Wednesday 24 January 2018

Advice: This life with Orla Barry

Orla Barry is Social Affair sCorrespondent with Newstalk 106-108FM and presents ‘The Green Room’ on Mondays from 10pm - 12am

Tough: 'We have enough
statistics about how single
men in rural Ireland can
end up struggling due to
the pressure of life there'
Tough: 'We have enough statistics about how single men in rural Ireland can end up struggling due to the pressure of life there'

QUESTION: I'm 40 and still live at home -- how can I meet a woman to share my life with?

I have never had a real relationship although I am in my early forties. I live in a fairly rural part of Ireland and have spent the last 20 years of my life working hard and looking after my parents' farm.

A couple of years ago, I planned to go to western Australia for a year and was set up with a job there but my father passed away suddenly. My mother and I live alone on the farm and now there is no way I can leave. The rest of the family is married and living up the country or abroad. I do go out most weekends with friends but most of the time we end up drinking and not really chatting to girls properly.

I have dated a few girls for a while but it never seems to last. I don't know why. I think I am alright looking, good-humoured and am fairly stable financially. One of my closest friends announced last weekend that he was moving abroad; another friend recently got married and we don't see him much any more. I feel like all my friends are leaving and there is no chance of me meeting someone to share my life with.

Orla replies:

The past couple of years have been tough on you and it's not easy just to meet someone when you are working hard in a rural environment. That said, you already sound defeatist and pessimistic about your prospects.

Just how has your routine at the weekends varied over the past few years? Things aren't as gloomy as you think and a change in your behaviour and a bit of help from the rest of your family would allow you lead a far more productive and fruitful social life.

Setting up home in rural Ireland is a dream many strive to fulfil. It's no wonder so many nationalities have fought for planning permission to build their perfect home there.

Being born into this environment is different and when circumstances are foisted upon you, it's harder to see the beauty in this way of life. When we feel we can't control our own circumstances it's easy to become caught up in negative thinking.

Let's start with your career. You worked on your parents' farm while the rest of your family moved elsewhere and settled down. Was this a conscious decision on your behalf and something you always wanted?

It sounds like you have made a good run of things, which can't have been easy in recent years. Perhaps this is your life-long career and, if so, you must figure out who steps in when you need a break. I know farming families often don't take holidays but this doesn't have to be the way it is.

Look to see if any of your siblings can assist and if not, start hiring and training someone who can. Perhaps one of your siblings can pop down to be with your mother or she will travel to stay with them or head off on a holiday herself.

You do need to be sure that this is what you want to do for life. After all, you have already dedicated half your life to the farm, it would be a shame to continue to do so while wishing you were doing something else.

It can be very hard for parents to allow family land to be sold off or rented to someone else, but this is your life and well-being that is at stake.

If you are unsure that this is for you, it might help to start talking to other members of your family about it. In the end, your mother will only want you to be doing what brings you satisfaction and happiness.

We have enough statistics about how single men in rural Ireland can end up struggling mentally because of the pressure of life there and the isolation that can occur when many emigrate.

Why did those dates never materialise into full-time girlfriends? Any chance your lifestyle means you dedicated little time to them? Farming can be such a full-time career that you may not realise how little time you dedicate to others.

If you have a female friend who you can be honest with, it might help to start there. Ask for her honest assessment of your life and your potential as a partner and for suggestions about changes you could make.

If your heart is in the farm, then your future partner will have to have similar interests. This may certainly narrow your possibilities, but it just means you need to be a little more strategic.

There are many options for dating now and you should take up the challenge of giving them a go. You already acknowledge that Saturday nights are a disaster when it comes to trying to meet a girl.

Sharing pints with your mates might be fun but it's not stopping them from meeting women. It sounds like you are stuck in a routine -- same pubs, the same people and no chances of meeting someone new. Start suggesting new venues, and moving pubs or moving to another local town. If your friends resist, go yourself. They will admire your courage later.

You can't expect the ideal woman to appear in front of you, you need to make the effort.

Pubs are easy places to chat but you should widen your circle of potential venues. What other options are in the surrounding area for meeting women? Are there local clubs you can join, like cycling, hill walking, music etc?

Involvement in the administration of the surrounding region is always a good networking tool. Attend festivals and events that allow you to meet new people, make friends and meet potential partners.

Check out other dating possibilities, too. I have no doubt there are dating companies that organise events near your area because they recognise the difficulty of meeting new people. Give them a try. The most obvious other tool is the internet. It is claimed one-in-eight couples who married in the United States last year met via social media.

Using the internet now to meet people is no longer the taboo it was. Nor is it confined to dating websites. Social media tools like Twitter and Facebook are easy methods of meeting people online.

Just don't keep the relationship online too long. It's far too easy to project a perfect image when sitting at a computer.

Once you start to investigate the various options, you will be surprised at how simple it is to make further connections and new friendships.

Your predicament isn't straightforward but it does require more proactive behaviour by you. Be honest with family members and your mother about how you feel.

Consider if this is the way of life you really want. Living a way of life for someone else is thoughtful and selfless, but don't allow your own happiness to be lost along the way.

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