They say there are plenty of fish in the sea; in a perfect world, every person would find his or her own special fish and swim away happily, without any drama.
But we don't live in a perfect world and there are a lot of factors that come into play when you're navigating the sea.
There is an unspoken, unwritten code in the dating world and it is this: A friend's ex is off limits. It's the first commandment of girl codes and bro codes alike.
If this code is broken, it could get messy and potentially end a friendship, depending on the severity of the situation. But alas, the heart wants what the heart wants. So how do you handle it?
Is It Ever Okay?
Every person has his or her own individual values and morals. What seems appropriate to one person may seem unforgivable to another.
This is often the case when it comes to ex territory. Many people refuse to even entertain the thought, as they believe it's never worth risking a friendship over a potential relationship, while others maintain that all's fair in love and war.
If a person is single, he or she is fair game. For this reason, it's not a black and white situation when it comes to dating a friend's ex.
Often, the easiest way to determine if it's okay is to consider how you would feel if the roles were reversed. How comfortable would you be if a friend decided to start knocking boots with your ex? If you wouldn't be okay with it, you shouldn't do it yourself. Do unto others, people.
Factors To Consider
If you end up being comfortable enough to take a chance, buckle up for what may be a bumpy ride. This is when sh*t can potentially hit the fan. How important is your friendship to you?
How serious was their relationship? How long ago did they date? Are there lingering feelings on either side of the breakup? Do you really have feelings for this person or is something else — like boredom or loneliness — at play? Could your motive be an attempt to make your friend jealous?
The above questions are pivotal when you're deciding whether or not to bite the proverbial bullet.
Understandably, no situation is the same and there are always two sides to every story. It's beneficial to analyze from all angles. If you feel like something isn't right, trust your instincts.
If it seems like your friend has moved on without a backwards glance, it might be safe to start treading the waters of the new relationship.
If your friend is still binge drinking while listening to “Jagged Little Pill” on repeat, it's probably best to bow out gracefully before things get messy.
How To Deal
Once you take a long, hard look at all the circumstances and consider everyone involved, it's time to actually do something. The key here is an overwhelming amount of honesty. It's infinitely better to have everything out in the open.
Though you may be trying to spare someone pain, hiding anything may imply guilt and that's not what you want to convey. Nothing is worse than hearing bad news from someone other than the original source.
If you are honest and forthright from the start, all you can do is await a reaction. Ideally, your friend would be okay with the whole situation and everyone would go on with their lives.
Unfortunately, regardless of the circumstances, there may be lingering jealousy, resentment and a territorial sense of ownership. Expect the worst.
Ultimately, you need to be prepared for whatever happens next. While you don't want to hurt anyone in situations like this, it's important to remember that your own happiness is a factor as well. Relationships can be messy and complicated, even without involving a third party.
Examining the situation, being honest with everyone involved and trusting your gut are all tools you should have in your survival kit if you're planning to swim with the sharks. Good luck.
Top Photo Credit: WENN