Ah, the question we all want answered: Is someone your friend dated definitely off-limits? Staying true to the rules of "Girl Code," the first answer that comes to mind is probably a hard yes. (Cue Gretchen Weiners' infamous line, "That's just like, the rules of feminism.") But what if you just can't get your mind off your friend's ex, and you've tried everything to stop thinking about them? And I mean everything — from throwing yourself into a new hobby, trash-talking the ex with your friend, and even hitting up your old hookup buddy from college who's always there to "distract" you. Nothing's helped. You may start to think about how off-limits dating a friend's ex really is. The real answer? It depends.
"Whether a friend’s ex is off-limits has more to do with how your friend feels about that past relationship," Shasta Nelson, friendship expert and founder of Girlfriend Circles, tells Elite daily. "Does she still want to be with that person? Is she angry or hurt? Or did she just decide that person wasn’t the right fit for her?" The reason why your friend and their ex broke up can be incredibly important. If they amicably parted ways because they simply outgrew each other, then it may be more OK to date their ex than if the ex, say, cheated on your friend or broke their heart.
"If their ex is someone who they can’t stand, broke their heart or hurt them, it's slim to none chances that they are going to be super happy for you," Shula Melamed, MA, MPH, and relationship and wellbeing coach, tells Elite Daily. "There are some situations where it might be a bit awkward for a while and level out, but clear communication with the friend can help that. If you tell them, allow them to share their feelings and acknowledge them, but don’t ask them not to feel what they feel."
Before you decide whether or not you want to take a crack at your friend's ex, it's important to think about them and their relationship with their ex. "Dating a friend’s ex can be tricky," life coach Nina Rubin tells Elite Daily. "Think about how long they dated and the seriousness of their relationship. If it was only a few dates many years ago, it’s probably OK to date each other. If it was a long relationship that recently ended, it’s best to let the dust settle." However, even if the relationship wasn't necessarily long in hindsight, your friend may still feel some sort of connection to their ex that may make it hard for them to be 100 percent OK with you dating them.
Your friend may even think they're OK with it, but "seeing an ex happier being with someone they consider a friend may be too much to bear and can bring up resentment, questioning your friendship altogether," Thomas Edwards, founder of The Professional Wingman, tells Elite Daily. But that doesn't mean that dating a friend's ex never works out. "There are many cases of it working out well for all parties involved, but no doubt it takes maturity, compassion, and respect from all three people," Nelson states.
The truth is, you can't always control who you love. Your friend's ex may be the last person you want to be drawn to or intrigued by, but if you are, you are, and that's normal. "Sometimes we fall in love with people who happen to have dated one of our friends," Melamed says. If you decide to go for it, make sure you understand that if you do, "your friend might be very upset with you," she explains. "There may be repercussions, and you will have to be prepared for that."
A crucial part of knowing whether or not your friend's ex is off-limits is time. "While you may not know how much time is 'enough,' it can get to the point where your friend has moved on — possibly into another relationship — and it just doesn’t matter," Edwards says. Even if your friend has moved on, it's still important to talk to them about it, make sure they're OK with it, and aren't blindsided if you and their ex start dating. "The most important thing we need to do is communicate with our friend, and that includes showing that we respect her feelings, value her opinions, and cherish our friendship with her — no matter what," Nelson says. "Be clear and honest — tell your friend how you (re) met and how you started talking," Rubin recommends. "Trust yourself and let your friend in on the process."
Like with so many other relationship things, honest and open communication really can be the solution here. Be honest with your friend, be sincere, and be respectful. Their response to you potentially dating their ex might surprise you.