Dating the Friends of Exes-Why Is That Bad Again?...

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Post by reboundstudent on Tue Mar 17, 2015 11:39 am

Today in Dear Prudence, there was a letter from a high schooler wondering if it was okay to ask out the ex of a high school class mate and friend of his. The comments section is filled with remarks about how he should get the permission of the classmate/friend first, even though the friend is the one that dumped the girl.

This brought to mind a situation I encountered a few years ago. The guy I'd been seeing had dumped me, and after a few months, I went on a few dates with his friend. Before even being official to each other, the friend tried to insist he ask my ex's permission. This was super not cool with me, as I felt that undermined my own agency and gave someone wholly unconnected with me power/information about my dating life. The friend insisted he just wanted to be considerate of my ex's "feelings," which was especially confusing as the ex had (very happily!) dumped me. It was a big enough turn off that I abandoned dating the friend all together.

However, whenever I tell the story, folks seem to think that I was the one being unreasonable. There seems to be this cultural idea that friends of exes are "off limits" unless we get the ex's permission first. But why? Where does that attitude come from? Especially if the ex is the one who left?

The only situation I can comprehend being upset about a friend dating an ex is if he was abusive and she knew or the ex had cheated on me with her. Otherwise, I just cannot comprehend that who my ex dates is any of my business. Am I missing something here?
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Post by reboot on Tue Mar 17, 2015 11:56 am

It can be a few things. People often (especially when young) get it in their heads that the "my" in "my ex" confers some ownership or stake in that person's life for all eternity. That is messed up. Sometimes, particularly in the case of very close friends or relatives, people feel the need to check in to see if dating the ex is going to interfere with a more important/more vested (at the time of initial dating) relationship. Sometimes it is asking permission and sometimes just a heads up and negotiating whether or not the friend/relative is going to be OK interacting with the ex or if efforts need to be made to keep the relationships separate. The second half of this is reasonable (permission less so). Occasionally people say they want to check in with the friend in the hopes that the ex will volunteer to tell the friend about the relationship because they want to avoid conflict. This is cowardly.
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Post by Enail on Tue Mar 17, 2015 12:00 pm

I find asking permission bizarre and controlling (or rather, the inverse of controlling, I suppose), but I think it's sometimes considerate or a good idea for friends to check in with each other before dating someone the other may have strong feelings about, to give them a heads' up so they don't find out about it in a potentially hurtful way and to show care for their feelings, that the friendship is important to them and not a case of picking the date-to-be over the friend. People don't get dibs, but that doesn't mean that there may not be relevant feelings happening.
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Post by Guest on Tue Mar 17, 2015 12:33 pm

The thing with "asking permission" is kind of a weird one for me. They're not married, let alone dating anymore, soo... why the fuck not? Although, as part of the unwritten "bro-code" and from my experience it's considered "un-wise" and/or "uncool" to date your buddy's ex, unless the buddy dumped her -- these rules get more complicated than AD&D really fast.

It's understandable, that a dude is being considerate of his friend's feelings. But silly (in my opinion) to "ask for permission" to date a friend's ex. At the very least be like "Oh hey, FYI, I'm dating your ex." How the buddy reacts is his responsibility.

But even that's bullshit, because once two people split, all bets are off... or should be. But I could be wrong. Razz

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Post by reboot on Tue Mar 17, 2015 12:36 pm

Personally, I would say something to my friend just so they do not find out in a round about way and to get the lay of the land for social planning (e.g. make sure both are not coming to the same event, only invite both to large events, whatever anything is good)
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Post by Guest on Tue Mar 17, 2015 12:38 pm

I don't know. I have mixed feelings on this. I hate the whole "I dated this person, and therefore I have say over their lives" attitude, but I don't actually read it that way. I don't process it as "your ex has the right to veto your romantic attachments," but as "my friend gets to have some input into my life choices, and if I'd hurt him by dating you, I'd rather not do that." Which I think is okay? I mean, he's not suggesting that your ex gets to tell you not to date him, but that he's giving his friend permission to ask him not to date you.

I think that's more than just a semantic difference.

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Post by Izmuth on Tue Mar 17, 2015 12:45 pm

I honestly don't get why he bothered you with the information he was asking your ex whether it was okay to date you.

