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10 Crucial Rules For Dating Your Friend’s Ex

Ever been on the receiving end of that unequivocal tenet of advice picked from a rather exhaustive section of the relationship Bible, called the ‘Ex code?’ That which says – never ever date a friend’s ex?

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If the answer is YES, you are in the right place. In my last article that dealt with a different facet of the ‘Ex-code’ and answered a question that has baffled many for eons (whether it is really possible to be friends with an ex), I had clearly dismissed black and white dictates as an impossibly unrealistic guide to stick to. Life is more grey and it is through the differential mixing of the black and white colors at the dual ends of the spectrum that varying hues of differing contrasts and intensity are produced to give life its essential experiential flavor. It is only through walking down on the grey stretch of freshly laid tarmac or sailing out on misty greys of the ocean or getting drenched in the rains brought about by ominous swathes of grey in the sky that one learns to differentiate one shade from another and taste life’s throbbing vitality. In a sense, this experiential living full of lessons isn’t unlike tasting the universe so that one can exactly decipher the mystifying recipe that has gone into its making. Similarly, treading onto paths that have clearly been denounced as ‘gory grey’ and thereby fatal, helps one learn lessons that unfold the wraps that drape the mystery that we call life.

dating a friends ex

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What I am getting at is that while ‘dating your friend’s ex’ is a clear ‘blacklisted zone’ in the relationship rule book, who really wrote those down? Did the writer ever fall in love with a bestie’s ex? What if the best buddy’s ex was his soul mate? What if his real possibility of love existed with the person his best friend had just dumped? Would he then be as uptight about the rules he laid out in black ink? Would he then be as afraid to tread upon the precarious grey paths?

No, right. Thought so.

Now that we have kicked the first hurdle in approaching a valid question about dating a friend’s ex to the curb, we can journey ahead, even if it means braving the outrageous storm. The first chilly winds that blow up against one’s being in the process are the ethico-moral ones. It is important to note that about 80% people in the world who espouse the worldview reinforced in the rule stated at the outset are following the rule without even being in the situation. Dating a friend’s ex isn’t taboo nor should it be. Of course, there are certain situations that call for ‘keeping a safe distance’ and nipping your feelings for a friend’s ex in the bud. But more on that later. Right now, what I intend to state is that if dating a friend’s ex is an inevitable thing in the queer community and that does not take away from friendships forged over years or over a couple of drinks at the bar, why does dating in the straight community have to be defined by so many rules? Of course, I understand that rationalists shall subject my justification to a demand and supply rule but the principles of economics are far too weak to mute the voice of the heart. The only thing to remember about dating a friend’s ex is that one needs to have the right approach to this delicate situation. And what exactly is this right approach?

Suggested read: Is it really possible to be friends with your ex?

1. Analyze your feelings

If you have a crush on your friend’s ex or are simply lusting after him/her, it is better to drive away those transient feelings. However, if you believe that what you feel for your friend’s ex has a possibility of transforming into a real relationship, you should listen to your heart and proceed toward the next step.

2. Gauge the significance of your friendship and the importance of a potential romance


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After you realize that you cannot give away your chance, you need to load up your friendship and the potential relationship on a weighing scale and see where the scale tips. You’d have to accept the fact that a step ahead toward dating a friend’s ex shall alter your friendship. In case you wish to retain the friendship as well as kindle a potential romance, you’d do well to analyze the risk.

3. Analyze the risk

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Remember the golden rule: date unto others’ exes as you would have them date unto yours. Whether or not you decide to go ahead with the ex, your feelings shall change your friendship, regardless. After carefully introspecting the pros and cons of both courses of action, it is important that you understand the stakes and wager a suitable bet. The closer you are to your friend, the higher the stakes. Same for strong feelings for your friend’s ex. No matter your choice, there is no complete win or loss. But it is important that you understand that there is a possibility of diffused friendship as well as a likelihood that the ex shall still carry a torch for your friend.

4. Let time do its trick

Do not rush into making a move on your friend’s ex immediately after they have called it quits. Give the situation some time, show respect for their feelings, detonate any possibility of backlash or angry outbursts or sounding plain scandalous, and help your friend recover and heal. It is only after time has had some ticks to nurse their wounds that you can charge ahead. However, if you realize that there is a possibility of their getting back together and that the two of them are reconsidering the fallout and deciding to work things out by giving their equation another chance, you may want to step back.

