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Is it OK for a friend to date your ex?

By Audrey Irvine, CNN
Audrey Irvine says under certain circumstances it may be ok for a girlfriend to date her ex-boyfriend.
Audrey Irvine says under certain circumstances it may be ok for a girlfriend to date her ex-boyfriend.
  • Columnist Audrey Irvine's first reaction: Girlfriend should not date my ex
  • But she decides it depends on how close she is or was with both of them
  • If guy was love of her life, she doesn't want him looking at girlfriend same way
  • But otherwise, with respect on both sides, it's fine
  • Dating
  • Relationships

Editor's note: Audrey Irvine is a senior assignment manager for CNN. Her experiences in the dating world inspire her "Relationship Rant" column. Check back every week for her take on dating and relationships.

Atlanta, Georgia (CNN) -- "Would you be upset if a friend starting dating someone they knew you were once deeply in love with?"

This is the status I was greeted with this week on the Facebook page of one of my dear girlfriends. My knee-jerk response was "Duh, who wouldn't be pissed?" Oddly enough, after viewing some of the discussion on the comment thread, I realized that my judgment might have been a little harsh.

I'm not trying to generalize, but most of my female friends talk about past boyfriends, dissecting why their relationships didn't work. From "he just doesn't get me" to "we're too different" to "why did we stay together THAT long," women tend to overanalyze past relationships.

However, the one thing that seems to be the unwritten rule among us is that we would never even consider dating our friends' exes. This is never discussed; it's just understood.

But now I realize this rule really needs more thought, because I believe there are two factors to consider before answering my girlfriend's Facebook question.

You need to weigh the value of your friendship with the woman vs. the amount of love, commitment and investment you had in your relationship with your ex-boyfriend.

If the woman is a close friend, the likelihood of this becoming an issue is slim. Your closest friends will know every dirty deed, bad situation or heartbreak he may have caused. And because they are familiar with all the dirt on him, they wouldn't touch him.

However, if you and your ex didn't work out just because you just weren't right for each other and there was no real drama involved, what's the harm if your current girlfriend and someone you once loved end up together?

"Once loved" are the operative words here

Too often, women become territorial, trying to mark our men as if past loves are actually possessions that we own for life. If you have moved on from this person, you really should not take issue with who they are with now.

The second factor, which may seem contradictory, is that it depends on how much you invested in and loved the ex-boyfriend.

I can honestly say there are some ex-boyfriends that, if they find happiness, God bless them, because I know it was crazy between us.

But there are two ex-boyfriends who hold a special place in my heart because even though I know it could never work between us, I recognize the impact we each had in each other's lives. I would be happy if they found new happiness, but it would be too odd if it were with a close friend of mine. That would mean I might run into one of them occasionally and see him look at my friend the same way he once looked at me.

Even if you're no longer with the person who you once thought to be the love of your life, how could you stomach that person being with your friend? Regardless of how much each of you has moved on, there is always that bittersweet feeling of what could have been. You don't want them back, but you don't want to keep being reminded of what could have been.

There is no clear-cut rule when it comes to love and friendship. I asked one of my male friends about this, and he said that if all parties involved respect one another, a simple conversation needs to occur.

It's not about friends asking permission to date another person's ex. But such a conversation shows respect for all involved and gives you time to deal with the potential ick factor of seeing them happy.

The last comment on my friend's Facebook page said it best: "We don't owe or own anyone when it comes to happiness. If the relationship is really over and it ended respectfully, then people should feel free to move on with whomever they please."

Point taken.