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When you find the One

As a new survey says women still single at 30 should consider Mr Second Best, we find out how people really knew when they had found the love of their lives

By Sharon Owens

I am very lucky because I met “the one” when I was only 17. It was love at first sight and in a sudden (never to be repeated) bout of confidence, I got my friend to ask him out for me.

He was very flattered and more than a little curious and we got married seven years later in 1992.

Since I met my dear, devoted husband he has supported me through the student poverty years, a difficult pregnancy and an awful lot of disastrous home-decor ideas. I can’t imagine life without him.

I would never have married Mr Second Best. I know that for a fact. I’d have lived on my own in a one-bedroom flat and bought myself a cat for company. The thing is, I have endless patience for some things (mostly for painting skirting boards) but none whatsoever for other things (mostly other people’s mood swings).

And there are lots of things that put me off a man, such as any kind of beard or moustache, any kind of leisure wear or blue jeans, any kind of high fashion especially pink or purple shirts, smoking, spitting, drinking too much, or showing any interest in sport, politics or religion.

My ideal man has to like rock, Punk and indie music. He’s got to be taller than me (5.10), preferably have a deep, sexy voice and be a vegetarian.

And he mustn’t mind that I can’t drive and will therefore need a lot of lifts, and also be aware that I dislike flashy cars of any kind. And I’ve got a severe flying phobia, and a beer belly phobia, so holidays in Benidorm are strictly a no-go area. You can see where this is going, can’t you? It’s not just that I’m terribly fussy. I am terribly fussy, and I’ll be the first to admit it. But I also know I am not the most tolerant person in the world to live with. So my practical side tells me there’s simply no point in getting married if it isn’t going to work. It wouldn’t be fair on me and it wouldn’t be fair on the poor guy either.

And I do think a couple must be madly in love if they are to survive life’s journey together.

Otherwise the woman (or the man) will wake up some day, ponder their domestic situation and wonder why they are bothering.

It’s strange to think that Dermot and I will be celebrating 18 years of marriage this year (God willing etc) because I honestly never thought I’d find a man who would tick all my boxes. And he was tall, dark and handsome as well. Who would have thought it?

What’s the secret of a happy marriage? Just be nice to one another, I suppose. Talk every day, and eat dinner together.

Men are not psychic but they do respond well to polite requests and kind words.

‘She was wearing an evening dress, I had on a baseball cap and some flip-flops’

By Jamie McDowell

I don't really know if there is ‘a one' for everyone. Before I found my other half, I would frequently look at famous people on television and feel that the one that was reserved for me was re-located to form part of Hugh Heffner's eight. For blokes who don't have big wallets or shiny BMWs, the whole ‘meeting someone' process can be labouring. This isn't assuming that all women are interested in is money — it's just if you have money, it helps.

I met my wife-to-be, Lucy Morrison (26), in a bar where we'd both been drinking all night. This worked to my advantage beautifully. Because I don't suffer beer goggles, I was immediately aware of the opportunity that had confronted me. She was wearing an evening dress. I was wearing a tartan baseball cap and flip-flops.

I was DJing at the bar in the dying days of my highly unsuccessful DJing career that spanned all of four months. It was her work do. During the course of the night I would inevitably end up talking to many of the people who came in.

And so, after chatting to her for the guts of two hours we ended up at a bizarre house party on the banks of the river Lagan, and while drinking box–wine from a pint glass, I somehow managed to get her phone number.

The next day I woke up in a friend’s house and decided to ring her from the kebab shop I'd gone to for a late lunch. After asking for a first date, I was shot down, albeit on the first attempt.

But the fact that she'd cited a ferocious hangover — a kind of hedonist's sick note — I didn't feel too bad.

The first date was a hazy success and the rest is history. Looking back, now that we're engaged, I think I knew that she was the right person for me because she makes me laugh, is of course stunningly beautiful and most importantly, she laughs at my jokes.

It’s working pretty well for us so far.

‘Something about that little kiss just clicked’

Joe Lindsay (38) is a radio presenter for BBC Northern Ireland. He lives in Belfast with his wife Mary. He says:

Mary was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar when I met her, just like the Human League song. Actually she was a mixologist in the downstairs bar of Shu restaurant on the Lisburn Road and I got my first DJ gig there nine years ago.

Strangely she was the first person I met when I walked through the door but I didn't really talk to her for the next couple of months until New Year’s Eve. It was about 2.30am that night and I walked over to her, told her I hadn't had a chance to wish her Happy New Year and gave her a peck on the lips.

Something about that little kiss just clicked. Within two weeks I knew she was the woman I was going to marry as we were so comfortable together.

I proposed three and a half years later. We had talked about it and decided we would get engaged on New Year's Eve and I asked her dad's permission. Once he gave it I decided to do it straightaway and went out and bought the ring. I walked around with it in my pocket for two days and was petrified I would lose it.

I took her to our favourite restaurant on the Ormeau Road called L'Etoile on a Monday night so it was quiet. It's not licensed so I brought some champagne down earlier on the day.

