Can You Be More Than Just Friends?
Having romantic feelings for a platonic friend can be tricky emotional territory to navigate. If you’re thinking of confessing your feelings, read this advice before you have “the talk”.
ell how long, can I go on like this,
Wishing to kiss you,
Before I rightly explode?
This double life I lead isn’t healthy for me
In fact it makes me nervous
If I get caught I could be risking it all
Baby there’s a lot that I miss
In case I’m wrong
– Jason Mraz, “If It Kills Me”
What do you do when feelings toward a platonic friend turn romantic?
Across the centuries, this anxiety-provoking question has been explored by writers and musicians from Shakespeare, the Bard of Avon, to Jason Mraz, music’s current “it” performer.
|You toss, you turn, you wonder if you should say something.|
Mraz’s song captures that terrifying moment of realization when you no longer want to be “just friends” with someone close to you. You toss, you turn, you wonder if you should say something, and just as quickly, you stay silent to avoid the double whammy of being rejected and losing your friend.
The debate really boils down to this: There’s so much to gain but so much to lose.
You don’t have to keep your feelings to yourself and suffer in silence if you say what you want to say in a smart way without setting this up as an “either-or” decision for your friend. If you take the time to think through the possible outcomes and get as comfortable as possible with each, then you’ll be ready for what happens before, during and after the talk you’ll have about exploring the possibilities of a relationship beyond “just friends.”
Before the Talk
Face two simple truths:
1. There’s a world of difference between simple honesty and tense ultimatum. Sometimes how you say something is more important than what you say.
2. The truth about unrequited love is that it usually meets with one of three fates:
While you are at it, take as objective a look as possible at your friend’s relationship history. Take your rose-colored glasses off long enough to see that loving feelings just don’t mean that there’s a
healthy relationship waiting for you. Your friend has to love you, and be compatible and available, in order for any potential relationship to stand a chance.
- Your love is finally reciprocated and a new relationship morphs from the old.
- Your feelings subside for whatever reason, and you move on in ways you can’t even imagine now.
- You discover that your feelings are not returned and then, with time, channel your love into someone new who, hopefully, will return it.
Once you’ve thought things through and are comfortable with each possibility, find a neutral, relaxed setting and tell your friend how you feel.
During the Talk
Whoever came up with the well-intended phrase, “nothing ventured, nothing
gained” probably didn’t experience sleepless nights worrying about how to profess great love to a friend. The only upside of unrequited love for a friend is that it makes going on a blind coffee date seem like a piece of cake in comparison.
|Your honesty may inspire your friend to be more truthful with you.|
Once you get your nerve up, tell your friend the truth in a respectful way, and let the chips fall where they may. Yes, it’s a risk. If the truth is ventured, integrity is gained, no matter your friend’s response. And that’s worth a lot.
During the talk, it’s important to:
After the Talk
- Emphasize honesty. Right now, you aren’t building your friendship on honest, solid ground. Being conscious in your approach going forward positions you better to keep a friend (if that’s all it is) or respectfully seek more.
- Focus on how much you value your friendship. Let your friend know that you hesitated to tell the truth and risk losing what you have together. Your honesty reflects your respect for the friendship.
- Accept the response. While it’s good to be honest, it’s also important to respect your friend’s feelings about dating you. Accept the response as the truth. Don’t try to change it.
You’ll know soon after your talk if your feelings are reciprocated, or at least that your friend is willing to explore something more with you.
You could become closer. Sometimes, honesty propels the relationship forward, with or without a romance. Your honesty may inspire your friend to be more truthful with you. If your friend wants to date you, that’s ideal. If not, you’ll set the stage for a more honest dynamic.
Or, there could be a temporary awkwardness. Romance or not, you may experience fits and starts of communication as both of you adjust to truth out in the open. For example, you might second-guess each other’s motives for interchanges or delayed return phone calls and emails. If the answer is “let’s stay just friends,” you may need distance (even if temporary) in order to heal and move on. In time, you can reestablish your friendship based on reality (no more fantasyland).
The unlikely worst-case scenario is that your friendships ends. There’s a slight chance your friend might be unnerved enough to end the friendship. Or, you might discover that you can’t be “just friends,” and need to separate in order to regain your emotional balance and pursue a romantic relationship with someone who’ll return your feelings.
No matter what happens, there’s always something to be learned by taking a chance. More of us regret the paths not taken more than those we walk, no matter how they turn out.
Dave Singleton, an award-winning writer and columnist for Match.com since 2003, is the author of two books on dating and relationships. Send your dating questions and comments to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.