It happens with the best of intentions. You have friends. They’re single and looking for love. So why not try to set them up with people you know? The sentiment is beautiful and generous, and should not be ignored. But that doesn’t mean every idea for a setup is a good one, and even if the potential is there, you stand a good chance of sending it the wrong direction with the slightest of missteps.
So here are some guidelines. I’m sure plenty of readers have their own to add in the comments...
1. Don’t assume that single equals eligible
The fact that the two folks you’re trying to connect are single and of the same sexual orientation does not automatically qualify them to be set up with each other. That’s just not enough, as much as you might like it to be.
You should know your friends well enough to at least have a general idea of their preferences, quirks, best selves, and kryptonite (the traits in others that tend to lead to their total downfall). Setting up said friends with people who aren’t compatible with these aspects of their personalities is tantamount to giving them a present that makes them wonder if you even know them at all.
You can’t know what one person will find attractive or off-putting (though, in general, you should have an idea what your friends like), so you shouldn’t over-think it. But if you don’t find the other person compelling, that should be an indicator. It’s one thing to arrange for the two singletons to cross paths when you have your group of friends together and see if something sparks, but blind dates are daunting enough without the possibility that your well-meaning friend set you up with a basement-dwelling homunculus who also happens to smoke three packs a day.
2. Don’t obfuscate
When you tell me that the woman you want me to meet is “really nice,” or “a cool chick,” that generally means she’s also woefully unattractive. Look, I have an open mind, and I’m intrigued by brainy girls, but if your friend has trouble getting dates because she has some serious aesthetic problems, then you’re only setting us both up for disappointment.
And the same thing goes the other way. I have no problem dating women who are taller than I am, but if you don’t tell your amazon girlfriend that I’m not 6’ 5”, I’ll notice that look in her eyes when she sizes me up. By letting her know I’m not as tall as she is, you allow her the option to give me a shot or to veto the date. We’re both better off knowing what’s in store.
Give it to me straight: your very pretty, slightly heavy, crazy funny, awesomely well-read girlfriend is looking for Mr. Right Now. She travels a ton and is not ready for a relationship at the moment, but she’d like some charming company when she’s not on the road. She has one brown eye and one blue one, and probably drinks a little too much, but if I want a wonky conversation on global politics, she’ll keep me enthralled and laughing.
Tell her right away that I have a 13-year-old daughter, that I write a blog about being a single dad, that I tend to carouse until all hours when I’m not parenting, and have a habit of taking photos of my food, but that I own my company, I’m in good physical shape, and I’m romantic, articulate, socially adaptable and love an adventure.
And then let us decide if we’re interested.
3. Don’t ask how they prefer to be set up
But DO ask if your friend would like to be set up.
“Hey Eric, I’m on a nonprofit board with a smart, hot, single mom, and I told her all about you. She’s interested.”
“Wow, thank you!”
“How would you like to be set up?”
“Uh... How would SHE like to be set up?”
Make it easy on everyone involved — once you have the okay from both parties, do something mutual to get the ball rolling. A Facebook message or email to both of them saying something like, “As promised, I’m introducing you two to each other. I hope you find some time to meet up,” is probably the easiest. If the woman would prefer a phone call from the guy, then get permission to give him her number, and make sure to share that she wants a call, not a text.
As a guy, I don’t mind making the cold call, but it’s not necessarily my favorite thing. If we can break the ice with some witty email or text banter, that’s going to make our conversation on the phone that much more comfortable and fun.
4. Don’t get invested
Once you’ve made the introduction, it’s time to step out of the way. Make your disclaimer that you’re only responsible for the setup, and whatever happens next is between two consenting adults (this also gives you plausible deniability if everything goes sideways).
And then leave it alone.
No “Did you call her yet?” texts.
No “How was your date?” questions.
No “You guys seemed perfect for each other.” follow-ups.
Your friends will decide to meet, or they won’t. They’ll hit it off, or they won’t. They’ll fall in love, get married, stay together forever, or they’ll have a fling that ends in flames and devastation. Or they won’t. Nothing you do or say is going to make anything work better. Which is why you need to let things happen as they do, only stepping in if asked for help or advice (and even then, tread lightly).
Successful setups are fraught with variables even before compatibility and chemistry come into question — work, travel, timing, logistics. In our busy lives, it may take a while for schedules to coalesce long enough to actually meet up and see if there’s potential. And then... a whole new set of variables comes into play — attraction (physical and intellectual), emotional availability, lifestyle preferences, favorite thing to do on a Saturday morning... All you can do is make your best judgment and set things in motion. You can’t control the outcome.
So, sure, feel free to set up your single friends, but try to handle it wisely. Be honest and open, give them the tools they need to connect, and don’t get too caught up in the results.
Best case scenario, it’s a full-on romantic connection, with fireworks and rainbows, and they name their first child after you.
Worst case scenario, well...steer clear of kryptonite.