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Pairing Off: Married Couple, ISO BFF Couple

As a grownup, it’s hard enough to make even one new friend. Try finding the perfect pair to complete your two-couple foursome.

Illustration: Michael Sloan

My husband and I met our soulmates at a wedding. Dressed in our finest, we sipped Champagne and engaged in a dance of pure seduction. He loved basketball and poker and laughed at all of Matt’s jokes. She possessed a sarcastic wit and wore a ravishing blue dress. They were going to be our new best friends, I decided even before the cake was cut. That same night, Matt and I took them back to our place for a nightcap. We gabbed for hours, until suddenly realizing—how did that happen?—morning was nigh. Matt and I felt like we’d hit the jackpot: It’s tough enough to find two people who really like each other, but four? After living in Chicago for 11 months, we had apparently finally found people we could love. Matt and I weren’t yet married. John and Jane—yes, let’s call them John and Jane—weren’t either.

Over the next three years, the four-way friendship coalesced into perfect symmetry. There were dinner dates. The guys joined a basketball league together. Jane and I regularly escaped for girls’ nights. John and Jane were the only friends Matt wanted to see for his 28th birthday, nine days after his dad died. Another time, John took us to meet his parents. We bunked at his childhood home in Champaign after a road trip south for an Illinois-Northwestern football game. John’s dad made breakfast, and his mother hauled out the baby pictures. John and Jane came to our wedding, and three years later we flew to Mexico for theirs.

But like so many great love stories, this one came to an end. Two years ago, John and Jane got divorced, and no matter how fiercely I believed our arrangement would survive—We’ll see Jane on Fridays and John every other Saturday!—it didn’t. When a relationship ends, the surrounding associations are collateral damage. As for me and Matt, John got sole custody.

No big deal, I thought at the time. At least we still have John. And as for other couple friends, there are lots of fish in the sea, aren’t there?

To this day, we’re still searching.

Of course, Matt and I each have our own friends. But after the magical John and Jane experience, I’d like to find the Chandler and Monica to our Ross and Rachel. It’s a much more efficient way of socializing, after all. Everyone’s so busy connecting with virtual friends on Facebook these days, who has time for the real thing? The couple outing is a twofer: date night and friend time.

On the way home from a weekend trip to Scottsdale last year, Matt mentioned that he’d like to go back, the next time with another couple. “We’d need a pair who golf,” he said, “and would be up for hiking and also hitting the casino, but wouldn’t want to, like, go out partying.” Basically, we were in the market for another us.

Although Matt has articulated the vision of our perfect match, I am the one tasked with finding them. There’s that foodie couple we know, the ones who always order for us when we go out to eat. That could work—except their idea of a good dinner (Next) is a bit pricier than ours (Tank Noodle). There was another couple with great potential, but they moved to Arlington Heights.

On dinner dates, I eavesdrop on the next table’s conversation as much as I participate in my own. At a recent White Sox game, a foursome sat behind us, the guys talking sports and the women recapping Grey’s Anatomy. When they couldn’t remember the name of the former chief of surgery, I had to stop myself from swiveling around and interjecting, “Dr. Webber! Duh!” I can tell you what one of the women is reading (Gone Girl) and the reality star the other cannot stand (Kristin Cavallari), but I can’t remember the score of that game. I was positive we could be the perfect couple to turn their foursome into a sextet, and the looks I gave Matt during their very loud conversation said as much.

Me, telepathically: They’re talking Grey’s! This is totally in my wheelhouse! And the guys are just your type.

Him, with a tight smile: I know you’re envisioning our time-share in Boca with these people, but don’t be crazy. Watch the game.

In the sixth inning, the four of them moved to sunnier seats, and I mourned what could have been.

Nine months ago, Matt and I had a baby. Kids, it turns out, add a whole new dimension to the couple-friend courtship. And while I don’t mean to call my daughter an accessory, exactly, she really is the best tool for picking up pals. A built-in icebreaker when I don’t know how to make the first move.

On an unseasonably warm day this spring, my tiny wingman and I hit the swings at the playground in Oz Park. Another mom, watching her toddler on the slide, clutched a coffee and wore a newborn baby on her chest. Her husband, like Matt, was standing off to the side, surveying the scene without actually participating. She and I made eye contact and smiled. I went in for the kill.

“How old is the little one?” I asked.

“Two months,” she said.

From there, we launched into mom talk—sleep, BabyBjörns, the hardship of being cooped up with an infant during a Chicago winter. Then we ventured further: Do you live around here? What do you do? And, of course, the pickup line appropriate for any occasion: Come here often?

We summoned the menfolk and made introductions all around. The couple were moving soon, they told us, from a small two-bedroom apartment to a house in Lincoln Park not far from ours.
“How fun,” I said nonchalantly. “We’ll definitely see you around the neighborhood then.” (Translation: “We like you! Let’s be best friends forever!”)

Their toddler called to them, and our powwow broke up. As they gathered their things, our potential new friends gave us a big wave. My heart leaped.

Matt and I looked at each other. Our unspoken mission was accomplished. We knew we weren’t going to get lucky twice in one park run. It was time to go home.

“I liked them,” Matt said as we strolled down Halsted Street.

Scottsdale, here we come.

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