When we were having dinner I pretended to get up to go to the toilet, then turned on my heel and went down on one knee. She said yes but not one person in the restaurant clapped.

We're both quite romantic but don't believe in Valentine's Day. You should be romantic all year round not just one day when you're told to be.

I prefer little romantic gestures like if I see a dress that will suit her I will buy it.”

‘I didn’t fancy Paddy at first, then I fell in love’

Tina Wallace (34) is married to Ireland rugby player Paddy Wallace and lives in Belfast with their children Paddy Jack (3) and Leila |(4 months). She says:

Paddy and I knew each other for years. His parents lived at number 39 and mine lived at number 56 on the same road.

We knew each other as teenagers and then went our separate ways. I moved to London and would have been on nodding terms with him when I came home to see my parents. He was very nice but I didn't fancy him then.

I came home for Easter weekend in 2003 and brought my Australian housemates with me. We ended up going to Milk nightclub on the Sunday night and that's where I ran into Paddy.

At first I was trying to set him up with my friend but by the end of the night he had brought me a vodka and cranberry juice and that was it. One minute I didn't fancy him and the next I was head over heels in love. The next weekend he flew to London to see me and five weeks later I had moved home.

Paddy proposed in June the next year. He went out with my mum to choose the ring then he bought me a little trinket box with six drawers. When he gave it to me in our flat each drawer had a little present in it; a candle in one, some soap in the next. The last drawer had the diamond ring in it and Paddy went down on one knee. We got married in June 2005.

He hadn't been able to track down my dad to ask permission because he was playing golf. Instead he got permission from my mum, my step-dad and my brothers so I think that was enough.”

‘I wrote her a song and she loved it’

Gavin Campbell (36) is the lead singer of Phoenix 23 and lives in Newtownards. He says:

I was in Los Angeles with the band in March of last year. We had been invited out by Carl Verheyen of Supertramp to record an album.

We had finished all of the studio work and were hanging out by the pool of our hotel on Sunset Boulevard. It was actually Benny, our session drummer, who saw Julie and invited her over to listen to the music we had recorded on a tape player.

Julie was from Modesto in California but had come to LA to visit a friend. It was a fluke that she was in the hotel at all but her friend was sick so she couldn't stay with her.

We invited her to come out to dinner with us but Julie didn't want to come out with a crowd of guys. She changed her mind when the girlfriend of our bassist showed up and came along also.

We spent that whole evening in a little bubble talking. We laughed at the same things, liked the same music and even liked and disliked the same foods.

I had finished all of my band commitments so we spent the next two days together. Me and the rest of the band were moving on after that so I had to say goodbye to Julie who was going home to Modesto. I really didn't want to see her go, though, and I slipped my contact details into her bag.

She texted me the next day. It was at that point when we said goodbye in LA that we both realised that we didn't really want to be apart.

After that we spent a lot of time texting or on the phone. I went home to Northern Ireland and it continued. We kept in touch over the phone and on Skype. I actually wrote a song for her called I Can't Bear To Be Without You.

A month after we met Julie decided to take her two week vacation and came over to visit me. She arrived on my birthday and we celebrated with champagne. I played her the song and she loved it.

We had a great time, spending a lot of time up on the north coast. Julie decided she was going to move over here at least for a couple of years. We were walking home from a friend’s house one night and I stopped and got down on one knee. I had already phoned her dad to ask for her hand in marriage but we didn't make it official until much later on.

Julie moved over here in September last year and on February 19 we're going to get married in Modesto where her mum lives. It's going to be low key as we're hoping to renew our vows over here at some point and have lots of Julie's family over. There's a lot of red tape to get through for us to get married but neither of us can wait.”

Pheonix 23 will next be playing at Magners Light Spring Into Fashion in St George’s Market, Belfast on March 23

‘He swept me off my feet when I least expected it’

Cathy Martin (34), director of fashion week, lives in Helen's Bay with her husband Julian. She says:

Julian works as a retailer and when I was organising fashion week in April 2005 we had coffee as I wanted him to exhibit at the show. Coffee turned into lunch and, afterwards, Julian asked if I wanted to do it again sometime.

At that point I wasn't in the slightest bit interested in a relationship. I felt I didn't have the time for it because of work, so we didn't meet again for a couple of weeks. Then we had lunch in Cafe Conor on the Stranmillis Road and I think that was the beginning of it.

I could feel the butterflies starting in my tummy and I babbled like an idiot. In July 2005 we went on holiday to Amalfi and by the time I came back I was in love.

We got engaged in June 2008. It was after I had done an interview with the Belfast Telegraph about how I was focused on my career and not interested in marriage. The next thing I know I was whisked away to St Tropez for the weekend. I got the works, including a helicopter ride from the airport to the hotel. Julian proposed on one knee over dinner that night.

I'm not that romantic but for me it's the little things. I like attention to detail and personal things instead of grand sweeping gestures.”

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