Good Friend Ends Relationship. What Should I Do?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Q. Four months ago I met a man in two of my classes. We started studying together and developed a friendship. We are both married and shared similar religious beliefs and goals. Our friendship turned into an attraction that was obvious to the both of us and to those around us. Despite this attraction, we both set boundaries that prevented us from being unfaithful to our spouses.

Besides studying, we also flirted and continued to grow in our friendship. It was a strange relationship, because we never talked about having an affair or leaving our spouses for each other. In fact, we would encourage each other in our marriages. However, I feel that deep down we were unhappy with our marriages. He was a great friend and we often did things to help the other one out. He even gave me gift once just because.

Then, without any warning or understanding of what happened, he told me over the phone that he was talking to his wife and that our flirting was wrong. He apologized for doing that to me and said we couldn’t study together anymore. He also said it would be best not to speak to each other anymore.

I understand and respect his decision, but I felt that I deserved an explanation. I have honored his request and have stopped calling, texting, emailing, and talking to him in class. At first he ignored me and wouldn’t make eye contact. However, he’ll bring my name up in a positive way to others around us, laugh at my jokes that he overhears, and at times, seems to be very unhappy about the situation. I feel that if he would’ve asked me not to contact him anymore, I wouldn’t, but that we didn’t have to be so distant in class. We could at least be friendly.

I’ve had friends tell me to continue what I’m doing and to just be myself and some friends say I should approach him on the matter. Either way, I feel that we cannot be friends considering it caused problems for his marriage and that was not my intention. I think if I talk to him about it, then I would be disrespecting his request, but if I don’t talk to him, I feel that I will never have any closure. It’s been extremely difficult for me considering how close of friends we seemed to be. He used to tell me things that he didn’t reveal to anyone else. He felt comfortable with me and appreciated my friendship and my assistance in class.

Was he possibly falling in love with me? Does he still think about me? Is this as difficult for him as it is for me? Why didn’t he just talk to me about it so we could’ve figured it out together? I know he made the right decision for him and his family. I guess I was immature to think that we could have remained friends despite our attraction for each other. I miss him terribly and I know that secretly I was falling to him, but I also knew it would never get to that point because of our beliefs and my desire to be a good friend. I feel torn between trying to talk to him about this or just continue to ignore each other.

A. You must recognize that this relationship was more than a friendship. Just because you didn’t sleep together doesn’t mean you weren’t cheating. The two of you were carrying on a close, emotional relationship. His wife was correct to point out that the relationship was inappropriate for two people married to others. He was doing the right thing by ending the relationship and you should respect his decision to do so. It was the absolute correct action to take.

This relationship was dangerous to each of your respective marriages. You were attracted to one another and shared more than just class notes or study tips. You had developed a close bond. He was likely fulfilling a need that your husband is not able to at this time. You were probably fulfilling that same need for him.

In your mind, this relationship was not cheating because there was no sex. But in reality, this type of close relationship that the two of you had established, is more dangerous to a marriage than a strictly sexual affair. With the strictly sexual affair, there is usually only sex involved, no emotional ties. But with the type of relationship you and he had developed, you grew to care about each other. You were concerned with each other’s well-being. With a sex-only affair individuals share their bodies but in the type of relationship the two of you had, you shared your heart and mind. These later types of relationships, in which the two individuals grow to really care for one another, are the ones that usually lead to divorce.

You feel that he owns you a deeper explanation because you are hurt that he chose to end this relationship. But he ended it because it was wrong and it threatened his marriage. It threatened yours as well. Be glad that he chose this action because otherwise you might be facing a divorce. He did the right thing and you should respect this and move on.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 28 Apr 2008

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2008). Good Friend Ends Relationship. What Should I Do?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 23, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/04/28/good-friend-ends-relationship-what-should-i-do/