The Washington Post

Carolyn Hax: Thinking of playing matchmaker; how to be monogamous


Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

One of my friends has asked me to set her up with a guy friend of mine. I happen to know the guy friend is not looking for the same things she is looking for and will probably (though not definitely) wind up blowing her off, even if he seems interested at first (which he probably will). Is it my job to share this with her, or should I just set up the initial contact and then butt out?

Matchmaker, Matchmaker

Interesting. I started to type out an answer to the effect of, “No harm in mentioning his pattern,” but then I disagreed with myself before I finished.

(Nick Galifianakis)

It’s up to the two of them to find out about each other, and as long as there’s nothing glaring that you’re withholding, to say too much is meddling.

What’s “glaring”? That he has a history of lying to or abusing women he dates — and you know this vs. merely suspecting it.

I could keep going with the butt-out reasoning and ask: Why do two adults need an intermediary? Can’t she just approach him herself?

Re: Matchmaker:

Not sure I agree with your answer. If the female friend is looking for a serious relationship and the male friend is only interested in dating girls casually right now — and has a history of using/blowing off women — then I think the female friend would want to know this before proceeding. It can be really painful for someone (of either sex) who is looking for a lasting relationship to be blown off. I think the female friend should be informed if the male friend isn’t looking for something long-term right now . . . then she can make her own decision on how to proceed.


This sounds good in theory, but does the matchmaker actually know what the male friend wants? That’s part of what stopped me — the idea of presuming to be messenger when the male friend (a) might not even know himself how he’d feel and behave in a relationship with this female friend and (b) is perfectly capable of saying for himself, “I’m not interested in anything serious right now.”

Again — if he has a clear, established tendency to mislead women, then the onus on the matchmaker friend does change. The new responsibility, though, isn’t merely to warn off friends from pursuing him romantically; it’s to take responsibility for being friends with someone who uses women. Doesn’t that make someone an accessory?

Dear Carolyn:

In your experience, what do you think it takes for a person with a history of cheating on partners to be able to maintain a long-term, monogamous, committed relationship?

Once a Cheater

Impulse control, plus resolution of whatever chaos was underlying the infidelity choice — including a firm conviction that life is better with nothing happening on the side.

To put it more cynically: You need the person to recognize it’s in his or her self-interest to remain faithful and to be disciplined enough to pull it off.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or Sign up for Carolyn Hax’s column, delivered to your inbox early each morning, at

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