So your mom wants to set you up. It’s safe to assume this isn’t just a hook-up-then-dump or yet another person to rotate into a serial dating lineup.
And if there’s a familial connection, you should probably be on your best behavior, too.
That’s a lot of pressure from the get-go…so should you go along with a family member setting you up on a date?
We’ve rounded up three Millennial family set-ups that worked out (one marriage, one engagement, and one seven-year committed relationship) and their matchmakers to get their take on it.
The Cast of Characters:
James and Lauren were set up by their dads. They dated for a year and a half before getting engaged. Their wedding is set for August 2018.
Maryclare set up her son Johnny with her childhood best friend’s daughter Rachel. The matchmakers and their husbands set up a family dinner in Chicago to introduce their kids, and the rest is history. Johnny and Rachel have been together seven years.
Kathryn successfully matched her brother Brian with Janet, of Verily Magazine, by convincing Brian to fly from Pittsburgh to New York City to meet her. They got married in 2014 and now have two children.
Lessons learned from these family setups:
1. A setup comes with a vote of confidence from your family member.
A change of pace from the regular dating scene might be a good thing, especially when it comes with a recommendation from your family.
James and Lauren, newly engaged and originally set up by their dads, trusted their parents’ recommendation:
“Your parents wouldn’t set you up with someone crappy on purpose,” says James. “I feel like you have a leg up if you have a recommendation from your parents, as opposed to meeting at a bar or Tinder. You know something about this person. You know that, at least on the surface, your parents approve.”
That said, James and Lauren didn’t tell anyone their setup story until it got serious: “It’s definitely weird,” says James. “In the beginning, we just fumbled through it: ‘Mutual friends,’ we’d say. Mutual friends being our dads…”
2. Meeting each other will be more organic than a social media meetup.
First dates can be awkward, but if you met through social media, finding topics to discuss besides what’s evident from their profile might seem like a daunting task.
If a family member sets you up, he or she — in one way or another — gives you a leg to stand on. Right off the bat, you have some material to talk about: your families and the shared connection.
Kathryn, who set up her brother Brian with his wife Janet, put it like this: “Social media doesn’t have to be taken out of the equation. I know several successful couples that met online, even one on Tinder. But some people are just not cut out for that — like my brother. There’s something missing in the social media world of today — it’s not organic.”
Your family member might even make the introduction for you. Maryclare and her long-time best friend got their husbands and children, Johnny and Rachel, together for a night out in Lincoln Park, Chicago. They bridged that introduction gap for them, and Johnny and Rachel got along right away, like the matchmakers had hoped.
3. If you two decide to give it a try, there’s a level of commitment to seeing where it might lead.
“We both didn’t know what the heck we were getting into, but we both kinda just went for it,” Lauren says. “It’s not like your parents are going to lead you astray, so you might as well go for it.”
From the beginning, James and Lauren knew they weren’t going to be careless about their approach to this setup:
“It’s not that we were talking about super serious stuff after week two just because of our parents,” James says. “But I was always in this for a long-term dating relationship from the start, because it’s what I was looking for. That recommendation comes with, ‘I think you two would work.’ And if it works, why do you expect it to end?”
4. Familial connections can span any distance.
Kathryn and her friend orchestrated the blind date setup of Brian and Janet from over 700 miles away.
Kathryn had dedicated that kind of effort to the search for her brother’s spouse because of their many conversations about marriage, having kids, and what he wanted in a spouse — and she swore she had found his wife the moment she saw her.
“We had a couple of heart-to-heart conversations about how it’s not always the case that you’re in the same city as your spouse,” says Kathryn. “So, I had asked him, are you open to the idea of long distance and letting the values be the main priority?”
From there, Kathryn and her new acquaintance, Alexandra — a close friend of Janet’s — saw the potential, conspired for a while, and eventually convinced Brian to purchase a plane ticket from Pittsburgh and Janet to meet a total stranger for dinner in NYC.
“He wanted the drama of a good story. So I said, ‘Brian, I met your wife.’ But I didn’t even give him her name, because I really wanted him to meet her in person,” says Kathryn.
“Thankfully, Alexandra and I were very persistent.” And, obviously, a marriage and two babies later, it worked out!
5. Remember, your matchmaker just wants you to be happy.
James and Lauren took the setup for what it was — a chance to meet someone. James says, “After that initial thing, that was just the way we met. Our dads set us up. But outside of that, after we got past that, it’s just normal. It’s a relationship, the same that you would expect any other way.”
When asked if Maryclare jokes with her son about having set him and Rachel up, she replied, “Oh, of course! We did think it might work out, but we also thought it’d be nice for them to have somebody that they know [who] has the same background.”
In Brian and Janet’s story, Kathryn says, “Their wedding day was the best day of my life. My husband was there, my children — and it was beautiful to see Brian so happy and well-suited.”
6. If your families are onboard, your fundamental values probably align.
“It was important for me to try to find someone from back home that had a similar upbringing, just because you kind of know you’re on the same page on a certain level for the important things,” says Lauren. “That was big for me. Even knowing that they’re a Catholic family, raised back home in Ohio, that was important for me.”
James added, “There’s a knowledge that comes with the familiarity I guess. It all stems from your family. Our dads knew each other enough that they knew their children were raised right and raised well. Not little scumbags.”
Bonus: If your families share the same faith, you’ll have another value-based connection.
“Our shared faith just keeps us grounded,” James says. “The common culture is so far removed from Catholic or even Christian [values], that you’ve learned throughout your life to focus on things that aren’t as important.”
“So much of what the Church teaches [is] instrumental to a relationship,” continued James. “Being honest, forgiving, being faithful to each other, all these things. If you don’t have them, you don’t have a relationship. If you have an abundance of forgiveness, honesty, and faithfulness in your relationship, there’s not a lot that you can’t overcome.”