Q: I recently started dating a new girl—but then I met her friend, and I think I’m really into her. Can I go after the friend?

A: This situation has various levels of messy, so it all depends on the factors involved— and how much fallout you’re willing to tackle later on. Sound complicated? It is. But you can start by asking yourself some questions about Current Flame and Dream Girl:

Has Dream Girl ever shown any interest in me? Honestly. Does she ever tease you? Does she always seem up for group get-togethers when she knows you might be there? Does she laugh at your lame jokes? If an attraction is there, she’ll likely—even if only subconsciously—exhibit some of the usual indicators. But if she has never looked twice in your direction, move on, no matter how much you like her. It’s just not worth the uphill battle.

What do I want out of this? Is this a fleeting crush, a hopeful fling or could it actually be the real thing for you? “Before this guy even tries to make the swap, I'd ask him to think about a few questions,” says dating coach Neely Steinberg. Is this a recurring pattern in which he always wants what he can't have? Is he a serial dater with no intention of settling down? Does he just want a fling?” If your answer is yes to any of the above, then you shouldn’t stir the pot. You’ll meet other women.

How long have I been dating Current Flame? If you’re that into her, and it’s only been a few weeks, I’ll give you the green light—just as long as you cut current ties with the utmost care. “It's just a matter of waiting a month or so before asking out the friend and doing it in a kind, compassionate way,” says Steinberg. “Then it's up to the ladies to work it out between themselves.” Keep in mind: your eventual plan is to indirectly tell Current Flame, ‘Hey, I’m choosing your friend over you…sorry’ when you ask out Dream Girl—and that will sting, no matter how little you’ve dated. So, be a gentleman.

How close are Current Flame and Dream Girl? Please realize that your odds automatically decrease in proportion to how close the ladies are. If they’re acquaintances, taking a chance will be way easier. If they’re close, you may want to think twice, because her allegiance will likely sit with her friend. “It's going to be a lot more messy, says Steinberg, “and it’s probably best to wait several months after the break-up.” Once that grace period is over, say you realize it’s complicated—but felt that it was worth that shot. (Making her see that you’re approaching her with the idea that there really could be something between you two will up your odds.)

So there you have it. But regardless of whether or not you decide to pursue Dream Girl, my advice is to break things off with Current Flame. If you’re fantasizing about another woman at the start of a relationship, I can already tell you: It ain’t gonna last.

Good luck!

About the Hot Girl: Claire Austen is a 20-something freelance writer, sports enthusiast, and polka-dot-lovin’ everygirl trying to bridge the gap between what men know about women and what women wish men knew. She gives smart, super-honest advice about your biggest dating and relationship conundrums.