Breaking up is bad enough, whether you’ve had four dates or 400, but no matter how long you’ve been apart, nothing opens old wounds like finding out someone you know (or worse, a friend) is dating someone you used to date. If you find yourself in that scenario, we have the tools to help you deal.
For more insight into how to deal when a friend is dating someone you used to date, we turned to Marni Battista, relationship expert and CEO and founder of Dating with Dignity.
How it feels
We asked a few women who have been through it to share their experiences.
“At first it didn’t bother me because the guy was a jerk anyway, but the more I thought about it, the worse I felt because I would never do that to a friend. Isn’t there some kind of unwritten rule that says you just don’t date someone your friend used to date?” Cyndi, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
“A few years ago, someone I thought was a pretty good friend started dating a guy I was pretty serious about at one point. I was more hurt than angry, to be honest, that she would think it was OK to go ahead and date him.” Vanessa, Queens, New York
“I once had a friend’s ex ask me out, and even though it had been two years since the two of them had dated, I had to say no when he called. I actually felt bad for even talking to him.” Sierra, Toronto, Canada
If you’re wondering where all of that anger comes from when we find out a friend is dating an ex, that news has a way of bringing to light all of our insecurities of not being enough, or comparing ourselves to others, explains Battista.
“We are holding on to a false belief that he was the only one for us,” she adds. “We are not seeing the ultimate opportunity that letting go of a relationship that doesn’t work can provide, which is creating space for someone new.” When you combine all of these pieces, what you end up with is a place of jealousy, resentment and feeling defensive — not good.
How to deal?
Rather than freak out, when you get the upsetting news that a friend is dating someone you used to date, Battista recommends something called the “stop, breathe and ask approach.”
Stop: Start by putting the brakes on all of your negative thoughts by taking action. “Go take a walk, put yourself into another physical space, get a drink of water,” advises Battista. “However you do it, take note of the ‘freaking out’ thoughts and interrupt the pattern with action.”
Breathe: Getting still and then taking a few deep breaths can do wonders to help calm you down and put things into perspective. “At this time, you can feel your feelings and get to the bottom of what it is you are feeling,” says Battista. Are you mad? Sad? Scared? Try to focus on what you feel and why so you can work on moving forward.
Ask: Now it’s time to ask yourself about all those feelings of anger or sadness. “At this time, ask yourself ‘how true is it really?’ For example, how true is it really that I’m not enough,” advises Battista. “The truth is that perhaps your friend is a better match. Maybe the truth is that you feel a relief without this relationship in your life even though it makes you sad.”
Lastly, and most importantly, remember not to be a victim to your negative thoughts and beliefs, says Battista. “Remember the truth which is that you are awesome, there truly are plenty of fish in the sea, and that it’s only your interpretation of the events that’s holding you back from moving on.”
What not to do
When you first hear the news, we understand that you’re going to be mad, but don’t lash out. “Don’t send any reactive emails or text messages, stay off of social media and stop stalking the two of them to see what happened, when and how,” Battista says. Next, avoid drama and don’t gossip about what’s going on. “Staying away from the thoughts creates space for you to not get dragged into the muck and keep your side of the street clean,” she advises.