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'The Bachelorette’ has raised a very important question: Is it ever OK to date a friend’s ex?

Jenna Birch
Contributing Writer
Becca Kufrin with Colton, on ‘The Bachelorette.’ (Photo: ABC/Paul Hebert)

A love triangle that was teased on the first episode of this season’s Bachelorette will reach its boiling point on Monday night’s episode: Becca, Colton and Tia will all be in the same room for a group date. For those who don’t know how these three are connected, let me catch you up:

Bachelorette Becca Kufrin and Tia Booth both competed on Arie’s season of The Bachelor earlier this year and became good friends in the process. Colton Underwood, a current contestant competing for Becca’s heart this season, is an ex of Tia’s — and Becca did not know that Colton used to date her friend until he revealed it on last week’s episode. Before the admission, she had been really excited about Colton’s potential for a relationship. Afterward, she had mixed feelings about the situation.

It’s actually pretty common to find yourself interested in a friend’s ex. It’s likely that you and your friends know some of the same people, and inevitably have overlapping dating prospects. By the rules of “girl code” or “bro code,” though, you’re supposed to veto anyone your friend has ever dated. But is that reasonable, especially when it’s so hard to find people you really like? With that in mind, and with Becca in mind too, let’s discuss some dos and don’ts for dating a friend’s ex.

DO: Use the rule of one.

Here’s one part of “girl code” that I absolutely agree with: Value your close friends’ feelings over your dating prospects. With that in mind, it’s time to bring a new rule into the equation. To even consider dating a friend’s ex, they have to pass the “rule of one” test: One Hand, One Year, One Greatest Love.

Never date any ex of a friend if they’re among the closest pals you can count on one hand. Never date any ex of a friend within one year of their breakup. And never date an ex if your friend would consider that person their one greatest love. If you don’t remember anything else I say, remember that.

DON’T: Date a friend’s ex if you’re pretty sure it’s just a fling.

Let’s get thing another thing out of the way quickly: The awkwardness and potential for hurt is simply too high if you’re going to date a friend’s ex while knowing it’s probably just going to be a casual, short-lived thing. Not only will you make things weird for your friends socially, it’s not worth affecting a friend emotionally for a little bit of excitement. While this might seem obvious, I can assure you it’s not: A lot of people who are less sensitive in nature don’t realize what a big deal it is to see your friend date an ex.

Also, you just don’t know for sure why said ex-boyfriend or girlfriend wants to date you. Is it for revenge? Are they looking to get a rise out of their ex, and prompt them to come back? You don’t need that drama in your life; don’t be a vehicle for it.

DO: Assess your personal hang-ups.

At the same time, it’s pretty hard to avoid dating literally everyone your friends might have dated, seriously or not. Many of us live in small-ish towns, and have small-ish social circles. No one’s prospects are endless if you stay in one place, and in one social network, for any length of time.

In Becca’s case, it seems like Colton and Tia had a short-lived fling where they didn’t do much more than make out a little. Harmless. If for some reason you can’t get over the fact that your friend has been with this person on an intimate level, then I get it. But if reservations about dating a friend’s ex all revolve around arbitrarily violating “girl code” or “bro code,” it’s probably not that big of a deal. If your friend wants to claim everyone she’s ever been romantically attracted to as “off limits,” she probably isn’t a very good friend.

DO: Have a conversation before it goes public.

Really, you should have two conversations before you step out with your friend’s ex in any place you might encounter your friend. The first conversation should be with your new flame. How are you going to handle your relationship? If it’s new and you’re not sure where it’s going to go, it might be best to keep things under wraps for a while; avoid PDA, don’t arrive together, don’t leave together. If it seems more serious, then one of you has to tell your friend.

With this, it depends on proximity and the strength of the friendship. Some people stay friends with their exes. If your new flame is closer with their ex than you are, they should be the one to do it. If they haven’t spoken since their breakup, then you might want to give them a heads-up. Blindsiding your friend with this new relationship is not the way to go; avoid an emotional scene by communicating in advance of a run-in.

DON’T: Be inconsiderate of your friend’s feelings.

Even if your friend is well-aware of your new relationship, they might still be sensitive to watching you and their one-time love as a happy couple — especially if they are single, and the relationship was significant to them. You don’t have to act like you’re not together, but try not to throw PDA in their face or talk incessantly about the relationship in their presence. Be considerate.

Also, your friend might feel a little weird the first time they see you two together, so don’t perpetuate the weirdness by acting standoffish. They are in the position of vulnerability here, so consider it your job to make your friend feel welcome, included, and supported.

In short, don’t date a friend’s ex if it’s going to drive a wedge in your close friendship. That said, if the circumstances are right, there’s also no reason to avoid the potential for a great relationship with somebody a peripheral friend kinda-dated. Just be smart, be kind, be communicative, and everything will be fine. I’d give that advice to The Bachelorette’s Becca, any of my friends, or you.

Jenna Birch is the author of  The Love Gap: A Radical Plan to Win in Life and Love (Grand Central Life & Style). Her relationship column appears on Yahoo Lifestyle every Monday. To ask her a question, which may appear in an upcoming post, send an email to jen.birch@sbcglobal.net with “Yahoo question” in the subject line.

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