Call it "Friend Code" or whatever else fits your fancy — it seems like there's an unwritten law about staying away from your friend's exes. Of course, sometimes, life just happens, and people fall for each other. Whether you've been in love with someone for a while or got caught up in the heat of a moment, knowing what you should do when you hook up with a friend's ex can help you navigate an innately messy situation a little more mindfully.
"There’s no one way to handle this. It really depends on the people, personalities, and feelings involved," dating coach and dating app expert Meredith Golden tells Elite Daily. "No one likes to hurt someone’s feelings, and no one likes having their feelings hurt or feeling betrayed [by a friend]."
As Meredith shares, the first step in moving forward can be thinking about the relationship your friend had with their ex. Did they go on a couple of awkward dates and realize they were better off as friends? Did they seriously date for three years until your friend caught the ex cheating? Knowing how serious the relationship was, and moreover, how it affected your friend can help you move forward in the most compassionate way possible.
"If you hooked up with your college roommate’s boyfriend from seventh grade, this probably isn’t going to cause heartbreak," Golden says. "If you hooked with [your best friend's] first love, this is a very different scenario."
If your friend dated the ex a while ago or they're clearly over the breakup, they may be able to move on with ease. However, if the ex really hurt your friend or it's clear your friend is still in love with them, coming clean about the hookup may take a lot of time and care.
"It comes down to righting a wrong, so to speak," Golden says. "Put yourself in your friend’s shoes." You know your friend, and you know the best ways to communicate with them. Whether you ask your friend to talk in person or give them a phone call, Golden shares to think about how you would feel if your friend hooked up with your ex.
In addition to thinking about your friend's relationship with their ex, Golden suggests considering the nature of your relationship with your friend. "It also depends on how close the friendship is," Golden says. "If it’s someone who you were once really close with but now only talk to once a year, this is different than your [current] ride-or-die friendship." If you and your friend aren't super close, or if you haven't talked in a while, chances are you'll address the hookup differently than you would with your all-time BFF. While there's no cut-and-dry answer for how to move forward, Golden emphasizes being as empathetic as possible.
Golden also shares that it can be helpful to think of your intentions with the hookup. Was it a late-night, one-time thing that is never going to happen again? Have you secretly been in love with the ex the whole time and waiting for this to happen?
Thinking about where you and the ex stand after the hookup can help you get through the awkwardness. "Would your friend want to know?" Golden says. "This should guide the aftermath." If you kissed your friend's ex because it was Mardi Gras, and it honestly didn't mean anything, and you're literally never going to see them again, it may be easier to forget the hookup ever happened. Of course, if you're starting to have feelings for a friend's ex or you want to make the hookup a relationship, it may be helpful to talk to them about it before anything more happens.
"The right thing to do would be to discuss this thoroughly with your friend," Trina Leckie, host of the Breakup BOOST podcast, tells Elite Daily. "If you care about your friendship, you will respect your friend and their feelings."
Leckie adds that if your friend didn't have strong feelings for their ex or dated the ex a long time ago, they might be totally OK with you shooting your shot. "The only way this would be acceptable is if your friend actually encouraged you to do this before you took the step to get involved with them on any level," Leckie says. "But it absolutely needs to be 'approved' by your friend in advance." While you can do whatever feels right for you and your love life, if maintaining your friendship is important to you, it's essential to keep your friend in the loop.
Listen, your love life is yours. You get to decide who you hook up with, along with where, when, and how. While no one is allowed to make you feel judged or ashamed for consensually hooking up with another adult, if you got frisky with your friend's ex, putting yourself in their shoes may help you all move forward.
Meredith Golden, dating coach and dating app expert
Trina Leckie, host of the Breakup BOOST podcast