Friends to lovers is one of my all-time favorite tropes, so it’s no surprise that I can’t get enough of The Summer I Turned Pretty. I became instantly invested in Belly’s relationship with Conrad (who, if you’re unfamiliar with the story, is one of Belly’s childhood best friends and her longtime crush), knowing full well that falling for your best friend is risky as hell. There is a fine line between falling in love and having a falling out, which is exactly why it’s so scary to pursue romantic feelings for a friend. Belly, just like most people that have been in her position, fears losing a friendship the most, but when her true feelings became so loud she couldn’t ignore them, it’s no wonder she chose to see what could come of a romantic relationship with her best friend.
A lot of people decide to keep their relationship strictly platonic when they start to have feelings for a friend, even if it kills them. But there are other people, like Belly and Conrad, who decide that they are willing to take a chance, praying only good things come from it. The decision to start dating a friend is almost never an easy one because there is no way to really know what’s going to happen.
So what’s a girl supposed to do, you ask? Well, I wish I could say that I had an instruction manual for you, but I don’t. However, here’s what can help: making a good ol’ fashion pros and cons list to decide what the right decision is for you and your friend—stay as just friends or explore what could be. Ahead, we’re breaking down the pros and cons so if you find yourself in the same position as Belly, you can decide for yourself whether or not it’s a good idea to start dating a friend.
Pros of dating a friend
You know each other’s good (and bad) qualities
One of the most nerve-wracking things about dating someone new is the getting-to-know-you stage. You hope you like all of their quirks and qualities and you hope they like yours. When you date a friend, you don’t have to worry about any of that. Sure, you might learn a few new things about one another as it pertains to romantic relationships (like what their attachment style is or what they like in bed), but for the most part, you know almost everything about each other, and you like one another for who you are.
In Belly and Conrad’s relationship, they have had years of getting to know each other as people instead of partners, so they know each other’s goals, how they react in tough situations, and even what types of milkshakes they each prefer. Some details are silly and some are serious, and knowing one another on a more personal level from the start makes being a good partner a little bit easier.
You feel comfortable with one another
You should always, always feel comfortable with your partner, but that doesn’t just happen on its own. Trust takes time! When you date a friend, you already know them and trust them (hopefully!) so you are more likely to feel the most comfortable around them. Whether you feel comfortable expressing your deepest feelings to them or you are simply comfortable with their presence, this is a major pro of dating a friend as it’s something that can help make your relationship feel more natural from the beginning.
You already really care about each other
When you start a new relationship with someone, of course, you like them, but that’s a different feeling than going into a relationship with someone you already care so much about. It has a different *this feels right* energy about it. When you care for someone as a friend before you get into a relationship, you want what is best for them at all times, and as their partner, you can play an even bigger role in each other’s lives to help each other experience love, happiness, and success.
We saw this exemplified in The Summer I Turned Pretty when Conrad stepped in to help Belly win the volleyball tournament before the Debutante Ball. He knew how important it was to Belly to win, so he did everything that he could in order to help her achieve that. That’s what friends do, but this kind of dedication to her proved to be a turning point at the beginning of their romantic relationship—on top of their flirting in-between sets, of course.
Cons of dating a friend
Dating can confuse your mutual friendship dynamics
If you and your partner have mutual friends, your new relationship might not come as a shock to them, but it still might get a little weird. They might worry that if you break up, you’ll ruin the dynamic of the whole group, some people might agree or disagree with your relationship (not that it matters what anyone but the two of you thinks), or you might notice that if you and your partner argue that people worry about what side they should take. It puts them in a sticky situation that can be difficult for some to navigate and understand, and it can be even worse if you do end up breaking up. Can you all hang out together still? Will other friendships within the group fall apart because of it too? This is perfectly displayed after Belly and Conrad’s fallout when Conrad and Jeremiah (Conrad’s brother) aren’t answering any of Steven’s (Belly’s brother) texts or calls. Their entire group’s relationship took a hit because of their breakup.
You can’t talk to your partner about your partner
In gaining a relationship, you lose parts of your friendship—even if your relationship works out! Since your friend is now your partner, you can’t turn to them to vent or get relationship advice like you would have before you two were together. Now, you need to find someone else who you are able to talk to about certain things. While you can and should keep your lines of communication open about your relationship, you can’t really talk to your partner about your partner. And if you do, it’s probably not going to be that productive. For example, sometimes you just want to vent to a friend that your partner leaves their socks absolutely everywhere, but if you were to bring that up to your partner, it would be like you’re confronting them about being messy instead of just venting that it’s annoying. Luckily, Belly has Taylor, her right-hand girl, to talk to about everything Conrad-related, but not everyone has another best friend that they can do that with.
You run the risk of breaking up and losing a friendship
This is the biggest reason why some friends stay eternally in the friend zone. A lot of people fear that if they do take a chance on a relationship with a friend they will lose or completely change a friendship that is important to them. In a movie, book, or TV show, the couple usually makes up by the end and lives happily ever after (rooting for you Belly and Conrad!) but unfortunately, that isn’t always the case in real life. Going from friends to partners is easy, but going back to friends after you were partners is complicated AF.
While the success or failure of any relationship is completely situational and takes into account more than just whether or not you were friends before, it is still crucial that you consider the impact that dating a friend could have on your friendship. There’s no way to really tell how things will go, so it’s hard to know beforehand whether it will be the worst idea you’ve ever had or one of the best decisions you’ll ever make. All you can do is put a lot of thought into deciding whether or not to date a friend before you do, and in doing so, ask yourself if you could nurture your new relationship and honor your existing friendship at the same time so you don’t lose someone who is important to you.