Dear Wendy: “My Sister Is Dating My Ex!”

I’m 33 years old, and recently, my high school sweetheart, Michael, who I dated for almost two years and lost my virginity to, found me on Facebook. After much thought I finally hit the accept button to his friend request. I figured it’s been 15 years, we’re both grown adults now and yes, part of me wanted him to see just how fabulous I turned out. The problem is, Michael has also friended my sister, who was an 11-year-old ugly duckling when we dated in high school, but has definitely blossomed since then. It turns out, they went out to dinner the other night and my sister finds him “very interesting and good looking.” I told her I feel weird about them dating, and I swear if she wasn’t my sister I would have told her where to go the minute this happened. She could be “talking” to any of my exes and I would feel the same exact way I’m feeling now. It’s called the Girl Code and she needs to respect it. The number one rule of the Girl Code is to never date your close friends’ exes, so I think this applies double if it’s your sister. When I tell people about this situation, everyone thinks it’s wrong. Well, everyone but my sister and her friends. They say I shouldn’t have a problem with it since I’ve been happily married for 13 years and that it was over a decade ago when we were teenagers. So, who is right!? It it wrong that I still believe in the Girl Code? — Girl Code Believer

What’s with all this “Girl Code” business? You’re not a girl, GCB, you’re a grown-ass woman. It’s time to start living your life by a more mature philosophy, like, I don’t know, treating people with respect and making decisions based on individual situations rather than blindly following a “code” that never considers context. I understand you’d be hurt that your sister is dating your high school sweetheart, but I find it more difficult to understand how you’d be upset with any female close to you dating any ex of yours, regardless of when you dated him, how serious you were, what the break-up was like, and what your feelings for him are now. Not every relationship is created equal, and you shouldn’t apply some silly “code” to all of them as if they are.

Relationships aren’t about marking your territory for life. They’re about finding someone you click with and can learn from — and if you’re lucky, create a life with. But, as we know, most relationships end eventually, and there can be a tendency to protect their memory or somehow preserve the feelings we had while in them. But applying a code to those doesn’t make them special, GCB; they’re already special on their own. Applying a code to those relationships doesn’t somehow protect them from change or lock our old feelings in the past. So, rather than cry “Girl Code!” when someone close to you dares to date someone from your past, ask yourself what really upsets you about the prospect. If you can articulate clear reasons that speak to genuine hurt feelings, emotional discomfort, and perhaps even concern for your sister or friend’s well-being, then express those. You’ll have a much better shot at being truly heard if your reasons come from the heart. And if you can’t come up with any good reasons other than “Girl Code!” it might be time for you to grow up and let other people live their lives.

My best friend has been my best friend since kindergarten. Recently, though, her behavior has changed. She started working at one of the cool bars in our college town and I rarely see her. She has always been a little flaky (being late, not picking up her phone, waiting hours before responding to a text message) but lately it’s gotten a lot worse. She’ll completely bail on plans and not respond to phone calls/texts for days. But when I do get to see her, all I hear about is how much she misses hanging out with me. When we hang out, it’s never one-on-one. It’s always with her new group of friends. She’s been hanging out with these holier-than-thou hipster kids since she started working at this new bar and they’re really rude to me. I even worked with one of them at a previous job for a full month and the last four or five times I’ve seen him he’s introduced himself to me thinking he hasn’t met me before. My friend recently got out of a long-term relationship where her entire social circle consisted of her boyfriend’s friends, so I understand that it’s important for her to have her own group now. But how do I bring her new behavior to her attention without offending her new taste in friends? — Missing My BFF

Well, your BFF’s “taste in friends” and what she does with these hipster kids isn’t really your business or your place to micro-manage, so focus instead on what’s at heart here: your relationship with her. Isn’t what’s really bothering you is that you aren’t seeing her — especially one-on-one — as much as you used to or as much as you’d like? So, why don’t you, you know, talk to her about how you’re feeling? If you keep the conversation focused on your relationship and leave her new friendships out of it, you’ll reduce the risk of alienating her, offending her choice in friends, and coming off as jealous, which, frankly is the way you sound in your letter. And keep in mind that while your friend’s behavior may seem different lately, it really isn’t unusual. So, she’s making new friends. That’s what people do as they grow up. It’s especially what people do after ending long-term relationships where they focused mostly on their significant other. So remind your BFF that while she’s fostering new friendships, which will naturally take a big chunk of her time, yours still needs tending. A regular date — say, once or twice a month where you can catch up and check in with each other — will go a long way in keeping you connected while you travel the different paths your lives will naturally lead you.

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