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ocean-feetI meandered along the shore of the Chesapeake Bay the other day — pants rolled up as my bare feet drifted lower and lower into the comforting combination of sand and water. As I watched a cruise ship and a barge nearly collide (slightly exaggerated for dramatic effect), I caught up with my friend, Will*. Topic of the day: relationships. (Well, duh.)

Will asked a question that really got me wondering: What do you do if you have a crush on someone who’s in a relationship?

“Who do you like?” I asked, instinctively.

“I never said it was me.”

Riiiiiight.

Okay, so for Will’s friend, or his cousin’s friend, or his cousin’s friend’s uncle’s former cell mate, let’s tackle the question at hand. The truth is, we’ve all been there. I know I’ve been there — in that lonely place where your feelings and the confines of reality come face to face. It’s a difficult path to navigate.

Now, before I dive into what I may or may not suggest someone does in this situation, I’d like to add an important, vital, not-up-for-discussion disclaimer. So listen up.

Disclaimer: We’re not talking about married people here. If you like someone that is actually married, you have one choice and one choice alone: Forget about it and move on. This isn’t He’s Just Not That Into You, or Desperate Housewives, or that new train wreck of a show called Mistresses. This is real life. A ring means “off limits,” plain and simple.

Back to Will’s dilemma. Errr… Will’s friend’s dilemma.

He likes a gal. She’s amazing. She’s funny and smart and sweet and, of course, incredibly beautiful. She gets him in the ways he’d always hoped someone might — resulting in that elusive “click,” that much-sought-after spark. The only hang-up is she’s currently dating some other guy — a guy, mind you, who’s completely wrong for her in every way. Or completely right. But that’s not the point.

What are the options here? As I see it, there are four.

#1. Distance. Realizing that she is taken, he must move on. He must forfeit the fight, hop out of the ring, and respectfully acknowledge that the other man has won. Because his emotions are involved, however, moving on will require a sharp cut of ties to allow his heart to heal. This takes distance, which means not seeing or talking to her anymore, and literally going in another direction. It’s hard, it hurts, but it’s necessary. This option is most effective when emotions run exceptionally deep, or when there is a romantic history.

#2. Sabotage. This is the fun one. A monogamist at heart, he realizes the gentlemanly thing to do is to help her get out of said relationship… without her ever knowing. This may involve texts to his cell phone from fake past girlfriends, plastic bags of baby powder and rolled up wads of cash hidden conspicuously around his apartment, or hiring a struggling actress to suddenly show up on his doorstep with a four-year-old son named Jamaal that he never knew he had. Get creative. After all, if you do this right, you may never have to do it again. She will be heartbroken and will run straight into your arms for comfort and a listening ear, followed promptly and effectively by a proposal and a happily ever after. Mission accomplished.

#3. Friendship. Will — I mean, Will’s cousin’s friend — was friends with her before she shacked up with this other dude. He can continue being friends with her during her walk down this dark and dreary path as well. It’s not exactly fun, but it keeps him in the picture. Out of sight, out of mind, as they say — and he simply won’t risk the latter. So he hits up the dinners, the movies, the late-night hangouts. He even plays the part of Third Wheel when needed, watching from the backseat as they hold hands and argue over which station to listen to. (Seriously, who argues about that stuff? They’re clearly on a path toward destruction.) He’s a good friend with a big secret, that’s all. Chances are he may even learn to have fun along the way. After all, every type of fun shenanigan ensued when Jack, Janet and Chrissy hung out at The Regal Beagle!

justin_bigwheel

#4. Patience. The truth is he has no claim to the girl. She has, hopefully by her own volition, chosen to date another man. Although his emotions still run deep, he can protect his heart by waiting it out, while still keeping an open mind to other options. This may require cutting some ties with her — perhaps one group dinner a week instead of three. But the friendship can remain in tact, albeit slightly different. And he can be proactive in considering other opportunities — relationships with other women and even, perhaps, a friendship with the “other man.” Will their fling last? If it does, he can maintain a friendship with both of them, and hopefully even start to enjoy it. If it doesn’t, perhaps there’s hope for his original plan after all. But he won’t bank on it, because he’s got his own life to lead, his own plans to make, his own path to pave. And it feels good that way.

I feel for Will — excuse me, Will’s cousin’s friend’s uncle’s former cell mate. He’s a good guy who finds himself in a place where so many of us have been before. The timing was just a little off, the emotions were just a little too strong, and it all seems to come down to poor luck. I know I hate that feeling, and I bet a lot of you reading this do, too. I think he should choose option #4. It’s not too drastic, leaving room for a continued friendship and possibly a love connection in the future. Still, it’s balanced enough to allow him to (try to) move on and find a gal who’ll appreciate how great he really is.

Which option do you think he should choose? Do you have any other ideas?

~Ruth

P.S. I feel obligated to point out that option #2 is a joke. You did know that, right?

*Name changed to protect this chicken’s privacy.