Many people have experienced “catching feelings” for a friend. Many romantic relationships start out as casual friendships, and romantic feelings develop as each person gets to know the other better and gets closer to them.
However, sometimes feelings of attraction develop for people we have already been very close friends with for a while. If you find yourself thinking about your best friend in this way, and wondering if they would be a good partner for you, it can be difficult to know what to do.
Let’s be honest: it usually isn’t quite as simple to deal with a crush on your best friend as it is to deal with a crush on someone you aren’t as close to. The stakes are usually higher, and you may feel that there is more to lose.
After all, a close friendship is something that you don’t want to risk losing. However, there are also some advantages to starting a relationship with a close friend. Friendship is an essential component of successful partnerships, whether it develops before or after romantic attraction!
If you are experiencing feelings for your best friend, here are some of the ways that you can navigate this confusing situation and work out what to do.
Be sure of what your feelings actually are.
Emotions are often complex and hard to pin down. There are various components of a “crush”, and any of them on their own may not signify that you have serious feelings, even if they make you feel like you might!
For example, you may simply be experiencing physical or sexual attraction to your friend. If you feel the urge to sleep with them and enjoy their friendship, but do not see a future of emotional intimacy and commitment to them, your feelings may not be as serious.
If this is the case, it may be best to simply ignore these feelings of lust and focus on having a healthy sex life with other people (or even just yourself!) and keep that relationship platonic. Some friends even manage to have successful “friends with benefits” arrangements—this can work but often comes with its own set of challenges.
You may also simply feel jealous when you think about your friend dating other people. This may simply be due to you valuing your time together as friends and not wanting to be abandoned for the attention of someone else.
However, if you also feel emotionally close to your friend, physically attracted to them, missing them when they aren’t around, and fantasizing of a future together, you are likely to have a genuine romantic attachment.
Consider if your feelings may be fleeting.
When you notice that you have a full-blown crush on somebody, it is usually best to tell them—there could be a chance of a great relationship.
However, when this person is your best friend it is usually best not to rush this. Because the stakes are higher, you may want to consider if your crush is likely to be for the long-term or is simply fleeting.
It is possible that sudden romantic feelings may disappear as quickly as they appeared. You may simply be in a specific time and place in your life that results in feelings developing that may not continue once your conditions change. It is usually best to wait a while to see if these feelings grow or if they fade. If you have been pining for them for months or longer, the feelings are likely to be here to stay. However, if they are fleeting, it may be best for you to wait for them to pass—in a few weeks you may be happy to be “just friends” again and not yearning for more.
Look for signs your friend feels the same about you.
If you have decided that you really do like him as more than just a friend, it is time to work out if he feels the same. Of course, you could just ask him straight up—however this can be a high-risk strategy. It is often best to work out your chances of success before you put all of your cards down on the table.
There are plenty of signs that he is into you in a romantic way. If he makes excuses to see you a lot, this can be a case of just being good friends but could also be something more. If he makes excuses for physical contact or close proximity, this can also be a sign he likes you.
Another sign your friend might feel the same way about you is him appearing uncomfortable at the thought of you dating or being romantic with other people.
Casually mentioning in conversation a cute guy you saw or a dating app that you are using or thinking of using (here’s a tip: these things don’t actually have to be true!) and seeing if he blushes or shifts uncomfortably can be a way of working out if he is jealous and wants your romantic attention to himself.
It is likely that he won’t display every single sign as people are often able to hide things. On the other hand, he may display signs for other reasons. He may even be experiencing some feelings that he has not fully worked out yet.
Test the water with subtle flirting.
If you think you see any indications of feelings towards you, you may be on the right track. However, you should still avoid acting too quickly—slow and steady wins the race! Subtle and gradual flirtatious behavior can be the best way to proceed from here.
There are plenty of ways to flirt with him, but the most important thing to do is to differentiate what you are doing from behavior that is simply friendly. For example, telling jokes or laughing at his jokes is unlikely to be interpreted as flirting if your friendship already included this.
However, you don’t want to go too far too quickly in a way that seems unnatural. Don’t jump straight to explicitly sexual or romantic lines or actions—it’s hard to come back from these if things don’t go the way you hoped.
Striking a balance between friendly and flirty, and moving gradually more towards the latter, is usually the best approach. Gauge his reactions and responses and match them in intensity; for example, if you touch his arm and he touches yours back, you can move things up a notch, but if he shrinks away you should probably abort the mission!
Be honest with them.
If you have worked out that your feelings are genuine, serious, and for the long-term, and you have noticed them reciprocating all of your flirting, it may be the time for the moment of truth.
Letting them know how you feel is important at this stage—flirting without being honest about your intentions can feel to them like you are leading them on, and they can lose trust in you. Telling them that you have romantic feelings for them is important at this stage.
It is usually best to tell them at a time where the two of you are alone together. It is also best to be sober—if you declare your love for them after a night of drinking they may think it is only the alcohol talking!
Do not demand a decision from them on the status of your relationship straight away; give them time to think about it if they need to.
Agree on future plans.
If it turns out that your romantic feelings are mutual, you will need to communicate with honesty to make a decision on what you both want your future relationship to look like. You may want to avoid rushing into anything very serious too quickly, and take the dating process slowly even though you already know each other well. The transition period from friends to lovers can feel natural, but can also feel a little strange and confusing!
It can also be a good idea to agree on what will happen in the event of a romantic relationship failing; will you return to being just friends in that case, or cut contact?
This isn’t the most fun conversation to have, but you owe it to your friendship to make future plans for failure as well as for success.
Once you have both decided on how you want your relationship to progress from this point, you can relax a little and simply have fun with each other! Things may be drastically different from before, or they may be mostly the same.
Whatever happens, enjoy each other’s company and remain open and honest with each other. You should also remember that you may now be a couple, but you should still be friends too.
The combination of close friendship and romance is one of the most beautiful and fulfilling things that can be experienced, and can make for a true “soulmate” relationship.