Couples Dating: A Delicate Dance

Chicago Tribune’s RedEye November 10, 2010

When my husband and I moved to Chicago from Boston, I felt as if I had been transported into a magical new universe–a place where restaurants put bacon on everything and buses actually stopped to pick up passengers.
But one thing (besides an endless selection of seafood joints) was missing: friendship.
That’s where things get complicated for couples.

If you thought finding one partner who laughs at your jokes and doesn’t cringe at the way you order Chipotle burritos was nearly impossible, now you have two more.
And there needs to be crossover appeal. Here’s what I mean: My husband has plenty of married buddies at work, but I’d rather contract food poisoning then spend Sunday brunch listening to them talk about the Bears. The same goes for my husband when it comes to listening to my married girlfriends talk about how cute their cats look in sweaters. Everyone within the cozy foursome must like one another for it to be a successful matchup. One irritating, nasally laugh and the whole boat is sunk.
When I began my couples search, I discovered it’s incredibly hard to perfect a friendly let’s-hang-out pickup line without sounding like you’re cruising the goods at a swingers party. I’d hit it off with a girl at Starbucks and hear myself stumble over the words, “Do you have a boyfriend? I could bring my husband and maybe we could all, I don’t know, hang out Friday night?” I might as well have been fluttering my eyelashes and handing her a fistful of poppers, because she couldn’t get away from me fast enough.
When I finally did figure out an innocent pickup line, it seemed like no one was interested. I started hanging out in places I was sure to find couples: dog parks, camping stores, Pottery Barns. No relatively normal-looking couple was safe from my advances.
I must have given out my phone number a hundred times without getting a single call. I felt like the dirty girl in kindergarten with whom no one wanted to share toys.
I even resorted to being set up. Yes, that’s right: My husband and I went on a brutal couples blind date. If you think a blind date with two people is frightening, just try it with four. It’s all the charm of a first date with twice the disaster: double the clumsy small talk, double the awkward silences.
The good news is this story has a happy ending. I kept accosting people on the “L” until someone called me back.
It happened where so many yuppie love stories begin: Banana Republic. Yes, our couple-love bloomed among racks of flat-front pants and work-appropriate blouses. Cindy and AJ were sweet, funny and totally into us. After our first foursome date, Cindy admitted with a sigh of relief, “Thank God we found you guys. We were getting desperate enough to start cruising the Home Depot circuit.”