Friends of exes - always off limits?
October 5, 2012 7:23 AM   Subscribe

Briefly dated someone - is his friend off limits?

I dated a friend in my wider social circle, X, for two months. We get along great but there wasn't much relationship potential, he ended it, that was three months ago. We're friendly but don't see much of each other.

X has a close friend Z. They work in the same field and hang out often, and so naturally I got to know Z a little while dating X. They both have good taste, senses of humor, both my type. Now I've seen Z around a handful of times without X, we had good chats but nothing flirty, and I've developed a crush. Now I'm kicking myself because I pursued X openly in front of Z the whole time, when I could have gone for him, but X was more extroverted and returned my attention, but he was the poorer choice in terms of potential boyfriend material.
Is it insulting or stupid to make moves on Z? Normally I would just ask for a date like I did with X, but in this case I feel like I can't because there's no way it won't seem like Z is a second choice. I don't think X would mind, would maybe even be happy about it if it meant the three of us spent more time together. But it may change their dynamic in some way and without question they would both put their friendship before me if it came to that.
If it's not a terrible idea, is there any way to avoid giving Z the impression that he is less desirable, a rebound, etc.? I only got to talking to him because of X anyway, and I feel richer for knowing both of them. It just took more time to click with Z, but should I drop it for the sake of avoiding drama and keeping both of them as friends? I know the rule of thumb is don't do this, and it feels like I'm trying to have my cake and eat it, but then I don't know how either guy feels for sure. we're all late 20s.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
i don't think there's anything wrong with it, but then again i married the ex boyfriend of a very good friend. she actually insisted we go on our first date.
posted by sabh at 7:26 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

no, it's fine. unless Z is super-duper insecure, he's not going to worry about X. if he's interested, it could work, and there's nothing you need to do to avoid creating an impression or whatever with Z - in fact it would be a good idea if you just ignored the issue unless Z brings it up.
posted by facetious at 7:29 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's not a terrible idea. Go ahead and do it.

Immediately stop thinking in terms of Z being a second choice. If you just go ahead and ask him, it'll be fine and he probably won't even think about it. If you go to any trouble to try to assuage a fear you're not even sure he has, on the other hand, it'll seem a bit like protesting too much.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:31 AM on October 5, 2012 [4 favorites]

A three month - quarter of a year - gap from when X finished it means it is not a rebound. Kardashians date, marry, divorce and write the book and TV show of the relationship in less time.

Maybe - but only if you want to - say up front early on "Just wanna get this out there, hope there's nothing odd or awkward because X and I had a thing for a short while earlier in the year." That's more for your own piece of mind; with the timeframes and the people you've described, it's probably only an issue for you, not X or Z.

Is it just me who is bothered about Y, the entity whose presence hangs over this thread but is never mentioned...?
posted by Wordshore at 7:31 AM on October 5, 2012 [14 favorites]

If every 2 month relationship resulted in you not being able to date (or whatever) their friends, you'd quickly run out of guys on earth to pursue. Non-issue. If you had dated X for 5 years, different story
posted by Patbon at 7:41 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

If X was unquestionably the one who broke it off with you, then I don't think you don't have any implicit obligations to him regarding whom you can or can't date. If he's upset by you dating somebody else, then he shouldn't have broken up with you. On the other hand, if this was a "mutual" breakup or you broke up with him, then yes, it would be tacky.

One thing that you may want to maintain an awareness of is that if X broke up with you and you immediately start dating his best friend, this could easily be perceived as you "revenge-dating" simply to make X jealous.

Is it insulting or stupid to make moves on Z? Normally I would just ask for a date like I did with X, but in this case I feel like I can't because there's no way it won't seem like Z is a second choice.

As for your question, you did choose X over Z, so that automatically carries the implication that either 1) he is your second choice or 2) that you are a bad decision maker when it comes to judging people's worth as relationship prospects. That said, I don't think either of these implications is insurmountable: you will simply have to work a bit harder to change Z's (potential) opinion of you regarding this issue. Also, in our society women are traditionally courted by men, but in this case I think you may need to do more of the pursuing, since it would be insulting to expect to be pursued by a man whom you implicitly categorized as "second choice."
posted by wolfdreams01 at 7:42 AM on October 5, 2012

Go for it. The "second choice" thing won't be an issue, in my experience, if you make it very clear that you're into him. Don't mention the other guy, that won't help.

Here's what to do:

Be flattering and charming and make it obvious that you've been paying attention to him specifically. Come up with a small joke that you can have together that other people wouldn't get. Ask questions about something that happened a few months ago to show you were listening. Compliment his taste in X. Tell him he's the most Y person you know. Say that he's the only person you know who can pull off Z. The key is to make it obvious that in your mind, he is set apart from the crowd.

Good luck!
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:45 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't over-think this. Every time I had a relationship or interest from my (male) friend's exes (female) I was flattered that they had realized I was the better dude. Obviously, that's simplistic and egotistical but it's also true.

