Your friend’s ex: Off limits or not?

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October 17, 2013 by nooffensebut

Not that I advocate taking life lessons from Kate Hudson romantic comedies, but recently I saw one that sparked discussion.

On a ladies’ day out at the cinema, a friend and I watched “Something Borrowed,” a tepid movie that was neither especially romantic nor comedic, about a girl who takes up with her friend’s fiance. We walked out after the movie chatting about who was wrong and who was, well, more wrong.

He is, I insisted. If you’re the one in the relationship, you’re the one with the responsibility to honor it.

But, my friend said: You don’t do that to your friend. Even if the friend is as annoying as any character played by Kate Hudson.

She’s got a good point. I started thinking about the codes of ethics we have when it comes to dating.

Of course, stealing a guy from your friend is pretty undignified, but what about dating a friend’s ex? Many of us are, or have been, part of a circle of friends. Within the group it’s likely for there to be some romantic crossover, either in action or desire.

Unsurprisingly, people who responded to a social-media query have a lot of opinions on this topic.

“Women have a code,” said one woman. “You don’t date someone your good friend dated.”

“The only time dating a friend’s ex can work is when it’s been years since the relationship ended and if the relationship wasn’t serious to begin with,” said another.

And a third noted: “Friends should have the common courtesy to at least ask if you would be OK with them pursuing your ex. And no matter what you say, if they are a true friend they’ll respect your answer.”

Of course, there really are no hard and fast rules that apply 100 percent of the time when it comes to love. There are always exceptions.

But I really like what my friend Melissa had to say: Relationships, or former relationships, can become a possession issue, she said. And we need to be aware of this.

“Just because they dated us doesn’t mean we own them or their decisions,” she said, noting that one of her friends went on to date her ex, with her permission. “It was totally hard for me, but I want to be the kind of person who wants the best for the people I date even if that means it’s not me.”

I admire her perspective, and I would hope, were I in the same position, that I would act with such graciousness.

While I love hearing from the ladies, I must say, I wish more guys had chimed in, because I really do want to know what you think. Otherwise I’m just going to have to turn to “The Bro Code,” the manifesto of “How I Met Your Mother” character Barney Stinson.

The only real thought I got from a man was “I can’t think of a good reason why two people shouldn’t get together if that’s what they both want to do — especially if they really, really like each other.” And part of me really agrees. But that’s looking at it from one side, and in cases like these, there are at least three.

Wondering about the male perspective on this topic made me recall a conversation I had with a male friend many years ago. He was explaining how my men friends weren’t going to permit other guys to try to cross certain lines with me, nor would they go there themselves, because I was involved.

“I appreciate that you guys respect my relationship with him,” I said.

“No, no,” my friend corrected me. “We don’t respect your relationship with him. We respect his relationship with you.”

Barney Stinson would be so proud.


Originally published June 10, 2011 in the Chattanooga Times Free Press

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