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Married (separated) with feelings for another

My wife and I have been married for four years and together for eight (no kids), we realized and discussed about two years ago that we had fallen out of love with each other.

We have been actively trying to make it work but are both such different people now then when we were younger. Primarily the fact we were both quite depressed when we met and fell in love in our twenties and since have both done a lot of growth and healing. We have realized we are both very different people now, and although we both love and care for each other, are not "in love". Neither of us wants to stop the other from being happy and 10 months ago decided to have a trial separation, we are both open to the idea of the other person dating in this time. I feel like we both know where this is truly ending but are afraid to let go.

Enter "M", my closest friend at University. We are are extremely close, have engaging conversations every day, work on all our projects together, etc. When we first met there was that instant spark and despite both of us just being friends, there was constantly this underlying tension between us. We have had a pretty close friendship and have shared a lot of personal stuff back and forth including our histories and such. I cannot deny, I have never connected with another person on this level.

About a month ago, M and I were chatting online, and she brought up how difficult it has been trying to date and meet people online during pandemic. I related talking about how it has been extra hard on my marriage.

Instantly, it was like a switch flipped and M started acting distant. We spoke and M told me she thought we should take a step back and she thought I wanted us to take the relationship to another level. I panicked, told her I had only ever wanted to be friends as well ... and that I was in an Open relationship. I don't know why I said this, I panicked and was afraid to admit my wife and I were separated for some reason. M and I talked again and we agreed to reset just as friends.

I see M everyday in class and normally we would chat all class together. M is now avoiding me and is largely ignoring me, I respect she may need space but am also afraid I have lost a really good connection. And as I realize I have pretty serious feelings for M, I am also afraid we may have lost the potential for more.

M has made it clear she had feelings for me and needed space, but also left it vague whether we could be friends in the future..

I have realized I have significant feelings for M, but if I am being honest with myself, I know I am not in a place where I even want to be in a relationship. But I do still want M's friendship.. Part of me wants to reach out and tell M the truth about my marriage and feelings, just for the sake of being perfectly honest and clear, before taking a step back and giving her space. The other part of me feels like I hurt M and should just take the step back...

The only thing I know is I really really miss M.

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