When my boyfriend and I broke up we stayed friends. He quickly met someone else, who he’s happy with, and I like. We hang out with a bigger group of people and that includes my ex's best friend. In the last few months I have found myself falling in love with him and at a recent party we got drunk together and after he walked me home I invited him in and we had sex. I assumed it was just a one-off - but turns out he felt the same. We are now seeing each other but have told nobody. I worry it will upset my ex and don’t know what we should do.
What do you want to do?
You say you don’t know what you should do, but can you think about what you would like to do? That might give you a clearer ideas of your options and what's stopping you being open about the relationship.
Remember you don’t have to ‘do’ anything right now except enjoy your new relationship.
That includes focusing on both of you rather than worrying about what others may think.
"There is no requirement for you to be out about your relationship until such time as both of you want to be."
It may be tricky to do this in terms of places you go together on dates and if you want to keep things quiet when on nights out together. Or if you would usually share it on social media. But there is no requirement for you to be 'out' about your relationship until such time as both of you want to be.
Why are you worried?
When people write to me about situations like yours (which is a lot), there are three main things they are worried about.
The first is whether being in a relationship with a good friend of their ex will cause tensions between people who have been close for a long time, or break up a friendship.
The second is they fear they will be judged and shamed, by their ex and others, for sleeping with two people who know each other well.
We have unspoken cultural taboos about friendships, often with advice from friends and self-help books suggesting these should have priority over relationships.
And that somehow while it is okay to move on to a new relationship after breaking up with an ex, sleeping with someone they are friends with is taboo.
If you have absorbed these messages then you may feel there is something wrong or bad in what you are doing.
But you have fallen for someone you like very much, who you know well, and who cares for you too. There is nothing wrong with that. Blaming yourself for having sex with someone who is friends with your ex may be understandable - but isn’t going to help you.
Although it could lead to you (and your boyfriend) making this into a far bigger issue than it needs to be.
When and how to tell other people
If you want to be open with other people about your relationship, it would probably be a good idea to talk to your ex about what is going on. Perhaps your new boyfriend could do this alone, or both of you together might want to talk to him.
It doesn’t have to be a particularly big discussion but you may want to let him know that you both have started seeing each other and you wanted him to hear it from you, in person, first. Rather than discovering it through other people, via social media, or witnessing you both together.
Starting relationships with other friends within your friendship group, community or network isn’t unusual and people cope with this on a daily basis. Where problems can arise, is if people feel they have been misled or information has been kept from them by those they are close to. So ensuring he is told first and in person may avoid this.
As you say, you have been apart for some time and he is in a relationship with someone else. So there is no reason for him to be anything other than happy for both of you.
However, it might come as a shock to him, or feel awkward or strange. He might need a bit of time to come to terms with the news and it may be things are a little different between you for a while.
Alternatively, he may surprise both of you by being really glad for you both, or just being not that phased by it. It might be he’s already guessed something was going on.
What he doesn’t have the right to do is to say you shouldn’t be seeing each other, or to be offended about you dating one another, or to act as if you are some kind of property his friend should not be touching.
If your ex is nasty or difficult then that could cause problems within your friendship group and you may want to consider what your Plan B might be in such a case, talking with your boyfriend about what you both might do.
"Remember this is something that is bringing you and your boyfriend pleasure and is a good thing for you both."
Other people in your friendship group may also have opinions or want to gossip, but if you, your boyfriend and your ex are okay about things then it is none of their business. Further discussions or justifications with them are unnecessary.
Having told your ex, you both may want to tell others formally, just let them notice over time, or perhaps celebrate it together as a group as something to be happy about. You know your friends better than I do.
Meg John Barker’s book Rewriting the Rules has more to say on relationships and friendships and may be a reassuring read.
Remember this is something that is bringing you and your boyfriend pleasure and is a good thing for you both. You don’t need to act as if you have done something bad or wrong. Relationships happen, that’s life. Being matter of fact about it may suit you better than trying to hide things or apologising when you don’t need to.
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Petra cannot print answers to every single question submitted, but she does read all your emails. Please note that by submitting your question to Petra, you are giving your permission for her to use your question as the basis of her column, published online at Wonder Women.
All questions will be kept anonymous and key details, facts and figures may change to protect your identity. Petra can only answer based on the information you give her and her advice is not a substitute for medical, therapeutic or legal advice.