DEAR KELLY: I kind of feel bad and need some advice. I started going out with a guy, not because I liked him but because my best friend was dating his best friend. It seemed kind of convenient. I had no plans on it being a long-term thing and was actually going to break up with him before things got too serious. Right before I was going to do it, his dad moved out of their house and he thought his parents were going to divorce. He was a mess, and it just didn’t seem like the right time. Then his dad moved back home and I thought it was the right time. Then he found out the reason his dad moved home is because they found cancer in his mom and she needs to undergo chemo, so his dad moved back in to help. So the timing was terrible again. “Will” keeps telling me that he’s so happy to have me that he can’t imagine all of this without me. I don’t feel the same romantically, but I don’t know what to do so I don’t look heartless. I really don’t want to be in a relationship with him anymore. I’m happy to help as a friend, but I think he’ll want more. Please help me.
DEAR TRAPPED: Breaking up is never easy to do, but there is no way around it. Ending a relationship can be painful. It’s tricky to find the “perfect timing.” In your situation, I’m not sure the right time will come up now or in the future, so it’s more a matter of trying to do it in a way that stings the least and he knows you are still here as a friend to support him.
Without trying to scold you, I hope you learned a lesson from this relationship. Dating someone to just have a wingman with your best friend is not considerate or kind. Think about the other person the next time you scheme something like this up. Would you want someone to date you just because his best friend was dating your friend? Don’t you want to be liked for you? Wouldn’t it feel a little icky if you knew his intentions were to just use you to hang out with his friend? Value other people enough to not make this same mistake. I always say that you can’t do better until you know better, so now you know better. Take this lesson ahead and only date people you are interested in because you like them and are interested in spending time with them, not because it makes for a more fun night to hang out with your friends.
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Go to Will and tell him you need to talk with him in person. Don’t text him. Tell him that you care about him as a friend and you will help him any way he needs as his mom goes through her cancer treatment or his parents decide about their marriage, but you want to do it as a friend, not a girlfriend. Explain the reasons why: “I like you a lot but not in a romantic way” or “I just don’t have the time right now to get serious with someone.” Let him know that he didn’t do anything wrong and that it has more to do with you than him. Don’t expect him to do the happy dance after you tell him how you feel. If he acts sad or angry, be understanding of his feelings and apologize that he is hurting.
There is no way to predict his response, so be prepared to show compassion and kindness to him if he is upset. Some people might tell you right now is a terrible time to break up, but the longer you stay together, the more attached he is going to get to you, and breaking up will become even more difficult. Offer to be a shoulder if he needs it, to hold his hand if he needs comfort and listen as a friend would do. Tell him you aren’t walking away on him but just switching roles from girlfriend to friend.
You don’t bail on someone who is hurting and in crisis, but you also don’t lie to them. Pretending to feel something you don’t is not fair to him and only sets him up for more heartbreak in the future. Try taking the path of least hurt and treating him with the respect now that you probably should have given him in the beginning before you got together with him.