I might be in love with my best friend, so I asked a dating expert what I should do about it
Let me first get this out of the way: I don’t expect this to be my Never Been Kissed moment. You know, the one where Josie writes the article about being in love with the teacher after she betrays him, but then he reads it and they still get to fall in love? My situation is a bit different—I’m writing this today because I might be in love with my best friend, and I’m not sure what to do about it, so I went to a dating expert for guidance.
“Liking” a friend, or wanting that person to be more than a friend, is something many of us have experienced. It’s not an easy feeling to deal with. Relationships can form from it, and friendships can be ruined because of it. Dating is already complicated, but at least a date implies an obvious intention to like the other person. If you swipe right on each other on Tinder, you can assume the other person’s potential interest.
When you hang out with a friend, it’s not so clear. It’s confusing because, when you’re friends with that person, you’re already vulnerable with them. Calling them three times a day might not even be a big deal, and you’re generally less guarded around them because the stakes for a friendship ending may not be as high as the stakes for getting your heart broken. But when your feelings for a friend evolve and those stakes are less separated, how do you navigate those emotions?
Friend A (let’s call him Friend A) and I met in October of 2017 at a game night with multiple people. Everything was strictly platonic. We even had a “friend date” a couple months later at a Color Me Mine in Pasadena. From that initial hang, Friend A and I would go to dinner or drinks every few weeks. We talked on the phone regularly and had what looked like a beautifully platonic relationship. That should be that…right?
It was after about a year of “friendship” that I really started to evaluate my feelings. Because butterflies were forming, or so I thought. According to the dating podcast, U Up? hosted by Betches co-founders Jordana Abraham and Jared Freid, it’s “not possible,” to be in a platonic “best friendship” with a person of a gender that you’re attracted to. If you break down the definition of a romantic partner, isn’t it often a best friend that you’re attracted to? So how do I differentiate the relationship I might have with a significant other with the relationship I have with a best friend I’m attracted to? With sexual intimacy? Why do I want more from this relationship?
I asked myself, are my feelings romantically inclined, or am I putting a fantastical spin on a version of reality that doesn’t exist, but would just be fun if it did? Did I like him, or did I just like the general feeling of happiness I got from our friendship? And if I’d developed romantic feelings from a situation that isn’t actually love, what did that say about me? These were the existential interludes that went through my mind.
Welp, it turns out I didn’t even get the chance to explore those interludes because, a month or so later, I got a text explaining how he wanted to make sure our relationship stayed strictly platonic.
He told me that he valued our friendship so much, and he wanted to make sure my feelings toward him hadn’t changed. I honestly think I went through the five stages of grief upon reading that text, but I responded by telling him that we were “totally on the same page,” and that I was sorry if my actions had alluded otherwise.
You may be yelling at the screen, frustrated by my decision to subdue the situation rather than open up in an honest, healthy way. I decided to bring in L.A.’s top-rated love expert, Gemini Ferrie, to help me figure out how to move forward. Is there any chance for me and my maybe-love interest? How do I communicate my feelings? Her practice touts finding “thoughtful love,” after all.
First thing’s first: Is there a right way versus a wrong way to tell someone how you feel?
“There’s no right or wrong way to express our feelings to others,” says Ferrie, as long as we’re respectful of boundaries. “However, there is a way to express how we feel from our authentic whole and complete self, not our wounded self which is looking for someone to give us the love that is missing in our relationship with ourselves.”
So then I asked her a tougher question, but one I really needed to know the answer to: If the person you’re interested in goes out of their way to ensure that your friendship is strictly a friendship, are you setting yourself up for heartbreak by hoping that their feelings for you might change?
Ferrie says, “There’s always a chance for anything to happen. Life is full of surprises and there’s no real way of predicting how we are going to feel in the future…but hoping and fantasizing can really get in the way of being connected to and guided by reality. Waiting around to see if someone else’s feelings will change is like waiting around to see if it’ll rain when it’s cloudy. Why wait to see if someone may like you in the future when you can find someone who will like you now?”
She’s right—his feelings could change, but he very clearly stated something about our relationship that was important to him. I need to listen to that, and respect it.
To try to have a better handle on future situations, I asked Ferrie how we can more accurately determine a friend’s feelings about us. “The best, most accurate, and reliable [way to find out] is to ask the other person how they feel about you,” she says. “Being straight-up avoids guessing, hoping, fantasizing, and wasting mental and emotional energy and time pursuing the wrong person.”
Hearing this, I completely agree with it. Finding out how someone feels simply requires beginning a conversation asking them as much. Then Ferrie left me a side note that I also appreciate—even though it slightly breaks my heart:
That third party advice came in hot. She’s totally right. And as perfect as I may think Friend A and I would be in a relationship, he let me know that he isn’t open to seeing me in that way. Yes, so many great relationships start out as friendships first—but I think the beauty of those special relationships is that the timing and desire were right for both parties. Do I want to tell him how I feel now, and risk losing the friendship all together? Like Ferrie said, he told me how he feels, so I don’t think that right now is the time for me to ask why he doesn’t want the same thing.
I’ll just continue thinking that I’m the Jim and he’s the Pam in this scenario…maybe I’ll just wait around another year, put it all on the line, ruin our friendship for a couple months, and then be together forever? Sigh. We’ll see, and you can tell me what you think I should do.