Can I date my friend's ex?

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Can I date my friend's ex?

Apr 16, 2013 |Candice Watters
Question

I recently met a guy who has the godly qualities I would want in a mate, and thus far we've been great friends. I found that I'm attracted to him. However, unbeknownst to me, this guy is my really good friend's ex-boyfriend. She does not know of my interest in him.

How does one deal with being attracted to a friend's ex-boyfriend? They were in a relationship for a long time. He didn't know she and I were good friends. I am quite confused.

Answer

Thank you for writing. Are you worried that she'll be upset if you start dating this man she once dated? That wouldn't be an uncommon fear on your part, or an uncommon response on hers, but it would be a symptom of a deeper problem and not necessarily reason enough not to date him.

If you do start dating and she were to get upset, I would guess that either she and he acted more married than they should have and their breakup was more like a divorce than a simple decision to not pursue the possibility of marriage anymore, or that she is not a Christian, or not a mature Christian, and is given to envy and jealousy.

Neither of these would be easy to walk through, but on their own, they are not necessarily reason to make the possibility of dating him off limits. That said, simply being attracted to him is not reason to date him, either. What if that first possibility is true and they acted married during that long relationship? Before you jump into a relationship with him, it's important to get to know more about his commitment to Christ, his character and his willingness to relate to you biblically in a dating relationship. Past sin doesn't disqualify him (Romans 3:23), but if he doesn't recognize it as sin, hasn't repented, hasn't determined to act differently going forward, then any number of what appear to be "godly qualities" aren't enough to qualify him for an Ephesians 5 marriage. (This is true of every man you consider dating, not just this one.)

If your friend and this man conducted themselves biblically, however, with all purity (1 Timothy 5:2) even as they tried to determine if they were a good match for one another, and decided in the end that they weren't, there's no reason they should feel tied to one another, or have any sense of ownership or influence over future relationships. If your friend cares for this man and wants what's best for him — and if they had a godly breakup — she should rejoice if the two of you decide to date and possibly marry. That should come as good news to her, even though it may remind her of her own disappointment that she's still waiting for a similarly good match. (That's another area for prayer and patience, and the ability to trust in God's sovereign plan.) It's no reason to begrudge him, though. We're commanded as believers to rejoice with those who rejoice.

The point of Christian dating is to find a suitable spouse. Often relationships that show potential turn out not to be a great fit. Both man and woman should part, wishing the other well in their ongoing search for a spouse, with the goal being a God-honoring marriage.

If there is envy, the issue is sin. The solution is the cross, not avoiding dating the one who will give cause for jealousy. If there is strife, again the issue is sin (James 4:1-2). What may be needed, should this man ask you out on a date and should that date lead to a relationship that in turn leads to a falling out with your friend, is help learning how to walk biblically in friendship.

It's hard to imagine how your really good friend could date a man for a long time without you knowing about it, unless this was before you met her. But assuming it's possible, I'd like to suggest that as long as you don't lead with your attraction, you really don't have anything to worry about until/if he asks you out on a date.

Attraction is an emotional response to someone you like. Through the course of your life, you may find yourself attracted to any number of men, many of whom will have had former girlfriends. Where you let those emotions lead you, or not, has everything to do with your convictions about what makes for a good, and also appropriate, relationship.

You may find yourself one day being a married woman who happens to find her grocer attractive. He's handsome, he's kind, he's close to your age. You think, He's attractive. What that doesn't mean is that you must pursue him for anything other than a cordial buying-and-selling-of-vegetables relationship. You may find your dentist or your pastor or your neighbor attractive in the generic. There are lots of attractive people in the world. It shouldn't come as a surprise: We're made in God's image, and He makes interesting and attractive people.

But as you can see, in most situations, feeling attracted to someone is not reason enough to pursue a relationship with him. In most cases, it's a reminder that we need to continually submit our thoughts to Christ's lordship, taking every thought captive and making it obedient (2 Corinthians 10:5). Temptations to lust and worse are just that. And so we pray, "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil" (Matthew 6:13). We must pray that God will help us see the avenues of escape He provides (1 Corinthians 10:13) and help us have the want to and the courage to take them.

Just because someone is attractive is not reason enough to pursue a relationship with him. In most seasons of our lives, it's not.

But conversely, just because someone once dated another person doesn't mean you shouldn't pursue a relationship, even if that former girlfriend is one of your friends.

May God guide your convictions.

Sincerely,
CANDICE WATTERS

Copyright 2013 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.

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