Getting to the heart of the matter

MORE Irish women are single than ever before. Statistics show that the number of women aged between 25 and 44 living alone here has soared.

The average age for a woman to wed has reached an all-time high of 31.7 and the average age of giving birth is 31.5, among the highest in Europe.

So why have Ireland’s 20-something women given up on men and marriage? “It’s hard to know exactly why, but I think career probably has a part to play,” says psychosexual therapist Marie Daly of Relationships Ireland.

“There’s less urgency on women in their 20s to get married now. Even if they do get married, most wait a few years to have children.

“It’s only as they get into their 30s that they start paying more attention to their biological clock.”

Sharon Kenny of Takes2Dating.ie agrees.

“Women are divided into two categories — those who are driven by the ticking of their biological clock and those who are too busy for a relationship,” she says.

“Until Mr Right comes along, however, many are just happy to enjoy dating Mr Right Now.”

From Jane Austen to Bridget Jones though, is the ‘spinster’ stigma really on the way out — or deep down, do we all want to find our own Mr Darcy?

“It can be difficult to acknowledge publicly that you’re single and feeling lonely,” says family therapist David Kavanagh of Avalon Relationship Consultants.

“It’s much easier to say, ‘I love being single’.”

“In the past, people got married to have sex. Today it’s easily available,” adds Marie Daly.

“One-night stands have almost become the norm, so it can be very difficult when you’re looking for something more long-term.

“My advice to women who are ready for a relationship is to get out of the bars and broaden your horizons, whether it’s internet dating, tag rugby or salsa dancing.”

David Kavanagh believes there is there’s still social pressure on women to settle down and have children, especially as they enter their 30s.

“On the most basic human level, I think we all yearn for that companionship — someone you can call when you’ve had a bad day. Then again, if a woman has a good group of friends she can rely on for that support, she might not feel like anything is missing from her life.”

We talk to three single 20-somethings about love, lust and settling down.

Primary school teacher Gráinne Skelly, 21:

“Deep down, I think every girl is looking for Mr Right. Why bother wasting years with someone if you don’t really want it to work out?

“Whenever I’m with someone, I always think: ‘This is it.’ “Most of my school friends have boyfriends, and you do sometimes panic: ‘Oh my God! I need to get a boyfriend’.

“Sadly, in my experience, monogamy doesn’t really exist anymore. You’d often be with someone on a night out, only to discover that they already have a girlfriend. It definitely makes you a bit more skeptical the next time. But you can’t just give up on finding ‘The One’ either.

“Although friendship is important, I’m looking for a man who treats me like a girlfriend, not just ‘one of the lads’.

“Multi-dating has become more popular over the past few years. Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with it. However, after a few weeks, you should make up your mind which one you like most – or it can get messy.

“Facebook has made it a lot easier for girls to hit on guys. You don’t have to go through the embarrassment of asking them for their number in person.”

Fashion buyer Dearbhail McDonnell, 25:

“I’m single and loving it. Even the word ‘marriage’ makes me shudder. Of course, if someone happened to come along and sweep me off my feet, I wouldn’t complain either.

“Dating in Ireland is far too pressurised. As soon as you go for one drink with a guy, you’re labelled their ‘girlfriend’. In our mothers’ day, men were a lot more chivalrous. Today they seem to be missing that gene. Women are as much to blame as guys.

“Sex is nearly as casual as kissing someone nowadays. Obviously some women are putting out on the first date or men wouldn’t expect it of the rest of us. But you wouldn’t buy a new car without test driving it — so you have to test drive potential husbands too.

“If all your friends are in relationships, you do end up feeling like a third wheel a lot of the time. Admittedly, I’ve dated more than one guy at a time. Although, it can get confusing. It’s like, ‘Is it Tommy or Paddy tonight again?’

“What’s the harm? I like having fun and don’t belong to anyone. Then again, that’s probably why I’m still single.”

Primary school teacher Áine Gildea, 26:

“At the moment, I’m single – but I’d love to meet a kindred spirit some day. Ideally, I’d like to be settled down by my early 30s. I want the works: proposal in Paris, big white wedding, honeymoon in the Seychelles and to live happily ever after. However, I’d never ask a guy out and definitely would not propose.

“Chemistry is important — you’re not going to be able to have sex with someone you don’t fancy. When it comes to men, I’m really picky. The smallest thing — like their shoes — can turn me off. But I think that when the right man comes along, all that will go out the window.

“With Facebook now, you can’t even wear the same dress twice. I’d say I spend 80% of my wages on clothes, make-up and getting my hair done. It’s more to impress my girlfriends than guys though.

“If you’re with someone in a nightclub, it’s expected that you’re going home with them. And when you don’t, they don’t bother calling you the next day.

“In the past, you could at least go out with someone on a few dates before sleeping with them. Now it’s like: ‘We’re seeing each other a week — what’s the story?’

“I’ve got nothing against online dating and know lots of people who’ve done it. Personally though, I’d be embarrassed to tell my friends that I met someone online.”


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