Dear Wendy: “Is It A Bad Idea To Move In With My Ex And Her Boyfriend?”

I’m planning on moving in to a new apartment with two close friends in a few months. We’re all in our mid-20s now and hang out on a weekly basis. The two of them have been dating for a little over two years now, and like the idea of sharing an apartment with a close friend before moving out completely on their own together. I’ve been friends with the girl for about nine years, and the guy for about six, and was actually the one who introduced them. The girl and I also dated for about two and a half years, but broke it off over three years ago, while still in college. After a cool-off period, we slipped back into our previous friendship far better than either of us expected, and have been extremely close since. While I’m not worried about living with the two of them, some of my family and friends think it’s a bad idea. I have no desire to get back with her, or really to change the relationship we currently have in any way. We actually lived together our senior year of college (after the breakup) with another mutual friend. That all worked out rather well, despite the obvious concerns to the contrary, so I feel we definitely have some past experience to believe there shouldn’t be any significant problems living together. Do you think having an intertwined past could prove problematic when living together? — Cautiously Optimistic

The short answer is: yes, having an intertwined past could most definitely prove problematic when living together. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re guaranteed problems if you move in together, or that you wouldn’t be able to effectively address those problems in a mature, non-dramatic way. Still, I have to side with your family and friends on this one — moving in with your ex and her boyfriend seems like a bad idea. Sure, you’ve managed to maintain a great relationship with your ex — even having lived together — and that’s commendable, but it’s a different dynamic completely when you add her boyfriend into the mix. And while the three of you have managed to hang out regularly without any conflict, you’ve always had certain boundaries that will be much less defined — or, at the very least, a little harder to respect — if you were to live together. Living with a couple can be challenging. You’ve got to deal with not only their potential love-fests on the couch, and their desire to “play house” with you as a third wheel, but you have to deal with their fights, too. And what if they break up? Add to all those issues the potential jealousy that could arise by virtue of you having been intimately involved — for two and a half years! — with one half of that couple, and, well, I guess I don’t understand why you’d risk all that drama.

If, as you say, you aren’t interested in changing the relationship you have with your ex, why do something, like move in with her and her boyfriend, that has such potential to change it? Even without your romantic past, you’d risk damaging your relationship by moving in together. It happens to friendships all the time! Do you really not have better roommate options? Are you hoping it will be super-fun, kinda like “Three’s Company,” but without the Ropers? You do know that without the Ropers, all “Three’s Company” is is a bunch of sexual innuendo and dumb blond jokes, right? Actually, I guess that’s pretty much all it is with the Ropers, too, but at least you get some snazzy house dresses to look at when they’re around. Anyway, my point is, your life isn’t a sitcom and if you move in with your ex and her boyfriend, it might just turn into a drama. Why go there?

The past year and a half has been quite the life change for me. After being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and my best friend leaving me to swim alone in the midst of it all, I have emerged a completely different and ultimately better woman. I’ve never been happier with myself and with life and I’m so excited about the future. My one problem is this: how can I translate this confidence into the dating world? I’m only twenty, but I’ve never really dated or been in a relationship. I finally feel ready to take that step, but I’m not sure how. Is it something that just happens when you least expect it? Mind you, I’m not looking for anything serious; I just want a little fun. Part of my healing process involved a reassessment of my values. I’m still not sure how I feel about sex outside of marriage (I was raised a good little Lutheran and I’m still a virgin), but I feel like I’m open to anything at this point. But are women today expected to put out in a casual dating relationship? Would I have to sacrifice that just to get out and meet people? I go to college, and I’ve met some people I’m potentially interested in, but so far no one’s really made a move on me, and I just don’t know where to start. — Excited but Lost

First, congratulations on getting your life on track after your bipolar diagnosis. As I’m sure you’ve been told by your doctors, yours is a disorder that needs constant monitoring, and even though you’re feeling great now, you have to be diligent about your treatment to stay that way. Dating and relationships can complicate your mood and mental well-being — as they can for even those who don’t have mood disorders! — so I urge you, as you begin dipping your toes into the dating pool, to stay in close contact with a therapist and talk through any issues that may arise. Second, you should know that regardless of what some might think is or isn’t expected of women in the dating world, you should never ever do anything you’re uncomfortable with, including sleeping with someone you like but don’t feel ready to be intimate with. Anyone who pressures you into anything you don’t want to do should be dropped faster than you can say “loser.”

Finally, there are plenty of young men who share your values and there’s no reason at all you should have to compromise them to find someone to date. As for finding those guys, you can start by joining groups at school where like-minded people navigate. Do you still go to church? If not, consider going. It can give you a spiritual base on which to help navigate your bipolar disorder and it can also introduce you to a whole new social group and support system. And whether you meet guys in class, at parties, or just walking around on campus, remember to smile, ask questions, and be genuine. And if you’re tired of waiting for guys to “make a move on you” — something they may already be doing but you aren’t picking up on — a simple “do you want to grab coffee some time?” goes a long way.

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