Dating A Friend’s Ex…

Should you ever get involved with a pal’s “leftovers”? Before you shop for a sweetie so close to home, read this advice.

By Elsa K. Simcik

ome women establish rules for themselves when it comes to dating. You know, the classics like “Thou shalt not date a co-worker” or “Thou shalt avoid dating anyone younger than my brother unless extremely hot.” My friend, Christy, had a similar set of commandments. But she left off one that her friend, Natalie, thought was pretty important: “Thou shalt not covet thy friend’s ex-boyfriend.”

Yes, Christy rationalized to herself (as well as to me and all her other girlfriends, neighbors and Starbucks’ cashiers) that it was okay to date Natalie’s ex-boyfriend, Collin, because of the following circumstances:
  • Natalie and Collin had broken up three months prior
  • Christy and Natalie hadn’t been hanging out much lately
  • Collin is extremely hot
I couldn’t argue with Christy’s very valid points. But the bottom line
You may feel uncomfortable about the one degree of separation or worry about causing your friend more pain.
was would it upset Natalie? And if so, would they still have a friendship? The answer to these two questions turned out to be yes and no, respectively.

So in Christy’s case she got the guy but lost the friend. But is there a way for everyone to live happily ever after in this situation?

Time it right
This is definitely a tricky dating scenario, so don’t make it worse by starting to see your pal’s ex when he’s, well, not quite her ex yet. “It is usually fine to begin forming a relationship with a friend's ex when their relationship is positively over,” explains Dr. Susan K. Perry, Ph.D, relationship expert and author of Loving In Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get & Stay That Way.

Jumping the gun will undoubtedly cause bad feelings. Recalls Holly Matthews, “My guy and I weren’t even broken up when he and my friend got together. We were still dating!” says Holly. “Even after that, we all tried to be friends but then he would hit on me.” Who needs a mess like that?

Tell the truth
OK, so let’s say your friend and her guy are absolutely, positively broken up. You’re still in an awkward place—you may feel uncomfortable about the one degree of separation or worry about causing your friend more pain. Still, don’t go behind your friend’s back. Ask her how she’d feel if you dated her ex. “If she says she'd hate you to do that, ask her why,” suggests Dr. Perry, “Maybe her feelings for him are still too fresh. Maybe she's been telling you how horrible a person he is, and by wanting to go out with him, you're in effect saying you dispute her judgment.”

Melissa Fagan took the honest route with her friend Amber. “Amber and Josh had broken up about six months prior,” says Melissa, “I felt like enough time had passed, plus Amber had a new boyfriend. She was cool with it, so Josh and I started dating. The four of us even went on a double date. That was a little weird but at least we’re all friends.”

Know your friendship will change
Melissa’s honesty seemed to work but it definitely transformed her relationship with Amber. Dr. Perry has
“If he's an ex because he dumped your friend, then dating him will create hard feelings.”
some advice for women in this situation: “If you're used to discussing every detail of your love life with her, it probably wouldn't be kind to do so if the love of your life used to be the love of hers.”

In fact, it’s wise to keep the specifics of your guy and your pal’s breakup in mind as you move forward. “If he's an ex because he dumped your friend, then dating him will create hard feelings,” says Dr. Perry, so you need to be sensitive to that. “If she wouldn't have him back for anything, and you're upfront about how much you care about her feelings, then dating him shouldn't be a problem.” You may find, though, that she rolls her eyes at your newfound bliss, in which case, you’ll probably want to keep the details of your dating life somewhat private.

You can share...but beware
Whether you’re attracted to your friend’s ex or you’re the jilted woman, you’re not alone. Love triangles form all the time. I mean, it happened to Kelly, Dylan and Brenda on 90210. Or to use a reference from this decade, think Summer, Seth and Zach on The OC.

Really, it makes sense. You tend to hang out with women like you—with similar interests and hobbies. Sometimes they even look like you. You’re bound to share more than just a pair of cute strappy sandals with your pals. But when a triangle starts to form, make sure the guy’s really worth it. Because even the cutest strappy sandals can give you blisters.

Elsa K. Simcik is a freelance writer in Atlanta. Her work has appeared in newspapers and magazines including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Dallas Morning News, Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine and
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