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Background

Jane and I belonged to the same group of friends since childhood. In this group, we all used to hang out, go camping, all kinds of stuff. Despite all of us eventually growing older and parting ways, most of us stayed friends and would hang out regularly on holidays, still go camping in summer and so on.

Jane and I started dating when I was 16 and she was 14. We dated for 7 years, last 2 years living together. During the time we were living together, we would often hang out with Mike, another friend from the childhood friend group. One year before our break-up, she cheated on me with my then best friend Bob. Despite me willing to forgive her and move on, she wanted to break up, but we eventually agreed to try again.

After a rather ugly year of her doing stupid things just to make me angry and me being afraid to say a word without triggering another episode of threats of her leaving me, she finally broke up with me and moved out. Despite realizing that it was the inevitable outcome at the time, I was devastated. Our issues were not caused by abuse/violence or things of that nature.

I found out through a mutual friend that a few months later, she started dating another of our friends, Mike.

Problem

Her dating Mike, in fact, did not surprise me that much. What surprised me was that I had to learn about it from a third party, since I would expect (and very much prefer) Mike to approach me and tell me about it face to face.

I realize that what she does is not my business anymore and I have to deal with my feelings. I am quite introverted (I did not make new friends since high school). If I want to keep my very few friends (which I do), I am bound to come across the couple eventually.

I don't have to interact with both Jane and Mike, but I want to. Chances are that if I wanted to break any contact with them, I would lose all my friends. I would like to keep in touch with these friends and keep hanging out with them regularly.

I want to keep my friends (including Mike) and basically not address the fact of them dating. That would be awkward for everybody, so I am looking for a solution which would do the least damage to friendships and still keep my face.

My issue is that given our history, I have no idea how to interact with them when it comes to it. What would be a mature way to handle it?

If relevant, I am now 23, Jane is 21, Mike is her age and we are located in East-Central Europe.

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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because we cannot give relationship advice. Questions at IPS require a goal we can address within the context of interpersonal skills. – user4548 Nov 29 '17 at 20:03
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    First of all, please narrow this down to 1 question, so the extra questions bit has to go. What exactly is your goal here? Why are you asking us, and what are you asking us for help with? Do you want to have a frank talk with Mike about not telling you, so that hopefully things are talked out before you ever have to interact with both of them? Do you want to 'act normally' (which we can't answer since we don't know what's normal for you)? – Tinkeringbell Nov 29 '17 at 20:03
  • @Tinkeringbell I edited out the extra question. What I want is to keep my friends (including Mike) and basically not address the fact of them dating. That would be awkward for everybody, so I am looking for a solution which would do the least damage to friendships and still keep my face. – different_account Nov 29 '17 at 20:13
  • Dealing with related issues myself, so my heart really goes out to you, but like the above comments - you have to figure out what you want to do first, and then we can help you figure out how. "Appropriate" is pretty subjective.. do you have to stay in contact with these people, do you want to hang out again, or do you just want to not have tension if you run into them at events? – Em C Nov 29 '17 at 20:14
  • @EmC Thank you for input. I don't have to stay in contact with them, but I want to. Yes, by keeping the friends, I meant keep hanging out with them, I edited the question to be more clear about that. – different_account Nov 29 '17 at 20:20
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I'll start out by quoting apaul's very gracious answer:

They're not dating to hurt you

... but they still hurt you.

It's good to recognize they can do what they want, but your feelings are also valid. If these people are your friends, they should care about you too.

So if you want to clear the air: contact Mike and ask if you can talk.

Dodging the issue and sweeping it under the rug won't do anything to reduce tension, it will only allow it to fester. Maybe Mike feels just as awkward about it as you do and is planning to remove himself from the friend group so you don't have to see him - you won't know until you talk to him. Pretending they aren't dating is not a viable solution, so you might as well deal with it.

Approach the conversation with a goal in mind. Do you want an apology? Do you want to know XYZ? Do you want him to never talk about XYZ? Do you just want to say your piece? etc. This will help keep you on track if things get difficult. Try to stay focused and calm during the conversation - remember that he didn't do this to hurt you - and don't be afraid to take a step back if you need to.

