Is it ever a good idea to date a friend?
- It’s tough to figure out the best course of action if you end up fancying a friend
- If you’ve got a great, long-term platonic relationship with someone, admitting you like them runs the risk of ruining the friendship
- But on the other hand – you shouldn’t be expected to repress your true feelings
So, you’ve found yourself daydreaming about what it would be like to go on a date with one of your best mates. You find yourself gravitating towards them in every social setting. You get ridiculously excited every time their name pops up on your phone. Your other friends always joke about you two getting together, but you laugh it off each time – secretly wishing you actually were dating all the while.
It’s hard to know what to do in this situation. Do you bottle up your feelings and potentially let a good thing go to waste? Or do you risk jeopardising a friendship that’s lasted for years by broaching the subject?
Here’s what to do if you end up falling for a friend.
Ask yourself what you like about them as a friend – and then consider if those are traits you’d value in a partner
It sounds obvious, but it’s worth considering if you fancy them romantically or if you actually just really value them as a friend.
It’s also important to keep in mind that qualities that make someone a good friend or a fun person to hang out with aren’t necessarily qualities which will make them a good romantic match for you. Perhaps you think you’re attracted to the way they’re always the life and soul of the party – but what if they prioritise painting the town red over spending time with you when you’re a couple?
Dr. Theresa DiDonato, Associate Professor of Psychology at Loyola University explains further to Cosmopolitan: “Consider the quality of your friendship before transitioning to a relationship. Do you feel safe and secure in that friendship, or is it an exciting, emotional ride?”
She continues: “Sometimes these dominant traits we love in a person and that drew us in [as friends] becomes the thing we don’t like anymore.”
Ask yourself if you really like them or if you’re just bored
If you’ve known someone for years, it’s no surprise that you’ll associate them with stability and security – admittedly, two things vital for a healthy relationship.
But acknowledge that you need more than that to make a relationship work. “There should be some element of sexual attraction or romantic desire,” Dr. DiDonato tells Cosmo. “And even if that’s there, there may not be enough for a healthy, stable, romantic partnership.”
If you’ve been looking for a relationship for a while, you might start to look at your friends as ‘easy’ options to date as you’ve already got a pre-established bond. Given the limited opportunities for meeting new people during the pandemic, it’s even easier to fall into this mindset. But simply having a shared past with someone is not a solid enough foundation for a good relationship.
Dr. DiDonato also cites “shared goals and parallel life plans” as vital components of a relationship, so think twice if you think you and your mate would be great together purely because you’ve known each other for years.
Test the waters
If you do think you might seriously be falling for your friend, test the waters. Start off with some flirting to see if the feelings are mutual and if there’s any spark there.
“Flirting is a skillful testing of the waters where you’re protecting yourself from rejection,” Dr. DiDonato tells Cosmo. “It can give you a safe space to see if the other person flirts back.”
Your flirting doesn’t have to be that extreme or ‘out there’. You could start small by sending them flirty memes or commenting something on their latest Insta selfie. Or if you’re seeing them in person, physical touch is always good – even if it’s an act as small as putting your arm around them or putting your head on their shoulder.
If they reciprocate and you’re sensing that they’re on the same page as you, it may be worth having a frank discussion about your feelings for each other.
Accept that things may be awkward at first
Making the transition from friends to lovers can be awkward, and it’s best to be prepared for that. You may think you’re so close that things could never be awkward between you two – but you’d be surprised.
Accept that things can sometimes get awkward as you shift from being platonic friends to romantic partners. Dr. DiDonato makes the point that if you expect everything to be plain sailing right from the off, then “you might take any sort of stumbling as a sign that it’s a problem and this relationship that isn’t worth pursuing, rather than recognising little points of awkwardness and stumbling as something you can work on.”
However, relationship expert Rob Alex stresses, in an interview with Bustle, that if you’re feeling constantly uncomfortable, you may need to reevaluate things. “I think that if you are more comfortable just hanging out with a person than when you are on a date, the friendship card might be too strong to ignore,” he says. “If you feel different when you are on an official date with this person, it is time to step back and figure out if your friendship with them is more valuable than a possible romantic relationship.”
Go all in, but be prepared for things to go wrong
Life coach Joanna Townsend tells Bustle that it’s only really worth entering into a relationship with a friend if you’re wiling to accept that things might never go back to the exact way they were before. “Before you date a friend, you must be willing to be OK with things not going back to how they were if the relationship does not work out, and letting go of the attachment you had with them as a friend,” she says.
If you still do decide to date a friend after having all the necessary conversations about your anxieties and fears, don’t be half-hearted about it. If you’ve had been open about your feelings and laid down clear boundaries, then don’t spend half your time flapping about what’ll happen if things go south. Once you’ve made your decision, commit to it.
It’s true that dating a friend is more ‘high stakes’ than dating a stranger or acquaintance. “Dating a friend comes with risks, such as the possibility of breaking up and losing a good friend, or even your social group falling apart if both parties hang out with the same friends,” dating expert Maria Sullivan tells Refinery29. “However, dating a friend can also lead to true love, so it is always a good idea to give it a try if you believe it will lead to something great.”