He’s not a bad guy.
In fact, it was his endearing kindness that drew you to him in the first place. In the expansive sea of men who seem to have no desire to learn anything about you that doesn’t directly increase their likelihood of getting laid, he took a genuine interest in the things you care about. He asked you prying questions, gave you sultry sideways glances, and before you knew it, you were hooked. You found yourself contemplating the possibility that there is someone out there capable of understanding you completely. All the cheesiest love songs had at least a grain of truth to them, and you felt yourself falling… until he told you. And suddenly, the perfect image was shattered and it seemed unlikely that it would ever be repaired.
He’s not a bad guy, but maybe he is.
This is when he tells you he has a girlfriend. You start to look back on your interactions and realize that in all of this time when you felt like you were developing a strong and intimate connection he never said he had a girlfriend, but he also never made a move on you. He is unhappy with his girlfriend, he tells you, and he likes you.
You are interesting, and uncommonly well-suited for him. You both know there is something there, and if only that pesky girlfriend wasn’t standing in the way, you might be able to explore exactly what that thing is.
He doesn’t make promises to break up with her, he only says that the thought has crossed his mind. He’s a good guy, and he doesn’t want to hurt her. He doesn’t want to hurt you either. So while he’s figuring it out, what’s wrong with trying to be friends? You really do get along so well.
Your friendship is, without a doubt, unusual in that it really isn’t much of a friendship at all. You are in near constant communication (except when he is with her, of course).
Sometimes your conversations feel deeply personal, and at other times he is there as someone to check in with, to kill time. While you are trying to convince yourself that you are capable of remaining distant enough to keep the friendship platonic, the undeniable truth is staring you in the face; you are growing attached, and he is still with his girlfriend.
This could go on for days, weeks, even months. You start to wonder, who is using who more? It’s obvious that your “friendship” satisfies a need for him that his relationship is lacking, but at the same time you, too, are using him to escape the reality that you are alone, and he provides you with some relief.
But what you have with him is never quite enough, and you find yourself in a perpetual chase that has no end in sight. In fact, you wonder if it is the chaos, secretiveness, and challenge of your relationship that keeps you so entrenched. You admit to yourself that if it were easy, you almost certainly would have lost interest already.
All the while, you are telling yourself: “He is nice. He is good. He never lied about his intentions with me, and what we have is truly special”. Sure, his girlfriend doesn’t know you exist, and he may leave a few key details out of his day when he talks to her, but you would tell yourself just about anything to give him an out. Because you care about him, so much so that despite your better senses you will keep him in your life, even if it is not in the capacity that you desire. You are single, but when another potential suitor comes along you find yourself feeling guilty for entertaining the possibility (would it bother him if you dated someone else?).
You are so into this guy that all other men out there don’t seem worth your time. They don’t excite you in the same way, which is understandable since you probably wouldn’t have to fight so hard for their affection. Your days are brighter when you two talk, but you also feel yourself withering away as the reality sets in that while he is unhappy in his relationship, he is not going to do anything about it. At least not anytime soon. And, if anything, you are hindering him from making a decision, because your unconditional friendship says that he can get away with not having to decide.
This is when you realize that you’re the one who is going to have to make the decision. Although he might be incapable of making up his mind, you are not.
So you end the friendship. And maybe you lie and tell him you met someone else, or maybe you’re honest, and you tell him that you need more that whatever this is. Or maybe you don’t say anything all, and you fade out until you are no longer in contact. But the important part is that it’s over. It sucks and it’s hard, and you miss him every day at first, but as time goes on, it gets easier.
He might break up with his girlfriend, and you might get together later on. By the time their hypothetical breakup takes place, you could be with someone better, or you could be alone and still not want to enter into a relationship with him, since you know how he’s acted in relationships in the past.
What you will invariably find once it’s all over is that it doesn’t really matter either way.
Was what you had unique and meaningful? Sure. Is he the only person you could ever potentially have it with? No.
He’s not a bad guy, and he’s not a good guy, either. He’s just a guy. And you’re moving on.