If your goal is just "be not awkward around Mike", what would that look like for you? Try to frame it as unemotionally as possible. Perhaps this means "we won't talk about Jane", "we will acknowledge each other at events and act civilly, but I won't expect him to talk to me one-on-one". Take this to your conversation, too, and discuss ground rules and expectations for your relationship with Mike going forward.

If the talk goes well, fantastic, you figured out how to act around each other in the future.

If Mike responds poorly, that sucks, but now you know. Talk to your other friends in the group - they are surely aware of the situation - about how to approach it. Maybe you can get together without Mike on occasion (try not to make them pick sides, though), or maybe you just need to distance yourself for a while. Hopefully they will be understanding. If they take sides, that's again very unfortunate, but sometimes happens, and I suggest AndreiROM's advice to find a new group that is more caring about you.

(I had such a conversation a few months ago. While it didn't magically make everything OK, the strategy of preparing questions and getting them answered made me feel satisfied that it went about as well as possible, and helped my peace of mind about dealing with that particular person in the future. Good luck.)

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    This is an excellent answer. In addition to just making valid points, you actually propose solutions with different outcomes in mind. I will probably try this approach soon. If nothing, at least I will know I was the person to go out of my way and try to make things work. Thank you. – different_account Nov 30 '17 at 19:20
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Your story is a little confusing, however the overarching theme is that your ex, and your friends are walking all over you.

My advice to you is to look deep inside, realize that you're worth more than this, and move on with your life. Here are some hard facts:

  • Anyone willing to hook up with your friend behind your back is not worth the time of day. She's a cheater, and always will be. Purge every trace of her from your life.

  • Any so called friend who would hook up with your girlfriend behind your back is a back-stabbing fiend, and not worth having around. Purge.

You seem to be in a fragile state of mind, but those things cannot be ignored. If you think you can simply rejoin the circle of "friends", and act like nothing's happened, then you think less of yourself than even they do.

I urge you to find new friends. Get out there, join a club, start up a new hobby! Find a reason to gain value in your own self before seeking the approval of strangers.

Start working out. Learn a new language and travel. Start painting, hiking, wall climbing, whatever captures your imagination. But stop fixating on these leeches you seem to think are your friends.

You're young, and it seems like without these people in your life you may be left alone, but give yourself some time to gain perspective. Trust in your own worth, and abilities. Focus on having this episode in your life become the moment you changed for the better, not on how you might ingratiate yourself with a bunch of back-stabbing a-holes who care nothing for you.

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    You may want to know how this eventually played out. As much as I didn't like it at first, you were right. I couldn't stay near these people. I cut ties with all of them except one, with whom I occasionally meet, but don't talk about the rest. As you said, I moved, got a new job and focused on my hobby. I am getting better for myself. Often the best advice is the one you don't ask for and like the least. – different_account Jun 16 '18 at 18:30
  • @different_account - Glad to hear that you're back on track. Best of luck! – AndreiROM Jun 17 '18 at 18:16
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This is a situation I've found myself on all sides of over the years. The times I found myself in your position, there was usually the instinct to think and sometimes say:

How could they do that to ME?

It hurts to feel rejected by a partner, it hurts more when your friend "betrays" you and starts seeing your ex. I know how that feels and I know it sucks.

The thing is... Even if your friend had come to you first and told you about their intentions, it still hurts. It's easy to say that if they had done things this way, or that way, it would hurt less, but in my experience it doesn't.

Having been in the others roles of this situation, I can tell you that they didn't do that to you. They most likely got together the way most couples do, and that didn't really have anything to do with you. They're not dating to hurt you, they're dating because they like each other.

With all of that out of the way, your question was:

My issue is that given our history, I have no idea what my appropriate attitude should be towards them and how to interact with them when it comes to it. What would be a mature way to handle it, without me looking like a beaten dog?

The mature way to handle it is to be happy for your friend/s and move on. I know that's hard to hear right now, I hated hearing it too, and I hated saying it more. Realistically it's all you can do if you want to have any sort of peaceful relationship with these people.

