What I learned falling in love with a best friend

While I have always loved “When Harry Met Sally” I have at the same time been oh-so-skeptical of the concept of falling in love with your best friend. I mean the friend you’ve had for a decade who you’ve spent all your free time with, told everything to forever, has seen you ugly crying. That kind of best friend. Obviously we love those people in our lives but how could you suddenly be IN love with them? How does that shift happen? When? Where? However wonderful and fortuitous the idea of it seemed, I never felt it was realistic.

Whenever I was close with a guy for more than a few years, my family and friends would bring up the question of “why aren’t you two together?” To which I’d always scoff, roll my eyes and wave away their absurd comments with the insistence that if there had been any form of attraction to that guy, surely I would have felt it by now and acted upon it. These things don’t just spring up overnight after all! You can’t possibly see someone a certain way day in and day out and then wake up one morning and feel differently. Could you?

Um yes. Yes you can.

And literally? It feels like that scene in Clueless when Cher realizes she’s in love with Josh and then immediately can’t act casual around him. EVERYTHING FEELS DIFFERENT. Every word he says feel weighted in meaning, I second guess what it does mean, how I should react and basically the whole world has been flipped upside down. And who do you talk to about it? Since HE is the person that you usually talk to when life isn’t making sense?!

But I am lucky enough to be able to say that I’ve found myself in this crazy place, this alternate universe feeling situation, where I’ve fallen for a best friend. And it has taught me some pretty stellar things about finding love in the most unexpected-yet obvious-place.

It’s really important to recognize what you’re feeling

When you’re so caught up in your day to day routine, it’s easy to take people for granted. To assign them a role in your life and never reconsider it. For me this guy was the one I texted funny things to, joked around with, didn’t wash my hair before seeing. While I wound my way through various romantic relationships, some of which he approved and some of which he didn’t, he was also my sounding board for male behavior. I listened to his stories about girls he was dating and spoke up when I felt he needed some female intuition to not screw up.

After years of not getting too detailed about any of the females in his life, all of a sudden one day he was and I realized I was jealous. At first I chalked it up to some misguided possessiveness that I wouldn’t see him or get to talk to him as often. But months later when he was no longer seeing that girl, I forced myself to really examine why I felt almost hurt every time he spoke about her. I had always felt indifferent towards his romantic endeavors but something had changed and I was afraid to acknowledge it. Acknowledging it meant risking something monumental and I wasn’t ready to do that. What if he didn’t feel the same? Too terrifying to contemplate at first! But if you’re not paying attention to how you feel first and foremost, no one else is going to do it for you.

There’s no rhyme or reason for why things change

Because I had always been so sure that you’re either initially attracted to someone or not, I was completely unprepared for this revelation. Falling for someone years after the fact. It always seemed ludicrous, beyond the realm of possibility. It challenged all my preconceived notions about how love “happens.” It opened my mind to the idea that really anything is possible where love is concerned. And what a beautiful realization to have.

It’s so easy to overlook little things (that are big things!) along the way

We see what we want to see and when I finally confessed that I was head over heels to this guy, he gently reminded me that he had dropped hints much earlier on in our relationship that had surpassed my notice. I also thought of him remembering my childhood nicknames, knowing that I always bought a new journal every year on my birthday and calling me to let me know anytime a show on TV referenced Paris, a place he knew I dreamed of going. I obviously didn’t want to or wasn’t ready to see these things at the time. And while something can feel like it happened overnight because of when you decide to actually open your eyes to what’s in front of you? If we’re honest with ourselves, most of us can look back and find moments of missed opportunities or lax attention. Not long after he and I first met years earlier, he had asked if I saw him as a friend or something more and I had laughed and said “a friend of course!” I didn’t remember the question or my answer until he reminded me. (And I briefly kicked myself for lost time).

It is TERRIFYING (and exhilarating) taking the next step

Remember how seamless it was for Chandler and Monica to upgrade their friendship to romance? And then later Joey and Rachel had to try too hard to get to that place? That for me sums up what it’s like to take friendship further. I’ve confessed to guy friends in the past that I had feelings for them and they’ve not felt the same and it dissipated into an awkward “oh we’ll still be friends” promise that devolved into us completely avoiding each other by any means possible. Almost worse than an actual break up. Definitely more humiliating. So to tell a best friend? The thought made me sick to my stomach and dizzy. Not having my feelings reciprocated would mean losing a friend who I counted on for comfort, for laughs, for being an integral part of my life. But getting the smile from him and the joking “are you trying to seduce me” response which preceded our first kiss was absolutely worth the indecision and the stress over trying to decide what to do. The reward is only as big as the risk.

You still need to communicate the way you did before leaving the friend zone

When he first made me mad as my boyfriend? I was at a loss about who to talk to about it, until I realized duh, if we were still only friends I wouldn’t hesitate to tell him if something he had done or said had rubbed me the wrong way. And nothing should change that. Graduating to a serious relationship means we should be taking all the best parts of our rock solid friendship foundation and just adding romance to the equation! But I figured that out pretty quickly. All relationships have a learning curve.

So if you and your best friend feel like taking the next step? I know it’s scary and there’s so much at stake, but I say go for it. You already care deeply for each other, that love has a very good chance at multiplying tenfold.

[Image via Universal Pictures]

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