I was chatting with a friend recently who exclaimed, “Did you hear? Chaya just started dating David, Bracha’s ex. HOW AWKWARD?” I responded, “I don’t really find it awkward at all. If he’s a nice guy, and all of Chaya’s friends are nice girls, then are they barred from dating each other because of Chaya?” This can’t be right. Yet, unfortunately it is a relatively common response to someone dating the same people as their friends.
So what do we do when things don’t work out with a possible partner? Are they officially prohibited from dating all of our friends and acquaintances? I would argue that it depends.
One of my closest friends, let’s call her Tzipporah, and I date the same boys all the time. We have similar enough hashkafot, but very different personalities. For example, I was once set up with a nice boy, who I knew was not for me within five minutes of meeting him. Long story short, he showed up over an hour late for our first date. For me, that is a deal-breaker. But I thought “Hey, he seems like a really nice boy, and I could really see him with Tzipporah.” I proceeded to set them up, and they hit it off right away. Turns out, I was right. He showed up late for every single one of their dates, but, unlike me, Tzipporah was not bothered by that. She has similarly passed on nice boys who were not for her.
In these scenarios, I would urge friends to not only allow their friends to date the same people they have dated, putting aside any perceived “awkwardness,” but to go out of their way to set up nice guys with their friends. If it isn’t for you, please pass him my way, thank you very much. This promotes a sense of community and encourages people to look out for each other. If you’ve already ruled him out for yourself, what is the harm in suggesting him to a friend?
However, there is another case which I think needs to be addressed. What happens when you notice red flags in someone you’ve met or dated? Should you try your best to see the good in them and set them up anyway? Or do you have some obligation to protect your friends?
A friend recently shared a story with me. Yocheved was working with Avi in a professional setting when the topic of the halachic prenup came up. Avi said, “Oh, I would never give my wife a halachic prenup. That’s the only leverage a man has in a relationship.” Yocheved told me that prior to that interaction, she had thought of him as a stand-up guy and was looking to set him up with her friends. Unfortunately though, this is something that should be viewed as a huge red flag. It is not something trivial like showing up late for dates, rather it indicates a certain propensity towards abusive power dynamics. No person looking to enter a relationship should be concerned primarily with obtaining “leverage.” That is a recipe for abuse. Knowing this information, how could Yocheved possibly set this boy up with her friend?
Similarly, someone recently confided in me that she had to end her relationship because the boy did not respect her physical boundaries. This is not a judgment on halacha, but rather an assertion that no matter what ground rules you set for your relationship, neither party has the right to challenge those boundaries without consent. She told me, though, that he had previously dated a friend of hers, and she knew that he had caused similar issues then. I do think it’s great that she decided to date this guy despite the fact that he had dated her friend. But, perhaps, it would have warranted consideration of the things she had heard about his previous relationship.
Overall, I strongly urge everyone to consider suggesting anyone you go out with to a friend, assuming all is well. Even if there are certain things that did not work for you, don’t assume that they won’t work for someone else. However, if you notice traits which show a tendency towards physical or emotional abuse, the big RED FLAGS, be mindful that those gut feelings are often correct. It is hard to navigate appropriately without violating lashon harah, but I strongly suggest that you consult an appropriate authority and stand up to protect your friends, and help support healthy relationships in our community.