Irish people talk about being single for Christmas

With the festive season in full swing, many singletons are on the lookout for love, writes Deirdre Reynolds

WITH her own successful business, Martha Jane Conway has every reason to be full of festive cheer this Christmas.

Surrounded by loved-up clients and pals, however, the Dublin make-up artist admitted there’s still one thing she’d love to find under the tree on December 25 — and it’s not a new set of contouring brushes.

“Being single at this time of year is a double-edged sword,” says Purrfect Pout boss Martha, who’s 34 and has a teenage son.

“While I love being free to go out with the girls to every festive party, there is also a hollow twinge in my tummy because of the togetherness Christmas is associated with. I long for Santa to bring me a decent guy to sweep me off my feet!”

From Mary and Joseph to Santa and Mrs Claus, Christmas has long since been synonymous with coupledom, and all those twinkling fairy lights and crackling log fires don’t exactly hurt its reputation as the most romantic time of the year.

Matchmaker Hugh Redmond runs 2Connect.ie, a nationwide dating agency that claims to be responsible for around 1,000 relationships and 100 weddings over the past 11 years, and says he encounters plenty of girls — and guys — like Martha ahead of the holidays.

“Between now and the end of the year is very busy for us,” he says. “A lot of people are thinking about Christmas, [and] the nice feeling of being able to share it with somebody.

“Everyone’s approaching the New Year as well, and they’re thinking, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone to share my life — or certainly the next 12 months — with?’

“Indirectly, there is a bit more pressure around the Christmas period to be in a relationship,” he admits. “It is a tough time for a lot of people who are single — if their friends are in relationships very often they’re kind of left on their own.”

At Grá Connect in Cork, Ireland’s newest introductory service, founder Joan Long is also gearing up for a busy December, and reckons picture-perfect greeting cards and snow-sprinkled rom-coms are partly responsible for making many singles long for love, actually.

“People do feel very lonely at Christmas because the whole thing is about being together and love and romance,” she explains. “Christmas cards portray an image of happy families, lots of love and all this carry on — and for a lot of people it’s not like that at all.

“When there’s more daytime hours, people don’t feel it as much because they’re occupied and they’ve lots going on,” she continues. “Whereas when the winter draws in, people are looking for somebody to spend the dark nights with and snuggle up by the fire or go for a drink [with].”

Martha Conway would love for Santa Claus to bring her a man to sweep her off her feet this Christmas. Picture: Dave Meehan
Martha Conway would love for Santa Claus to bring her a man to sweep her off her feet this Christmas. Picture: Dave Meehan

Blogger Orla McConnon, better known as The Orlacle, is not about to let her single status get in the way of having a good time over the festive season.

“I love being single, especially at Christmas. There are so many things going on that it’s great to be free and to only have to worry about your own plans. I’ve never felt any pressure to have someone at Christmas — I’m always so busy,” says the 27-year-old from Castleknock in Dublin.

“I’m very lucky that most of my friends are single too, so it’s just all about the parties for us”.

Single belle Krishannette Connolly from Wexford may not have a boyfriend, but she’ll still be exchanging gifts with the most important man in her life this Christmas morning.

“I’ve been single for four years and, to be honest, it doesn’t bother me anymore,” says the 35-year-old, who works as a special needs assistant.

“Don’t get me wrong, it can be lonely. I remember crying myself to sleep one Christmas Eve because I was single and all my friends had partners, and I wished I had someone to share it with just like them.

“As I’ve grown, though, I’ve learned to enjoy my own company, and I don’t find it as difficult anymore.

“When I go out at Christmas, I don’t think about trying to meet someone,” adds Krishannette, who has a 12-year-old son. “To me, it feels just the same as any other time of year.”

Surveys repeatedly show how Christmas Eve is the most popular day of the year for popping the question too, beating even St Valentine’s Day to the punch.

Amid the annual tsunami of Facebook engagement announcements, however, it’s perfectly normal to feel far from warm and fuzzy, according to life coach Paula Coogan, who encourages spoiling yourself instead this yuletide.

