Real-life love experts: What happened to a romantic encounter at the meat counter?

By Sophie Donovan
January 28 2020, 17.00

As we enter into the third week of Love Island’s foray into winter, there’s a question hanging over the heads of viewers.

Is this the extreme it takes to find love in today’s society?

Talking to real-life love experts, those who’ve had marriages of 25 years or more, they see key issues in the next generation’s attitudes towards love.

They, or perhaps we, are trying too hard to find love with apps and reality shows.

We’re also too willing to throw the towel in and start over with someone else.

For Colette and Gary Bentley, friends for 38 years and married for 27, it’s sites like Tinder and Bumble that have instilled this attitude: “You’re always looking for something else. You’re always looking for something better.

“It’s harder because you have your profile on there, and it’s great that you can put down your likes and dislikes, but I think no one is interested in that. They’re just interested in the look of someone, you know, not whether you gel or not.”

This is worlds away from their own experience, after meeting at the local Irish church club at the ages of 19 and 23.

Colette Bentley (left) only had to couple up once

Dawn and David Reeves-Turner, about to celebrate their 31st wedding anniversary, had a similar idea: “I don’t think our children’s generation are tolerant enough of each other. I personally think that they give up too easily.

“Our children’s expectations of each other are much higher than I think ours were.

“You’re going to have rubbish in your life and you’re going to have to support each other, but I think people think ‘okay, I’ll move onto the next person.’”

For these two, they had to make their relationship work around two young children, and so frequent trips to the Sainsbury’s meat counter became a substitution for date night.

Throughout their 47 years together, Val and Stuart have witnessed a similar attitude in their grandchildren: “They don’t seem to want proper commitment.  It’s all too easy today for them to throw in the towel.

“Whether you meet via the internet, dating apps or by going out and about, you need commitment.”

Making it work

And while many of the couples stressed the importance of commitment, it wasn’t the only ingredient recommended to make a relationship a success.

For nurses Sandra and Michael McGrail, married for 37 years, working together is key: “In my profession, they say teamwork is vital and it’s the same in a marriage.

“If one of you sneezes, the other one catches a cold, and that’s the way it should be.”

Amongst the rest of the couples, laughter was always one of the first answers to this question.

Alan ‘Butch’ Hayden, wed to wife Margaret for 57 years, added that being deaf was also key, but we think he might have been attempting to prove the above.

For Mrs and Mr Bentley, the secret was friendship: “I suppose you could say it’s becoming best friends really. We have a good relationship, we talk, and we do things together. It’s having something in common I suppose.”

(Not so) Love Island

We also asked the couples their perspective on the modern methods in which their children and grandchildren looked for love.

Many were unsure how useful Love Island and the apps really were.

Mrs and Mr Reeves-Turner labelled the former as a game show, rather than a useful matchmaking effort: “They are presenting an ideal that really isn’t there because they’re disregarding the human factor.

“The issue of whether people do actually like each other, as well as wanting to have sex with each other.

“It’s like a holiday romance that is never ever going to work because it’s not real.”

Mrs Bentley shared this sentiment: “They go on the show not necessarily to find love but for things that happen afterwards. They want to make money out of everything, endorsements for this, that and the other. 

“It’s just crazy, it’s not really love. It’s love for however long they’re on the show for.”

For Mr Hayden, despite claiming not to watch the reality series, this was clear in season four winner Jack Fincham, who may have only dated Dani Dyer for recognition, publicity and a (small) fortune.

Unlike the pessimistic attitudes uniting these real-life love experts, April Ashby, head of matchmaking at London dating agency Mutual Attraction, thinks love will continue to flourish for the next generation.

She said: “Love is definitely not dead. People do want to find somebody to love them, they want to love somebody.

“For all its faults, Love Island does have moments where you can feel happiness for them, and I think that’s why it’s so successful.”

She did however have similar concerns to those above: “The divorce rate is going up, the amount of people who live together and split up is going up.

“I don’t know whether they don’t have the staying power; I don’t know what it is.

“Maybe in our parents’ generation they weren’t happy, but they stuck it out because that is what society expected them to do.”

She later added that this might, however, be the influence of the ‘swipe to the left, swipe to the right’ society.

Asking what advice she’d give to those still hoping to commit themselves to one person, she said: “A friendship is essential in the beginning.

“We’ll get people who will come to us and say ‘oh I don’t think that we’ve got any common interests’, and maybe you’ll only have one thing in common, but your core values are the same, and it’s your core values that keep you together.

“Interests come and go.”

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