How To Handle A Friendship With Your Friend’s Ex
On a recent trip to Montauk by train, I heard a familiar voice call out my name as I walked through the café car. I definitely knew that voice, but it wasn’t a close friend or a voice I heard recently. I turned around to see the face of an early thirties, clean cut guy in a white polo shirt who looked familiar, but again, I couldn’t remember exactly from where.
I suppose by my expression he could tell I was trying to figure it out when he said, “Steve, remember? Nicole’s ex.”
Ah-ha! The memories came flooding back.
Steve dated my ex-coworker and friend Nicole and would often stop by the office when we were working on holidays to bring us snacks to get us through our grueling shift. I met him at the company party. I think we even sat at the same table with my boyfriend and Nicole at an after work happy hour once. Right, we were sort of “friends.”
After a brief chat, he suggested that we meet up out East. He was with some friends and I told him I was with a group, too. We exchanged numbers and as I walked back to my seat, I stopped and wondered, “Did I just break girl code? Should I be called out for a violation as a die hard member of Team Pink?”
What is the code of loyalty among friends when it comes to being friendly with their exes? What if you all spent many years together? Do you have to just drop one pal? Or what if you met a friend’s significant other through them and had a lot in common with them? Do you have to stay friends with whomever you knew first? We talked to women ranging from ages 21-42 to see what they had to say.
Angela, 23, from New York City says, “I met Paul through work. We became good ‘work friends’ but did not hang out socially. I met his then-girlfriend Kelly through him and we became instant close friends; meeting for happy hour several times per week, going to the gym together, etc. When Paul and Kelly broke up, I maintained a friendship with both of them separately. I hang out with Paul and his new girlfriend and I hang out with Kelly on her own. I was up front and honest with both of them, and lucky for me, they were mature and understood that I would be friends with both of them.”
Sometimes the transition does not go so smoothly, however.
“I met Laurie at a party and we became close friends,” says Maggie, 36, from Boston. “She was dating Peter and we would hang out in a group of friends. They had a very bad breakup and Laurie insisted that I not be friends with Peter because he was constantly calling her and showing up at her place and she just wanted it to be over. It was sad, but in that situation I had to give up my friendship with Peter out of respect for Laurie. I still keep in touch with him, but we do not hang out.”
“A real friend would never make you choose,” says Sarah, 27, from Brooklyn. “If you are a mature person, you recognize that each person has their own relationship with your ex, and the things that went wrong between you two, did not happen between them and they should be allowed to carry on their friendship.”
What about protocol when it comes to maintaining the relationships?
Angela elaborated on her story to give us some tips that have worked for her. “If you are having a party or inviting one member of the former couple to an event, you need to be forthcoming to the other person and let them know. They can choose to come to the event or not. In the same way, you need to inform the person you have invited that you have also invited their ex. Whether or not they both come, agree to come without new significant others, or whatever arrangement they agree on is up to them. Hopefully they will behave respectfully and cordially. But now you have taken the problem off your plate. You have done your part of the work and now it is up to them.”
“Do not talk about their new lives to each other!” warns Karoline, 40, from New Jersey. “If one asks you what the other is doing, who they are dating, or any other information, just politely say that you are uncomfortable and want to stay out of it!”
“Do not lie,” says Trista, from Washington, D.C. “If you hung out with your friend’s ex, or ran into them at a party, just tell the truth. No need to elaborate on details, but do not try to cover up that you saw them.”
Taking a cue from Angela, I sat back in my seat and sent a text to Nicole to let her know what had transpired. “Thanks for letting me know. You’re a good friend. Have fun! " she texted back, along with a photo of her and her new man riding bicycles along the beach.
At least in this case, it looks like we can all just get along.
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