The look of love
Four couples at different stages in their relationships talk about what attracted them to each other and what love means to them
Tim Duggan and Aoife Flanagan: ‘I proposed to her on a park bench in Manhattan on my knees in my running gear.’ Photograph: Trevor Hart
Michael Kinirons and Alicia Ní Ghrainne: ‘He’s very considerate, with great generosity of heart, but he can never find things around the house.’ Photograph: Trevor Hart
Cathy O’Connor and Marc Flanagan: ‘I proposed to her in the crossfire of an argument and she accepted months later in a castle in Budapest overlooking the Danube.’ Photograph: Trevor Hart
Michael and Jamie Nanci-Barron: ‘We have a similar world outlook, but there is just enough difference to balance us out.’ Photograph: Trevor Hart
Tim Duggan and Aoife Flanagan
Tim, 33, entrepreneur
We met through a close friend and at first she refused to meet up with me for a drink, but in what I now know is true Aoife style, she changed her mind and gave me her number. I thought she was really beautiful, but slightly intimidating as she was quiet. Later I got to see her humour and energy, which really did it for me. She is straight up with people.
We both have quite easy going attitudes yet are really competitive. She is the hardest working person I have ever met, is ambitious and determined, and I am drawn to that as I think of myself a little like that. She changes her mind constantly which used to drive me nuts, but now I find it a source of amusement. She’s strong and smart and understands me pretty well.
I proposed to her on a park bench in Manhattan on my knees in my running gear, and the next day we found a diamond ring in a jeweller off Fifth Avenue. There’s no wedding yet, but we’re thinking of summer 2016. Last summer we were in Glandore and went for a walk along a tiny beach outside the town. That was when I told her I might be falling in love with her. I think love is about understanding, caring and a foundation on which to build happiness.
Aoife, 28, final year dentistry student in UCC
I was actually trying to set him up with my friend when he cheekily asked me out instead. He seemed very confident and charming, though I didn’t think he was funny at the time. As the night went on and after a few more drinks, I thought he was both good-looking and funny.
He’s well travelled, has a great sense of humour and we share similar interests and taste in music, culture and design, though when it comes to movies, I am in charge.
We both love the outdoors and running though he is faster than I am, which is slightly annoying at times. Tim is determined and passionate, optimistic, and lives life to the full. He makes me so happy even though we can drive each other nuts at times. I can be a handful, I know. What I dislike about him is that he never gets off his phone – one day I will throw it out the window, but he is obsessed with technology because of his work.
With him I can be myself completely, not change myself a little to suit the other, as in previous relationships.
To say his proposal was perfect would be an understatement and the important thing is that we both have fun together and make each other happy. I’ve learned to compromise, despite always being the first to throw a punch.
A moment that stands out was in Glandore when he told me he was falling in love with me and I was thinking the exact same.
Michael Kinirons and Alicia Ní Ghrainne
Michael, 37, filmmaker
We met through a hairdresser when I was looking for an actress for a programme I was making for TG4 about The Colleen Bawn and he suggested that another client of his would be perfect – and she was. After the shoot we went our separate ways, but reconnected eight years later. I thought she was stunningly beautiful, super smart and way out of my league – and she was rocking a killer bandana at the time.
We met just as friends in Grogan’s when Ali was considering moving back from London to Dublin, and from the way we hugged goodbye, I knew she was the one. Love for me is the secret key you share with another that unlocks the mysteries of the heart.
We see the world through the same eyes and I love her wickedly goofy sense of humour, though she has an annoying tendency to be right about most things.
I proposed to her – kind of blurted it out – on the roof of my old apartment on Ormond Quay, watching the sun set over the city. I had to fashion a makeshift ring out of a piece of leather strapping and a paper clip. We got a more appropriate one the next day. Now our wedding venue has been found and we are just figuring out the date.
Alicia, 30, writer
We met at an audition for an Irish speaking series Michael was directing and as I spoke Irish, I got the part. That was nine years ago and we reunited for a catch up, which became a series of dates. I thought he was professional, talented and charismatic and a lot of fun to work with. I was attracted to his openness, confidence and direct, intelligent eyes.
