“I have to introduce you to …?”
“Have you met my friend …? I think you guys would really hit it off.”
I’ve been there too many times to count, sitting across the table from happily married friends who take it upon themselves to solve the problem of my single status. They mean well by wishing to make me as happy as they are (let’s just ignore the obvious rebuttal that you can, indeed, be single and happy), but setting people up is fraught with the potential for awkward moments, hurt feelings, and at worst, broken friendships. The last time a good friend set me up, the whole thing ended with her storming out of the Starbucks where we had met for coffee, offended that I didn’t consider her male cousin “good enough for me.” (After a couple of awkward dates, I decided to call it quits.) Consider these questions before introducing a friend to their "happily ever after."
1. Does your friend even want to be set up?
My mother tries to set me up with every male she meets between the ages of fifteen and forty-five. She simply can’t wrap her mind around the fact that I actually like to be single. I like living alone and spending time with friends and focusing on my career. Try to recognize whether your friend would just rather be single at the moment—and don’t confuse being alone with being lonely. Just because you enjoy being in a committed relationship doesn’t mean it’s for everyone, and being single is a growth period for many people. If your friend is interested in meeting someone new, then by all means go for it; otherwise, don’t force the issue.
2. Do you have an ulterior motive?
I was once set up by a male friend who secretly had a crush on me; because he was in a relationship at the time, he didn’t want his obvious interest in me to be a threat to his partner. Bad idea. What’s worse is having your friend set you up with someone, only to realize that your friend really wants to get the person in the sack and is using this opportunity to get more face time with him. If you have any romantic interest in either one of the people involved in your setup, step awaaayyyy from the phone. That includes ex-partners as well. It can only get messy and ugly.
3. You can’t save anyone.
If you’re starting sentences with “If only he/she had a nice guy/girl to take care of him/her,” this is another sign to cut short any attempts at a setup. No one is going to overcome an addiction, depression, or any other self-destructive behaviors simply because he or she has found someone to like. All you’ll be doing is subjecting someone else to that person’s pain. Likewise, don’t attempt to break a friend’s pattern of what you think are bad relationships. It’s not likely to happen, since people usually seek out similar partners to those they’ve already been with and you’re probably setting yourself up for failure. What you should do is look at a person’s dating history to figure out what she might be looking for in a partner and work from there.
4. You can’t predict chemistry.
Although Match.com claims to unite “hundreds of thousands” of true loves every year, the truth is that compatibility on paper doesn’t necessarily translate to chemistry in person. How many people have you met who seemed like they would be perfect for you, but you couldn’t stand them? Love is in the eyes, in the spark, in the moment, and there’s no replacement for that feeling of fireworks exploding between lovers. Sure, two people can bond over common interests and have ideas about what they each want in a lover, but there has to be an X factor—the butterflies-in-the-stomach-can’t-wait-for-him/her-to-call-even-though-we-just-spent-three-hours-on-the-phone-and-I-can’t-stop-thinking-about him/her factor. You just can’t fake it.
If you still think getting your friends together is a good idea, or at least can’t do much harm, try not to load on the pressure. Involve them both in a group activity, where they won’t be so aware of the expectations that accompany being set up. They’ll both be at their most attractive in their elements, hanging out with friends at a dinner party or engaged in activities they each enjoy. Once you’ve got them both in the same room at the same time, consider your job done. If there’s chemistry, it will be apparent without you sprinkling rose petals in front of them and cuing Barry White. Meddling too much is definitely a bad idea; falling in love is a private phenomenon, and you’ll only get in the way. At worst, you’ll make them both feel an obligation to you to like each other, resulting in tension for all.
Remember that you started with both of them as friends; make sure you end that way, whatever happens between them. If they get together and break up, do your best not to take sides.
And if they do live happily ever after, congratulations on spreading some love!