Are there guidelines for dating a friend’s ex? Should a certain amount of time pass? Should I get approval from my friend before trying? While the relationship my friend and her ex had was somewhat serious, they appear to be friendly now, i.e. on good terms. But who knows, maybe it’s all an act. Truth is, I’ve had a crush on my friend’s ex for ages now, since I first met her, and I think we’d be a good match. I just don’t want this all to end disastrously. Help!—Dangerous Liaisons
Anna says: I tend to advise my straight friends not to pursue their friends’ exes. There are exceptions, of course, but in most cases it’s not worthwhile to jeopardize the friendship for a relationship that probably won’t work out anyway.
If lesbians abided by that rule, then only seven of us would be getting laid ever because the dating pool is so much smaller, and odds are that we will end up dating our friend’s exes at some point, even if we try reaaally hard not to.
Just because lesbians don’t have to abide by the (admittedly gross) “bros before hos” friend code, doesn’t necessarily mean you should ask your friend’s ex to queer bingo. There are lots of factors to consider before going down that road, such as: How long ago was the breakup? Was it a nasty one? Are you prepared to have several processy talks with your friend about this? Is pursuing the ex more important to you than your friendship? There’s a chance that your friend might kick you to the curb for going after her old flame. It’s shitty, but it is a possibility you should be prepared for. And also, recognize that dating a friend’s ex is going to be messy regardless of how amicable the breakup was.
When I was in 23, I fell super hard for this poet, but we were both in relationships at the time, so we kept it friendly. In a weird twist, our relationships both ended around the same time, and I started pursuing her immediately, even though her ex was a mutual friend of mine. Lo and behold, the crush was mutual! We had this really hot and amazing month of clandestine dates. We couldn’t tell her ex that we were seeing each other, so we kept it a secret. (It made sense at the time). Of course, she found out, because duh, and I was not only friend-dumped (via a series of scathing emails), but I was also dumped-dumped due to my now ex-friend’s sudden change of heart about her ex/my current flame. And then I was de-friended on MySpace by all parties, which is perhaps the most embarrassing part of this whole story. The end.
Obviously that’s one of many possible endings, and if I could go back and change things, I still wouldn’t because I was SO into that girl—it was like I was poisoned and the only cure was her saliva—but what I learned from that whole sordid affair is this: Be mindful of other things besides your vagina.
That’s all. Consider your vagina’s feelings, then consider whether the outcome will ruin your life in some lasting way before making any decisions. If your vagina is ahead after the count, then maybe it’s love, or at least something worth pursuing. Also yes, please talk to your friend about it. You don’t have to get her approval, but talking is the adult thing to do. If you do date her ex, she’s going to find out, and she will look upon the situation far more favorably if she hears it from you and not from some drunk girl at queer bingo. That’s the one change I would’ve made in my situation involving the poet. Sneaking around and lying aren’t life strategies—they’re excuses.
We can’t control other people’s behaviors, but we can be upfront about our desires, and act with integrity. Good luck, Dangerous.