Not-so-sloppy seconds

After some rough breakups, I've trash-talked my ex so vehemently to my friends that they would be more likely to pour a drink in his face than try to date him. Other time a relationship ends with the mutual understanding that it’s just not working, but that we’re both still pretty rad. When this occurs, why not let someone else have a crack at dating your ex? Why is it that we cling so dearly to an ex, even if we know we will never get back together?

A little over a year ago, I met up with one of my dearest friends at a bar. She was having drinks with an ex she dated in college seven years ago. Her ex—who I'll call Ben—and I hit it off immediately. Our mutual attraction was apparent to everyone at the table, particularly my friend who was quick to warn me that I was to have nothing to do with Ben. She was adamant; I was not to touch him in any way, shape or form, ever.

Luckily for my friend, Ben lived across the country in Seattle. Unfortunately for my friend, I began conversing with Ben over the Internet. So, when he returned a year later to visit family, it was not at all odd that he invited me out for a drink. Besides, my friend was in a long-term relationship so I figured she wouldn’t be that upset about a simple beer and some harmless chit-chat… until a simple beer turned into the kind of ravenous sex you've been anticipating over an entire year of flirting online. Oops.

I kept the sex to myself for two months before breaking down and telling my friend. It turns out Ben had already told her. She wasn’t upset about the sex, just upset that it took me so long to tell her. Her prior ban on me dating Ben seemed to have been forgotten; she was even willing to listen to me talk about my potential relationship with Ben. She admitted that her decade-long “dibs” on him was ridiculous.

I wonder how many of us would feel this way if we allowed our friends access to our treasure trove of dating failures. After all, isn’t friendship, at its roots, a desire to see the other person happy?

In a world where dating websites are becoming a common way for couples to meet, many of us still feel more comfortable dating someone within our social circle. Even if we do not know the "prospect" personally, we like it if at least one of our friends can give him a nod of approval. Unfortunately when you're searching for a date within your social circle, there's a good chance you'll end up liking one of your friend's exes—and an equally good chance your friend won't approve.

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