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It's very Irish to be ashamed if you don’t stumble upon love by some act of serendipity

“Actually admitting that we would be happier in a relationship seems to be an emotional hot potato,” says Rena Maycock.

Rena Maycock

ALMOST THREE YEARS ago myself and my partner (now husband) appeared on the Late Late Show to talk about matchmaking.

To this day, 1 in 4 of the people who join our Intro Matchmaking service say that they saw us that night and have been thinking about calling us in the time that has since passed.

This sums up exactly why loneliness has become an epidemic in Ireland.

Granted, procrastination is not the only reason why people allow themselves to pass quietly through life all the while nursing a nagging urge to share themselves with a significant other.

We have seen that it’s inherently Irish to feel a (misplaced) sense of shame if you don’t happen to stumble upon the love of your life by some random act of serendipity.

God forbid we should decide we want something and then take the requisite steps to do our best to get it. We take the bull by the horns in every other way on a daily basis – if I want a degree I go to college; if I want to lose weight for Christmas I stop eating all the pies. So why should finding love be any different?

It seems actually making the decision that it’s something we want can be the first significant hurdle. Actually admitting that we would be happier in a relationship seems to be an emotional hot potato.

If I were to admit that, then my wonderful single life would be a lie. I would be betraying my amazing self and the fulfilling life I’ve worked hard to have. And then what if, once I’ve done the damage and admitted I want someone in my life, I actually can’t find anyone?

What if nobody wants me? What if I’m not as fab as my friends and family tell me I am? What if I have made myself vulnerable all for nothing?

If we manage to get over hurdle #1 and conclude we would like to meet someone, hurdle #2 is not too far behind – how do I retain the illusion of perfect happiness in isolation?

I have spent the last six years posting hilarious pics of myself enjoying my fun, jam-packed-full-of-social-events, tonnes-of-friends-and-generally-great-craic-life on Facebook. I can’t have people find out that actually I’m a little in want of a partner.

Social media has made us all addicted to advertising the perfect existence to all and sundry. God forbid we should own up to wanting a little more.

So we admit to ourselves that we are on the hunt for love but nobody else is allowed to know. So we join a flirty online dating site in the hopes of meeting Mr or Ms Right only to be inundated with lewd pics and propositions from married people looking for affairs.

Rather than actually admit to wanting a relationship and going to a matchmaking site where at least we are in company with others who want the same thing, we would rather be non-committal and frequent sites where everyone’s intent is a little opaque.

We can always distance ourselves from it with the old “I’m only looking for a bit of fun anyway” get-out.

Loneliness

All joking aside, loneliness is a crippling feeling that affects people of every age all over Ireland. Figures show that loneliness kills as many elderly people each year as cancer.

We stand to learn a lot from our neighbours on both sides of the water. Online dating is the most popular way to meet people in the UK and US, where there is no stigma at all attached to talking about the willingness to find a match.

Communicating with prospective partners from the comfort of your own couch is very much ‘the done thing’ and the notion of stumbling upon ‘the one’ down the club on a Saturday night is very much seen as the INdirect approach!

Our neighbours have noticed the shocking obviousness of taking the shortcut and selecting an online dating site that exactly meets our needs. If I want an affair, I go to a casual dating site; if I want a serious relationship I go to a matchmaking dating site etc. After all, it stands to reason if I want a gold watch I’ll go to a jeweller, not the €2 shop.

If we want to combat loneliness, we need to create a society that embraces proactivity on the romance front. There are 1.5 million single people in Ireland. There is someone out there for everyone and there are so many ways to find them.

If we can encourage openness, then perhaps the stigma will dissipate and more lonely people will feel more comfortable about taking action rather than just sitting and waiting for love to knock on the door – because that is a shocking waste of valuable time.

Rena Maycock, is the director of dating website arealkeeper.ie

The Burning Question*: Can couples/married people go on dates?

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Rena Maycock

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