December 9, 2009 in Features

Carolyn Hax: If you fear asking, you know answer

Carolyn Hax Washington Post

Dear Carolyn: Is it ever appropriate to date a friend’s ex? I have a longtime friend who has been divorced for the last four years. Her ex has made it clear he would like to see where things can go with me. I am attracted to him, consider him a good friend but don’t want to lose my close friendship with his ex-wife. If it came down to choosing a friend, I would choose her over him. The divorce was initiated by him. Do I steer clear of this man? – Wants It Both Ways

That depends on your friend’s state of mind (and heart) about the divorce. Certainly there are divorces that leave people feeling liberated, at one extreme, just as there are those at the other extreme that leave people feeling devastated. What you’re considering is, to some people, an unforgivable betrayal; others go out of their way to try to fix their exes up with their friends. (What their friends and exes think of that is another column.)

Presumably you know how your “longtime friend” felt four years ago, and feels now, about her ex. You probably even have an idea of how open-minded she is about loyalties, romantic pairings and whether love indeed does conquer all.

And because you signed it, “Wants It Both Ways” (translation: wants to get away with one?), I suspect that you suspect she wouldn’t take it too well.

Fortunately, you have a fairly accessible tiebreaker at your disposal.

If you fear even asking her about this would set her off, then you know: You can either have the friend or the guy, but not both.

And if you feel certain she’d be laid-back about being asked, then, ask.

By ask, I mean asking how she’d feel about it, in order to make an informed and compassionate choice. You’re not asking for permission to see her ex – humans don’t own other humans, not even their exes, hard as the angrier ones may try.

E-mail Carolyn at, or chat with her online at 9 a.m. each Friday at

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