks back at her life, maybe that new guy is The One. That is why to know that someone is The One, it is a reflective question.

eH: What do you think one needs in a partner to make the relationship successful?

Kailen: You definitely have to have your values in sync and you need someone who is willing to be a member of the same team. You need an openness and a self-awareness. There needs to be room to grow. You need humility and you need a good dose of selflessness.

Paul: I completely agree. My starting four would be a match in core values. There should be a complement in personalities. The complement in personalities allows for communication and you know how important communication is. Then there’s what I call the non-starters, or the non-negotiables. Those are things that may sound crazy to other people but they are of high importance to us. I believe that if they connect with your spiritual beliefs, if they connect with your health, if they connect with your happiness and disposition — those are things you shouldn’t bend on. Then, last but not least, I sincerely believe for there to be a successful romantic relationship, there needs to be attraction. I think attraction is not undervalued, but it is understated how important it is. We know with online dating, for example, the first thing everyone is looking at and what they make the bulk of their decision off of is the photo, so attraction is important. Those are the four for me.

Kailen: Obviously, we can be attracted to many, many people and be turned on and have chemistry, but if you don’t have the things that Paul was talking about in the beginning — having the alignment with your values and your principles — the things that really end up mattering at the end of the day — that person who was sexy and hot can turn ugly fast.

eH: What advice would you give to those struggling with self-love – and those who are still looking for love?

Paul:  With self-love, I would say a large piece of that is around your belief system. I think you can train your belief system through affirmations. I also think intaking positive content is really important. So, for example, watching something like “Lovetown” is positive content. Listening to inspiration — I think that is the reason why so many people go to self-help books and that kind of thing, so positive content is good. And last, but not least, surrounding yourself with people who do love themselves, who treat themselves with respect, who truly embody what it is to love themselves. I think if you can do those three things, you are on your way to not only loving yourself in the most powerful way but in finding a significant other.

Kailen: I would say that what Paul said with regard to your surroundings and  your environment is crucial. Those that you surround yourself with and the places that you put yourself in have so much to do with the way that you love and value yourself internally and externally. We pick up on energy as beings and souls. If we are around healthy, constructive, positive energy, we will have more of that within. If we are around the opposite that is what we will experience within. I think with regard to self-love, if there are people who are struggling with it, with self-esteem or even forms of depression, a lot of that comes from pain that has been carried within for a long time, or negative patterns or belief systems that aren’t even really theirs to hold onto. It is something that has been given to them or handed to them in childhood that they’ve latched on to that need to be released.

Shame can come from that. If people can learn to forgive themselves more, and be at a place where they recognize they are really a unique being and that they have so much worth and value, and there is so much in life that is amazing and waiting for them, if they can just grasp onto the fact of that and then, as Paul said, surround themselves with all these good things and people, then love can happen no matter what.

First Look: Lovetown, USA

After a nationwide search, Oprah selected Kingsland, Georgia, to be the location of her new reality series Lovetown, USA. Now, two matchmakers, Paul Carrick Brunson and Kailen Rosenberg, are taking over Kingsland for 30 days. Can they help singles find love and transform the town with kindness and forgiveness? Watch and see! Lovetown, USA premieres on Sunday, August 19, at 10/9c.

Lovetown” premieres Sunday, August 19 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on OWN.

Image courtesy: Bob Croslin

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