We share a love of music, film, food, cooking and a strong passion for our work. He’s very considerate, with great generosity of heart, but he can never find things around the house.
He proposed to me as the sun set on the city after a great day in town at a poetry reading by Frank McGuinness. The following day, he proposed again in Trinity. I often think of the first time we reconnected after those years apart and saying something really embarrassing about looking forward to walking around Dublin with him in the future. I knew then there was something special on the way. For me, love is feeling like you’re home.
Michael and Jamie Nanci-Barron
Michael, 39, founding director of BeLonG To and PhD candidate
We met online and in person a few hours later. He was very charming, with an old world manner and had big brown eyes, and being a Madonna fan like me meant there was an immediate common interest. We are both community activists and love to travel to unusual places and meet people, though in Dublin we are home birds.
He proposed to me outside the inflatable chapel at Electric Picnic at 3am and I proposed to him a few months later in a more low-key way. There were two rings and we got married in a registry office in Capetown at midday, hired a boat and went sailing afterwards. We now need the Irish State to recognise our marriage – in May people will vote in the Marriage Equality Referendum.
He is really considerate when I’m stressed or feeling down and makes me laugh a lot, a winning combination. What drives me crazy is that he is unable to speak with a hangover.
What made this relationship different to others was that there was a kind of energy between us at the start that has continued, and we are comfortable with each other and have never had any jealous dramas.
I have learnt from him how to relax more – I can be uptight and a real worrier and his free spirit is a huge part of our relationship. I think love is caring about someone so much that it surprises, and it’s about letting go of insecurities, having fun and not needing always to be in control.
Jamie, 37, jazz musician
We met on Gaydar, exchanged MySpace details and met for a drink about an hour later. Finding out he liked Madonna was the clincher. I thought he was so handsome (he had an epic quiff) and was attracted by his sense of humour. We have a similar world outlook, but there is just enough difference to balance us out. We’ve been together more than eight years now.
He is a really good person, supportive and committed to creating change and helping others. He surprises me regularly, even now, with things I didn’t know about him. The downside is that he works too hard and could benefit from switching off more. I also dislike the way he wants to get up and do things when I have a hangover.
We had learned a lot from previous relationships and knew the pitfalls. There was no game playing – it was just very natural and open and developed on its own.
He proposed getting married in South Africa where he was going for work and I just said yes.
Michael has a calming effect on me and his work ethic has rubbed off on me. He has an adventurous side and has helped me conquer a lot of fears. Love is romance, friendship, passion, fun and adventure.
Cathy O’Connor and Marc Flanagan
Marc, 67, American TV writer/producer
We met in Dublin at a movie club showing at the Odessa in 2009 and I was thunderstruck – I couldn’t get over how lovely she was in both appearance and manner – the shock of white hair over one eye and a glint in the other.
I have been married three times, and if I had married Cathy years ago, it would have been once down the aisle. We have most things in common, but I can fall asleep in an aerial bombardment and Cathy can’t sleep in a vacuum. And I wish she was just 15 per cent neater – as in tidy.
I proposed to her in the crossfire of an argument and she accepted months later in a castle in Budapest overlooking the Danube – her acceptance was more romantic than my proposal. I bought her a demure ring in Los Angeles as befitted her attitude to jewellery; the wedding is still on the To Do list.
For me, love is falling in love with your partner all over again – every single day.
Cathy, 54, fashion stylist
We met at a film screening – an ordinary night that turned into an extraordinary adventure. I remember listening to Marc talking and thinking “now there’s an interesting man”. And he is.
A shared love of travel keeps us on the move and I have had the pleasure of showing him some of my favourite places on this side of the Atlantic, while he has taken me to wonderful locations on the other.
He is very generous, which is a great trait, but he has a habit of not ... finishing ... his ... sentences.
The proposal was blurted out in the middle of a blazing row. I was more than surprised and thought it was a damn good tactic to change the subject. He chose an exquisite, delicate ring, the perfect choice. It adorns my ring finger now and awaits its companion.
Real love is one of life’s greatest risks but offers the greatest rewards. To be loved encourages you to thrive, to have an appetite for the new and appreciate life in the best possible way.
You cannot love and lose.