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Q. I have a boyfriend and am attracted to someone else! I am 22 years old and have been with my boyfriend for almost five years. I love him because I feel like he sees me for who I am and deeply loves me for it. Yet I don’t get along with his family, nor do I like their dynamic. I also have always lacked intellectual fulfillment from him: I question life; he questions sports. These are all big deals for me and have brought me to the edge of a breakup with him multiple times, but my love for him as an individual has always triumphed.
This summer I became really close with a barista at my local café. I got to know him and became attracted to him for various reasons, one of them being how much he stimulates my brain. We have a lot in common and get along really well. Today he asked me out on a date. I told him I am flattered but I have a boyfriend and I would like to be his friend. He agreed. For me cheating, emotionally or physically, is not in any way an option. I don’t want to lie. I really like this barista but don’t know him enough to just jump ship. I want to get to know him as a friend but I don’t think my boyfriend will be OK with it. I am young and don’t want to regret my choice.
Is it wrong to be this barista’s friend and respectfully explore my options? Should I only have eyes for my partner and neglect the things that make me unhappy because all the rest of his pluses are great?
A: You’re 22, you’ve been with your boyfriend for five years, and you’ve thought about breaking up with him “multiple times”—so break up with him. This idea that you can “respectfully” get to know the barista who’s asked you out in order to determine whether you actually want to dump your boyfriend for him is a total whitewash. It’s not cheating, he just wants to go out with me, and I said we’d have to get to know each other first is still cheating, no matter how many times you say “just as friends” at the end of every sentence. It’s not more respectful to your boyfriend but an insult to his intelligence. But by all means break up with him! You can still care about him and think well of him and the time you two spent together. But your heart and your eyes have been wandering for quite a while now, and it’s time to be honest about what’s already, actually happening.
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