Dear Tamara:

I have met the guy of my dreams. Seriously, he is everything I have been looking for. He is kind, considerate, and funny. He has a great job, owns his own home and goes to church every Sunday. We have a lot in common and I really think he could be the one. Only problem, he dated one of my friends. Now I know the protocol that you don’t date a friend’s ex, but I am wondering if there is an exception to that rule. My friend knows that we are seeing each other and claims that she does not mind, but I can tell she is uncomfortable. Last weekend we all attended a birthday party of a mutual friend and my friend was very stand offish all night. I want to talk to her about it, but don’t know how to bring it up. I don’t want to lose my friend, but I don’t want to miss out on a potentially great relationship. What should I do?

A Friend In Love

Dear Friend:

Yes, dating a friend’s ex can be a very intense situation. I too grew up believing and following the same protocol, “Never date a friend’s ex, especially if you want to keep that friend.” But I have heard others ask “Why should I l miss out on an opportunity to experience true love, just to appease someone else’s feelings?” So for the sake of both arguments, let’s take a few things into consideration.

One, how close are you to this friend? Is she your best friend, a close associate, an old classmate, or do you just hang out in the same circles? I think your relationship with the friend should greatly influence your interpretation of this rule.

Two, how long did they date and what was the status of their relationship? Did they just go out on a few dates? Were they in a serious long-term relationship? Were they married? I think the status of the relationship should be taken into consideration. It is one thing to go out on a few dates and find that you are incompatible, and a horse of another color to be in a martial relationship. Dating an old flame and an ex husband may cause tremendous strain for all parties involved; especially if there are old feelings and jealousies still present. Seeing an ex in a successful relationship with a friend and even an associate can be a difficult

Three, how does your friend feel about the new relationship? Not that you need permission to date anyone, but your friend’s feelings should be taken into consideration. You should have an honest conversation and ensure that the relationship is truly over for both of them. This means there are no hard feelings or lingering feelings. You said that your friend is okay with you dating her ex, but she was acting different toward you. Without talking to her, you do not know if those feelings were directly related to you. You may be dealing with your own feelings and/or sense of guilt about the situation and could be reading too much into your friend’s behavior.

Four, determine your intentions. It sounds like you think there is great potential for the relationship. If this is the case, take the time to talk with your friend. If you two hang out in the same circles and see each other often, you do not want to make each other and others feel awkward and caught in the middle of your situation. If you didn’t feel the relationship had potential, I would have suggested you decide if pursuing a casual relationship was worth risking a friend. But since you want to pursue the relationship I encourage you to be mature and handle the situation like an adult.

Author of the upcoming book Been There Done That: And Lived to Tell About It (due out Spring 2011), Tamara R. Allen is Your Advice Guru giving REAL advice from REAL experience. Email your questions to [email protected]. You can follow Tamara on twitter @tamararallen or check out her daily column and archives at www.tamararallen.com.