If an analysis of all the factors stated above result in a green signal, then going ahead is advisable, albeit with caution. There are some ‘rules’ that apply when you are dating a friend’s ex and these need to be followed religiously, coz unlike what you’d like to believe – there’s no grey here. So, follow these rules for dating a friend’s ex:

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1. Get the buy-in before making your move

Really, go and ask if it is okay that you want to date their ex. Ask them for permission in a gentle and soothing way without rubbing them the wrong way. If you sense that they aren’t really comfortable answering, do not push for an answer. Talking to your friend before you make a move on his/her ex is the high road to take, always – unless …

2. However, do not ask for permission if you won’t take no for an answer

killing you in my mind

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If you feel so strongly about your friend’s ex that your decision to have a ‘talk’ or ask for permission is more of a marketing speech or a persuasive attempt to convince them of your feelings, you might be better off without seeking approval. Coz any stamp of approbation that comes with a refusal to let go unless the stamp comes down with a definitive force to seal the deal isn’t really approval at all. It is an imposed decision. Yes, in this case you might risk coming off as a sneaky, Lothario-like version of infamous turncoat Benedict Arnold, but what can you do?

Suggested read: 10 valid reasons why you shouldn’t be friends with your ex

3. Do not gossip

do not gossip

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It is common that girls share information about their sweeties, but this dynamic may change if your friend knows that any facts divulged may be relayed to someone she once shared a bed with. Similarly, your guy friend does not need to know that you cannot make it for a guys’ night out because you have to go pick up his drunk ex from the club. Please refrain from passing on information that may be over – read, uncomfortable or simply offensive and hurtful. Do not pass on secrets that you may be in possession of, as that is the bare minimum of the decent conduct expected from a mature adult who has made a conscious decision to complicate two equations by dating a friend’s ex.

4. Own the risk involved

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We have already explained the risk element associated with the deal. When you have decided to go ahead with the decision to date your friend’s ex, remember that there is a high chance of everything blowing up in your face. You might end up losing both your friend and your sweetie. Coz even if your friend has mentioned that he/she is completely okay with the idea, men and women aren’t really wired to be cent percent okay with it and there’s a high possibility of the issue creeping up any time there’s a conflict betwixt the two of you. You have to be aware of this risk and own it, at all times.

5. Do not trash talk

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While it is completely alright to come to your partner for advice if you’re arguing with your friend, or vice versa, you have to absolutely resist the urge to belittle or insult one of them in front of the other. This proposition may be extremely tempting especially if they ended on bad terms coz you know they’ll lend you a sympathetic ear and at best (which is actually worse), join in. Yet, you need to avoid this situation at all costs. In order to maintain a healthy relationship with both, it is important that you never take sides or cast either in the bad-guy mold, no matter how much time has elapsed. If you feel that it is absolutely necessary that you vent, find a neutral party.

6. Respect individual boundaries and steer clear of assumptions


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This is very very important. You must respect the boundaries your friend and his/her ex have set for each other. For instance, if they do not want to attend a party where their ex would be, do not force them to. However, do not assume that they do not want an invite if you haven’t asked! Remember that you can love them both without them necessarily having to enjoy each other. Set aside time for each of them and honor it — you do not have to drag your lover to a girls’ night out or invite your bro (your sweetie’s ex) for what was meant to be an intimate dinner at home.

7. Do not ever draw comparisons

you know nothing

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No ‘am I prettier/smarter/better’ type questions please! Basing your self-esteem in a relationship, relative to those of former lovers, especially a friend you value and intend to retain is not only unhealthy but downright demeaning to the relationship as well as the friendship. You and your friend are not in competition, so keep it off the charts!

Suggested read: 10 surefire signs your are more than just friends

8. Be honest

Remember that any white lie in this complicated mix just ends up coming back later to bite you in the rear. So, be honest about the situation and do not scheme, deceive or manipulate any circumstance or person to be in sync with/play along with your pretend game. Be honest about everything to your friend as well as your current partner.

