Dear Patricia: I value my close, married friend ... but he wants more
I'm a single mother of one child in my late 30s. I have a busy, full life with a satisfying job, lots of friends and, of course, my son, aged eight, to look after.
One of my closest friends is a man in his mid-40s, whom I've known for more than 15 years. He is married with three children.
We have always been just good friends and have never had anything other than a purely platonic relationship.
In recent years, our friendship became closer, as he helped me with my business affairs, and also at a more emotional level during a very difficult period of separation from my ex-partner.
Recently, he told me that his feelings for me had moved beyond friendship and that he was in love with me. He says that although his marriage is not an unhappy one, he feels it is not fulfilling and he wants to be with me.
The problem is, that while I do have some feelings for him -- and in different circumstances I could be interested in seeing if things might develop -- I do not share his own intense feelings of love.
I also do not want to be in any way responsible for his marriage ending. Nor would I want the pressure of his expectations of me if he did leave his wife.
I have said all this to him, but he is struggling to deal with it. I feel very sad for him and do not want to hurt him.
I do very much value him as a friend and I don't want to lose that relationship with him.
You already have -- lost the friendship, I mean. This man is no longer your friend. He is a potential lover. He has declared his feelings. He is courting you. The question is, are you prepared to be a true friend to him?
He is married with three children. He's struggling with his feelings for you. The right thing to do is distance yourself. Even if you loved him madly -- which you don't -- it would still be the right thing to do. And no, I'm not talking morals here -- although it would, of course, be the moral thing to do.
I'm talking friendship. This man is in crisis. He badly needs you to be a true friend. You've already told him the unvarnished truth about the limit of your feelings, which was the right thing to do. You now have to take the next step and let him go. Sticking around because you value his support is selfish.
How he'll deal with his dilemma is ultimately down to him. The only issue for you is that your presence simply inflames the problem. Friends don't do that. He's been so good to you. It's your turn to be good to him.
Say whatever you need to say, do whatever you need to do, but push him away. Contact has to be severed, discreetly but definitely. Yes, that's sad. Yes, it's a serious loss for you. No, it won't necessarily be forever. Marriages hit arid patches, and partners become vulnerable. Most get past this point. Some, of course, founder.
Either way, your absence is what your friend needs not just now, but for the foreseeable future. In the name of friendship, butt out.