There’s nothing like a friend with a broken heart to make you feel good about yourself says our guy columnist Gus.

Not only does it give you the opportunity to don that favourite of hats, “the good friend”, but suddenly your own train wreck of a love life begins to look, by contrast, to be the work of some genius master-plan. You find yourself with an odd mixture of sympathy and self-satisfaction, trying to find a bright side you can tell your mate.

From your point of view, of course, the bright side is that it isn’t happening to you. Like that warm, guilty glow you get from the passenger seat of a drink-drive bust, you know that there is one big factor that could have made this situation a hell of a lot worse. It’s enough to put you in a damned good mood… which mightn’t be exactly the appropriate response. So you chuck on a sympathetic face and spring into action.

A wise man once gave me some sound advice. When dealing with a friend’s heartache, there are two courses of action: if it’s a man take him drinking; if it’s a woman take her shopping. To that I can only add that the shopping seems to be of most benefit when it is in the field of accessories. Nothing blunts a woman’s pain like shoes or handbags, especially if you’re flush enough to shout.

The tricky area here, as you know, is with a friend of the opposite sex and whether you sleep with them or not. As I started writing this line I fully intended to take a strong negative stance on this, but in the time it has taken to type it I have come up with a couple of insurmountable exceptions: 1) this person is attractive to you, 2) this person’s ex is an enemy, 3) this person is me, etc…..It, um, might be worth your while to get a second opinion on this. I sometimes have a little trouble with the moral issues.

At some stage, you are going to have to release the subject back into the wild. This can be very confronting for them. After 2 months of bar-flying with a recently divorced friend, I suggested that perhaps he should be looking for female company. His voice got all panicky, “Are you kidding? My last date was so long ago the only tactic around was to get her as drunk as possible!” (Ahh…plus a change…) He brightened up no end when I told him the good news.

The fact is that they will fight against being a regular single again. On this issue you must be firm. Sell ’em hard on the independence angle. Agree (very carefully) that their ex was a bitch/prick. Wax lyrical on the kooky fun of first dates.

And wallow in the hot shame of your schadenfreude.

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