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“I’ve got a big problem,” Trisha said. “I’ve met this great guy, Tom—well, actually I knew him already—and I’m falling in love.”

“So your problem is…?” I asked.

“He was my good friend’s boyfriend for two years. I mean, they are totally done, have been for months. We met again later and realized we were attracted to each other. But I also care for Melanie, his ex. What should I do?”

I find this is a common dilemma, especially among younger people for whom dating is more casual, and people often circulate through relationships within the same friend group. Trish is in her late twenties and was aware of her own intense need to finally partner and settle down—and this is why she wanted my assistance. Was her own desire blinding her to a potentially devastating situation?

Of course, dating a friend’s ex is going to be different in each circumstance. But there are some guidelines to follow, and getting a reading can help you understand if there is karma at play and clarify your own motivations.

Identify What’s At Stake

Many people have no difficulty dating casually within a larger peer group. Relationships may last a few months but rarely develop into anything more serious. This had been Trisha’s experience all through her early twenties, but now that she was getting older, this state of coming and going was not as easy to handle. We needed to determine what was actually at stake if she chose to date Tom. 

Melanie and Tom had been together for a couple years, during which time they had lived together. Their breakup was traumatic and messy, and Trisha had been a major source of support for Melanie during the weeks after the split. Melanie’s healing process was well underway when Trisha ran into Tom at a party. Suddenly, she was able to admit feelings of attraction for him that she’d always had. 

Because of the nature of the breakup, Trisha’s role to Melanie after it, and their continued closeness, it was clear that the stakes were high. An important friendship could be damaged or lost. When we did the reading, I kept having an image of Trisha sneakily taking candy from a jar. I asked her if this image resonated with her.

“Well…I guess I was always attracted to him. And we did make out one time at a party when he and Mel were still together. But he was hers—I never wanted to take him from her.”

We talked about it more. Was it possible that finally having the forbidden fruit was at the heart of the attraction? And would that experience really turn into love? 

I also found a contract of healing that Trisha had with Melanie, so there was a karmic obligation that could be dissolved if she wanted. Trisha chose to release the compulsion created by the contract to “heal” her friend and to talk with Melanie about her feelings for Tom. 

In some situations, there isn’t any feeling left between former partners; the breakup was clean, there has been forgiveness and healing, or enough time has passed that it won’t matter to a friend if you date her ex. More often, however, these elements are not in place, and your friendship may be strained or even destroyed by your actions. If your friend and her ex share children, financial obligations, or even pets, your getting involved will complicate things even more. Does this mean you should deny real feelings and attraction? No—but just realize what is at stake, and don’t expect your friend to necessarily be understanding.

Tell the Truth

Trisha’s conversation with Melanie wasn’t easy. There were tears, and Melanie felt betrayed by Trisha’s actions. But it was out in the open, and now both could decide how they wanted to deal with it. Trisha wanted to keep dating Tom, and Melanie decided that she couldn’t hang out with Trisha for a while. She needed more time to heal. That their friendship would not survive was a risk Trisha decided to take.

Talking to your friend—not the same as asking permission—is the first step you should take. If you are good friends, this may be harder than if you are merely acquainted or in the same friend group. But being honest is the best way to start. Let her know that you respect her feelings but will make your own decisions. Allow her to do the same. 

For Trisha, her relationship with Tom did end, and her friendship with Melanie remains awkward. In a follow-up reading, Trisha told me that she wouldn’t make the same decision again if she had it to do over. Still, we found ways for her to take the experience and grow from it, and hopefully, Melanie can do so as well.

Trisha realized fear and insecurity were driving her attraction to Tom—powerful feelings when mixed with her real physical desire for him. Her goal is to date completely outside her friend group now, so there are no complicated previous alliances to worry about. This isn’t the only answer, but it’s one way to approach things.

There are no hard and fast rules for dating a friend’s ex. Sometimes groups of souls incarnate together and there are deep bonds and agreements. Other times, it’s just chance. Getting as clear as possible about what is at stake, your motivations, and any existing karma will help you assess the situation when you find you have feelings for a friend’s former partner. Most importantly, telling the truth and acting from the most informed place possible will assist you in making the best decision for you.

Are you attracted to a friend’s ex? Finding yourself in an awkward romantic triangle? Get clarity with the help of an advisor on Keen.