I've seen this question
which had some helpful suggestions, but I'm feeling snowflake-y. This man and I have known each other for several years but we only started spending time together regularly more recently - he started inviting me to do things with him and his friends, or occasionally to get coffee together on our own. I'd had a little bit of a crush on him the whole time I knew him, but spending more time together (even in these honestly neutral contexts) really confirmed it for me. I tend to assume that men aren't interested in me, but he was actively making an effort to spend time with me, and I was starting to hope that maybe there was a chance to turn it into something more. At least I was hoping that until the other day, when in casual conversation with a group of people, he was asked if he was single and replied, "No."
I was completely blindsided: he's never, ever mentioned a girlfriend, and having hung out with him with people who I know are his close friends, I never saw any indication that there was any relationship other than friendship there (though obviously that doesn't rule out something long-distance).
So I guess I didn't know him as well as I thought I did. I don't want to think that he was intentionally stringing me along - this is partly complicated by the fact that I tend to interact better with my friends on a one-on-one basis rather than in groups, so one-on-one get-togethers don't necessarily have a special meaning - but at the same time, I feel misled.
Anyway, I feel that the only thing I can do in this situation is to back off a bit, but I don't know how to do this without having to admit that my feelings for him were/are more than just friendship. (Partly because I don't want to show how much I'm hurting, but partly also because I think it's not really fair to say to someone who's just started a relationship, "Oh, and by the way, you just broke my heart.") I also have a personal rule that I don't do explanation-less fade-outs, because I've been at the other end of that and I hate it. Is there any kind of third option? Or do I just have to go with one of the ones I don't like? I have to do something, because pretending everything is ok is unsustainable, and I need to get over him; but I'd like to do this healthily with space to be friends in the future. Please help!