Q: Hi Meredith,
I have been in a relationship for four years with a great man. At about the same time I met him, I met my best friend as I began a new job. For the first year or so, my relationship was not official and more "friends with benefits," but we were both monogamous to the best of my knowledge.
My friend asked me on dates several times over that year, and each time I politely declined. I felt that there was a spark between us, but we are incredibly poorly suited for a relationship (different personalities, interests, etc.), and I was in love with my now-husband and pursuing that relationship. Eventually he stopped asking, and I thought we had a great friendship and it had worked itself out. There was never any physical contact between us beyond friends. We each went to different jobs but remained very good friends.
My friend recently ended a fairly lengthy and tumultuous relationship and I have tried to be there for him. I am not sure how it started or if I invited it in some way, but he has been texting me highly inappropriate comments about his interest in me. I tried to ignore them or change the subject. They have been escalating to sexual matters, and now I feel like I made the wrong decision to ignore them, but I thought he was just blowing off steam and making himself feel better. They are spiraling out of control but I'm not sure how to curb this now that I have been complicit in allowing them to continue. I did make one mistake -- I told him that I felt the spark but I am happily married, and it is just too late. I was trying to be honest, but it seems he latched onto the "spark" part and ignored the rest.
I also feel very guilty, like I've let my husband down or betrayed him in some way. I don't want to hurt anyone or lose my best (and one of my only) friends. I am very introverted and prefer to have only one or two very good friends, and he means a lot to me. I have lost many friends in the past due to unrequited feelings and I feel like whatever I do it ends up being the wrong action. I have stopped talking to him so much, and sometimes leave his texts unanswered for days, but I do miss my friend and wish we could talk more easily. I know communication is a big suggestion, and usually I think I have fairly good communication skills, but this one is just a mess because I don't want to embarrass him by forcing him to acknowledge his feelings again. There is another layer in this mess -- I have to admit that secretly some of the texts turn me on. Is this normal?
– Red in the Face, Boston
A: I know communication is a big suggestion ...
Yes. Yes it is. You must tell this "friend" (who seems to have no respect for your marriage) that the texts make you uncomfortable. Explain that he must stop sending them, and that you only allowed these messages to continue because you thought he was going through a crazy phase after his breakup. This talk should not turn into a discussion about his feelings. In fact, the only question you need to ask is: "Do you understand my boundaries?" It will be an awkward conversation, but you have to have it. Soon.
I don't know if the two of you can move past this and become platonic friends, but I suppose it's possible. Relationships evolve and crushes go away. He might fall in love with someone else and really appreciate your role in his life. But it has to start with him respecting your wishes. Find out if he can. And please be firm. No wishy-washy comments about what could have been. No spark talk.
I understand that you're introverted, but this is why it pays to invest in a larger group. This guy was always a friend with potential. He was asking you out as soon as he met you. Wouldn't it be nice if you had a few close friends who found you completely unattractive in all the right ways? Please work on that. It's worth it and will only help your marriage.
And yes, it makes sense that the texts turn you on. They're sexy messages designed to remind you that you're desirable. If you like that kind of thing, text your husband a sexed up note and see if he'll reciprocate.
Readers? What should she tell this friend? How do you think she was responding to these texts? Is there a real friendship here? Can he stay in her life? Help.
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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.