“We Like The Same Guy Online!”

It happens: You and a pal take a shine to the same person’s profile. Who gets dibs? Or should you both go for it? Answers to these questions ahead.

By Sally Wadyka

’m sitting on my friend’s couch one evening, and she’s showing me some of the guys from who’ve contacted her. Then, the absolute worst happens: Up pops a picture of the handsome internist who had emailed me the day before! Turns out, Dr. Yoga (as we nicknamed him after seeing the photo of him doing the Warrior Pose in his surgical scrubs) had taken a liking to both of us. But who got dibs?

Of course, this dating dilemma is not exclusive to the online domain—the same guy could have met both of us at a party and asked for our numbers. But at a party, he’d probably know that we were friends, while, on the Web, it’s easy to contact several people at once with no idea whether or not they know each other.
If you and your pal are both interested, don’t sweep this fact under the rug.
And if it so happens that you and your pal trade notes and find out you’re both competing for someone’s affections, awkward situations can ensue. In fact, these situations could sabotage your friendship and any chance of romance. That’s why we’ve enlisted the advice of experts to help you navigate this dating minefield.

Use discretion with your date
When my friend and I discovered that Dr. Yoga had contacted both of us, our first instinct was to let him know about the coincidence. It seemed so hilarious to us—why wouldn’t he feel the same? But Ron Geraci, online dating coach and author of The Bachelor Chronicles, advises against it. “If you tell the guy, it’s going to make him feel like he’s on the outside of an inside joke,” he explains. It’s perfectly OK to let him stay oblivious for a while until you and your friend figure out what you want to do.

Hash it out in the open…
“If you and your friend have the same taste, it’s not surprising that when shopping for a man you could also both end up reaching for the same item,” says Alyssa Wodtke, author of True, Lies, and Online Dating: Secrets to Finding Romance on the Internet. So if the two of you often spend an evening together looking at profiles, chances are high that you’ll come across guys you both dig—or, as in my case, suitors who’ve contacted both of you. If one of you is smitten and the other isn’t, no problem. But if you’re both interested, the worst thing you can do is sweep this fact under the rug. Instead, make a pact about how you’ll proceed. You may agree that you can both send a message and leave it up to the object of your affections who to pick (if he picks you both, we’ll have more advice on that later). Or you could agree to take turns: Your pal writes to one man you both like, you write to another one, and if neither of those pans out, you can switch. No matter how you handle it, you and your friend should agree to never correspond with anyone on the sly, or you may destroy any sense of trust between you. You could suddenly find yourself with one less friend.

Actually, a version of this solution is how my friend and I handled the Dr. Yoga situation: We both emailed him, but it quickly became clear that she was more interested in him than I was. So I stepped back and they dated for a few months. When they stopped seeing one another, I was focused elsewhere romantically, so that was that.

Consider who’s made the bigger investment
If you’re having trouble deciding how you and your friend should handle a certain scenario, that’s understandable, especially if you’ve both been corresponding with the same man for awhile. Getting into a debate about who likes him more or who has more of a chance probably isn’t productive. Instead, consider establishing a “first come, first served” policy to help you cut to the chase and decide who gets the green light. Maybe, say, one of you has already been on a face-to-face date while the other hasn’t gotten past email or a phone conversation. In this case, it often makes sense that the person who’s further along should get first dibs. “It’s like being the polite driver at the intersection,” says Evan Marc Katz, author of I Can’t Believe I’m Buying This Book—A Commonsense Guide to Successful Internet Dating and Why You’re Still Single. “If your friend is further along, you should let her go first.” There is, of course, a decent chance that whichever person got a first crack will decide this guy’s not for them. If that’s the case, the experts agree there’s nothing wrong with you getting back in touch with him and pursuing a meeting. And even though you don’t need your friend’s permission to do so, it’s best that you give your pal a heads-up so she isn’t caught unaware.

Or both go for it and let your date decide
If you and your bud are not possessive types, you may decide to both go on a date with this person and see what happens. That’s fine, but keep in mind, this is only a short-term solution. “One or two dates is fine, but after that, you’ll have to decide which of you goes
We told you the moment it became clear we both liked you.
forward with it,” says Wodtke. “Plus, if it gets to this point, you should let the guy know that you’re friends and that’s why one of you has to bow out.”

If you both like this man equally, you might have to let him choose how — and with whom — he wants to proceed. “You have to consider your date’s feelings,” says Katz. “If he knows he’s dating two friends, he’s going to want to make a decision very quickly before the whole thing blows up.” One of you (not both unless you want him feeling ganged-up on) need only explain it this way: “Hey, I found out through sheer coincidence you’re dating a friend of mine. We thought it’s best we let you know that, and to see what you’d like to do.” If he asks why you didn’t reveal this info sooner, say, “We would have, but we felt it was too early to tell whether either of us would hit it off with you. We told you the moment it became clear we both liked you.” Emphasize that you fessed up as soon as possible, and chances are, this person will feel flattered rather than offended.

Sidestep the green monster
Whatever happens, the most important thing is to try not to do anything that will create jealousy and friction between you and your friend. If your pal is really smitten with someone who would prefer to keep seeing you, it may be very hard to keep dating without jeopardizing your friendship. It might be best for you to slow things down—at least for the time being. After a month or two when your friend has moved on emotionally, explain that you are ready to take things to the next level with the person in question. “As long as everyone involved is an adult, there’s no reason it can’t work out,” says Wodtke. And besides, if the person you’re dating truly means that much to you, any good friend will give his or her blessing.

Sally Wadyka is a freelance writer whose work appears regularly in Shape, Runner’s World, and The New York Times.
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