So you’re dating a friend of your ex

In high school, I remember an unspoken rule about dating was that you absolutely could never date a friend of your ex no matter what. People would gossip. It would do irreparable harm to your reputation. Just an absolute huge mistake. And I remember in both high school and college feeling guilty whenever I developed a crush on someone who was in the friend circle of a guy with whom I’d previously had some kind of a romantic relationship. Even if I’d thought that enough time had passed or that my ex had been the break upper which should put me in the clear, it always made me hesitate to either initiate something or accept attention in this scenario.

But falling for a friend of an ex does happen. Can happen. And while you wade through the emotional intricacies that may result, it can all be totally fine or it can get totally sticky. Here are some of the things I learned when I dated the friend of an ex.

Don’t ignore your feelings, they’re valid

I met a guy I really liked about seven months after I’d had my heart broken, and was so excited to finally feel interested in someone again, but then discovered he was friends with the heartbreaker. Why must the world be so small!! So I hit the brakes hard. Even though I had never met him while I was dating the previous guy, I worried what it would look like. Would it seem like I was trying to “stick it” to the guy who broke up with me? That I was callous and heartless? It didn’t seem worth the hassle, so I started avoiding the new guy for awhile, even though I didn’t want to.

Be honest

The new guy was curious why I had backed off after we were having such a great time together, so I confessed the connection, knowing he wasn’t aware of it. Although surprised—and he asked how long ago I had dated his friend—he shrugged it off as no big deal. “We’re adults, what are you going to do about it.” And he was right. I couldn’t worry about what other people MIGHT think, I could just be upfront. I decided to disclose to the former guy as well, and he said he wanted me to be happy, no matter who I was dating, which then alleviated my personal hangups about the whole thing.

It’s not always that simple

This whole situation is ripe for someone’s feelings to get hurt, and I know that I lucked out. It’s not always like that. I’ve been in the opposite position, where a guy I dated later ended up taking out friends of mine. Sometimes it didn’t faze me in the slightest, other times, it did. There were times when I could manage to focus on the fact that I knew that particular guy wasn’t right for me and he deserved an opportunity to find someone who was, and there were other times when friendships cooled off because of the awkwardness of it all. Feelings aren’t always going to be logical or fair, but you’re going to feel them anyway!

Not everyone is going to be rational about it

A friend of mine ended up in a relationship with someone her ex knew well, and for the entire span of dating, she was subjected to snide texts from her ex about her new romance. Even though he had specifically broken up with her citing reasons that they weren’t compatible, he seemingly couldn’t handle that someone he knew was a better fit. She repeatedly explained to him that telling her he didn’t see a future for them, in no way gave him the right to continue to comment on her personal decisions. As she so eloquently put it, “you didn’t want to be part of my future, so you don’t get any input in how I choose to live it.”

Ask yourself how you’d feel

Having been on both sides of the spectrum, my hesitation to proceed with the friend of an ex stemmed from the hurt I’d felt in the past. So think about it. Could you be happy for your ex with a friend of yours? Would it make a difference if the friend was more of an acquaintance versus a close one? Once you determine that, think about whether you’d feel better if you were told upfront, or if you feel like it’s none of your business since you don’t date that person anymore. Try to do whatever you think gives you the best clean slate with your new SO.

Know that it’s your life, and your choice

In the end? It’s your life and your decision. Choosing a path that makes you happy is something you are allowed to do. A repercussion may be causing unhappiness in someone you used to date, and while you can apologize for upsetting someone (if you want to), you don’t need to apologize for living your life. You can’t spend your time living your life in a way that pleases everyone, because that’s impossible. Romance is littered with broken hearts and hurt feelings. Sometimes they’re ours, sometimes, they’re someone else’s, it’s the risk we all take when we cannonball into the deep end looking for love.

[IMmage via CBS]