If you’e been keeping up with Becca Kufrin’s season of The Bachelorette, you know this scenario all too well: Girl meets guy. Guy breaks up with girl. Girl’s friend meets guy and can’t ignore the fact that he gives her butterflies. Girl’s friend is then forced to decide whether or not to pursue said relationship. The situation is made all the more complicated on The Bachelorette by a few million viewers and a prevailing worry about who’s “in it for the right reasons,” but the basic conflict is the same. What do you do if you’re the girl who wants to date a friend’s former flame?
Obviously, this is a tricky spot to be in. No one wants to put stress on a good friendship or take a risk with someone who’s only going to break their heart. We spoke to Kailen Rosenberg, relationship coach, author of Real Love, Right Now: A Thirty-Day Blueprint for Finding Your Soul Mate — and So Much More!, and founder and CEO of elite matchmaking firm Love Architecture to get her take on how to handle such a scenario. With her tips, you’ll be able to navigate this extremely precarious situation with the grace of The Bachelorette.
1. Check in on the status of the friendship. Ask yourself some hard-hitting questions about the pal whose ex you’re interested in. Are you strictly casual buddies who give each other a low-commitment hang-out option? Or are there real emotions involved? If we’re talking a bestie-level, quasi-sister friendship, then it might be time to forget your feelings for your crush entirely… at least, it is if you want that friendship to continue.
2. Get real about what’s at stake with your crush. You also need to evaluate the real potential that exists (or doesn’t exist) between you and your friend’s ex. “Could he or she really be ‘The One’?” Rosenberg says. “Is it worth potentially losing the friendship?” We’d never advise you to risk a solid friendship, but we also know that it might be easier to risk a solid friendship if you feel strongly that a once-in-a-lifetime romance is hanging in the balance. Weighing the status of the friendship and of whatever you’ve got going on with the ex is a very specific form of soul searching, and it’s something only you can do.
3. Make the rounds. Here’s where things get really dicey. If you’ve come to the conclusion — after plenty of thoughtful deliberation, of course — that the potential for a long-term relationship with your friend’s ex is worth rocking the boat for, it’s time to have some honest conversations with your pal and your potential partner. Rosenberg recommends that you go to both parties and share your true feelings. Open up about the inner turmoil you’re experiencing and let them both know that this has not been an easy decision for you to make but that you are interested in exploring the romantic connection further.
4. Ask for honesty. If you’re being honest with your friend and the person of interest, that’s a huge step, but you also need to ask for their honesty in return. Make sure they understand that you’re open to hearing how they really feel, even if they think their thoughts and opinions might not match up exactly with what you want to hear. After that? Prepare to listen to thoughts and opinions that might not match up exactly with what you want to hear!
6. Sit tight until you get the green light from everyone involved. Now that you’ve opened the conversation, it would be really awkward for you to totally disregard how everyone feels. Make no plans to pursue the relationship until you know for sure that everyone is comfortable with the arrangement.
5. Wait for the green light from within. Getting the okay from your friend and potential S.O. is a key step in the process, but don’t underestimate the power of your own instinct. Having worked through the previous steps — soul searching, real talk, and maybe even some challenging conversations — you can expect to hear from somewhere deep in your gut whether or not this is actually a relationship that you want to pursue. If there’s any part of your stomach that still feels a little queasy about the situation (even if your friend has told you to go for it!), you should hold back.
7. Be open to new levels of friendship with your pal. Your friendship with the pal who’s been caught in the middle of this love triangle is bound to change, even slightly. Things could turn sour, but you should also be ready for the friendship to grow in the long run. “Your friend may have been your Cupid indirectly, and fun and sweet stories can be shared at the wedding,” Rosenberg tells us. “Or you can both laugh and connect on a deeper level about the bullet you each dodged!”
Even with all of these tips in mind, Rosenberg warns that you should proceed with serious — like, really serious — caution before you actually move forward with this kind of relationship. “Unless this man or woman is the person of your dreams, my advice is that it is probably best to stay clear of your friend’s ex(es),” she advises. “Go find your own [significant other], and keep your friendship with yourself and your friend in a place of peace and fun. Relationships are hard enough on their own, and thinking of your new love’s lips having been on your friend’s may not be so appealing, causing awkward energy regardless of how confident, evolved, or mature you might believe yourself to be.”
Have you ever dated a friend’s ex? How did it turn out? Tweet us @BritandCo!
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