When it comes to finding love in the modern era, technology has taken over as the avenue of choice for hopeful singletons.
Pop the term ‘dating site’ into Google and you are rewarded with over 65 million results (that’s a lot of singles) so to say we’re spoiled for choice is a blatant understatement.
From Tinder to Plenty of Fish to Match.com, there are literally hundreds of thousands of places to meet people online.
That’s not to say that people don’t meet each other organically anymore, say by bumping into each other at a bar or randomly meeting on the street, but with 59 percent of people thinking that online dating is a good way to meet people, and 27 percent of adults aged 18-24 currently using dating apps and websites according to The Pew Research Centre, it’s definitely a popular method of looking for love.
However, some people are becoming jaded with the current state of (love) affairs, and seek a more hands on, up-close-and-personal method of finding the one.
Matchmaking has been a long standing tradition in Irish culture, dating back to the 1500s. Many communities had their own professional matchmakers to make the pairings in the village or town.
While Ireland has moved on from those days, matchmaking is still a booming industry in the 21st century, at a time when convenience and technology is the name of the game, matchmaking companies provide a more personal investment opportunity in finding the one.
“As people get into their 30s, some of them lose their wingmen as people settle down, so we decided to become the wing men in a very safe environment,” says Feargal Harrington, who runs Intro Matchmaking with his wife Rena, who have thousands of members on their books.
Rena and Feargal were match made themselves by Feargal’s brother, and Feargal says that if he and Rena had been shown each other’s online dating profiles, they probably would have been very reluctant to meet each other.
One match-made date turned into six-and-a-half-years of romance, and now they are making the same thing happen for up to 100 potential couples each week all over the country.
Matchmaking is different to other forms of dating, because the prospective daters know that the person they will meet is genuinely looking for love, unlike online dating where people’s motives can be questionable.
“They know that everyone is invested, physically, mentally and financially in actually meeting someone for a long term relationship or marriage. The people who joining Intro Matchmaking are sincere and they want something long term,“ he said.
The appeal of matchmaking seems to be the human element. There are no algorithms slotting people together based on corresponding traits, there is a real team of people in a room in Dublin figuring out who is best for you to meet with.
And with a success rate of 1 in 4, the odds of finding a long term bae through matchmaking seem to be in your favour.
While the success rates are high, some people scoff at the thought of matchmaking for fear of looking desperate.
“The people who go to matchmakers are confident people with their lives lined up, they know what they want out of life and now they want someone to compliment what they already have going for them, not fix them. People have to be truly ready.“
“There is nothing embarrassing about being proactive in wanting to meet someone. Matchmaking puts you in a pool of people where every other person has honourable intentions.”
Looking deeply into the wants, needs and intentions of those seeking a matchmaking service is something Jennifer Haskins, creator of Two's Company, specialises in.
With a background in psychology and counselling, the Dun Laoghaire resident uses her own life experience to make the perfect pairings.
"We pick up on things people don’t even know about themselves after doing this for so long," laughs Jennifer, who has almost 9 years experience in match making behind her, and utilises her past dating and relationship experience to benefit her clients.
"I had tried online dating, and speed dating and gone out to social events. I then signed up to an agency and I met someone, and I realised that this was a really good way to meet a partner. It was much more professional and I just felt very safe."
After starting Two's Company, the demand was so high that Jennifer's phone was ringing constantly, as people who were jaded with the current dating scene sought her services for a more humanistic experience.
"What’s happening today is the young people, they’re going out and because they have the likes of tinder and all these online apps they just don’t seem to communicate anymore, they just stay in their own groups."
"I don’t think they’re making the effort, whereas years ago if you think about it these things weren’t available so people had to communicate they had to and they wanted to. That’s not happening now."
While Jennifer firmly believes (and has the testimonials from her clients to prove) that romance isn't dead, she does think that young people are going about finding love the wrong way.
"There is no courting, no 'lets talk', no 'lets get to know each other', no 'lets find out if there is anything more than the physical,' its purely surface."
And while women may complain that men never approach them or that guys just are not forward enough, expert Jennifer does feel that there are reasons for this.
"If a guy approaches a group of girls, he runs the risk of rejection not only from the girl that he’s interested in, but also from her friends."
"I can understand when guys say how hard it is, because it must be and it’s not easy to walk into a group of girls and say hi because people can be cruel."
"They can be very off hand and they can kind of give him the brush off, and then the guy has to walk away with his tail between his legs and back to the group of lads who have just witnessed this, and then he’s going to be slagged."
We all make judgements about people before we even know them, be that online through their social media or out at a bar with the girls, and this could be what is holding so many people back from finding the one.
"Pre-judging is something I encourage people in my business not to do, because you do not know what that person is going to be like until you turn up to that date and meet them face to face."
"You have no idea. You need to park the judgement and just wait and say no, I’m going to wait until I get to know them a bit better," says Jennifer.
Jennifer cites the added pressures of modern life as another element which comes between people finding romance.
"The stakes have been raised and the sense of being driven to achieve, people are staying in college longer, so then when they do get the job that they wanted it’s time to climb the ladder there."
Then, after years of focusing on nights out and climbing the career ladder, people wake up one day and realise that the want kids and marriage, and it hits them like a thunderbolt.
"They are amazing, attractive women and I’m surprised men aren’t beating the door down to get to them, but that’s just not where their focus is."
The focus on authenticity is what sets agencies like Two's Company and Intro apart from the other forms of dating available.
There are no secret partners, no suspicious motives and no hidden agendas, everyone is signing up with the same intentions, which is why it's such a shame that people would give up on love before exploring all their options.
"I think a lot of people have (given up on love) and it’s an awful waste because there are so many people out there that really want a relationship, and I suppose that the difference between what we do at Two’s Company and the likes of Tinder and all the rest, because on the sites there would be a lot of hook ups and one night stands, and were all aware that with the dating agencies there is a very high level of buy in."
"You have a buy-in on a financial level but also on a physical and emotional level, as you have to be transparent and say this is me, this is what I’m looking for.
"They have to be transparent and prove that they are who they say they are, they have to sign a contract to say that the information they have given us is honest and correct and that’s a big ask, so I find when people come to an agency there is that level of authenticity and honesty."
Because after all, why would someone pay hundreds of euro to lie about their agenda to a matchmaking service, when they can do it on the internet for free?
The only agenda behind match making agencies is to help people find someone to spend their life with.
Jennifer reminisces on the correspondences she keeps up with happy couples who she has personally paired at Two's Company, and it is clear from the smile on her face that the news of engagements, marriages and babies from these couples gives her a true sense of delight.
"Everybody you meet you just want to look after them and you want it to work out, and you know that you don’t have total control, you’re not god, and you can’t play god, all you can do is just hope that it works."