Ouch! It may never have been your intention, but here we are in a tangled emotional conundrum, brimming with dilemmas and cliff-edges.
Before I even begin to detail the dos and don’ts of falling in love with a friend, it is imperative that you don’t feel guilty about your feelings. Not only is guilt redundant (it isn’t going to benefit you in any tangible way, and it isn’t going to strip away your love either), but it will destroy your friendship far quicker than your emotional about-face ever will.
Let’s keep guilt off the lawn, and deal with the reality of the situation in a way that serves both your and your friend’s purposes as efficiently and honestly as possible.
Is It Love Or Lust?
As discussed in my article on the three stages of love, lust is the heady beginning of most love affairs. However, the reason I bring this up, is two-fold:
- As friends you’ve probably known each other long enough to transcend lust as a trigger of romantic confusion.
- Lust has a tendency to decay quickly, unlike the stages of attraction and attachment.
If a glance at your friend makes you feel like it’s puberty all over again, it might be in your interest to give your feelings time to mellow. Chances are, if it is a bout of tempestuous lust, it will decay naturally over the course of a few months. Acting impulsively now may well threaten the solidity of your friendship, especially when these kinds of feelings are bound to wind-down eventually anyway.
However, as mentioned earlier, lust is rarely the case when it comes to falling in love with a friend, it is usually a more selfless and enduring case of affection.
Should I Tell Them?
I would bite the bullet and bide my time only if I was sure that it was a passing bout of lust. If the onset of love built slowly and gradually I absolutely don’t believe keeping a lid on it is in anyone’s interest. Here’s why:
- The stress of attempting to control feelings vastly outweighs the release associated with honesty. Even if you are ultimately rejected.
- If you fear that your friendship may be jeopardized by the transition from the platonic to the romantic, bear in mind that it already is. You are, after all, falling in love.
- You are denying your friend the chance to reciprocate your feelings.
- Not communicating this turn of events is also fundamentally dishonest, forcing you to masquerade as a friend despite your underlying intent. Should you eventually disclose your feelings after a long charade it may well impact trust and needlessly terminate the friendship.
What If They Are Already In A Relationship?
Things get a little murky if they’re already “taken”. But let’s rely on a sprinkling of brutal objectivity to make the difficult decisions for us, instead of getting caught up in the infinite grey area of our morality.
If your roles were reversed, and you were now the friend, would you want to know? Additionally, would it be fair to your friend if you masqueraded as a platonic and impartial side-kick? The answer to both of these questions will usually be a decisive no for most people. In short, you probably want to tell them, and they probably would prefer knowing.
Do not allow guilt, insecurity and fear to stop you from communicating this turn of events if you are sure it is a genuine and enduring case of attachment. Any qualm regarding the long-term health of a platonic friendship was shattered the day you fell in love. It happens. It happens a lot.
Right, Now What?
So, we’re going to tell them how we feel, but does this mean just picking up the phone and dialing? I would argue against using an impersonal means of communication such as a text message or email over a potentially palpitating face-to-face. While the stress is high, so is the chance you will receive meaningful feedback. You are also making sure that the strength of your feelings receive the attention they deserve (and convey the importance that they have).
Beyond this condition, there is no reason to dilly-dally. Every moment spent procrastinating is another moment torn asunder by insecurity. The longer it sits, the greater also the chance that your friend might feel betrayed by the enduring dance of your platonic mask. For the sake of your own fulfillment, and for the sake of your friend — get it off your chest as directly and transparently as possible.
Falling In Love With A Friend
As a personal aside, I also wanted to add that the vast majority of successful long-term relationships stem not from a case of mutual lust, but from the gradual camaraderie, respect and empathy that grow during the course of an initially platonic friendship.
As far as chances go, the fact that you are already friends means you have a lot of things already going for you should your feelings be reciprocated. You already know each other, you already respect each other, and most importantly — you already enjoy each others presence. Friendship is the perfect starting point!