What I learned from dating (and breaking up with) my best friend

It happens all the time in movies, and sometimes IRL, too. I’m living proof: I dated my best friend. I was hesitant before going for it—I was aware that there was a chance it wouldn’t work out and I would lose a friend, but I decided to risk it anyway. And it didn’t work out. It’s definitely not how I wish things had gone down, and I still have a lot of mixed emotions when I look back on the experience. But I will say it taught me a ton about both myself and the nature of relationships.

For those of you who might be on the brink of the same situation, here are just a few of the lessons I took away from the experience.

No matter how much you know someone as a friend, you will know them differently as a partner

And I’m not just talking about “knowing” in the biblical sense. No matter how well you know someone as a friend, there are always going to be new facets of their personality revealed when you’re dating—both positive and negative. Think of it like this: would you necessarily argue the same way with your friend as you would with your significant other? Would you argue with your significant other the same way you would with your mom? The answer is probably not, and it’s because different types of relationships push different buttons and bring up different sensitivities. So don’t be surprised when your relationship changes quite a lot when you go from friend to partner.

Your mutual friends will need time to get used to your relationship, but they will—eventually

There’s no way around this one—especially if you’re part of the same group of friends. You’re altering the fabric of the group dynamic, whether you want to or not. It will be especially uncomfortable for trios, because that third friend who used to just feel like one of the crew now feels like the third wheel. And you can’t really blame them. But in time, it gets better.

If you break up, it’s hard to go back to being friends

After we broke up, my ex said he hoped we could go back to the way things were between us before we started dating. And the truth of the matter is, in a lot of cases this just won’t be possible. There is no “undo” button in life; you just can’t erase months (or even years) of experiences.  You can’t un-see all the things you learned about the person while you were dating (again—the positives and the negatives). If you want to be friends, be prepared for it to take some time.

You always learn something, even if it doesn’t work out 

Even if an experience seems sucky at the time, you will always come away from it with wisdom. For me, I learned to be a little more protective of myself when falling in love. This has led to much healthier relationships for me later in life. I also learned never to internalize other people’s baggage and to ignore the naysayers.

Those are a few insights from someone who has been through the euphoric rise and fiery crash of dating a good friend and lived to tell the tale. Even now I would never advise a person against taking the leap. Just know the risk of losing a friend is very real, but even if that happens, you’ll be OK.

Toria Sheffield is a freelance writer in Brooklyn who spends her free time writing feature length comedies and policing her cats. She contributes to several humor and lifestyle sites on the interwebs and blogs for the Huffington Post. She also loves S’more-flavored pop tarts.

(Image via FOX)

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