When can you break the 'girl code' and date a friend's ex? Relationship experts weigh in

The notorious 'girl code' is a bit tricky to navigate, and not all situations are black-and-white

When is it okay to break the girl code? Pictured: Jennifer Aniston with Brad Pitt, Gwyneth Paltrow with Jennifer Aniston, and Brad Pitt with Gwyneth Paltrow
(Image credit: Ron Galella/Getty; Kevin Mazur/Getty; Tammie Arroyo/Getty)

Would you pursue someone if it meant dishonoring the "girl code"?

While you might very well be entering a fun, exciting romantic relationship, setting your sights on a friend's ex is more than likely to lead to a friendship breakup, not to mention it is considered the #1 Girl Code Violation.

"There’s a very fine line that can border on the side of betrayal if you aren’t careful," says dating coach Rikki Dymond. "For many, dating someone’s former flame is a big no-no. But for others, depending on how the relationship went and how things ended, it could be perfectly acceptable." 

Nothing is ever simple, and there's no one-size-fits-all rule to navigating dating in 2023. But relationship experts certainly do have a few words of wisdom before you accept that dinner date from your best friend's former flame. Proceed with caution—you're heading into murky territory!

When is it okay to break the 'girl code'?

We regret to inform you that there is no right answer, but if you are mildly even thinking about doing away with the girl code, you have to consider your particular scenario.

"It’s not a black-and-white situation, it’s a case-by-case situation," says matchmaker and relationship coach Julia Bekker. "It depends on a lot of factors. Was he the love of her life, has she moved on, does she not think of him anymore?"

If you are on the hunt for a serious relationship, it's probably best venture outside of the friend group to avoid clashes. And if your friend was involved in a serious situation, that's all the more reason to wave the red flag. 

But we're not judging: we know that sometimes things happen and you can't fight your feelings, but there are proper ways to go about the situation. That being said, you're going to have to brace yourself for some setback, too, depending on how serious your friend was with this certain guy or gal.  

"The decision to date a close friend’s ex is one that should not be made lightly," says dating expert Maria Sullivan of Dating.com. "In many cases, pursuing a romantic relationship with your friend’s ex can cause awkwardness and will have negative effects on the friendship."

Are you prepared for what might transpire?

Rikki Dymond
Rikki Dymond

Rikki Dymond is a dating coach and Flirtini dating expert. Her mission is to "help women reconnect with themselves and use their natural feminine energy to bring forward mature and lasting love."

Julia Bekker headshot
Julia Bekker

The founder, matchmaker and dating coach of Hunting Maven, Julia Bekker has been in the business for 15+ years. Her goal is to connect with her clients and help them find real love and compatibility.

Dating.com logo
Maria Sullivan

Maria Sullivan is a dating expert and the vice president of Dating.com.

How to date a friend's ex the right way

Alright, let's say you're pushing the notorious girl code aside, you're going to have to proceed gently and with your friend's emotions in mind before your own. And your timing will be everything—don't venture on that coffee date without a quick convo with her first.

"It's important to communicate your feelings to your friend before dating their ex," Sullivan says. "You don’t want to go behind your friend’s back or go against their wishes and lose their trust."

Likewise, Charlotte Johnson at MegaPleasure urges empathy.  

"Your friend may need some time and space to come to terms with the situation, so be patient and understanding," she recommends. "It is important to respect their feelings and boundaries, and avoid pressuring them to accept your decision."

And now that you've entered this situation, it's not just about your connection with your friend. You'll have to find a comfort level with your new S.O. and her former.

"Try to set boundaries with your new partner to ensure that your friendship with your mutual friend is not compromised and also be clear about what you're comfortable with in terms of sharing details about your relationship with your friend," Johnson adds.

MegaPleasure logo
Charlotte Johnson

Charlotte Johnson is a sexual wellness expert and marketing manager with the UK brand, MegaPleasure. 

Danielle Valente
Digital News Writer

Need a TV show recommendation? Maybe a few decor tips? Danielle, a digital news writer at Future, has you covered. Her work appears throughout the company’s lifestyle brands, including My Imperfect Life, Real Homes, and woman&home. Mainly, her time is spent at My Imperfect Life, where she’s attuned to the latest entertainment trends and dating advice for Gen Z.

Before her time at Future, Danielle was the editor of Time Out New York Kids, where she got to experience the best of the city from the point of view of its littlest residents. Before that, she was a news editor at Elite Daily. Her work has also appeared in Domino, Chowhound, and amNewYork, to name a few. 

When Danielle’s not writing, you can find her testing out a new recipe, reading a book (suggestions always welcome), or rearranging the furniture in her apartment…again.