How can I date my ex’s friend without hurting his feelings?

My boyfriend and I recently broke up. It was on good terms, and we’re still very close friends, but he took it harder than I did. His friend has expressed interest in dating me, and I’m really interested in dating him. We have a lot in common, we’re part of the same social circle, and we work in the same field. I don’t want to hurt my ex-boyfriend, which I know this would do, but I don’t want to hinder my own potential happiness for the sake of others. What should I do?

It’s not you; it’s me.
06-13-40-41-57 / 15

Hello Diner. Because we’ve seen that humans generally work on an extremely fast time scale, you probably have already started dating this other friend. Not much is stronger than mutual desire–maybe the stuff that keeps atoms together. No worries. We would have suggested the same anyway.

If you haven’t, go for it.

We Fortune Cookies have a deep understanding that tomorrow can be your last day.

But we’ve also noticed that once people find themselves in a relationship, it becomes a lot harder to think outside of it. We have had a lot of couples propose at our restaurants over the last century. Fancy restaurants like ours are good for things like that.

A plate of warm noodles is also great comfort food, so we have a lot of patrons who’ve recently been dumped, too. Somehow, our hosts invariably seat them next to each other. Every. Single. Weekend.

Having no soft, huggable edges, we Fortune Cookies can do little more than listen. And we don’t want to be a buzzkill and have our batchmate over at the other table ask the couple to tone it down.

So depending on what “hinder” means to you, remember that your ex sees a lot more than you realize. If being happy means full-on public displays of affection, don’t let anyone–even wise, sentient Cookies–stop you.

But if you do that only to show off, then remember there are a lot more newly single people around you than your ex. They deserve some relief from being reminded things used to be a lot happier.

Besides, it’s much more intimate if you keep it between the two of you. Either way, good luck with this new relationship, Diner. Our restaurant can reserve a table for the day he decides to propose–just don’t invite your ex.

How do I get over my trust issues enough to start a relationship with a man who actually seems to care about me?

I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. — an inconceivable Sicilian
01-03-04-13-21 / 02

Hello Diner. Calling them “trust issues” tells me that at a rational level, you understand you have nothing to fear, but your fear feels very real anyway.

Past experiences left a bad aftertaste that flavors future encounters. Can you find palate cleansers of the dating world to make relationships tasty again? Technically, yes. Trying something and seeing that things turn out fine will help you get over this feeling. [1]

So find some loyal and boring table water biscuits to date casually. Soon you’ll regain your appetite for dating seriously and discover that people—in general—do care about their romantic interests. We can’t say this for sure, but in all the years we Fortune Cookies have been served to tables for two, we see that it’s mostly true.

But dating is a little more complicated than picking at a plate of bland wafers. You want that deep connection right now with someone you’re crazy about. I get it. And trusting things to remain casual with these guys needs as much trust as risking a deep passionate relationship in the first place. My point is you don’t have to go through a spartan diet of guys you’re not interested in to ready yourself for the real thing. Just approach those you want to date slowly.

Your question made it seem like you either completely shut someone out or go full on. Remember there are things in between—relationships that give you some fun and intimacy, but don’t demand that you be completely vulnerable. You don’t have to set up tests of trust, just chew slowly. Take time to get to know him before you fall for him. Look at how they treat friends and people who serve them. Other Diners have had problems with very charismatic but self-interested partners. If you did too, it’s no wonder dating has taught you to be suspicious.

Just have fun, Diner. Flirt, date casually, and let him know you want to take things slowly to warm up to him. Your order sounded very somber and full of surrender. “Getting over trust issues” and settling for “a man who actually seems to care” (while leaving out any other positives about this person) seemed like a lot of work and no fun.

As you’re getting over losing trust in someone you were close to, don’t look at future relationships as monumental things that can crush you. It’ll just cause you to wince through them or run from them. People forget that they can decide how much things are allowed to affect them.

Now that I’ve reminded you, how much will you let this new relationship affect you?

Good luck with it, Diner—and don’t forget to have fun.


[1] Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. Macmillan. 103

Should I dump him?

My boyfriend and I disagree on something major, and it’s making me think that I should break up with him. But when we’re together, things are really great aside from arguments about this one thing, and I don’t want to end things. What should I do?