As for the advice above on strategies to overcome his opinion of you and compliment him and yada yada, I think you should just be yourself and tell him you like him. You may also want to let X know that you are interested in Z. Seems only fair since not saying anything may cause more complications than just being open about it.
posted by hamandcheese at 7:56 AM on October 5, 2012

I don't think Z is off-limits for you, but Z may feel uncomfortable about it and see YOU as off-limits for him. Even with X's blessing, Z may feel some sense of loyalty to his buddy and/or discomfort being with someone who's been with a close friend. But you never know. If Z is interested and comfortable with it, there's no reason why you guys shouldn't see where things go.
posted by Asparagus at 8:02 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

There's nothing wrong with you asking Z out.

Whether he feels he can go out with you, based on you being his buddy's ex, that's another matter. Whether any group weirdness results, who knows? It all totally depends on the people involved.

But in itself, there's absolutely nothing wrong with you pursuing Z.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:09 AM on October 5, 2012

This sort of situation heavily depends on the maturity/drama potential of the people involved. Do you have reason to believe X will take it badly if you date Z? If so, you may want to hold off to preserve your sanity. But if they seem like low-key, well-adjusted people (and from your question it seems that they are), go ahead and ask Z out.

You don't owe X anything, and you're unlikely to give Z the impression that he's a rebound.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:09 AM on October 5, 2012

I married a short-term boyfriend's roommate and longtime best friend. They discussed it before we technically got together and short-term BF was okay with it (we were an awful match anyway). You're probably fine but if you're worried you can explain your concerns to Z and maybe he'll bring it up to X just in case.
posted by agress at 8:14 AM on October 5, 2012

Oh hey, this is exactly my situation! Except I'm Z, my friend is X, and the Y, the guy who's dated both of us, is you (and the genders are switched around, obviously).

There was a tiny bit of early awkwardness about how to proceed solved by a quick conversation between each duo: Y to X to confirm that "Hey, things are cool with us, mind if I go out with Z?", Z to X to ask, "Mind if I go out with your ex?" and Z and Y to clarify "We're all good all around, things didn't work with X and now we're interested in each other, right?" Almost literally that simple. And when it became clear how good Z and Y are together, it was even easier.

I think the only person who gets even a little lingering runner-up kind of vibe is X; I think she feels a bit like she was Z's first choice and maybe has a little smugness around that. But Z and I could care less, and the friendships all around are as strong as ever.

So go for it, if you think you can have up-front, easy conversations with all parties. It works!
posted by peachfuzz at 8:27 AM on October 5, 2012

My best friend at the time dated a girl for a couple months. Several months later (3-6? I think? I think there was a whole summer gap) I started to date her. He was very, very unhappy about it, enough that he even confronted me about it. I told him I wasn't going to stop.

Eight year later, we're still together, we have an awesome little boy, and we're still friends with the original boy (and now his wife.)

Live it up, yo.
posted by TomMelee at 8:34 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

The correct resolution is that Z says to X "This is OK, right?", and then X says "Yeah, sweet", and then everyone's happy.
posted by pompomtom at 8:37 AM on October 5, 2012

Kardashians date, marry, divorce and write the book and TV show of the relationship in less time.

I'd like to go on record that we not start using Kardashians as the bar to clear in human relations questions :)

That said, my partner of 5+ years was an ex of my best friend (and they had an ugly separation to boot); I'm not saying it wasn't complicated but much stranger things have happened (trust me) and worked.

As far as if Z is off limits because of your relationship with X, I think that's crazy (obviously) but even so, the way that things like this totally work, it's more about X and Z's relationship than anything else (like Asparagus says and in TomMelee's example, as well), but to me, as long as you're polite to X when your paths cross again (if you and Z work out), you'll have done your due diligence.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:40 AM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Go for it, but never mention X.

Be casual, but up front, "I'm into you, want to grab coffee tomorrow night?" See what he says. If he reciprocates, awesome, if not, no biggie.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:01 AM on October 5, 2012

It's fine but personally I'd wait another few months so you dating X seems like ancient history, and allows for X to have gone on more dates in the meantime. I'd keep hanging out with both as friends and use the time to get closer to Z and make ultra sure you want to date him.
posted by rmless at 9:22 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Dude. I married Z in this situation. Go for it.
posted by devinemissk at 9:32 AM on October 5, 2012

The onus is on Z to make this decision. He'll be confronted with his own feelings about being second choice, and how his close friend X will feel about it all. One hopes that Z and X have a mutual understanding of which version of bro code they are following; Z will know or have to feel out whether X still carries a torch for you. Since you say X ended the relationship with you, it's probably dandy.

Or basically, what pompomtom said in fewer words.
posted by nowonmai at 2:59 PM on October 5, 2012

When in doubt, here's the easiest way to answer most dating questions: If roles were reversed, how would you feel?
posted by 2oh1 at 4:50 PM on October 5, 2012

I think that you're not the one who should be worried about it but that Z might have some concerns. Let him make that choice since it's his friendship that will be most affected.
posted by Raichle at 7:41 AM on October 8, 2012

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