Dr. Tarra Bates-Duford
Is it OK to Date a Friends Ex?
Over the years, I have had the opportunity to work with both persons in a close non-intimate relationship and those that were in a close intimate relationship. However, both relationships require many of the same qualities and characteristics, i.e., honesty, mutual respect, commitment to its growth and maintenance, healthy communication, flexibility, etc. Non-romantic relationships just like romantic relationships must consist of healthy boundaries and willingness to discuss the things that are not always pleasant, such as, how to interact if or when the relationship cease to exist. During the honeymoon stages of a romantic relationship or the excitement of a new friendship, many people are unable to even contemplate not having their friend or partner in their life much less envisioning a former partner engaging in a romantic relationship with a friend.
Most romantic partners and BFF’s (best friends forever) will agree (when the relationships are going well), dating a friend’s ex/ romantic partner’s BFF is off limits, however, opinions may change once the relationship is over. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard the words “I would never date someone that was in a relationship with my friend”, or “I could never consider dating my partners friend if we broke up”, yet opinions seem to change once the romantic relationship ends. When a former partner dates the friend of his/her ex assumptions are quickly made, i.e., they lied when they said they could never be interested in their former partner’s friend, he/she was probably interested in their romantic partner while they were friends, he/she befriended them to get closer to their ex, etc. Unfortunately, with these things it can be pretty hard to tell, former partners and friends may wholeheartedly believe that it's wrong to date a partners/friend’s ex, it is disrespectful, or even “breaking the code” pertaining to appropriate relationship ethics.
Simple Tips That Can Help You Manage Feelings Associated with Feelings of Betrayal:
Do not make comparisons between you and your friend
Do not drive yourself crazy trying to pinpoint when feelings developed between your friend and former partner
Do not gossip or spread rumors about your friend or former partner
Do not insist on knowing or involving yourself in your former partner’s new relationship
Respect boundaries without making assumptions, i.e., do not ask your friend to analyze what happened between the two of them so that you can avoid making the same mistakes (if you are dating a friend’s ex) and do not grill your boyfriend on what went wrong or insist that he account for his behavior throughout the entire time he was in a relationship with your friend.
Avoid engaging in paranoid thinking and behavior, i.e., do not try and prevent your boyfriend and your friend from interacting because you're afraid they may still have feelings for each other, and don't constantly seek reassurance that that's not the case.
Accept that some relationships or former exes are truly off limits, i.e., relationships that have the potential to undermine or end a valued friendship, partners that may have been violent or mistreated your friend during their relationship, etc.
Making the decision to date a friend’s ex is not a decision that should be entered into lightly. You must ask yourself, are you willing to lose or permanently damage your friendship? Are you willing to cause pain and anguish to your friend, is this romantic relationship worth it? After you have asked yourself these very important questions explore your own feelings about dating and relationships, would you be ok with a friend dating a former romantic partner? Would you be comfortable seeing your friend and your ex together? If you know that you would have difficulty accepting a former romantic partner being with one of your friends than this is perhaps where you need to draw the line. Creating boundaries within your friendships can help you determine the type of friendship you have, the type of friendship you want, or whether or not you share mutual views on romantic exes.