9. Do not pry into the past

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Never ever broach the past, even if it is an honest attempt at knowing what led to the fallout so you can avoid it. Never bring up the topic of their previous relationship, unless they, themselves, want to talk of it. Even then, remember to keep a neutral approach and do not question any detail. Your relationship and theirs are two separate entities and you do not need to know what they don’t want to tell you nor grill them about every detail that may seem to baffle you. They aren’t accountable, least of all to you!

10. Do not be paranoid


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Trust is a major factor in such an equation. Do not always freak out about any interaction between your friend and your partner owing to an irrational fear of them still having residual feelings of love. Your fears may not be unfounded but it is still important that you base a relationship on trust. If your fears are indeed false, your distrust of your partner may bring about ugly situations whenever your partner interacts with somebody from the opposite sex. This is because a lot many relationships get ugly when the person who decides to date a friend’s ex cannot fully come to grips with the situation and is tempted to throw the behavior in his/her partner’s face as a justification of his/her insane fears of them being capable of cheating – emotional or otherwise.

Although the above rules aren’t gender-specific and apply to both sides equally, I thought it was important to delve into gender-specific situations for a quick facts check.

Situation 1: You are a guy and a ‘bro-trayal’ is imminent, as you have fallen hard for your friend’s ex

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“As guys, we know why some of us get angry when an ex-girlfriend dates one of our friends,” says North Carolina native Bill, 35. “It’s partly tribal. We have a sense of ownership once we’ve marked our territory, which I know sounds primitive. But for some, it’s true; it’s a matter of respect. What’s mine is mine and you shouldn’t move in on that. And of course, there’s the fragile male ego. I don’t like the idea of my buddy and my ex having pillow talk and comparing bedroom notes. I don’t want to even think about which of us was/is better in the sack.

For most men, the old adage ‘bros before hoes’ applies and in strict terms. Any transgression is likely to cause estrangement and an eventual falling out. This is because men have this unspoken rule about the ‘ex-code’ that makes ‘bro-trayal’ a grave and unpardonable sin.

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“Men might hook up with their buddy’s ex-girlfriends,” says Maryland native Mike, 36. “Maybe even make a booty call in private. But seriously date? Doubtful. My buddies and I feel like we’re in a brotherhood. We always say that if one of our exes tries to date any one of the ‘brothers,’ then she’s the type of woman who makes grown men spill each other’s blood on the ground.

It is nearly impossible for a bruised male ego to come to terms with the possibility of their bro dating (or worse bedding) a girl they had claimed as their own. It may or may not have anything to do with their feelings about the girl, but this sort of primitive cave man attitude (as evinced by the excerpts above) certainly exists among men.

However, many men do seem to get on board with the idea of a bro dating their ex as long as the friend has spoken to them about it and then, made a move. Of course, they set boundaries and keep certain topics off limits but they do keep their peace with their bro’s romance, with partial modifications to their bromance. Rare, but true!

Situation 2: You are a girl and plan to date your girlfriend’s ex, as you feel that he might be the one

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The exes code of never dating a friend’s ex is widely pervasive in this case too. However, this situation is far more complicated, coz hey, it involves women. We women have a special capacity to mask our feelings until an eruption is long overdue. So, dating a girlfriend’s ex is always a bad idea, even if she has initially offered her wholehearted support. A simple conflict may flare up the dormant feelings of resentment and shall result in a consequent rupture of friendship.

Just like the bad blood threat that looms large when a bro code is violated, it is common to find that any woman who would claim another woman’s “territory” is suspect. However, this feeling is well-masked and comes forth in actions rather than words, save in the case of a verbal eruption.

Suggested read: 10 logical reasons why a friends with benefits relationship doesn’t work

On the other side, many women are able to feel completely okay with this new development, given that they have themselves been able to move on. Yep, you read that right – women are fiercely competitive that way and I am not going to justify it. One just has to deal with it!

And with that, I sign off – you are now fully equipped to decide if you want to shoot love darts in the direction of your friend’s ex! Let me know how it all works out, coz there’s a comments box built exclusively for this, down there! :)

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Article Name
10 Crucial Rules For Dating Your Friend's Ex
Dating a friend’s ex is always a sticky situation. And if you are in the same soup, do we have just the guide for you! And it isn't what you think!
Sejal Parikh

Sejal Parikh

"I'm a hurricane of words but YOU can choose the damage I do to you..."