With 2014 just days away, Bridget’s new year’s resolution to find love will resonate.
Thirty-something singleton Bridget — played by Renee Zellweger, pictured below — vows to “find a nice sensible boyfriend and stop forming romantic attachments to any of the following: alcoholics, workaholics , sexaholics or commitment-phobics.”
Ireland’s singletons seem to be following her lead. “Between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day is our busiest time of year,” says Rena Maycock, of Intro Matchmaking, in Dublin.
“People are lonely and don’t want to be alone next Christmas, so they make the decision to do something about it. A lot of people join in December, with a view to having dates to look forward to in the new year. But we also get a lot of people buying Christmas presents for single sons, daughters, mothers or brothers.”
With champagne corks popping and mistletoe still hanging, New Year’s Eve is second only to Valentine’s Day for rubbing singles’ noses in it, says matchmaker, Avril Mulcahy. “I see women coming in to me, and their eyeshadow is matching their toenails. Everything about them is pristine. However, they feel they’re not able to control this part of their life and that can be really, really difficult.”
Forty percent of women here will ring in the new year alone, according to the latest CSO figures. Mulcahy, RTÉ’s Today Show dating expert, suggests doing something about it, as Bridget did. “I don’t believe in the whole notion of ‘unlucky in love’,” she says.
“I feel that those women have made bad choices and stayed in relationships that weren’t working.
“Most of these women coming to me haven’t been on a date in years, or keep going for the player types. You can’t keep going to bars hoping Cupid will strike,” she says.
“You have to decide what you want — a loving relationship or a short-term fling?”
Psychotherapist Trish Murphy says women who are looking for love should start the new year by shredding their ‘list’. “Very often, people have a list,” she says. “He has to have a good job and be good-looking, and, of course, it doesn’t really work like that.
“For those who want to find somebody, I think the difficulty often is that they’re stuck in old dating patterns. They’re stuck in the 20s pattern of getting dressed up and heading out to a club, and it’s not producing relationships.
“I’d love to be able to tell women there’s a local, hot-single-man meeting every Monday night that they can pop down to,” says Mulcahy.
“It doesn’t happen. My attitude is that these men are everywhere — it’s all about creating opportunities to meet.”
Dressing to impress is important, she says, but being more open-minded is the key to joining the 8% who keep their new year’s resolutions: “Openness is one of the best policies when you’re looking for love. A lot of women who come to me are so selective. They don’t want to be introduced to a guy who has been married before or has kids, for instance. People can be so closed off that they’re missing opportunities everywhere.”
In her book, Marry Him: The Case of Settling for Mr Good Enough, author Lori Gottlieb says that women have become too fussy, and points the finger at movies like Bridget Jones’s Diary: “We’re conditioned to crave that big love,” she says.
“It’s painful how pervasive the fantasy is that ‘the one’ is out there. We grew up idealising marriage — so we walked away from uninspiring relationships that might have made us happy.”
While Mr Right may have been replaced by Mr Alright, one adage that holds true is that you have to kiss a few frogs to find your prince. New research shows it may be scientific.
The study, by Oxford University, found that snogging allows couples to assess each other through taste or smell, and may even provide biological clues for compatibility.
“Mate choice and courtship in humans is complex,” says co-author, Professor Robin Dunbar, from the department of experimental psychology at the university.
“It involves a series of periods of assessments where people ask themselves ‘shall I carry on deeper into this relationship?’ Initial attraction may include facial, body and social clues.
“Then, assessments become more and more intimate as we go deeper into the courtship stages, and this is where kissing comes in.”
Don’t take down the mistletoe just yet is the advice of sexologist, Emily Power Smith.
“I think it’s very wise to kiss lots of frogs before deciding on what you want,” she says. “Otherwise, how do we know what we like and need sexually? Sexual compatibility is vitally important and it’s great to have it at the beginning.
“But it’s a mistake to think that if it’s there at the start, you’re sorted for life.
“Some people mistake great sexual chemistry for compatibility. However, chemistry can fade with time and then the difference becomes more apparent.
“Whatever your idea of sexual compatibility, it would be a good idea to forget about Fifty Shades of Grey and plant your search for the right partner in the reality that nothing stays the same,” says Smith.
“Sexual compatibility can be developed over time and can be lost, too.
“I’d be looking for a man who is willing to communicate his needs and wants and is willing to learn about yours.”
Free dating apps, like Tinder and Plenty of Fish, mean there are no excuses.
But finding romance is about investing time, not money, says Mulcahy: “People expect me to wave a magic wand and find someone [for them].
“This might sound airy-fairy, but you need to create time for love.”
“I get that women are exceptionally busy with careers, hobbies, friends and family, but you need to put time into your dating life,” she says.
“I really believe that there are great guys out there. It’s about being open, dressing to impress and giving off the right signals.”
So, by all means tune into ITV at 9.35pm tonight, says Owen Connolly (www.counsellor.ie), just don’t get too hung up on finding your own Mark Darcy.
“People can be swept off their feet by romance,” he says. “It might happen in Hollywood movies and Jane Austen novels, but in real life the chances of that one special moment leading to a successful partnership is about the same as winning the Lotto.
“Women need to remove their internal image of Mr Right and make space for the man that shows he is kind, thoughtful and generous.”
“There’s an old saying that goes ‘marry the man that loves you and love the man that marries you’, and that’s the best advice of all this new year.”