“You don't find love, it finds you. It's got a little bit to do with destiny, fate and what's written in the stars.” - Anaïs Nin
There is one thing that men say that drives me insane:
“I don’t know what I want.”
When I hear those words, I walk away—immediately. It’s a non-runner. While he might not know what he wants, I know that I don’t want to settle for someone who doesn’t really want me.
Looking through pictures of men on an app felt like a game to pass the time rather than a way to find “the one.” I used them more to distract myself from boredom or loneliness than to find a life partner. And I’ve often let other people swipe on my behalf.
Either way, Tinder wasn’t working for me, and I was tired of being single. I was even more tired of seeing the same guys on the same apps all the time.
So I decided I was done with dating apps, but I wasn’t giving up on the search for my man.
I was on the verge of turning 32, self-employed, with a quirky accent and personality from having spent eight years living in Australia.
Deleting dating apps was like a death sentence for my love life. Not only was I living with my parents, but I was also living far enough away from anywhere to get dismissed even before I had a chance to impress and charm someone on a first date.
Then I found out about “Celebs Go Dating.” It was like the Universe was sending me a sign—a big ass sign. I love Sam Thompson (who doesn’t?) and if he was willing to go through a dating agency, why couldn’t I?
I knew a matchmaker in Dublin, so I started to look at who else offered dating services to find one that was the right fit for me. There were only a handful of options here, so I reached out to them all.
After much humming and hawing, I joined an agency in Dublin City. The person I spoke to on the phone really talked up the agency’s success, the hardship of finding love on apps, and how they have such a great variety of amazing men in my age group. Music to my ears!
It felt weird to have outsourced my search for “the one.” It was also a relief to hand over all the physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting work that goes into the process. I paid the 1,000 euros and signed up for five blind dates over 12 months. Due to the pandemic, it actually took over two years to get through all the dates.
Someone on the matchmaking team interviews every person who signs up, in order to suss out who you are compatible with—so I headed to Dublin, had lunch and a glass of wine with my aunt in a nearby restaurant, and headed into the agency.
Being interviewed about my love life was embarrassing. They covered everything—dating history, family dynamics, likes and dislikes, hobbies, interests. The only thing I was picky about was age. I wanted someone close to my age or older.
I soon learned that the agency doesn’t take your wants into account. They just match you up based on location and some general similarities.
My first date was perfect on paper, and sounded close to what I was looking for. I was really excited to meet him. I had no idea what he looked like, but I hoped he was sexy. Right before the date I had a work meeting, so I had to change into a dress in my car in a Dublin City car park—classy, as always.
I have to say, he was an absolute gem, but there was no chemistry, no attraction. He was a good looking guy, just not my cup of tea. After a few weeks of dating, it was obvious that neither of us were feeling it.
The second date was a disaster. He turned up about 20 minutes late, stinking of drink from the night before, and within the first five minutes, told me that he didn’t feel like being on a date. It also turned out that he had lied about his interests and his profession, so the only thing we had in common was that we were alive. I felt like I had no idea who I was on a date with—he thought it was funny.
The conversation was horrendous, and I needed to get out of there, so I went to the bathroom to get a breather. The whole date had felt like a struggle. I returned to the table to end the date and head home. He seemed to be pretty okay with the idea, then after walking me to my car, went in for a kiss. I nearly fell off the curb to get away from him.
The cracks in the matchmaking process were beginning to show. I reinstalled Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge, and got back to swiping.
The third date was set up for the weekend we came out of the first lockdown. I was so excited—it was a reason to get dressed up and get out of the house. I put on my trusty date dress—it’s never let me down once. The date was lovely. I had such a good time, great chat, good energy, and he looked and smelt great. I was totally into it, so we swapped numbers.
Then he walked me to my car, saw what I was d riving and asked me if my dad had bought it for me. It took far too much effort to explain to him that I am self-employed and that I bought my brand new SUV with my own money. He didn’t believe me. His toxic masculinity was coming through and I was really insulted—I had worked hard for that SUV and everything I own. So, f*ck this guy!
But we had swapped numbers and it was too late to unswap. He messaged out of the blue to let me know that he was down my way, so we went for a walk in the local town park—we walked in circles for two and a half hours. We must’ve looked like crazy people.
He kept jostling me, and bumping into me. I was bucking—I hate being pushed around. He loved talking about money, he told me about buying his home and asked if I understood how houses were bought, as though I wasn’t smart enough to understand, then suggested that my dad would help me out.
I couldn’t wait to get away from him, but he had other ideas. We walked back to our cars and I politely said goodbye. He lunged in for a kiss, which I weaved, and he caught me on the side of my head. Oh was he p*ssed off. Later that night, he sent a litany of messages letting me know all the things that were wrong with me. I was weary and jaded. What was the agency trying to do to me?
Mr Four was hot. He was good looking, intelligent, kind, funny, friendly, well-travelled, and loved reading. Tick, tick, tick! So what went wrong? Me—I was a disaster. I had received tough health news two days before the date and I really should’ve cancelled. But we were about to head back into lockdown and I wanted one last date. I was minus energy and no fun—disconnected. Safe to say, he passed on me, and to be honest, I would’ve passed on me too.
Then came the final date. I was more excited about not being on the matchmaking agency books than I was about the date itself, but I wanted to give it my best. So for this one, I made a huge effort—I got a new outfit, tan, makeup on point, and I even washed my car.
We were meeting somewhere really beautiful on the Shannon, so I was up for it. And so was he—he showed up to impress. He was fun and friendly, with great energy. We were having a real laugh and a flirt. It was all pretty romantic and I was internally celebrating that this could go somewhere. We had so much in common—similar interests, similar goals, similar hobbies—it was going so well.
But then he asked me if I knew his ex—and I did. I knew her from school. I really knew her—we had been in the same friendship group for years. The date turned into him telling me stories about her, how they met, and what dates they went on. I got the impression he wasn’t over her, and I just wanted to pick up my dog from my parents and head home.
That ended my journey with the matchmaking agency, and although I wish I was finishing off my story with the good news of having found “the one,” I am walking away with a better understanding of who that person might be.
Hiring a matchmaker was a gamble. They talked a good game, claiming a 25 percent success rate, and that they have a system that works to match people based on how compatible they are. Most of the bios I got for the men were inaccurate, and it felt like the agency talked up my own interests to me so that they sounded like a good fit, but this did not actually match what the men were into at all.
If there is one thing I learned from my experience of using a matchmaker, it is to know when to walk away and leave a date. While some of the men were perfectly pleasant, others were rude, scary, and downright disrespectful.
Throughout my time with the agency, I devoted myself to self-love so that my own confidence and self-worth grew. As I was on the journey, I learned how to leave a date quicker so that I’ll never end up walking in circles for hours with someone who makes me uncomfortable. I will never allow myself to stay on a date with someone who is hungover and being obnoxious. And if I’m not in a good place, I will feel comfortable cancelling the date without worrying about how the other person feels.
When it comes to finding “the one,” everyone is different, and we are all on our own unique journey. While matchmaking wasn’t right for me, that doesn’t mean that it won’t work for you. For now though, I think I’ll stick with Hinge.
- Helen Stevens