Also, being happy for them and moving on shows that you're not a "beaten dog" It shows that you're strong enough to not let this stuff get to you. It takes a lot of strength to carry on after a hard breakup, and it's better try to do it gracefully. Being happy for them shows that you're confident, and ok with your self as much as it says that you're ok with them.

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    In my opinion this demonstrates a complete lack of self respect. Keeping someone who betrays your trust so completely around, and acting like it's a sign of maturity is simply self-delusion. These people supposedly cared for the OP, yet completely disregarded his feelings, and turned his life upside down. He should not be sustaining a relationship with such individuals. I don't think it's healthy to inflict daily punishment upon oneself in the form of being around these folks. – AndreiROM Nov 29 '17 at 20:40
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    @AndreiROM The act of self respect is in not having your self respect tied to the actions of others. The maturity is not being troubled by who your exes or your friends date. There's strength in letting go of your "right" to be angry and honestly it usually feels better when you do. – apaul Nov 30 '17 at 5:49
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    we'll have to agree to severely disagree. – AndreiROM Nov 30 '17 at 13:53
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    I'm also upvoting this. I find your severe disagreement quite interesting, I believe in this case you are both giving the advice that would work best for your own selves, but you are so completely different from one another that the advice of one seems bizarre to the other. I'm curious to hear what you think of that. – peufeu Nov 30 '17 at 14:05
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    @apaul: would you still think he should stick around her or her accomplice if the issue had been theft instead of infidelity? What about a straightforward lie (everyday she picked a topic and her and Bob would then proceed to lie to him about it)? I'd say he should mentally wish Alice/Bob bad luck, wish Mike good luck (after telling him about Alice/Bob) in person, and then move on by not having anything to do with any of them. – jmoreno Apr 29 '18 at 0:21
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I'm going to answer your questions backwards.

Are some of my ideals of friendship ... too romantic or naive?

No

One of the key ingredients in any healthy relationship be it business, friendship, or romance, is Trust. When your friend violated the ideal that you listed he destroyed your trust in him. This is extremely damaging to a relationship.

If these two had been honest and had wanted to not betray you they would have A) told you they were going to date each other. B) she would have broken up with you before sleeping with someone else.

I have to applaud your forgiving attitude towards your girlfriends initially. It takes a lot of effort and courage to forgive betrayals like you suffered. I'm sorry that you are going through this.

Now for your first question

How to deal with a friend dating my ex-girlfriend?

Be casually polite but avoid contact with them.

Don't hang out with either of them. If they show up at a party, just say hi and go find someone else to talk too. Don't invite them to anything you plan.

If any one asks why you are treating them this way tell them something along the lines of, "They betrayed my trust. I will be polite to them, But I have no desire to be around them."

Good luck man.

  • in what way did they betray his trust?! Yes them not telling him isn't a plus for them...but how did they betray his trust? The current guy is not the one that cheated on him. – Steffen Winkler Nov 30 '17 at 15:20
  • Thank you for kind words, this is very reasonable advice. I will however try to work things out first, as @EmC suggested. If that does not work out, this would be a way to go. – different_account Nov 30 '17 at 18:57
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Try this on for size. You are presuming that Mike owed you some sort of interaction about this, and you are disappointed you didn't get it. Ok, now you also call yourself an introvert. If the shoe were on the other foot, and you were dating Mike's ex, would it have occurred to you that you owed Mike a conversation? Ok, if it did... Would you feel eager to have that conversation? Or would you sort of dread it / want to defer it / maybe even angle to avoid Mike to avoid having to have it? Maybe Mike or Jane is going through that.

If there's tension in the room, it maybe ain't just yours. Or for that matter, they could have tension you do not. Some of the tension might be imagined worry over what the other might think.

So what do you want?

You can look to the past and count all the ways your feelings hurt. Or you can look to the future and decide what kind of relationship you'd like to have with them going forward. The clearer and more self-true you are on this, the better it will work. And then you can outreach them and figure out where they're at. It may be they are relieved to know that what they presumed to be a problem for you is in fact not.

Also, cut your ex some slack. Relationships are complicated. It's hard to navigate them well even when both of you have the best character and intentions. Stuff hurts. It's the human condition but it doesn't define our choices.

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