In his situation, I would ask the ex if he was a good friend of mine. If he admits he really can't deal with his ex-girlfriends presence, I'm afraid I'd choose for him, not her because of relationship age seniority. I would stay silent about this however.

But telling you he was getting permission sounds weird and maybe even a bit manipulative in the way Reboot described. It sounded like he maybe have been setting you up that *you* should ask permission from your ex.

IMHO, you made a good call to dump him.
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Post by reboot on Tue Mar 17, 2015 12:50 pm

Izmuth, that is an excellent point. At this point there is no relationship between the exes. There is one between the friends. So it is on the friend to handle any repercussions and deal with maintaining the friendship and not drag the ex they are dating into it.
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Post by nearly_takuan on Tue Mar 17, 2015 12:55 pm

Yeah, generally when you're a close friend of someone you end up seeing them with their S.O. a lot. Sometimes people miss their "ex". Sometimes it really sucks seeing someone you miss and still "missing" them.

It seems strange and weird and wrong to expect a friend to ask for "permission" for their own life choices. It doesn't seem weird to check in on how a friend feels about something, or to make decisions around that, or to otherwise ask for their "blessing"; it seems weird not to.
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Post by BasedBuzzed on Tue Mar 17, 2015 1:41 pm

I'd frame it as "how much do I need to herd you two away from each other and for how long?" and "are there any abusive habits I need to worry about?". My choice has already been made, but I'll make it as convenient for friend as reasonbly possible.

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Post by eselle28 on Tue Mar 17, 2015 1:43 pm

I agree with everyone that the "permission" thing is weird. I do think that a heads up is a good idea, if only so the friend doesn't think you were perhaps sneaking around behind their back when they were dating. That's where I think the taboo comes from. It's considered double extra bad cheating to sleep with your partner's friend or your friend's partner, and I think that in people's mind sometimes that gets mixed up with dating your friend's ex.

As far as ethics go, I'd say the main consideration is whether the friend will be miserable being around the ex and how to manage those relationships. As far as practical matters go...man, I can't imagine dating any of my friends' recent exes. Someone they dated in high school? Sure. But in the case of ex-husbands and recent ex-boyfriends, I've generally spent years listening to complaints about them. Even though I know I only hear one side of the story, I can't imagine that set of feelings developing into something romantic.
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Post by reboot on Tue Mar 17, 2015 2:03 pm

Eselle, I think that brings up some good points about the nature of the former romantic relationship and when to mention to your friend that you are dating the ex. Someone your friend dated 10 years ago or maybe only dated casually or for a short time is a lot different than the ex spouse of your friend, ex from a 20 year LTR, etc.
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Post by caliseivy on Tue Mar 17, 2015 3:06 pm

I've never been in this situation so I have no real input.
I do wonder if RBS's mention of the ex ending the relationship "very happily" makes a difference in the friend-dating-the-ex situation. Does the grounds of the ending have any impact?
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Post by skullbearer on Tue Mar 17, 2015 3:07 pm

I think it's down to individuals to work it out according to how close they still are to their ex. If it's in the aftermath of the nuclear option- who cares? Let their datefriend tell the ex- if they're friends, they probably will.

If you're still friends, I think a heads-up would be fair. It might be rough on the ex.

However, I think this only applies one ex back, I'm not going to check with all my exes if I start to date someone new.
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Post by Conreezy on Wed Mar 18, 2015 11:14 pm

Which I think is okay? I mean, he's not suggesting that your ex gets to tell you not to date him, but that he's giving his friend permission to ask him not to date you.

I think that's more than just a semantic difference.

I think so too, as I would value my friends way too much to jeopardize a good one for only a potential romance.

My close friends and I decided way back in the 10th grade to keep exes off limits forever to avoid the weirdness of the situation.  We've stuck to it over the past 15 years.  We've never had the problem of one guy just waiting until someone's relationship breaks-up (or actively pushing it towards break-up) just to put the moves on the ex-girlfriend. 

Looking back, I'm glad we had that foresight at 15, because I think dating exes without straining friendships takes a lot of maturity (and I'm not so sure I have it even today.  I know those jokers don't.)

But in the case of ex-husbands and recent ex-boyfriends, I've generally spent years listening to complaints about them. Even though I know I only hear one side of the story, I can't imagine that set of feelings developing into something romantic.

Same here. All I would be thinking about it that nasty nail-clipping habit she has or whatever.

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