Getting into a relationship with a friend’s ex is up there with the biggest relationship taboos ever, alongside cheating and breaking up via text messaging apps.
For as long as you can remember, society has rolled with this mentality and relationships have been guided by this rule. Affections have been snuffed out, crushed before blooming by this brotherhood and sisterhood code.
It is considered a betrayal of trust, an awkward situation and a friendship deal breaker. But really, does it have to be like that? Is it really wrong to date your friend’s ex?
I have always thought that the reasons often given to justify the existence of this decapitating rule are not enough. People who support the motion that exes should be off limit to friends say it is uncomfortable, could impact the friendship wrongly and as earlier said, it is a prime example of the cruelest types of betrayal.
But then, isn’t it also selfish and kinda self-entitled to ask your friend to quell his or her feelings for someone they like just because you once dated the person and possibly still have residual feelings for them?
Of course, issues like this are usually not in absolute whites or absolute blacks. I admit that there are often grey areas such as leaving a partner only for them to turn up as your friend’s partner a very few months afterwards when though they both knew each other while you and that partner were still an item.
There is also the issue of residual affection between your friend and said ex. Likewise, it is an entirely different kettle of fish if the said ex cheated on your friend and that is why they broke up.
These are but few instances that look pretty shady, raise a lot of questions and each one of such situations would need to be considered as isolated events within their different contexts.
It is understandable if people would say don’t date your friend’s ex if these and other similar factors are the trappings of the situation. It sounds logical to advise people to try and avoid these types of drama instead of getting into it.
On a general level, though, I remain of the opinion that any two unrelated adults can fall in love with each other. These things are unpredictable. Life comes at you so fast that one day, you are innocently rooting for your friend and their partner to be together forever, few months down the line, they are breaking up and you’re really being attracted to that ex and getting along so well.
People would often say that as a good friend, you are supposed to mute any feelings in order to keep being friends with your friend. They say nip them [the feelings] in the bud before they grow into something that will put asunder between you and your friend. But why is the onus of keeping the friendship intact always on the guy or babe whose affection came afterwards? Why can’t the person who was formerly in the relationship take one for the team and hope for the best for their friend and their new-found affection?
Think about it. Isn’t it selfish to tell a friend to let the fire burning in their heart for someone die just because you are not comfortable with it?
Another justification for the belief in staying off friends’ exes is that; of all the people in the world, why would you want to choose the person your friend once dated?
I think the answer to this lies in the fact that many times when people would fall in love, it is usually with people in their ‘circle’, people they are familiar with. Most times you date someone you have met, someone you know; notwithstanding the fact that there are several others in the world out there. It is a well-known thing that proximity often births attraction.
So why does this common knowledge get taken out of the equation when it comes to dating one’s friend’s ex? Why shift the goalpost?
There will always be people who think they are being wronged when their friend dates their ex-partner but not with any justifiable reason apart from the usual, ‘why does she have to date the man I was dating before?’
The question, really, is; why the hell not?!
If they are comfortable with dating the man or woman you once dated and they are happy, why can’t you let them be happy in peace?
As a side bar, it should be pointed out that one offshoot of this stay-off-my-ex practice is the belief that some people have that once they have a fall out with someone, all their friends have to break all ties with that person, too.
Just think about it for a bit and you'll realise just how connected these two patterns are in self-serving shithousery.
We all know that not every rule we follow as a society is rooted in logic or any form of fairness. I for one think that this is one of them. And if you really do think about it, you’ll find out that really, it is pretty selfish to ask someone to not connect with the potential love of their life simply because you met and dated the person first.
So if your refusal to support the relationship is steeped in selfish reasons, as it always does in these circumstances, then your friend who chooses to disregard your objections and date your ex should also stop feeling wrong for being selfish. Selfish in the sense of putting their happiness ahead of your feelings. Afterall, aren't we all fans of finding happiness and prioritising what really makes one happy?
This train of thought will be incomplete if I do not add that staying friends with the person who chooses to date your ex is not compulsory, and no one should have to stay friends with such person if they do not want to be. Life is filled with tough choices and if that friend chooses to date your ex, they should be ready to live with its attendant consequences.
While we are here, I must also add that if a friend chooses to pursue that relationship instead of staying friends with you, you should have to accept it without any form of indignation. To harbour such feelings would be tantamount to… yeah, you guessed right… selfishness!
In other words, when you feel that a friend hurts, wrongs or betrays you when they choose to pursue a love interest as they deem fit, you are asking them to consider you first before themselves. Some may interpret that as a kind of friendship-necessitated sacrifice but for me, that’s one sacrifice too much and if they choose to not make it, they should be left alone to embark on their pursuit of happiness without your sense-of-entitlement-born bitterness and resentment dogging every of their step.
It’s about time we learnt to really live and let live.