“Christmas is generally a time for reflection,” says the Dublin-based life and career coach (www.myquarterlifecoach.com). “A lot of the time people think: ‘Oh God, I can’t believe it’s December again and I’m still not where I thought I would be’.

“Going home triggers single people a lot. They’ve got a bit more time and they scroll through their Facebook feed and see the rings. For women, especially [in their] early-mid 30s, that are still single can be problematic.

“When I talk to people around Christmas, often they’re giving themselves a hard time because they find themselves being jealous of their friends or family for no other reason than they perceive them as having something that they want.”

But instead of getting upset, she says, the best response is to look after yourself.

“So if you do find yourself wanting to hide away and cocoon [make sure]that it’s in a space of compassion and self-care, rather than annoyance and irritation.

“It’s [about] trying to get the balance between putting yourself out there but also keeping things simple for yourself.”

Between the office party, 12 pubs and carol singing, what better time to boost your self-esteem, and perhaps even strike it lucky under the mistletoe, urges Hugh Redmond of 2Connect.ie, which hosts a special Christmas speed-dating event for men and women aged 26-38 in Cork on December 15.

“It’s certainly a very active time of year,” he agrees. “But people work such long hours now that it’s also very easy to get into that pattern of doing nothing.

“Loneliness is not a nice place but there are things you can do. I’m a big believer in getting people to explore their passions in life, whether it’s horse riding or hiking.

“If you’re mad about cooking, and you find someone has the same passion, you’re starting off at a point of common interest — and never know what could happen.

“But you kind of need to change your mindset a bit and realise you have to be proactive,” continues Redmond, who met his own wife at a walking event in Wicklow. “I would say girls are probably more proactive than men. It’s about making yourself available to try these things.”

With many festive revellers swapping their ‘beer goggles’ for ‘glühwein goggles’ however, matchmaker Joan Long, warns against dashing through the snow — and headlong into a relationship.

“It’s a sociable time, the only problem is that there is so much abuse of alcohol,” she cautions. “People go out there and they can be promised the sun, moon and stars and it doesn’t materialise into very much.

“There’s kind of a false economy at Christmas in terms of love and coupledom which isn’t real for most. I think it’s better to be aware of that when you’re going out looking for someone at Christmas time — and not to be taken in by the whole glow of Christmas and all that goes with it.

“It’s such an important thing for females that they look after each other and that they don’t isolate themselves,” adds the relationship expert. “So I would say to make plans for the Christmas period — not to be there on one’s own going on [dating] websites and stuff like that.”

Despite pining for her very own Santa, it’s a clause that single-mum Martha, for one, is taking to heart this festive season.

“Usually my mum or my best friend Audrey keep my spirits up over Christmas with girly nights in or cinema nights out,” she says. “And the loneliness usually subsides by the New Year’s Eve countdown, when I see the New Year as a new challenge — and am full of complimentary fizz!”

Krishannette, too, is feeling ho-ho-hopeful. “When I see people posting engagement or wedding pictures around Christmas, I sometimes say to myself, ‘One day that will be me’,” she says. “Hopefully this time next year I’ll be in love!”

Looking for Love Actually?

Here’s what we’ve learned from everyone’s favourite festive flicks:

Bridget Jones’ Diary (2001) — Get out of your comfort zone…

If perpetual bridesmaid Bridget taught us anything, it’s that Cupid can strike in the unlikeliest of places at Christmas — even your mother’s dreaded turkey curry buffet.

Love Actually (2003) — Beware the office Christmas party…

Loved-up or single, making a move on your sexy co-worker at the annual office bash is a ho-ho-no this festive season.

The Holiday (2006) — Enjoy some ‘me time’…

You don’t have to fly halfway around the world or swap houses with a complete stranger to channel singletons Amanda and Iris and get away from it all this yuletide.

While You Were Sleeping (1995) — There’s no need to lose the plot…

Being single at Christmas can be tough, but that’s no excuse to do a Lucy by pretending you’re engaged to the comatose man you saved from a speeding train.

When Harry Met Sally (1989) - Because there’s always New Year’s Eve…

Don’t worry if you don’t pull a cracker over Christmas, remember that one of the greatest big screen romances of all time began on the cusp of the New Year.

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