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Column: No one wants to utter the ‘C’ word – but it’s a barrier to blossoming romance

Learning to manage your expectations is the secret to finding your ideal partner, but professional matchmakers find that one factor is consistently keeping Irish people from finding their love match…

Rena Maycock Matchmaker

The festive season is just around the corner, and busy singletons facing the prospect of spending Christmas and New Year’s Eve solo are rolling up their sleeves and getting stuck in to potential opportunities of meeting someone special. But just how easy is it to find your ideal partner? Professional matchmaker Rena Maycock delivers a few home truths…

DATING IN IRELAND has become a tricky business. The landscape has changed and singletons seem drowned in opportunities to meet their true love by going online dating (where multiple choice rather than quality seems to be the order of the day); braving the many speed-dating events or propping up the bar at the hippest late night hotspot.

Old-fashioned matchmaking in Ireland has made a comeback with companies taking the responsibility for making relationship choices on behalf of their clients, organising each introduction and taking feedback afterwards. However, it’s not the romance fest you might think it is.

The hardest part of being a matchmaker is trying to manage expectations. Each client comes in for a consultation and tells us what kinds of qualities they want in a partner and it’s our job to go and come as close as possible to meeting those criteria, while also meeting the criteria of that selected match.

You see, there can be a propensity to treat the service like one would a car dealership. If one were ordering a Mercedes for instance one could order metallic paint, alloy wheels and an MP3 jack and receive a delivery date. It’s easy to forget that matchmakers are dealing with human beings, none of whom are perfect. And unlike my car analogy, we are not building matches from the ground up.

The ‘C’ word

The most difficult of criteria we find is achieving like for like counterparts in terms of education and profession – or as most feel but are unprepared to utter aloud: class.

The disparity between men and women that eventually manifests in that “class” imbalance begins with education. Naturally people would assume that they will be coupled with a match of comparable standing, however this is a lot trickier that you might think…

To begin with, men leave school earlier and women are more qualified. The 2011 census shows that 28 per cent of women were third level graduates, compared with only 23 per cent of men. Of the total number of graduates (739,992) in April 2011, 413,257 (56%) were women while 326,735 (44%) were men.

The fact that women stay longer in education and do better feeds through to occupations with nearly a quarter of women (23.7%) in employment being in professional occupations and just over a fifth (20.9%) in administrative and secretarial occupations. Nearly a quarter of men (24.7%) in employment in 2011 were in skilled trades occupations while just 15% of men were employed in professional occupations. So for every 1 professional man there are 1.6 professional women. You can see where this is going…

Breaking the bad news

Operating as a matchmaker at the mercy of statistical imbalances like these makes it our job to break it to the well-educated/successful/professional woman, that unfortunately if she is looking for her mirror image – these men are far fewer and further between than her and her peers.

It’s not only the educated ladies that are in for a shock however, that age-old stereotype of young women being happy to settle down with much older men has led to a desperately unrealistic expectation from a lot of men that, somehow, they are entitled to date women 15-20 years their junior. This leads to multiple sobering conversations daily with disappointed men who were looking forward to introductions with women young enough to be their daughter. Amazingly, they often can’t understand why this won’t be achievable.

The balance of the sexes

Although (adding insult to injury) there are statistically fewer men in Ireland today (42,854 more females than males in the State in April 11), this adds up to barely a 1% difference which seems to have been the result of a baby boy boom in the previous six years.

There is also the thorny fact that divorced men often seem to pair off and marry single women quite quickly. In the 2011 census there were 88,918 separated or divorced men, but there were 115,046 women. Overall, men are more likely to re-marry with 39% of ever-divorced men re-married compared with only 28% of women. So there are c. 26,000 separated or divorced women in Ireland for whom a counterpart is no longer available.

The key to success?

We are asked often by new clients if we have a good success rate and yes, thankfully, we do. But we are quite honest in sharing what kind of client the service works for and why.

We find that people that come to us with a positive attitude get results. This may seem like a woolly vagary but – at the risk of sounding patronising – we do find that those that can be pleased, will be. These clients are willing to blur the boundaries of their usual type because they recognise that their “type” hasn’t worked out for them so far.

They’ll relax on previously held rigid ‘must-haves’ in order to widen the pool of possibilities. They may insist on one or two criteria being adhered to (non-smoker and non-controlling being most popular “must haves” for women and high-maintenance topping the “definitely not” list for the men). Excepting those small things, they keep an open mind and accept that nobody is perfect.

They want to see the positives in their potential matches and make the effort on their dates to find a common ground, rather than digging around for reasons as to why this person is certainly not good enough for them. They realise that their mirror image doesn’t exist in a member of the opposite sex and form no judgements based on education, profession or age.

The value systems we hold dear need to be changed

The people that certainly won’t find what they want are those that feel that their education or profession entitles them to a perceived standard of match. Those that stand on pedestals that reach dizzying heights because of their achievements in life create an aura of superiority that the most well-rounded PhDs would find nauseating. These people will not be pleased.

Ireland has changed. In order for girl to meet boy and for both to be content, the value systems we hold dear need to be changed. Rather than relying on a partner to complement our acquired status in society, we should embrace what is different about them. While education and professions can be important, they do not the sum total of a human being make – nor does the lack of a Masters make someone incapable of intelligent conversation. The key to success is in compromise and realistic expectations.

Rena Maycock is the founder of Intro matchmaking, a nationwide matchmaking service based at 39 Dawson Street, Dublin 2. They have five staff members and have arranged more than 3,000 matches to date. Phone 01 6777000 or log on to www.intro.ie

We’re interested in your ideas and opinions – do you have a story you would like to see featured in Opinion & Insight? Email opinions@thejournal.ie

Column: Is online dating keeping us from settling down?

Read: 10 distinctly Irish relationship problems

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About the author:

Rena Maycock  / Matchmaker

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