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Sunday 3 December 2023 Dublin: 4°C

It's a jungle out there – how do you date successfully in modern Ireland?

The rules of engagement for dating, both in Ireland and around the world, have changed.

ONLINE DATING AND matchmaking services are on the rise, but what does this mean for the future of dating in Ireland?

Dating, both in Ireland and around the world, has changed. This is clear from the acceptance of dating services as one third of people who got married between 2005 and 2012 met online. Both online dating and matchmaking services are becoming more popular and so it seems that the majority of Irish people are willing to accept whatever sort of dating makes other people happy. However, in this new world of finding love, there are some things that everybody should know.

Make time for dating

Being too busy is making us lonely. According to Vanessa Barford’s article for the BBC, we are working longer hours and living in smaller social communities. Social media allows us to reach out to hundreds of people we would have otherwise have lost contact with, but whether or not this is the result of or the cause of shrinking friendship circles is impossible to say.

What is certain though is that we now need to make more of an effort to meet people. If you are using a dating service, then you need to use it properly.

Set your standards high

You are not looking for someone who is perfect, but you are looking for someone who is perfect for you. Setting your standards high should also apply to your dating service as well as the people that you meet on it. Write yourself a list of want you want from your service and make sure that you are getting a good deal. If not, then be prepared to look elsewhere. The dating market is more competitive than ever, so a consumer owes it to themselves to be picky.

Most daters don’t know what they want

Making a list of priorities is good, but it is also okay to not know what you want. Different dating services can help you to realise what you want, either through online questionnaires or through sit down conversations depending on the level of service. But not knowing can be liberating. Not knowing opens you up to the possibilities of many different kinds of dates but, beyond that, it also opens you up to many different kinds of life choices.

Talk, talk, talk

If you find the love of your life, chances are that you are going to spend a lot of time talking with them. Get yourself started on the right foot and do that from the beginning. Good conversation does not mean talking about yourself (‘My life story is…’), sticking to standard questions (‘What is your job?’), or sticking to standard responses (‘I just want to have fun and connect with someone’). Questions that really probe someone, about their dreams and aspirations, are the start of a proper conversation and a proper relationship. It is both commonsense, and scientifically proven, that a great date is usually because of some great talking.

Listen to advice

Advice can come from all sorts of people. Cason Sharpe is an online journalist offering gay dating advice to straight men. In light of how Ireland is changing, this kind of dialogue is a brilliant thing. However, advice can overcome all sorts of perceived boundaries. Single, divorced, widowed, happily married, not-so-happily married, young, old and even dead authors can offer dating advice. Don’t be afraid to take it, but don’t be afraid to ignore it either. What is important is that you listen and consider.

Drop the clichés

It should come as no surprise that pick-up lines don’t work. Unless this is something that you haven’t already figured out from experience, science has also stepped in to prove their non-effectiveness. Still, whether or not pick-up lines work is beside the point, the fact is that if you find someone you like then you should not have to resort to pick-up lines to get their interest. After all, if they are interested in you too, then they want to hear the kind of things that you would normally say. If you are the sort of person who makes jokes, make them. If you are the sort of person who likes pogo-sticks, tell them. If your first few encounters with your partner begin with clichés, then you setting yourself for a relationship where you cannot be yourself.

Embrace the changes

Rebecca Holman claims that “21st-century singledom is a baffling realm of non-date dates, non-relationship relationships, crossed wires and failed semantics” but that is not the right way to look at it. The legalisation of gay marriage shows that this era of finding love has thrown away the old rules for the better. In giving people the ability to fall in love with whoever they want, however they want, dating services are part of this revolution too. We should allow ourselves to create a relationship in whatever way we choose, and if your relationship seems new or odd to the outside world, then that is irrelevant. The only thing that matters, the only thing that has ever mattered, is that a relationship makes the people in it happy.

William Phelan is an expert on dating services. As the founder of Perfect Partners, a matchmaking service based in Dublin, he helps all people of all ages to find meaningful relationships.

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