I love a friends-to-lovers storyline just as much as the next girl, but navigating feelings for a friend, as played out in many romance novels, is not as easy as our favorite authors make it seem. A recent study suggests that close to 70% of romances begin as friendships—which is something we have heard for decades from “how did you two meet” conversations with longtime partners—but how, when, and if you should even initiate an attraction to a friend is yet to be set in stone.
While the odds seem good that it might work out, there is a lot of uncertainty when it comes to changing the dynamic with your friend. Will they feel the same? How will you feel if they don’t? What will other friends in the group think? And so on, but why pay for Bumble when the person you’re most into is right in front of you, right?
The aforementioned romance novels are probably not the best source of direction since they are fictional and all, so we are laying out what you should actually do in real life when you have feelings for a friend.
Understand your feelings
Before you do anything, it’s important to understand your feelings. It’s not uncommon to be confused about new feelings toward a friend, but having uncertainty around your dynamic can lead to anxiety and can ultimately affect your (platonic or romantic) relationship.
To ease your nerves and be able to proceed with clarity and confidence, ask yourself the following questions:
- Are your feelings sexual, emotional, or both?
- Have your feelings been building for a while?
- When did you start noticing you had an attraction?
- What would you want out of this relationship if you were to pursue it?
- Would you be disappointed if it didn’t work out?
- Could you continue a friendship if didn’t work out?
Determine if the feeling is mutual
Now that you understand how you feel, is it clear how your friend feels toward you? Sometimes, it’s obvious when the feeling is mutual: They are flirtatious, they go out of their way to do something for you, they consistently choose to be closer to you in social gatherings, etc. Other times, trying to understand someone’s feelings toward us is like trying to crack the code on the Instagram algorithm (please let me know when someone figures that out). You don’t want to assume that your friend feels the same way and then they don’t or force something that isn’t right, so what’s a girl to do?
To determine if interest is being reciprocated, you can do one or all of the following things:
- Ask if they want to hang out as friends. This could be as simple as saying, “Hey, I have an extra ticket to [insert event], would you want to go with me?” There is no pressure since it’s not a date, but it will give you a chance to spend time together and get a feel for if there are any more-than-friends feelings that come up.
- Pay attention to how they act around you. Are they giving away any tell-tale signs that they are into you and you just aren’t noticing? Pay closer attention to see if they are acting any differently around you than they used to. Is it flirty? Friendly? Both?
- Straight up ask them if they are feeling the same way. Feeling daring? Just ask! Start by letting them know how you feel toward them and ask where they stand.
Talk to someone about it
Whether you are clear on your friend’s feelings or not, talking to someone about the situation is helpful for deciding how you want to move forward, if at all. We recommend that you talk to a friend, family member, or counselor who is outside of the friend group that you share but is familiar with your friend to whom you are referring. It is helpful that they know who you are talking about (for context) but are enough removed from your interactions to alleviate bias and can give an outsider’s perspective on the situation.
Decide if pursuing your attraction is worth sacrificing your friendship
Even if you are positive that the feeling is mutual, you can’t guarantee how your potential relationship will play out, so it is important to consider all outcomes. All friends-to-lovers stories have one of four outcomes:
- You both feel the same, and you end up in a #goals relationship.
- You both feel the same, but you decide to call it quits and remain friends.
- Your friend doesn’t feel the same and your friendship remains unchanged.
- Your friend doesn’t feel the same and your friendship gets weird or ends altogether.
Consider all of these options. Could you handle being rejected or let down? If so, you have nothing to lose. If not, you will want to decide whether or not the feelings that you have toward your friend are strong enough to risk sacrificing the friendship that you do have with them.