We're never too old to romance - How we found love in our forties
Dating isn't just for the young. Plenty of 'second time rounders' are now embarking on fulfilling relationships.
We all remember our first crush -- the breathless anticipation of an encounter (or even a mention) of the object of our desires was swiftly followed by tongue-tied awkwardness and heated complexion if, God forbid, the opportunity for conversation actually arose.
And then if we were lucky enough to have found requited love, the next step was an innocent date followed by hours and days of introspection and near-forensic inspection of every word, gesture and mannerism which took place during the outing.
It was heady stuff and kept many a teenage girl occupied for hours.
But while this is all commonly accepted as a rite of passage, there isn't much talk surrounding the etiquette of the more mature dater.
We spoke to some women in their 40s to find out how they feel about dating and what it is like to embark on a new relationship at this later stage of their lives.
Jillian Godsil is 48 years old. She is divorced and has two teenage daughters -- Georgina (19) and Kathryn (16). They live in south-west Wicklow where she works as a full-time writer.
"I am not currently in a relationship but I can say that it is a vastly different world to what I knew before -- so much so that it is a like foreign country.
"When I was a teenager I think it was more black and white. If you liked someone you went on a date. If that went well, you went on a few more dates and if it was still working you started 'doing a line' with them. This 'line' could in time end in marriage but it was all very linear.
"As a woman in my 40s entering the dating pool again there are two forces at work. The first is that I am no longer a teenager and would have more fixed ideas on what I like and what I don't.
"I am very independent and do not wish to lose that in a heated rush. I'm in no hurry to enter into a permanent relationship if that means losing my freedoms and choices -- but having said that, if I met the right man I would be happy to compromise.
"The second change is beyond my control. The world of dating has changed considerably, notably in the way people approach the medium. Perhaps it has been influenced by social media, internet dating or just a more fluid world, but often people have fixed ideas about what they want to get out of dating.
"There are more labels at work; people are just dating but with no commitment, or want to hang out, or are looking for sexual partners or perhaps are open to a possible relationship. I find the attachment of labels before I even meet people quite strange. I have no idea how I might feel about someone and would like there to be no boundaries -- until we set them.
"Apart from a few short-term relationships, I have been single for six years and am not anxious about going on dates.
"I am very happy to meet for coffee, go for a drink, see a film or even have dinner and am relaxed about meeting people so I don't get nervous going on dates.
"That doesn't mean the thunderclap of romance may not be just around the corner, but I won't waste my time being anxious or worried about it -- I will enjoy the moment, regardless.
"I use online dating sites on a regular basis. This is because, while I have a very busy social life, there are very few single, available men. Online dating, while it has its problems, provides a way to meet new people.
"But I have two beautiful daughters and there is no way I would enter a serious relationship without due regard for their feelings. I am not looking for a father figure for my girls, but someone who appreciates how super they are, as fellow human beings.
"My advice to anyone who suddenly finds themselves on the dating scene again is that it's important to relax.
"When I go on a date I look forward to meeting that person. If there is chemistry -- great, but if not, I hope to enjoy a few hours in another person's company.
"After that, it is in the lap of the gods. I also say to anyone who is looking to date, to be busy at other things, so dating is not the be-all and end-all of your social life.
"I am very open about being single and dating and hope to meet a wonderful, extraordinary man in time who makes my heart go boom -- and I would say romance, like youth, if very often wasted on the young."
Samantha Kelly is also from Wicklow, in her 40s and has two daughters, Leah (14) and Abi (6). She runs her own company -- www.tweetinggoddess.com and trains people how to use the medium for business.
She has been in a new relationship for the past few months and says dating as an adult is much more relaxed that it is for teenagers.
"I have been in a relationship with Andy for the past eight months after being separated from my ex-husband for almost two years. And in my experience dating is totally different to what it was when I was younger.
"I am much choosier -- in fact, I had given up on love altogether and because I am quite independent, I wasn't even looking -- I had resigned myself to being on my own and was happy looking after the children and looking after me. But meeting Andy was a whirlwind I wasn't expecting.
"There is a saying I found that says: 'Someday someone will walk into your life who will make you realise why it didn't work out with anyone else.'
"I realised when I got together with Andy that it didn't really matter where we went as long as we were together. I am at an age now where I don't really care what others think so there wasn't that self-consciousness of going to lots of places that you might have as a teen. And I definitely think that when you are that bit older you are choosier and won't take any crap.
"But it is so important to bear the children in mind and I have to admit that it took some time for my teen to accept that Andy is now a part of our lives. We worked through it and since she started to see that he makes me laugh and looks after us all, not just me, I think she is finding it easier now. There is laughter in our home and lots of love.
"I spend a lot of time online due to my work on Twitter but I didn't go into the dating online scene although I have friends who do and I have nothing against it, in fact I know lots of lovely people on Twitter so am sure it can work if the right people find each other.
"At the end of the day, my advice to anyone who is looking for love over the age of 40 is: don't look -- because it will find you. It was when I stopped looking that I found love."
Jennifer Haskins is the director of Two's Company -- a Dublin-based dating service for busy professionals. She says that while people over 40 can often find it difficult to start new relationships, they are more self- confident and comfortable to wait until the right person comes along.
"The 40s are perhaps the most challenging age group as there's a serious lack of places to socialise and meet members of the opposite sex.
"The majority of 40-somethings have either been married or in long term relationships and have a better idea of what they're looking for from a relationship. If they don't already have children then it's important that they are clear and realistic about their expectations and aspirations.
"If they have children, then this has its own challenges.
"Then if they do meet someone special, there is the worry of how to introduce the new partner into the mix, how will everyone respond and will they get along? It reminds me of a great movie back in the 1960s called Yours, Mine and Ours starting Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda about two divorcees, with 18 children between them from their previous marriages, who meet and fall in love.
"They move in together and then have another child -- the antics that follow made for great viewing.
"On a positive note, people in their 40s are usually past the stage of playing the field and are genuinely looking for a stable relationship.
"The good news is that dating agencies are becoming increasingly popular in Ireland year-on-year, and as demand grows this gives rise to increased opportunities for everyone."