Carrie on: How to reboot your love life in middle age 

Sex and the City is back, putting romance for the over 40s in the spotlight. Jen Stevens looks at what's happening closer to home
Carrie on: How to reboot your love life in middle age 

And Just Like That, Sex and the City revival. Picture: HBO Max

Carrie, Miranda and Charlotte make a welcome return to the small screen on December 9 in HBO's  'Just Like That'. If there's one thing the Sex and the City stars show women, it's that our romantic lives do not have to end when we reach 40. 

In fact, in Ireland, the over 40s are a huge part of the dating scene.

Feargal Harrington, the MD of Intro Matchmaking says that they make up the majority of his clientele.

“We have members in here from 20 to 92 years of age, and 33 to 50 has always been the largest cohort. In Ireland, there are more single men than women in the 20s and 30s, then in the 40s and 50s flips over to more available women than men. We currently have more than 5,000 people on the books here and organise over 100 dates every week,” says Harrington. 

Dating during a pandemic isn’t straightforward. While some have relished video dates and weeks spent chatting before meeting up, others have said that it has got more complicated. At a time when there have been scarce opportunities to meet someone organically, lots of singletons have turned to the apps. But they can be a minefield.

Risker than ever to meet someone

“It’s trickier than ever,” says Fiona, a dater in her early 40s. “There’s the vaccination question, the secretly married ones, which only seemed to grow in number during Covid, and then the fact that it’s riskier than ever to meet anyone.” 

Fiona says that weeding out the married men online is par for the course with dating apps, but there seemed to be so many more than before over the last 18 months. When she discovered one man she was speaking to was married, he complained that he was lonely with no one to talk to, she retorted “speak to your wife” and blocked him.

Harrington agrees that men aged over 40 can be a tricky demographic to work with because they want to have their cake and eat it too.

Feargal Harrington
Feargal Harrington

“Men over 40 become tremendously difficult to deal with in terms of age expectations. They will ring and be very Peter Pan-esque, like Mr Big basically. They think that they can wait until they’re 50 to settle down and have kids. It's a really arrogant, narcissistic attitude. 

"I get calls from guys who are around 45 every single day looking to meet a woman of about 26 or 28. I have to explain that no woman of 26 has ever called a matchmaking agency saying, you know what, I'd like a 45-year-old man! 

"I think we’re a nation of procrastinators in this country. Guys who are 45 think they’d like to meet a 28-year-old, go out for four or five years, then get married and then maybe a few years later be ready for kids.” 

Harrington thinks that Sex and the City has a lot to answer for. Watching Carrie pursue Mr Big for years in the hopes that he would eventually come around and to end up succeeding and getting married gave a lot of women false hope, he says. 

“I get calls every single day from 39/40-year-old women who tell me that they had a six-year relationship with Johnny and thought he was going to come around to her way of thinking but never did. When I ask them why they waited so long, they say that they don't want to be single, they’d rather be with someone who is semi OK rather than have to face the dating scene again. They hang on in the hopes that they can change their own Mr Big, but they never do.” 

Pandemic loneliness

Jennifer Haskins, who runs Two’s Company dating agency, says the pandemic has had a big impact on people getting together.

Jennifer Haskins of Two's Company.. Picture: Fran Veale 
Jennifer Haskins of Two's Company.. Picture: Fran Veale 

“This whole lockdown affected people and dating in a very significant way. Not so much the 30- somethings because they are naturally more adventurous. But people from their mid-40s onwards have been much more reticent about getting out there again," she says. 

“There was a lot of loneliness in the pandemic. There were people that would normally have been flying several times a year for holidays or business who found themselves grounded. We were grounded physically but we also became much more grounded in what was really important in life. And that was to have somebody that cares about you and wants to know how you're feeling that day.” 

Jennifer says clients who come to an agency like hers are much more focused and ready for commitment than those on a dating app.

“They're investing financially, emotionally and physically in the process. By virtue of doing that they place a very high level of value on relationships. They're valuing a relationship over just wanting conveyor-belt dating. So when they meet somebody, there’s a level of respect there between the parties. They are both prepared to take things slowly and see how things develop. And if they do develop, then great.” 

It's never too late

Some singletons loved that new slowness around dating and enjoyed taking the time to get to know who they were chatting to.

Sinead met her new partner early in the pandemic. “I met my other half on Bumble during lockdown. He’s a healthcare worker, and we couldn’t meet up for six weeks after we started talking because he was isolating. By the time we met up, it felt like we knew each other for years.” 

Of course, there is an alternative to dating, and many people are taking a break from apps and sites and meeting new people. Dating site Bumble – which many women favour because it requires a female-first move – says that being consciously single is something we’re going to hear a lot about in the coming months.

We’ve all heard of ‘conscious uncoupling’, but 2022 is all about finding that someone, not just anyone. The pandemic has made half of us (53%) realise that it’s OK to be alone for a while. People are now consciously deciding to be single, with the majority of singletons (54%) being more mindful and intentional in how, and when, they date.

If you are ready to find a partner, both Harrington and Haskins are keen to point out that there is no age limit on finding love and that their clients don’t settle for companionship just because they’re not 30 anymore.

Jennifer Haskins with her fiancé Raymond Reike.
Jennifer Haskins with her fiancé Raymond Reike.

Haskins has a message for anyone who is alone and is hoping to find the one.

“I do want to say that there is hope for everybody. I turned 60 in June, and I got engaged in June. It’s never too late for anybody.”

Rules of engagement in Covid times

  • Plan dates you’re comfortable with, even if that means a chilly walk to start with
  • Tell a friend where you’re going and with who
  • Keep first dates short — you’ll know how you feel fairly quickly
  • Don’t feel under pressure to bring anyone to your home
  • Be upfront about what you’re looking for
  • Never ghost. If it’s not working, that’s fine but have the respect to let your date know
  • Accept people for who they are and don’t try to change them, they rarely do
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