The single thing
Single in your . . . 30s
Catherine Noone, Senator and solicitor, 35
“I’ve had a few significant relationships. I suppose I don’t really get involved with people unless I’m pretty interested in them.
“I’m busy living my life. I don’t feel a massive urgency to trot up the aisle with the first person that comes along. A lot of people fall into that, and I’m really glad I have the self-confidence to be on my own.
“I was in the Four Courts some time ago, settling a High Court case. An eminent senior counsel took my left hand and paused and said: ‘Can you tell me how some man hasn’t put a ring on that finger?’ You could take it as a compliment, but a male colleague would never have that said to them.
“My personality comes across as quite confident, but it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m not just another girl who wants somebody to love me.
“The single scene is quite hard, especially if you are in your 30s, because there is a perception when a woman is single in her 30s that somehow she is desperate. Personally I don’t feel in any way desperate.
“I think the Celtic Tiger had an effect on people who are in their early to mid 30s. For a good few years, both men and women were out having a good time, the conversation was about property and money, and priorities shifted a little bit. The booze culture also makes it a little bit difficult.
“Sure, I go out and relax, but when you get into your 30s, you are less likely to meet your life partner fuelled with booze in a pub.
“I’d love to have children. In a way it’s what life’s about. I’ll see what time brings.
“I think a lot of people feel they need someone else to make them happy, but nobody can make anyone happy. You have to be happy in yourself and then you bring something positive to a relationship.” JOANNE HUNT
Single in your . . . 40s
Rachel Henderson, Psychotherapist and hypnotherapist, 42
“I don’t feel that I’m desperate to meet somebody. What’s most important to get right for me at the moment is to have a good sense of who I am.
“I really like the phrase ‘healthy love is a matter of being the right partner, not finding the right person.’ I have been in long-term relationships – but with men who were emotionally unavailable.
“What I’ve discovered since my last long-term relationship is that in order to stop attracting emotionally unavailable men into my life, I have to learn to appreciate myself more. Once you’re in a good space yourself, life seems to take care of itself, and the right opportunities tend to present themselves when you are least looking for them.”
She says that she is one of the last in her group of friends who isn’t a parent. “ I don’t feel any pressure, but when I was in my 20s I would have thought that I’d have had a clatter of children by now.
“I have to appreciate that this is the way my life has panned out. There are a lot of women who settle for a less-than-ideal person because of their biological clocks.
“I live on my own, but I have a lot of friends, a sister and neighbours, and I am involved in the lives of other children: I am very close to two-year-old twin girls of one of my oldest friends.
“There are people who are self-sufficient and don’t want to have a partner, but I am not one of them. I do believe that good intimate relationships are life-enhancing, but as a single person I have learned to develop a healthy balance between time at work and time with myself, my friends and my family. And I try not to neglect any particular area.” SYLVIA THOMPSON
Single in your . . . 50s
John Kavanagh, Self-employed, 53
It is 12 years since John Kavanagh, who lives in Dublin, split up with his wife. “I was 13 years married, and it wasn’t my choice to separate. To be honest, it took me years to get over it. The whole thing about trusting people is a nightmare of massive proportions from an individual point of view.”
Kavanagh, who has had several long-term relationships since he separated, says the readjustment to single life took several years. “I got great advice from a psychologist. He told me to join groups and do something where there are people. I did, and I met people whom I wouldn’t have met only that I’m separated.
“I now have a good few close friends, all separated, and therefore I’m never stuck for someone to go to the theatre or a wedding. We all help each other out.”
Kavanagh says life can get lonely as a single man. He has met half a dozen women through online dating. “I tried it a few years ago, with other friends, and 90 per cent of those I met were grand. There were a few people that were from a different planet.”
Kavanagh believes the downturn has made being single more socially acceptable. “Some people are working away from Ireland and their families, while others have separated because of the financial pressure, so it has gone full circle. Before, sometimes people wouldn’t be invited to dinner parties because they had separated.”
He also says being single is easier because men have become more open about their emotions and their personal circumstance.
“A lot of guys are now just saying it the way it is. They have brothers, sisters and cousins separated, so it’s not so much of a stigma. Being single is not the disease people are afraid they’ll catch any more.” BRIAN O'CONNELL
Single in your . . . 60s
Sheila Brady, Age Action Ireland volunteer, 66
“I have been a widow for 21 years, and there’s nothing good about it. I live alone in my own apartment, and I haven’t had any relationships since my husband died.
“At this stage in my life, I’d love a ‘walker’ – someone to escort me to the theatre, to meet for dinner and to share a book I’ve read with – not necessarily someone to fall in love with or have a sexual relationship with.
“I don’t know any other way than living alone. Mentally and emotionally, I don’t see myself as being able to live with someone else even though it’s pretty miserable on my own. I’m on a limited income, which makes life extraordinary difficult. I try not to look into the future, because there’s no point. For instance, I enjoy my cigarettes even though everyone tells me I shouldn’t be smoking.
“When I was first widowed, I had a job as a fundraiser that I put a lot of energy into. That came falling down around my ears in 2006. Around that time I also had a nervous breakdown, and with that comes isolation, because people don’t feel comfortable around people who’ve had a breakdown.”
She says that she feels well again now. “There are lots of thing I’ve done for myself in recent years. I volunteer for Age Action Ireland, and I’m a member of the United Arts Club and attend a lot of events there. I also volunteer in the Little Museum, because I’ve a great interest in history.
“It’s a new life that I’ve had to find for myself. The only thing is that it all takes effort to keep going. I’ve one daughter who I talk to about three times a day. She has a daughter now, and I’m delighting in being a grandmother. It is one of the biggest things that has happened in my life.” SYLVIA THOMPSON