Off Limits

A couple of months ago on a random road trip, a friend of mine and I got to talking about dating your friends' exes. I don't remember when I became aware of the unspoken but very real rule that you can't date your friends' exes, but I know that ever since I've known about it, I've not understood it. At least not in its' all encompassing and blanketed ways.

This is a hard question to ask my friends about because I can't help but wonder if they start thinking "ok, clearly I need to keep my man away from her..." when I'm really just having a conversation and wondering more and more about why we do the things we do and even moreso if we ever think about it.

For the record, I respect the rule. I've actually never been in a situation where I had to make a choice (though I came close -- get to that in a second). However, I'm cognizant that the main reason I respect the rule is because I respect my friendships, not necessarily because I see its usefulness. I mean, honestly, some of my friends really get around. I'd need to move if I wanted to be sure I wasn't messing with anyone they had already dated.

The friend that I did talk with this about a few months ago and I agreed that the only exes off limits were the serious ones and we both agreed that any friend close enough to hurt us or disrespect our friendship by dating him after us would know who was off limits based on that criteria.

I had a crush on a guy once who I'd known for about a year. I really really liked him and really hoped we could make something of it. I told him about my interest and... he quit talking to me all together. It was rather embarrassing because I found out later that he'd told several of our mutual friends. I still had that crush on him though. A few months later he and I along with several other folks went on a week long trip. There were a handful of us who, because of that trip, got to be really good friends. One of those girls in this faction and I had several mutual friends before the trip and so we knew each other, but thanks to the trip she and I became very close. She also got close with him and shortly after our return, they began dating seriously. I can't remember if I told her I liked him, but I think I did. I think I tried to do so in a "full disclosure, but don't worry about it" type of way. Hell, he may have told her about it once upon a time. Anyway, they broke up a few years later and have spent the time between then and now going back and forth on whether or not to get together. I think they probably were made for each other.

Now, once she and I became good friends, he was clearly off limits. That's a no brainer, but what if she and I had just remained acquaintances? What if he and I became close friends during their relationship, closer than she and I? Would I have been wrong to pursue him, knowing I'd liked him before she even knew him? Gray area -- I guess it's all about the specifics of the situation, but I wonder sometimes: do we know why we follow that rule? Does anyone think about it from anything other than a selfish standpoint? "I just don't want my friends messing with my exes..."

To be ultimately clear, my friendships are always more important to me than their exes. Period. I wouldn't risk a friendship on anything less than certainty and I couldn't be certain about a relationship with an ex of theirs where the relationship was serious and hearts really got involved. Those cursory dating relationships of convenience, though? Well... lemme thank on it. :)

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