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Is there something wrong with you if you're not married in your 40s?

'IF YOU'VE never married and are over 40 it can carry the taboo of why not, what's wrong with you? Are you odd, too fussy or set in your ways?" says Jennifer Haskins, director of the introduction agency Two's Company. "Many people think it's uncommon not to have been married at this stage and are slightly more suspicious," says Jennifer whose agency specialises in introducing singletons of all ages to each other.

Desperate Housewives star Marcia Cross (50) married for the first time in her 40s. Yet for Liz Hurley (46), it will be second time around when she weds fiance Shane Warne. And it will be third time lucky for Halle Berry (45) when she marries Olivier Martinez later this year.

But the poster woman for fortysomething single women must be Cameron Diaz, who, at 40, is still happily unmarried, despite having some rocky romances along the way.

"Obviously, if you've been married or in a long-term relationship you know what it's like to go through a major break-up and may still be bearing the scars. Some people need a little hand-holding at this stage," Jennifer says of dating after 40.

"Also, you may have lost some friends through the break-up and find your social life has shrunk. Most of your friends will be in relationships or married. So how do you find people to socialise with so you can meet members of the opposite sex?" Jennifer asks, highlighting one of the biggest problems hindering fortysomethings who are looking for love and romance.

Divorcee and bestselling author Siobhan McKenna (45) hooked up with her partner Graziano three years ago, after being a single woman for many years.

Siobhan said: "Before Graziano, I was working long hours in the lingerie manufacturing business and was a single mum to my daughters April and Sophie.

"I'd stopped going to clubs in my late 30s because they made me feel old. I remember being in my local pub with friends and feeling like I was surrounded by much younger people. Going out as a single woman in my early 40s was making me feel old," Siobhan says.



Walking

"I was open to the idea of a relationship but wasn't actively looking when I met Graziano. I was having coffee in a new coffee shop in Howth which he'd opened. Miraculously, it's the kind of place which turns into a wine bar at a certain time in the evening," the writer says.

"We got talking and because Graziano was new to Howth and knew no one I invited him to come walking with a group of us. We got on great and it sort of started from there. He never officially asked me out, we just got together," Siobhan says.

"I'd say no one expected it to last," Siobhan says. "Graziano is 13 years younger than me. He's shorter then me, too. I'd never dated a shorter man before. But I'd let go of ideas about my 'perfect partner' at that point.

"Graziano is the kindest and most gentle man I've ever met. We had the 'children talk' because of his age, and because I didn't want to have another child. Italians are very traditional and family-orientated, but we've been together over three years now and he says he's happy to be with me," says Siobhan whose new book, The Other Woman, was published this summer.

"I say to friends in their 40s who are online dating, that there are so many boxes to tick, and I think as you move through life the best thing you can do is forget about ticking boxes," Siobhan says.

"It's nothing to do with lowering standards and is to do with the fact that when you're in your 20s or 30s, you're caught up in these ideas about what does and doesn't work. In your 40s, it's about what actually does work," Siobhan says.

Any woman in her 40s, who is single or dating, is likely to wonder about her exes, and she's likely to wonder if there's someone from her past who she should have made a better go of with.

Yet, if it's understandable to have regrets, novelist Roisin Meaney (52) warns against going back in time, having briefly considered it herself when in her 40s.

Roisin says: "I got an email out of the blue from an old flame from way back in the nineties when I was working in London. He was a graphic designer and I fancied him like mad and we had a bit of a fling, but nothing came of it.

"I came home to Ireland and forgot about him, although I was a bit gutted at the time. In the email he said he had spotted one of my books in a London bookshop and he just wanted to say well done and maybe we could keep in touch. I was intrigued and flattered and figured he must be single if he was making contact, so after a day or two of mulling it over I responded," says Roisin, whose new novel is called One Summer.

"We emailed for a couple of months, and, on paper, he sounded perfect. He told me he was divorced, living alone, no children, and disillusioned with the dating scene. He said he always regretted letting me go. His emails became more and more affectionate until he was practically declaring undying love for me. I fell for it," says the author.

"We met in the UK during the summer and it was a disaster. He was cold and distant and a total snob, and as mean as Scrooge. He paid for as little as he could get away with. I knew within half an hour of meeting him that I'd made a mistake. The weekend lasted about a decade. We haven't spoken since," Roisin says.



Comfortable

"I had two long-term relationships, both in my 20s, and nothing since then apart from the odd short-lived fling. I don't consciously put myself out there anymore -- my mentality these days is 'if it happens, it happens'. I'd run a mile from computer dating or speed dating -- they're not for me. If I do meet someone, it'll be through friends, or at some writing-related event. I'm old enough to be comfortable with who I am," Roisin says.

One woman in her 40s who dates, but wishes to remain anonymous, says: "Irish men are conflicted enough about women at the best of times, but add divorce, an ex-wife and children into the equation and they become a bloody nightmare, to be avoided at all costs. My advice to anyone over 40 looking to meet a nice guy is to get on a plane."

Dating coach Jennifer Haskins said: "Don't spill your life out on the table on the first date. Too much information is off-putting for anyone and too much to take in at the beginning of a relationship.

"Keep the conversation upbeat and positive. Everyone wants to have an enjoyable encounter and positivity is appreciated by everybody. So, let's not talk about the recession, falling house prices or world debt."


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