Q: Hi Meredith,
I'm a divorced 30-something father (separated about 3 years ago) who has been trying to adapt to life after a nasty divorce. Now that the dust has settled, I can safely say that things between myself and my ex-wife "Jen" are amicable, although it is clear that we will never be friends again.
About a year ago, a close friend "Steve" (who is also divorced and now with someone else), without even the nerve to inform me, decided to end our friendship and has since barely uttered a word to me to the point that others are noticing his blatant avoidance. My understanding (based on observation) is that Steve became friends with someone who took my ex-wife's side in my divorce.
Over the summer, I ran into Steve's ex-wife "Mary" (whom I had not talked to since before Mary and her Steve separated) at a sporting event. We talked, caught up on old times, and swapped phone numbers -- with the intent of getting our children together. About a month later, Mary called me to arrange time for our children to see each other. At the play date, which had to wait a few weeks because of parenting schedules, everyone had a great time and my friendship with Mary resumed.
Fast forward about 2 months: Mary tells me that she had been thinking about me in a different light and wants to go out on a date with me (neither of us are seeing anyone now). She also told me that her pre-teen daughter has noticed Mary's reaction whenever my name has been brought up -- and offered an approval to us dating. Quite honestly, I am intrigued at the idea as well ... but is it OK to date the ex-wife of a former friend?
My gut feeling: It is none of Steve's business who his ex-wife dates; Steve chose to end our friendship (for whatever reason) and Mary and I are both free to date. So, what harm is there to see if there is more than a spark?
– Cautiously Interested In The Next Step, Boston
A: Your gut is right, CIITNS. To me, this is a no-brainer. The fact that Steve bailed on you is a major bonus. You can go into this without having to worry about his blessing.
But know this: If Steve and your ex-wife's friends think that you're the enemy now, it's only going to get worse. Assuming they find out about you and Mary (and they will), they'll probably talk trash. You'll probably wind up having to see Steve, especially if it works out with Mary. It'll be awkward. And maybe awful. But ... love after divorce is always a bit messy. You just have to own your feelings.
My only advice is to make sure that Mary understands your history with Steve -- the fact that he bailed without reason long ago. She probably knows that, but just in case she doesn't, be clear about the timeline. Mary should know that the bad feelings with Steve have nothing to do with her.
You have my permission to be not-so-cautious.
Readers? Should the LW stay away from Mary to respect Steve? Should he tell Steve? Should he talk to his ex-wife about it? Should Mary be concerned? What are the rules here? Discuss.
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.