In another life, or some 20 years ago, relationship psychologist Mairead Molloy decided to put her degree in hotel management to good use and bought a small hotel in Cannes. She had “great fun” running it for seven years despite the occasional culture clashes between the Irish and the French.
“Sure, it was hard but there are cultural differences between neighbouring villages in both countries so you have a choice – get on with it or bury your head in the sand,” says Mairead, who hails from Wexford. “I did struggle at the beginning but I learned French, which definitely helps, and have gotten used to how the locals think and behave.”
Part of her language improvement came from her partner. “Marrying a French man was indeed challenging but divorcing him was even more challenging,” she remarks with a smile.
She sold the hotel and moved to the UK and picked up a Psychology BSc and then a Masters in International Law at Birkbeck, University of London. It was then that she stumbled upon Berkeley International, a specialist elite dating agency and international introduction agency offering an exclusive matchmaking service to find perfect partners and soul mates for discerning and affluent members.
“I have been the Global Director of Berkeley International for 17 years and I still actively run it day-to-day. As a global operation, we have never been so busy. Covid has really made people see what is valuable in life,” she shares.
It’s Valentine’s Day and who better to ask about love than Mairead? “There are songs and books and films about this but for me, love is finding that one person that you are totally yourself with, and you can’t imagine what your life was like before they came along.” She points out, “Relationships depend, though, on what each party brings to the table and people tend to want love all wrapped up under the umbrella of Keepers-Friends-Laughter-Fun.”
One true love is not her philosophy but Mairead, who says “it only took me 52 years to find love,” does believe that it is rare to find that someone that fits perfectly to you. “We make mistakes in our early years and so hindsight is a great friend so follow your instincts I say … you can’t go wrong.”
For Mairead, the biggest mistakes super-wealthy clients make when looking for that perfect partner are being too fussy with lengthy wish lists and not managing themselves and their expectations properly. Also, thinking sometimes they know better than the professionals.
“Dating agencies offer a sense of security as everyone you meet is vetted and we take the stress out of dating someone, clients never face online rejection,” explains Mairead, who was featured in RTÉ2’s “Irish in Wonderland” program on Monaco in 2017.
“Our membership has increased over 200% since coronavirus began and couples are getting together quicker – our success rate has gone up by nearly 80%. That’s not to say people are settling but they have become less picky realising what their real priorities are now,” she conveys.
“We even had an engagement over lockdown, a man in Brazil met one of our members in Milan and after a few zoom calls and they decided to meet up in Paris, where they are now living an planning their wedding and futured together.”
Mairead reveals that her psychology background “comes in very useful in the dating business,” but as a qualified relationship psychologist and eating disorder specialist she also concurrently runs her own consulting company, Mairead Molloy, which focuses more on specialist disciplines, from nutritional interventions for eating disorders and psychological approaches for dealing with obesity to marriage mediation and coping with being single.
“I have noticed over the years that food and weight are big factors in relationships,” she states. “How we feel about our bodies and how we look have a massive impact on our self-confidence, which has a roll-on effect as to how we manage or harm our relationships, even preventing us from having one altogether.”
Monaco and the South of France can be pretty tough for people who struggle with body image. “Most eating disorders are triggered by someone deciding to go on a diet. It becomes no sugar, no fat, or whole food groups could be eliminated. It really depends on what you believe, what piece of information you take to an extreme: I’m not going to eat any bread, or I’m not going to eat anything with salt on it, for example.”
She says irregular appearance or disappearance of food in the household can indicate an eating disorder, as can a new anxiety around particular foods. “Look for whether a person has changed their thinking around food – talking constantly about food, weight or calories if they never really talked about those subjects before. Or if a person who was once not picky becomes inflexible about the type or amount of food they eat.”
Overexercising is one sign that gets overlooked in this culture. “Rapid or extreme weight loss or gain is another sign of an eating disorder. As is when people start eating because of emotions rather than for hunger or appetite.”
She implores, “Talk to someone. Early detection, initial evaluation and effective treatment are important steps that can help an eating disorder sufferer move into recovery more quickly, preventing the disorder from progressing to a more severe or chronic state.”
The Covid pandemic has taken a toll on all of us. Mairead says last year Covid gave her time to sit back and breathe for a while. “Now it is a very frustrating time indeed but I take the good with the bad and am grateful for what I have. Business wise, building personal relationships is vital and person-to-person has become screen-to-screen taking away that personalisation of how we work.”
Mairead has not seen her family face-to-face for over a year now. “That really hurts but the pandemic has also shown me how resilient we all are.”
Her advice this Valentine’s Day? “Be kind and do something thoughtful for someone,” encourages Mairead Molloy.