Where does a reluctantly single thirtysomething find her elusive life partner?

April 7, 2013


Finding Mr Right is not a book about dating.  In fact, a trawl through Amazon identifies nearly 1,500 books under the search for ‘dating’, each of them promising to unlock the secrets to attracting and capturing the heart of a potential lover.  Invariably these books are aimed at women and are stuffed full of rules, checklists, body language interpretations, makeover tips plus do’s and don’ts.

There’s no doubt that a businesslike approach to getting into dating shape might help, but I’m not offering that sort of information here.  However, I feel this book would be incomplete if I didn’t include reference to where people meet.  The vast majority of the couples interviewed for this book met in a non-contrived way, through happenstance, serendipity or purely by chance.  The special person you end up with is not some kind of wild animal to be stalked, tracked and ensnared.  Love is elusive and it will find you when and where you least expect it.  But if you don’t want to wait and see what happens and prefer to help your chances of finding a life partner along, then I am happy to share with you the places and events where contributors to this book and others found success. In no particular order and with some overlap:

Travelling:  It’s a volume thing. Trains, ferries, planes… all modes of transport carrying large numbers of people.  Then there’s the places themselves – wherever you travel in the world, you will meet people.  So get yourself out and about.

Activity holidays likely to attract men include cultural pursuits, cookery, hiking, climbing, trekking, walking, windsurfing, skiing, scuba diving, sailing, tennis, golf, kayaking, mountain biking, diving, wildlife watching, creative writing and photography. Are you up for caving or pot holing, or taking flying lessons – almost exclusively male pursuits?  What about dogsledding in Lapland, another manly exploit?

Recreational pursuits:  Anything that involves being with people with common interests such as amateur dramatics, a cycling club or a walking group, hang-gliding, gliding, sailing, horseracing, off-roading or playing in a squash or tennis league.  How about a book group, regatta, choir, cricket matches, hockey team, wine appreciation, ballroom or Latin dancing?  Can you sing or play a musical instrument well?  Find out about auditions.

Quirky.  Sometimes the right man is there when you least expect him –in the checkout queue at the supermarket, during a prolonged motorway hold-up, at a fun run, in the dentist’s waiting room, garden centre, airport lounge, book signing, etc.  Anywhere.  And of course, when you’re looking your absolute worst that’s the most likely time you’ll meet someone special.  Or why not join associations or discussion groups, round tables or livery companies to come across people who share your interests.

Courses.  Whatever you are passionate about, again, you will be united by similar experiences or understanding.  This could be an evening class, course, university or independently-run classes or courses, business courses or attending college as a mature student.

Events.  The numbers thing crops up again, combined with common interests:  TV audience, classical music concerts, exhibitions, country shows and festivals (arts, literary, pop and film). Get out.  Don’t stay in.  Being cultural is the same as travelling – you will come across all sorts of people.

Parties.  In these credit crunch times, people might be partying less, but try and get yourself on the invitation list to house parties, dinner parties, drinks parties, Christmas parties, office parties, charity balls, launch parties, fundraising parties, barbecues, weddings, christenings and bar mitzvahs.

The Arts.  Attend book groups and launches, wine tastings, gallery private views, museums, previews and premières, art galleries, open-air concerts/ theatre and poetry readings.

Divorced dads.  Remember, a lot of divorced fathers take their kids to the zoo or swimming at weekends.

Friends.  For blind dates, set-ups, straightforward introductions, friends of friends, friends of colleagues and brothers/ cousins of friends.  Tell people (discretely – don’t use a megaphone) that you’re looking to meet someone – you never know  from which direction the help might come.

Work. A significant number of relationships germinate at, or through work.  This is hardly surprising as it takes up so much of our lives and brings us into continuous contact with people in the working environment, on courses and at social and corporate events.  You can get to know someone quite well at work before your crush turns to romance, although they might distract you from your work.  Jealous or disapproving colleagues or management may suddenly spring from no-where to foil a discrete fledgling relationship.  But the most obvious reason for treading carefully regarding a work-related romance is coping with the emotional turmoil if it doesn’t work out.

Dating ads.  On-line dating, dating agencies or lonely-hearts advertisements.  But I’m told by British ‘women of a certain age’ who have tried cruises, speed dating, bar pick-ups and singles holidays that the chances of finding your perfect life partner there are virtually zero on.  Avoid.

Apparent misfortune.  At a funeral, during a rail strike or missed flight, when bookings become muddled up, in A&E…  Cally Lowe crashed her car into one driven by Michael Taylor:  the ensuing legal, insurance and garage visits eventually led to marriage.

Holidays.  From the hundreds of communications I have received from women who did meet their life partner during their late thirties and early forties, a significant proportion first set eyes on each other while on holiday.  Two overwhelming factors became apparent here:  (i) the type of holiday and (ii) absolutely not taking a vacation with the intention of meeting someone.

For the single woman, there’s a wealth of holidays out there but you need to be completely open-minded, prepared to enjoy your freedom and have fun, not dwell on the angst of being single.  Things are more likely to happen as a result of avoiding family resorts or activity holidays aimed predominantly at women (yoga, for example) or singles.

