‘Is this really only friendship?’

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Long time reader, first time letter writer :). Over the past year or so, I have spent a lot of time online in a forum engaging with people with a shared interest. While I met a lot of great people, I found all the time on the internet was taking a lot of my mental bandwidth and I decided to unplug. Literally right before following through (I had announced my unplug publicly), I received a direct message from a man I had connected well with all along. I hadn't pursued anything with him because I had a sense he had a girlfriend. Upon receiving his message, I was a bit sad about my decision to unplug, but still intending to follow through, I gave him my cell number and said he could text me if he wanted, though not expecting him to do so. To my surprise, he texted me that very day. And to further my surprise, he has texted me first almost every single day since then, only missing maybe a handful of days very early on, and this has been going on three months now.

Not only does he text me first every single day, but once we connect, we usually text all day until I go to bed. Earlier in texting I did ask if he had a girlfriend. He was honest and said he did, but didn't say much else about it. He gave intimations that he didn't want to overwhelm me with text messages, so I said texting was starting to get exhausting and that I would rather he call. What had been texting all day has evolved into him calling me and talking on the phone for several hours a day, several times a week. As soon he hangs up, he still texts me until I go to bed. Our conversations are platonic but with obvious mutual undercurrent of chemistry.

He recently mentioned his girlfriend, framing it as "I don't have relationship problems," not, "I love/I am love with my girlfriend," and also added, ”I don't want to mess with your head." Maybe this looks bad for him, but given he lives several states away, it does not seem out of line to me. We have discussed meeting in person but I would not want to be party to him cheating on his girlfriend, and given the platonic conversation, I don't think he would want to do that either. Also, he has mentioned several times that he wants to move. He rents and I am a homeowner in a much better area than where he lives. What I am asking is ... people do meet, he is not married, it seems this is more than a friendship – because what kind of relationship could he have with his girlfriend if he wants to talk to me all day long, every day? Also I am a little self-conscious about my age. I am 40 and he is 32. I can't tell if this is bothering him or not. I had posted a recent picture and I don't wear makeup anyway, so I have not misrepresented myself. He was surprised to learn that I was 40 and said he never would have guessed that. A little more about me: I haven't had much in terms of relationships but that is because I am selective. I am looking for someone with depth. I have declined two marriage proposals and I have no regrets – I would rather be happy single than stuck in an unsatisfying marriage.

Is this really only friendship?

– Friends?

He says he doesn't want to mess with your head, but it's too late. You want him to break up with his partner and move closer to you. You might want him to move in with you. You're waiting on something that's not in his plans.

You left that online forum to give yourself more mental bandwidth. Instead of taking that space for yourself, you've given your extra hours to him. You’ve allowed for this because you're enjoying yourself, but it's grown into something that disrupts your life. You're on the phone with him for several hours a day. You could be doing so many other things, like hanging out with single people – or anyone who wants to be more than a phone friend.

You asked if this is just friendship. My answer is that it is not – because you want more. On his end, he likes attention, which means he's happy with the relationship as is. (He's not the one writing me a letter.)

If you'd rather be single than stuck in an unsatisfying relationship, go be single for real. This is what an unsatisfying relationship can look like. You get some deep talks and a little bit of connection, but not enough – and with someone else's boyfriend. These days, your back-and-forth has become more about looking for clues than relaxing with good conversation.

This letter is evidence that you could benefit from unplugging from this too. Give yourself a break.

– Meredith

Readers? Seeing something I don't? Any reason to keep talking? Is it possible to minimize the relationship without ending it?