Full-time friend, part-time matchmaker: University students find budding relationships through friends

By Mara Shapiro

James Koh knew his roommate would get along with his close female friend. One day, he decided to arrange their meeting by inviting her over to his apartment. 

“It was because they were both my friends, so I figured if I liked both of them, they would probably like each other,” the junior in LAS said. “They also lived very close to each other, and 50 percent of romance is convenience, so I figured why not.”

According to Aiden Baker, junior in LAS and Koh’s roommate, the relationship started off very casual — until it blossomed into something more. Now, the couple has been dating for five months.

Kami Kosenko, sexual communications professor at North Carolina State University, said there are many reasons as to why friends try to play “matchmaker.”

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    “I think friends want to see each other succeed in life and love, so it’s natural to suggest potential romantic partners to a single friend. I think there can also be more selfish motivations at work, such as wanting to go on double dates with one’s friends or wanting to merge friendship groups,” Kosenko wrote via email.

    She also said blind dates can turn out to be positive.

    “I know of several people who have met their spouses through blind dates, but they did have to go on a number of bad blind dates before meeting the one. Like with any form of dating, being patient and having an open mind are key,” Kosenko wrote.

    Ricky Navarro and Harper Albo, sophomores in ACES and AHS respectively, have been dating for almost a year now after meeting through mutual friends. Albo used to attend Illinois State University and befriended a high school classmate of Navarro’s while there. Navarro was visiting his friend when he was introduced to Albo. They didn’t start talking right away, but the friend told Albo that Navarro thought she was cute. It wasn’t until another mutual friend told Albo to talk to Navarro that she gave in and messaged him.

    Both Albo and Navarro see pros and cons of being set up through friends. Albo said that it was cool to be able to share friends, but a break-up would be very awkward. Navarro said meeting through friends was a less awkward way to find a partner.

    Baker agrees with Navarro that being set up decreases pressure.

    “It was nice because it made things simple and easy. I feel like I’m not that great at meeting people,” Baker said.

    Kosenko explains the friend group dynamic will be a major factor in these sorts of relationships.

    “One pro of being set up by mutual friends is it should be easier to integrate your new partner into your existing friendship group. This should take away some of the uncertainty of introducing your new partner to your friends and help you anticipate how your friends will respond to your new relationship,” Kosenko said. “The most obvious con is the potential impact on your friendship group when the relationship ends. You may lose more than just a boyfriend or girlfriend; you could lose the friendships of those who set you up in the first place.”

    Kosenko also wrote a romantic interest who is well liked by friends only helps.

    “I do think that romantic relationships that start off as friendships have a better chance of ending as friendships (should the romance not work out). Having support from one’s friends as one experiences the highs and lows of romantic relationships is also important. If your friends know and like your romantic partner, then that support might be more likely,” she said.

    Koh is happy he set up two of his friends.

    “You get to see both of your friends happy. Cons: (Katz) doesn’t pay rent and uses my toilet. Pros: (Katz) is wonderful and great to have around,” Koh said.

    Koh also explained that in order to be a good matchmaker, one shouldn’t force anything to happen.

    And Baker is grateful toward Koh’s matchmaking and thinks friends should be open to being set up.

    “Go for it! Worst that could happen is you live through an awkward story. Best case you get to date (Katz),” Baker said.

    Kosenko wrote a matchmaker has to have his or her friends’ best interests in mind while setting them up.

    “Make sure you are trying to set up a friend because you think it would be good for that friend (and not just because it would make things easier or more fun for you). Also, know that if it doesn’t work out, you could take some of the blame,” Kosenko wrote.