Sometimes, keeping the peace in friendships means that there are "rules" to consider before dating certain people. And while many of us love to break the rules, making the choice to date someone who is "off-limits" can lead to some serious drama if you don’t tread carefully. So, when is someone off-limits to date? Well, the truth is that figuring out the answer to this question can be tough and usually depends on the specifics of each situation.
Although some might say you can’t control who you develop romantic feelings for, the truth is that you definitely have control over whether or not you pursue those feelings. For example, many people believe that dating a friend’s ex would be a major trust violation. Someone a family member, like a cousin or a sibling, dated might be considered off-limits. Someone a co-worker has been pining for could also be a no-no. And it might not even be about an ex — what if your best friend kindly asks you not to date their sibling? Or your roommate feels uncomfortable with the idea of you flirting with their best friend from home?
Unfortunately, the issue is far from black and white, which is why I asked dating and relationship writer Demetrius Figueroa and NYC-based relationship expert and love coach Susan Winter to chime-in. "I think that anyone who has a [platonic] relationship with you has a right to tell you that they consider dating someone ‘off limits’," Figueroa told Elite Daily. "If someone close to you tells you not to date their relative, or coworker, or even a former partner, they have that right."
However, it’s also important to realize that just because someone close to you has the right to express their wishes openly and honestly, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have no choice in the matter. "It’s your prerogative whether you decide to consider that person off-limits or not," adds Figueroa. "Most people don’t want to see their close friends dating their ex, and I think that’s fair to ask. Ultimately, the question of whether or not someone is truly off-limits is if you’re willing to honor someone’s wishes."
Regardless of how strongly you may be feeling, before you get yourself involved, it might be a good idea to consider the potential outcome. Is going after a relationship that might not work out worth potentially losing a friendship? The answer for you might be a hard yes, but figuring this out before the damage is done may save you from too much grief if things do get messy. "If you think the price you’ll pay for this romance is too high, think again," warns Winter. "It could be a grave offense to your friend and end your friendship."
Both Figueroa and Winter agree that the best course of action if you don’t want to run the risk of jeopardizing your friendship is to talk about your feelings with your friend (or coworker, cousin, or whoever it is that set that boundary to begin with) and ask them for their blessing directly. According to Winter, it’s important not to presume to know how your friend will or won’t react, which is why communication is so important. Also, the timing of things could be another factor to consider before trying to squash (or pursue) feelings for someone "off-limits."
"As people grow and change, it’s possible that someone who may have been once been off-limits could no longer be off-limits," explains Figueroa. "If your friend broke up with an ex several years ago, their opinion on whether or not you should date may be very different [than it was]."
If you ever find yourself crushing on someone who’s been deemed "off-limits," don’t be too hard on yourself. According to Figueroa, it’s actually surprisingly common. "The fact that they’re considered off-limits makes them forbidden fruit, and people tend to want what they’re told they can’t have." Ultimately, it’s up to you to make the final call on whether or not you’re going to respect your friend’s wishes. However, even if they give you the green light, that doesn’t mean that things can’t still go badly.
"Even if your friend had little emotional investment in his or her former lover, things can get dicey very quickly," warns Winter. "No matter how cautious you are, feelings are bound to get hurt and jealousies can occur. Generally speaking, it’s not a good move."
On the other hand, letting go of romantic potential is much easier said than done. Only you can decide if having a romantic relationship with someone who’s off-limits is worth it. Be honest with everyone involved, and go with your gut. This off-limits love might be the best one you’ve ever had! But if it’s worth ruining a solid, friendly relationship that you really see in your life for the long-run, tread lightly.
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