Dear Auntie Sparknotes,
I'm having a bit of a problem. This year I came to college, and during student orientation I met this guy.
Now I don't wanna get really cheesy here, Auntie, but this was like "love at second sight". It took our second meeting to make me realize: "Holy cats, where have you been all my life?" And everything seemed to be going really really splendidly, because he was so clearly interested in me, too... BUT THEN TRAGEDY STRUCK.
Turns out, he has a girlfriend back home. Excuse me? He had never mentioned her to me when he was blatantly flirting with me, and to this day (a good month later) he still doesn't really mention her. And all we've done is get closer and closer. My roommate has consistently reminded him that he has a girlfriend and that he needs to watch his behavior around me because we're a little too close. But he always shrugs it off and either acts like it isn't a big deal or says he didn't realize that was how it seemed.
Now, if I were in a relationship and I knew that someone liked me, the last thing I would do is get more flirty, spend all my time with them and gaze deeply into their eyes like there isn't anything else in the world I'd rather do. I'm not complaining, but at the same time I feel bad about the situation. He doesn't seem happy in his relationship (he complains about having to talk to her, acts generally miserable), and people tell me all the time how happy he is when he's with me. It's obvious he likes me. BUT STILL: he has a girlfriend and I don't feel right about how perfectly happy I am all the time.
What can I do? I'm prepared to wait, and I know it isn't my place to say anything...but I'd like a change in my situation.
Ah, autumn. The leaves are ablaze, the air is crisp, the lattes are pumpkin spiced, and in institutions of higher learning everywhere, eager young scholars are hard at work... trying to determine the best and kindest method of dumping their high school sweethearts.
Or in other words: if it's any consolation, you're hardly alone in your frustration—or your situation. One of the necessary unpleasantries of freshman year is the inevitable mass dumping that occurs over Thanksgiving (or, for the truly ambitious, Columbus Day weekend!), as people come to terms with the fact that despite all hopes to the contrary, they actually do belong to that overwhelming majority whose relationships just don't survive the transition to college.
Which is sad, sure. But it's also inevitable, and not your fault. And while yes, in a perfect world, nobody would ever permit himself the freedom to fall for one person whilst still dating another, love just isn't always so easily wrangled—and if there's any scenario in which that sort of romantic overlap is forgivable, it's this one.
Particularly when, unless I'm mistaken, the only thing either of you have done about your burgeoning romance is to have un-subtle, but un-acted-upon, feelings of mutual adoration for each other.
Which brings us to this part of your letter:
"I know it isn't my place to say anything."
Um. It's not? Call me crazy, but I'd say you're the one person for whom saying something is a prerogative (and that the peanut gallery, particularly your happiness-squashing busybody buzzkill of a roommate, needs to butt out already. Honestly, someone needs to tell this girl that whatever she thinks of the appropriateness of your nascent romance, peeing on other people's parades is hardly a rewarding way to spend one's free time.) And if you want this situation to change, then a talk is in order—one in which you acknowledge, out loud, the big, flirty elephant in the room.
And when you do, keep this in mind: that you are not capable of breaking up his relationship. Only he can do that. You, on the other hand, can only say how you're feeling, or not, and ask him how he's feeling, or not. And since you, yourself, feel that this precariously-balanced scenario is well on its way to being untenable, it's only fair—to yourself, and to him—that you point out its structural flaws before things come crashing down.
And if moving things forward with the man of your dreams isn't motivation enough, consider this: the ensuing conversation will tell you a lot about what sort of person this guy actually is, in ways that your current situation can't. Falling for someone else while in a committed relationship isn't something that only moral delinquents do; it can happen to the best of us, and despite our best intentions. But what a good person won't do—and what this guy won't, if he's worth your time—is lie, dodge, or manipulate the situation so that he can keep on eating his cake and having it too, at the expense of two blameless people. So give him the chance to express his feelings, to behave responsibly, and to resolve the issue at hand with decency and integrity—by being straight with you about his feelings, by breaking up with his girlfriend back home, and/or by giving you an honest, compelling reason why he hasn't.
And if he doesn't take it? Congratulate yourself on a bullet dodged, because he's actually the worst.
Did you go through a similar situation when you got to college? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.