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I had a dream last night that led me to think about how we relate to those we’ve been romantically involved in after we’re no longer involved with them and how should our friends respect the relationship that once was. In simpler terms — what’s the rule with friends and ex’s?

Let me give you a quick recap of what happened in my dream so this will make more sense: A group of friends were all at a movie together. On one side, I was sitting next to “W,” my ex (really, she’s not an “official” ex, only because we were never boyfriend/girlfriend, but we do have history), because we are still amiable. (I’m that way with most women I’ve had a relationship with. I don’t understand those who absolutely abhor their ex’s… but that’s another post.) On the other side of her was our friend “M,” who has, at some point, expressed some interest in her to me, but did so without knowing that her and I got as involved as we did.

So we’re watching the movie, and at some point I look over to see them all in each other’s faces making out. I immediately get a little ticked off. Not so much that I make a scene — instead I just get up and leave. (Now, I would say that, for me, that’s not a typical response, but having never been in the exact situation, I couldn’t tell you.)

I woke up wondering, first, “Why did I respond that way?” And secondly, “What is the rule with ex’s and friends and their ability to get involved?”  The first is for me to figure out; I want to focus on the second — what is the proper etiquette when one of your friends is interested in an ex of yours? Is there certain protocol that is courteous to follow?

For some, dating an ex of a friend is completely off limits. For some, friends will bounce between ex’s like tennis, volleying them back and forth to all in their circle with no after or forethought.

Personally, if a friend of mine was interested in someone in my past, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. She (whoever she is in this case) and I are no longer together for a reason, so why should I continue to hold onto her like she’s not free to do whatever she wants? If they want to be together, why shouldn’t they?

However, from a friend’s perspective, some “heads up” would be an appropriate courtesy. I know if I was interested in one of my boy’s ex’s, I would talk to him first, and get his thoughts. He might have some enlightening things to say, and perhaps some warnings as well.

As friends, you wouldn’t want anything to come between you, and I can see how something like this situation would do just that. Honestly, if the man is truly my friend, I would assume he would share with me details about the women that he’s interested in, whether or not they’re my ex, because that’s what friends do, right?

That’s my thought — I’m fine with it, but a little heads up is appreciated. What do you think? Is it totally off limits? Does any “permission” or notice need to be given before the friend begins pursuing the ex? Or should whatever just happen and everyone will be fine with it?

[Written by Stuart McDonald for For more from Stuart, check out his personal blog, follow him on Twitter, and connect with him on Facebook.]

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