Originally featured in the Irish Catholic 13.02.2020: Original source here
Matchmaking in Modern Ireland
Romance might be something you’ve contemplated recently, with the week that’s in. Valentine’s Day, while a bit of a card holiday and having no real connection to St Valentine – as Colm explained in ‘Questions of Faith’ a few weeks ago (IC 30/01/20) – can be a nice day to appreciate your loved one or maybe start a new romance. You might even be inspired this year, if you’re a woman, to pop the question to your partner as is traditional on a leap year.
It might seem a little counterintuitive for this to be the day of love as we creep closer to the infamous “Spring Clean” of March, the end of cuffing season. According to Facebook’s relationship status data, it’s one of the peak times to break up in the year, next to right before Christmas.
The fact that ‘cuffing season’ is a thing, shows how the dating scene has gone in recent years. With the introduction of Tinder, Hinch, Bumble and a plethora of other online methods of dating, it can be really difficult for people, young or old, to make a real connection.
Feargal Harrington, co-founder of Intro Matchmaking Agency talks to The Irish Catholic about how difficult it can be for people looking for a serious relationship in modern Ireland. “A lot of people we know had been saying that it’s getting harder and harder to meet genuine sincere people who are well intentioned who are looking for a long-term relationship.”
He said a lot of people were able to meet strangers in a pub or while online dating sites “but it’s not knowing who has genuine intentions and who doesn’t”. Feargal says it makes a lot of people feel jaded about finding someone.
The lack of communication and the inability to know who was misrepresenting themselves was killing the whole scene of dating.
He thinks that in Ireland the fear of rejection is so great that people don’t put themselves out there. However, we know people are open to dating because of how popular apps and dating sites are. “But if you’re on Tinder or Plenty of Fish, you can let on that you’re in it for the craic. Whereas if you join something like Intro, which shows that your intentions are actually honourable and you want it to work out – that scares the daylight out of people.”
“They think ‘I’ve told everyone that I’m doing it’ and if it doesn’t work out people are going to think, ‘what’s wrong with me’. This judgemental attitude, this begrudging nature of the Irish character, actually stops people from doing anything,” says Feargal.
He and his wife Rena set up Intro just over nine years ago in Dublin “to bring it back to more traditional dating yet with a modern twist”.
They have an astonishingly high success rate with one in four people ending up in a long-term relationship or marriage. Feargal attributes this to their strict criteria for taking on clients, “It is really only for those who are looking for genuine long term committed relationships or marriage, that’s why we get the success that we get.”
It is also a commitment to join with the price of €795 for membership which gets you five introductions. There’s no time limit set on this and their staff on Grafton Street are very thorough. They are on call seven nights a week, during any date and always look for feedback and ensure that no one doesn’t get a response.
In urban areas in Ireland there are twice as many women as men and that’s why there are a huge amount of single professional high achieving women in cities
“In year one we took everyone on and that was a mistake,” said Feargal. He says they had issues with people who were “treating matchmaking like a shop window, saying I want this I want that like they’re buying a fancy car”. Now they turn a lot of people away who won’t be flexible with what they want.
He says they began researching data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) to find out the reasons people were finding it difficult to match. The main few are high expectations, unwillingness to travel and leaving things late.
“In urban areas in Ireland there are twice as many women as men and that’s why there are a huge amount of single professional high achieving women in cities, because women spend longer in education and so for every one women in Ireland with a third level qualification there’s only 0.6 of an equivalent man,” he says.
Perceptions of Career & Education in Dating Decisions
Irish men might get into entrepreneurship, start a business, be in a trade or farming and they might have good emotional intelligence, great communication skills and intellect, “but a lot of women purely equate intelligence with academic achievements. We turn away seven or eight women every day from intro matchmaking who are not willing to date a guy unless he has a third level qualification,” says Feargal.
“When men hit 40 they start becoming quite difficult and picky on age,” he says that there’s a lot of men with Peter Pan Syndrome or men who are commitment phobic.
They get calls from older men every day, “who would be living and grew up in a really Catholic family. He might be the eldest son.”
“At 45 he’ll say ‘Mammy should I meet a nice woman’ and she’ll say ‘No don’t do that, no woman is going to cook or clean the way I do, they’re only after your land.’ So, some, mammies are guilty of making men paranoid of being robbed,” says Feargal.
After they pass away Feargal says that person might be left wanting a family and an heir to pass on land to. He says three or four men will ring on average every day asking for a 35 to 40-year-old to have a baby with.
“We’re here at intro trying to manage expectations. Trying to deal with the men and with the women and ensure that they meet in the middle and compromise and are flexible in terms of their expectations.”
Dating, Demography and the Shifting Irish Landscape
Around 90% of the people that join Intro are Catholics, maybe not all are devoted mass attendees but “ultimately they do want to raise their children as Catholic,” says Feargal, “they do want to have children, they do want to get married first. A lot of the time people aren’t giving themselves a chance.”
We as a nation are the eldest we have ever been to get married. Men are 36 and a half on average and women are 34 and a half
“People might be thinking oh well I’m 38, I’m a woman and he’s 41. Do we spend two more years going out? Maybe preparing a wedding and then have a child after that? Or do they say let’s just have a child now, because I can’t really wait for this.”
According to the most CSO statistics, more than one-third of all births are outside of marriage, “We as a nation are the eldest we have ever been to get married. Men are 36 and a half on average and women are 34 and a half. Its because were really concentrating on career on self-development and on travelling,” says Feargal.
He says that both men and women leave it too late. With men thinking they can wait as long as they want and women not being vocal about their wants to have a child before their time runs out.
“Back in the day, when a lot of your readers would have met their wives or husbands, there would have been, ‘will you dance?’, ‘yeah I will’. And they’re married in a year,” says Feargal. He think Nathan Carter might be bringing it back, but we still have a long way to go.
“That slagging mentality – that kind of attitude need stop.”
Maybe as we draw closer to Valentine’s Day, it might be an idea – if you’re looking for love – to be a little more open to putting yourself out there. Those fairy tale, long term, romances seem to take a lot more work than the movies might let on.