She’s interesting but taken. What should I do?

CortexN asks:

I met this woman 5 months ago thanks to a friend of mine, and we have chatted a lot since then, mostly in person and not on social media. This surprised me because I wasn’t expecting me to find someone so interesting in my late college years, which rarely happened throughout my degree. The problem is that she has a boyfriend of 7 or 8 years. Obviously I’m not going to ruin the relationship, which is out of the question. But, I know if I keep talking to her sooner or later I will start to like her more than I should. I just want to know what I should do in this situation given that we have mutual friends.

Demetrius says:

Listen, I’ve been in your shoes before and while it might suck, it’s not the end of the world. I’m guessing you’re what, 22 years old or roundabout there? It might seem like you’ll never meet someone as interesting and dynamic as this woman but trust me when I tell you that you will.

While you haven’t met many women who drew your interest in the time you were in college, here’s something to keep in mind: People tend to get more interesting as they get older. I remember when I was 17 years old I met a woman who I thought was the most interesting woman in the world. She was well-traveled, incredibly smart, had a ton of diverse interests, and well-developed and reasoned out views on life and love. At the time, I couldn’t imagine meeting any woman who would be as interesting as her.

I was wrong. Very, very wrong.

The older I get the more interesting people I met. Life shapes people in interesting ways, so while it might be true that at 22 years old you haven’t met many interesting women yet, I can promise you that in 10 years’ time, you’ll be singing a different tune. Hell, you’re probably nowhere near as interesting as you will be in 10 years.

I wanted to lead with telling you this to give you some perspective. As amazing as this woman is, there will be others just as, if not more interesting than she is.

Now as for what you should do next, that’s easy. Distance yourself, and find try to meet more people. I recommend distance specifically because it sounds like you don’t know how to reconcile your attraction to her with the reality that things will have to stay platonic between you two. Nothing wrong with not being able to reconcile your feelings, you’re only human. If you know you can’t reconcile your feelings, don’t try to maintain or grow your friendship, because it will likely lead to resentment. Maybe you’ll learn how to separate those feelings as you get older, it’s something I learned later in life. Right now it’s clear that remaining in close contact with her, or getting closer to her, is not something that you can do without hurting yourself.

I’m not saying you need to be rude or callous with her, just hang out with her a little less. Fill your time with other people and activities, especially activities that will give you a chance to find and date someone. Don’t specifically avoid her or anything, but try to cut down on the amount of contact between you two. If you really feel like you’re in danger of liking her “more than you should” stop doing the thing that is making you feel that way.

More than anything else, I want you to remember that you’re still young, and there are plenty of opportunities to meet interesting, dynamic women. And many of them will be available and interested in dating you.

Good Luck Out There.

Also published on Medium.