I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that. – Meatloaf

04-05-12-13-22 / 03

Hello Diner. I can understand what’s holding you back. I don’t know enough about your situation, but if there’s just one thing on which you’re disagreeing, chances are you like this person very much. Breaking up is something absolute, and it deprives you of all the good things about that person. You can’t just break up with the bad parts of him. If you could, everyone would have perfect relationships, and marriage counselors and Advice Fortune Cookies alike would have to find new lines of work. On the other hand, there would also be lots of random chunks of terrible people hopping around–a commitment-phobic leg over here, a narcissistic shoulder over there. No one wants that.

So how do you decide at what point you dump him?

That all depends on how central that One Thing is to you. If it bothers you enough to ask a magical Cookie, then chances are this issue is very close to your core values. But perhaps this person is so great, you still want to hold out hope that he’ll change–or else if he is that great, he’ll know to change. Then what?

Then ask yourself what life changing forces are in your relationship to drive that change. In Newtonian physics, an object in motion will keep moving in the same direction and speed until a force acts on it. A comet barreling toward Earth doesn’t change course because it feels sorry for nice, well-meaning people. Something needs to turn a “should” into a “must.”

It’s important to say that I’m not talking about punishments like the Silent Treatment or withholding affection. If either of you use these punishments, it just means you have a bad communication problem on top of that original issue you wrote to the Bakery about.

“Life changing forces” are things that will alter your core belief. Think of what will make you change your mind on this subject wholeheartedly. That’s how strong those forces have to be for him to think differently, Diner. Clearly neither of you has experienced whatever you two need to be swayed. If things stay the same, expect…well…the same.

Life isn’t going to be all good, but it certainly shouldn’t have repeats of the same problem. That point more than anything should tell you when it’s time to go. Understand you can only change half of the things in a relationship–your half. If you’ve moved heaven and earth, but the comet is still coming your way, RUN. Good luck, Diner, good luck.

How do I love completely enough that I’m happy, while not pushing the other person away or getting too invested too soon?

I love without reserve. I love without regard to how it might hurt me in the end. Recently I fell for someone I knew it could never work with, let’s call him my personal Edward Cullen. Perfect. Everybody wants him. However, I’m not Bella. In fact looking at it the other way around he’s Bella and I’m Jacob. I’m going to be in people’s lives who he’s close too. So, I need to know how to let myself feel like I’m loving someone properly and completely without risking becoming a depressed pile of crap over every single person I let myself get close to.

Love, quite simply, is not happiness.

13-23-31-39-53 / 04

Hello Diner. The great thing about compatibility is that it’s self-regulating. If that person desires you as much as you do them, then you simply won’t push the other person away. Of course, two sentences cannot summarize the complexities of love and human nature. Humans are still humans. Everyone has personal boundaries everyone else should respect.

So then, Diner, ask yourself what do you mean by “love”? Without devolving into a discussion on the meaning of life (which we already discussed in this Fortune), my point is: respect for the other person is a large part of love. Among those things that require consideration and respect are their boundaries. That is something neither Edward, Bella, or Jacob had for each other—however many times the word “love” appears in the books. For your sake, I hope you aren’t following their relationship as a guide for yours.

However counterintuitive it seems, a couple should encourage each other to establish and respect boundaries. If you pay attention to those limits and encourage your partner to communicate them more directly, you will have a much easier time keeping yourself from pushing them away. But also understand that if the compatibility isn’t there, it would be best for the relationship to end.

Remember that relationships’ ending is merely a result of one person deciding that the incompatibilities between the couple do not allow that person to meet their long-term goals. Feelings change as you learn more about each other. Making this decision is painful because the culture conditions people to not hurt others and to not be selfish—both of which are necessary to break up with someone. As far as the soon-to-be heartbroken person is concerned, they had all the happiness and affection they need. Changing anything would derail all of that, and it’s painful for the both of you.

The simple fact is that when love ends, it will hurt. To prevent that will be like disentangling light and dark or up and down. Anyone who will not feel hurt at the end did not feel love in the beginning. That is true for the heartbreaker and heartbroken. A force as cosmic as love is hard to stop.

Perspective and resilience will help the pain. Understand that feelings change, but the pursuit of happiness does not. Understand that the goal was there before the person arrived, and it will continue after they leave, whether through a breakup or death. Understand that if either person does not feel present in the relationship, by definition neither will be happy as a couple. Let the relationship end for the sake of your own happiness. Let that be the way of things. Good luck in love, Diner.