Couples Dating Couples: A Plea for Awareness

One-on-one dating gets all the press. And by one-on-one dating I mean the tedious carousel of two individuals going out on dates to see if they want to spend the rest of their lives together.

It’s sickening, really. The TV shows, the hit songs, the books, they’re all in on this disgusting scam. I spent half of my college years wondering if Jim and Pam were going to get together on The Office (they did), and then I spent the other half wondering how it was possible that vampires could date people (I still haven’t watched or read Twilight, so I’m not sure).

The adoring public buys in to this fraud completely, as if one-on-one dating is the only variation of dating that a person will encounter in their life. And so, as adults, we enter a world post-finding-a-significant-other that is totally foreign to us. All of a sudden, couples have to find friends as a couple, and friendships become infinitely more complicated.

Consider this post an introductory text to two-on-two dating, or “couples dating” as I will hereafter call it (trademark pending). Since apparently no one else in the world is raising awareness about this issue, this low-trafficked blog must do it. Don’t get me wrong–I have no problem with one-on-one dating. I mean, how do you think I got married? It’s just that one-on-one dating has already been covered. It’s a tired subject. Society has, for better or worse, been saturated with this issue for decades.


A typical couples date. We are working those connections!


Couples Dating: What is it? 

Couples dating is when you and your significant other go out with another couple to see if you want to become friends and hang out together in the future. If the couples dating is serious, the end goal might be to reach “go-to couple status,” the couples dating version of marriage, even though it is admittedly less-exclusive. A go-to couple is the couple that you call first if you’re trying to find someone to go out to dinner with on a Friday night. It’s the couple that you make your children’s godparents if you’re Catholic. It’s the couple that you would leave your kids with if you both tragically died simultaneously in a car wreck (yeah–you should probably get that in your will). While it’s theoretically possible to have more than one go-to couple, in practice this is rare.

Why is couples dating important? 

While I pretty much went over this in the introduction, I will re-emphasize it here. Couples dating is important because it is what you will spend the rest of your life doing after you get married. Let’s pretend you get married at 27 and live to be 80. In that scenario, you probably seriously dated for no more than 5-10 years. You will couples date for 53. It will become the new norm. And don’t think it stops when you have kids.

Is couples dating complicated? 

You’d better believe it. In one-on-one dating, all that really matters is that you get along with the person you are dating. One person needs to simultaneously like someone and be liked by that person for the relationship to work. Yeah, we’ve heard the comments like “For this relationship to work, you need to get along with my friends,” but we know that lip service goes out the window after about the first month.

Couples dating is infinitely more complicated. Let’s take two couples: Couple A and Couple B. The guy from Couple A needs to get along with and like both the guy and the girl from Couple B. Additionally, and at the same time, the girl from Couple A needs to get along with and like both the guy and the girl from Couple B. Further, the guy and the girl from Couple B need to simultaneously, and separately, like the guy and the girl from Couple A. There are, count them, 8 separate “likes” that need to go on at the same time in order for couples dating to work. For one-on-one dating there are 2.

We’ve all been in those couples dating relationships that just don’t work. Rach and I run into it just like the rest of you. Maybe I really like the other guy, and Rach really likes the other girl, but I can’t stand the girl and Rach can’t stand the other guy. That couples relationship is a no-go. Maybe I really like both the guy and the girl, Rach really likes the guy and girl, and even the other girl really likes Rach and me. But the other guy just likes Rach, and can’t stand me. Too bad. That couples dating relationship is sunk, even though only one of the eight “likes” is missing.

Incomplete Couples Dating Relationships and “Neutrals” 

I don’t want to make it sound like every one of the 8 “likes” needs to be fully realized in order for the relationship to work, but without all 8 you certainly won’t reach the hallowed “go-to couple” level. If not all 8 likes are present, the relationships that aren’t “likes” need to at least be “neutrals.” These scenarios, though incomplete, can still blossom into couples dating relationships.

There are two major rules that come into play with these “incomplete” relationships: (1) the number of “likes” needs to be more than the number of “neutrals” in order for the relationship to be feasible–in other words, there needs to be at least 5 “likes” out of 8 possible; and (2) each of the four individuals present has to have at least one “like”–in other words, a person cannot be neutral about both members of the opposite couple. An example may be illuminating. The guy from Couple A likes the guy from Couple B but is neutral about the girl. The girl from Couple A likes both. So far, we have 3 likes and 1 neutral. Additionally, the guy from Couple B likes the girl from Couple A but is neutral about the guy. And the girl from Couple B likes the girl from Couple A but is neutral about the guy. This relationship will probably work, because we have 5 “likes”, 3 “neutrals”, and each individual likes at least one member of the opposite couple. There is enough synergy for sparks to fly!

But I’m scared–how do I start?

So now you’ve kind of bought into this idea of couples dating, but you’re wondering how you go about test driving your first couple. How do you choose who to go out with? How do you approach them? What if it doesn’t work out? These are common questions, and it’s OK to be nervous your first time.

Other couples are complicated. They have emotional mood swings. It can be scary trying to figure out if they “like” you back. Trust me, I’ve been there. Sometimes there’s that instant connection, but other relationships are “slow burners” that take weeks and months to develop. There are extroverted and introverted couples, just like there are extroverted and introverted people. There are high maintenance couples just like there are high maintenance people. There are clingy couples. Smart couples. Beautiful couples, Popular couples. If you’ve seen it in the one-on-one dating game, you’ll see it in the couples dating game, except to more of an extreme.

So, the basic answer is to start wherever you want. Just like in a one-on-one dating relationship. Try to find a couple with similar values, goals, and interests as you, and go for them. You will be turned down, but don’t let that discourage you. You and your mate can make it through rejection together!

What kind of couple should we go after?

As I mentioned previously, there are as many kinds of couples as there are individuals. Here is a short list of common couples you might find as you begin your search:

1. The Popular Couple: They are courted by many other couples on a weekly basis. They can be great, but just know that you may be fighting off other suitors. If you’re up for the challenge, go for it!

2. The Power Couple: Each member of this couple is focused primarily on advancing their own career and the career of their partner. This couple can be a great ally later in life, but a DTR early on will be a necessity so you can figure out if they have time for you.

3. The Needy Couple: Pretty self explanatory. But be wary of getting involved in one-way relationships with other couples where all you do is give.

4. The Thrifty Couple: Nothing wrong with being cheap, but it can hinder a couples relationship if taken to an extreme. Limits the number of things you can do together.

5. The Exclusive Couple: This is the couple that expects you to be their only partner very early in the relationship. While they are usually very faithful and do not stray, sometimes you need to test the waters early on, so be careful about getting attached too early.

This is just a short list, but you get the idea.

In conclusion, I would encourage you to go out there and give it a shot. Be yourself. Put on a smile and put yourself out there. And don’t be afraid of rejection. In the end, be confident that you will find that ever-elusive “go-to couple” that will make it all worth it.

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