The message that always drives me insane:

“I don’t know what I want….”

My heart sank. Not another one. Another man in his 30s who doesn’t know what he wants. And every time I hear those words, I know that I’m not it. And it was burning me out and crushing my confidence. With many of us looking to find love now, there is nothing more disheartening than wasting time with someone who doesn’t know what they want.

Looking through pictures of men on an app felt like a game to pass the time rather than a way to find potential dates. I used Tinder to distract myself from boredom or loneliness than to find someone to date.

I was tired of being single, and 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 was on the verge of turning 32, self-employed, with a quirky accent and personality from 8 years in Australia; deleting dating apps was like a death sentence for my love life. Where was I supposed to find love now?

Not only was I living with my parents, but I was living far away enough to get dismissed even before I had a chance to impress and charm someone on a first date.

Fed up with Tinder and Bumble, I started to think about what my options were. Do I keep going on Tinder? Do I join an online dating site like eHarmony? And then I came across Celebs go Dating, where celebrities sign up to a dating agency to get matched with regular people. If it was good enough for Charlotte Dawson, it’s good enough for me.

I’d heard of matchmaking and dating agencies in Ireland, there’s only about five or six in Ireland, and I decided it was worth a shot.

A dating agency organises blind dates for people based on your interests, hobbies and compatibility. If you’ve ever seen Celebs go Dating on Channel 4, it’s exactly that but without Pete Wicks. They do all the work and you just wait for your date.

I spoke to one of the dating agencies in Dublin City. The person from the dating agency claimed they have a 25% success rate, which I was politely reminded about until I officially joined the agency. The salesperson really sold the service by pushing how bad Tinder and the apps were in comparison to their in-depth matchmaking method. He really spoke to the pain points of how heartbreaking it is for women on Tinder, how hard it is to find the one when everyone is passively swiping. It was like he was reading my mind. I was hooked. Take my thousand euro and sign me up.

Part of me was relieved to hand over all the physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting work that goes into online dating. I was ready for the journey, ready to meet my man.

Every person who signs up to the dating agency is interviewed by someone on the matchmaking team. Being interviewed about your love life is a little embarrassing, especially with a dating history as colourful as mine. They dig into everything from your history, your family, hobbies, interests to what you are looking for in terms of a relationship – family, kids and so on.

I was excited to sit there and list out all the things I wanted in my perfect partner, but that’s not really how it works. You don’t get to go into detail about what you are looking for, so they use your profile and location to generally match you up. And you just hope that it’s all enough to find love.

The first date was perfect on paper; he sounded like a good fit for me. I was really excited to meet him. And I have to say he was an absolute gem. BUT, there was no chemistry, no attraction. He was a good looking guy, but just not my cup of tea. After a few weeks of dating, it was obvious that neither of us was into it.

The second date was a DISASTER. He turned up about 20 minutes late, still stinking of drink from the night before, and within the first five minutes of our date, he told me that he didn’t really feel like being there. To make matters worse, it turned out that he lied about his interests, so the only thing we had in common was that we were alive.

The cracks in the matchmaking process were beginning to show. I reinstalled Tinder, Bumble and Hinge and got back to swiping. I wanted to find love now, so it was time to hedge my bets.

The third date was set up for the weekend we came out of lockdown; I was so excited. A reason to get dressed up and get out of the house. He looked and smelt great. The date was lovely; I had such a good time, great chat, great energy. Totally into it. And then… 

He walked me to my car, saw what I was driving 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 I bought my brand new SUV with my own money. Thanks very much.

A few weeks later, he sent a litany of angry messages. I was weary and jaded, and the dating agency was beginning to look more like an expensive Tinder.

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 gotten tough 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 crack. 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. And I was more excited about not being on the dating agency’s 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, and makeup on point. I even washed my car.

We were meeting somewhere really beautiful on the Shannon. So I was up for it. He was fun and friendly, with great energy. We were having a real laugh. It was all pretty romantic, I was internally celebrating that this could go somewhere. Until he asked me if I knew his ex. And I did; I knew her from school. And then the date turned into him telling me stories about her, and me trying to leave.

And that ended my journey with the dating agency. Although I wish I was finishing off my story with the good news of finding The One, I am walking away with a better understanding of who The One might be. 

After finishing my time with the dating agency, I started to wonder who were the 25% that were having success through the agency? And what made them successful? Were they desperately looking to find love now and settled or did they genuinely find their soulmate?

After speaking to everyone I know that used a dating agency, the men I dated that I was still in touch with, and on my Facebook and Instagram, I didn’t find a single person who had any success. 

And out of all the people I spoke to, most used the same agency as me, no one is in a relationship with someone they were matched with.

Either the people I know are not datable or the dating agency is talking a good game. Either way, I’m still single, and back on the apps.

And I’ve been having a lot more success on one app in particular, Hinge. When I first joined it, it looked boring and drab. But after sticking with it for a while I seem to be having a lot more success.

It seems to have a more serious, ready to date, looking for something real crowd on it. Maybe the reason it’s proving to be more successful than Tinder and Bumble is because it’s not about matching, it’s about connecting. 

As people, we work off of how we connect, not how we match. Maybe that’s where the dating agency is getting it wrong. They are matching people loosely based on general information, rather than finding ways for people to connect. Which brings me back to Celebs go Dating, the most successful couples on it met at mixers and not blind dates.

Any good date I’ve gone on in the last two years has been courtesy of Hinge and maybe that’s because we’ve had a reason to connect rather than a swipe based on just appearance. It’s so easy to filter out the men that are still in the “I don’t know what I want phase” because their profile tells you.

I hate to turn my back on my old favourite, Tinder. It used to be the app where everyone found their partner. From my own group of friends the vast majority met their partners on Tinder. 

But Tinder has become the new FabSwingers. It seems that the 30+ group of men are either married men, f*boys or couples looking for a threesome. I am sure there’s people on it looking for more than just a weekly ride, but you’ve got to really go through a lot of bad matches to find them. They are there, but who has the patience to keep weeding them out!?

Joining a dating agency was a gamble and a big investment. But I am the kind of woman who always backs herself. I believe that I’m a catch, hopefully you think the same about yourself. While I would love to find love now, I am not willing to settle for less than what I deserve.

I may not have found the man of my dreams through a dating agency, but I did get inspired to focus more on myself, my personal growth and what I want for my future.

If you’re really truly fed up of dating apps and need a break from trying to find love now, I would suggest taking a break from dating altogether, spend time working on yourself, your personal growth and get clear on what you want. 

And then get back out there, in whatever way feels right for you.

Originally published on Image.ie