Can You Date A Friend’s Ex If You Liked Him First?

Dear Heather,

My friend just broke up with her boyfriend. I have had a crush on her boyfriend for about a year – since before they started dating. This is the story: About a year ago, he started hanging out with all of my friends and we got close. It seemed like he liked me back, but then my friend, who didn’t know that I liked him, started flirting with him. He started to like her back, and he asked her to be his girlfriend. A month later, she broke up with him. It’s been a month since they ended things, and I told my other friend how I felt about him. She told me that I would be a bad friend to go out with my friend’s ex-boyfriend. She said it’s “girl code” and I think she’s right.

I’m so angry at my friend for dating him since she clearly didn’t even like him that much. Now I can’t date him because of her, even though he asked me out. I said I would think about it but I don’t know what to do. If I say yes, I might lose a friend, if I say no, I lose a great guy and will eventually hate my friend for ruining a potential relationship. Is it okay to date a friend’s ex if you liked him first? Please help!

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Your friend is right – in general, one of the girl code rules is that you don’t date someone a friend has already dated. But here are some things to keep in mind: one, girl code is not a set of hard and fast rules that have to be followed exactly – there can be exceptions. Two: at the end of the day, you have to do what is best for you. And three: you need to talk to your friend. Like, ASAP.

This situation is tricky, and honest communication is essential to getting through it. As you explained, it’s one of those things where it’s just lose/lose, no matter what you decide to do – well, it will be that way if you don’t speak up, at least! Here’s the thing: if your friend knew you liked him in the beginning and dated him anyway, then I would say yes, you should definitely date him. But she didn’t know, and she probably still doesn’t, so she didn’t exactly do anything wrong here.

Still, there’s hope! One of the exceptions to the girl code rule of never dating a friend’s ex is this: if they dated for a very short period of time and she genuinely doesn’t care, then you can get the green light. That’s why you need to talk to her. Maybe she isn’t interested in this guy, and that’s why she ended things. If so, then there’s no reason you should avoid dating this guy just because she dated him for a few weeks. After all, if you avoided every single guy that every single friend had a little thing with, it would be hard to find any guys left! If she is over him, then there’s no reason you can’t try to make things work with him. And if she’s a good friend, she’ll see that and support you.

To find out, though, you need to talk to her and see how she feels. Approach her on your own and don’t get any other friends involved – this is an issue between the two of you only. Explain to her that you have liked this guy since you first met him, and you have feelings for him now. Say you pushed the feelings aside while they dated (this is important, because if you don’t say this, it could make her feel angry and betrayed – it’s one of the instances where a little white lie is necessary). Tell her that you’ve been trying to ignore the feelings since they broke up out of respect to her, but you can’t, and you really, really want to give things a shot with this person. Finish up by saying you approached her first because you love and care about her, and you don’t want to hurt her or ruin your friendship over a guy.

If your friend doesn’t like this guy, then she should tell you it’s okay to date him. That’s the only fair thing to do. Listen, if they dated for six months or a year, and you asked this, then I could definitely understand her saying she’s not comfortable with it even if she’s no longer interested in him. But they only dated for a month – that’s barely any time at all, and it’s not fair for her to hold him as her own if she doesn’t have feelings for him anymore. If she says she doesn’t like him but still doesn’t want you dating him, then honestly, that’s not cool. At that point, you need to decide what you want more – your friendship or a potential relationship.

Okay, but what if she IS still interested in him? In that case, things get a lot harder. If she still likes this guy, then yeah, it’s not a great move for you to start dating him. If that’s the case, it probably will ruin your friendship. Again, you would have a decision to make – keep your friendship with a certain amount of bitterness and anger there, or try to date this guy. It comes down to whatever is more important to you, and whatever the choice is, don’t beat yourself up for it!

Is it crappy to date a guy your friend likes? It is, but if you two end up having a great relationship, then maybe it’s worth the drama. Is it crappy to blow off a guy you like to save your friendship? It is, but maybe the friendship is worth that pain. This isn’t going to be an easy decision, but it’s one you have to make. And once you decide, commit to that. Don’t say one thing, then spend months wondering if you made the right choice. Just do it, and deal with it. In the end, everything will work out – it just might take some time to get there.

Good luck!
Heather

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