love out loud: should you “let” your friends date your ex?
I was having a debate with some workmates a couple of months ago as to whether it’s okay to date people your friends have previously dated. I am firmly in the camp that, with some allowances made for individual circumstances, this shouldn’t be a problem. The biggest issue I would have with my friends wanting to date (some of) my ex-boyfriends is that some of them were dickheads, and I would advise them to make sure their behaviour has improved. But as long as my friends don’t try to pick up my current partner, I really have no problem with them taking up with people I am no longer involved with.
Probably the best example of this is my ex, Bob Dylan. Avid readers of this column (someone? anyone?) may know that I am now good friends with him. He’s also one of the best dudes I know, and so I slyly mentioned to one of my workmates that they might be good together.
‘But it’s weird!’ Sporty Spice protested. ‘You’ve been there!’
Initially, my suggestion was made with the explicit purpose of provoking a reaction. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought that Sporty hooking up with Bob Dylan might actually be a brilliant idea. They’re both awesome and lovely and don’t jerk people around. The added bonus is that I’d get to see them both more often.
Obviously, this is something of a unique situation in that I am friends with Bob Dylan and there has been a significant passage of time. There’s no good reason for me to oppose him dating anyone, whether I know that person or not, beyond the kind of opposition I might have to any of my friends dating a certain person (eg. that person being a wank bag). And I feel that most of the time, people don’t have a good reason for not wanting their ex-partners to date their friends beyond just some unquestioned feeling of unease or “having been there”. It is indeed the fact that these feelings go unquestioned that I have a problem with. We live in a society where reason prevails, and yet this is one of those instances where just sticking to your illogical guns about something, in this case not wanting your ex-partner and your friend to mingle, will usually yield that result.
It seems to be some feelings of territorialism or being compared to your friend/s that often rouses discomfort, and I totally understand that. But neither of these reasons actually have anything to do with your partner or their interest in your friend. While it’s not nice to feel that you’re being compared with your friend, this is rarely what’s happening; people in happy relationships rarely compare their partner to previous partners. So either your friend and your ex are happy together and they won’t be comparing the two of you, or they’re miserable together in which case they’ll have bigger fish to fry. As for sex (because I know this is what people are usually referring to when they say they don’t want to be compared to their friend), who cares if your friend is better in bed than you are? This actually has zero bearing on your life.
The territorial thing is a bit more complicated to think about rationally, because it’s a lot more ridiculous. So all I can offer is that you being weird about your friend treading on your former turf is that this is exactly the same as a dog peeing on a tree. Actually it’s worse, because humans are (allegedly) more evolved and should be able to see how stupid this is.
When people have discussions about whether it’s okay to date a friend’s ex, the conversation invariably revolves around the fact that friends should come first. So shouldn’t we want our friends to be happy? If people have legitimate reasons for feeling ill at ease about their friends dating their ex, like not being over them or their ex being a sociopath, then that’s worth considering but most of the time it’s simply people getting their knickers in a twist because of some widespread theory that we shouldn’t go where our friends have been, without ever questioning why.
If your friend is awesome and your ex is awesome (or at least they’re not horrible) and you’ve moved on, then I’m very hard pressed to think of a legitimate reason why you wouldn’t give them your blessing.
Bob Dylan and Sporty Spice have yet to meet, but if they do and they hit it off, then I don’t see the fact that I dated him six years ago as any kind of obstacle. Consider their (possible) future relationship officially green-lighted!