Katy was 38 when she went on a charity trek in Peru.  She met another single woman, Cindy, there and they became firm friends.  Although Cindy lived in two hundred miles away, they met up a few months after the trip. Cindy introduced Katy to her divorced brother Vince where they made an immediate impression on each other.  A year later, they were married and they now have two children.

Claudia, then 40 (and in her own words ‘horribly single’), met her husband Andrew, then 38, on a sailing holiday in Turkey.  After trying and failing to book a flotilla yacht in Greece and then Croatia, she accepted a place with a group of people (even older than herself), none of whom she had met before, on a chartered yacht in Turkey.  They sailed to towns and remote areas along the Anatolian coastline.  Claudia had an inspiring holiday although she had little in common with the people on the yacht.  On the penultimate day of the voyage, they found a tiny cove on a small island, where just one yacht was moored.  Claudia met Andrew sitting on a rock. They talked, swam, laughed and exchanged email addresses before departing on their separate yachts… they are now married.

Internet dating  Everything can be found on the Internet and the opportunity to trawl for cyber flirtations is vast.  Dating websites have burgeoned to cater for a culturally diverse and geographically spread client base and sites exist for every interest and taste.  Away from the larger, conventional dating sites is a plethora of sites targeting specific and wide ranging love interests from millionaires to large people, wine lovers, dog lovers and music lovers.  There are sites catering for people from particular faiths or ethnic origins, with a common purpose politically, ethically, sexually or culturally; also for people within certain age brackets, for widowers, and for single parents.  If on-line dating is the route you select, then there should be something or somebody to suit you, but go cautiously.

Alternatively respond or reply to a lonely-hearts ad in your preferred newspaper.  Remember, you are more likely to find someone with a similar outlook to yourself if you start from common ground.

Singles organisations  From what I have gleaned in compiling this book, singles clubs, organisations and groups are not really the best places to meet a significant other.  Carol-Anne, 44, is a member of a singles club in Wiltshire. She says:  ‘Our club has about 100 members and we undertake many activities and adventures as a group.  The purpose of the group is not primarily to meet a soul mate, lover or potential spouse, but to have fun as a group.

‘We are single for a variety of reasons – widowed, divorced, unmarried or out of a long-term relationship.  The club provides friendship, companionship, laughter and a network of people to do a range of activities with, either on a one-to-one basis, or as a group.  We might yomp ten miles across the Downs, ending up at a pub for dinner, or go to the theatre in London or play poker at someone’s house late into the night.  We’ve had picnics at the races, visited Barcelona for the weekend and been go-karting. All terrific fun.  We’re not a bunch of lovelorn, lonely misfits.  Being single actually suits most of us and the club provides a close network of supportive friends.  If you were married or in a close committed relationship, you’d be hard pressed to have as much variety in your life as we do.’

Dating/ introduction agencies  You might use an estate agent to find a house and a recruitment consultant to find the perfect job, so why not employ the best people in the business to find you the perfect partner?  Adverts for dating or introduction agencies are listed aplenty in the national and regional press.  If your budget permits, take a closer look.  But go ahead  with an open mind.

The book, Finding Mr Right, includes the advice of two dating gurus from the elite end of the introduction agency world, Mary Balfour and Mairead Molloy.  Pay attention to their combined wisdom for they have met hundreds of hopefuls.  Over the years they have witnessed many, many successes, but they have also seen dreams crushed through misadventure.  A good matchmaker is never off-duty:  she attends exclusive events, private members’ clubs and charity balls, scouring the room for exact matches for her client list.  ‘Are you single?  Great!  Here’s my card.  Give me a call because I know someone you must meet.’  Their rigorous selection criteria and commitment to success means the calibre of candidates on their books is high, thus ensuring an excellent strike rate and lots of happy clients.

In conclusion  Speak to an adventurer or someone who travels and he or she will always be able to regale you with so many stories about things that happened to them on their way and the people they met.  I think it’s true to say that no one returning from a voyage of discovery would ever complain that they had not come across interesting people on their travels (unless they were trekking solo across the Arctic).  It’s human nature to socialise and interact; we like to feel some kind of connection with a place, usually through its history, culture or the people living there.

So, while it’s easy to bemoan the fact that ‘all the decent men have been snapped up’, the reality is actually the opposite.  There are plenty of good and interesting men out there.  It’s down to you to find or stumble across them, wherever they might be hiding.  Proactivity, a sense of adventure and serendipity all have their roles to play, but you must be the catalyst.  If romance isn’t happening in your life, tinker with your routine and focus your interests on a new project or revive former interests.  Make the time too – don’t let commuting, long hours or domestic routines stand in your way, get out and start doing something you enjoy, something that brings you into contact with other people.  You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the new connections and opportunities you can discover or create.

Extracted from Finding Mr Right – The Real Woman’s Guide to Landing That Man by Annie Harrison.  Read the book to find out EXACTLY how hundreds of women in their late thirties finally ended up with their Mr Rights.



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