Asking for a Friend is a weekly Sex and Relationships column hosted by Arts and Culture writer Dana Sparks and fueled by your curiosities. Click here to anonymously submit questions regarding sex, relationships and sex education.
“I think I might be in love with my best friend, but I don’t want our friendship to end. I don’t think she knows I feel this way about her. What should I do?” – Hopelessly Devoted
Dear Hopelessly Devoted,
I’ve been thinking about your question a lot since I first received it. I want to say that it’s one of the most difficult questions I’ve received; there is only so much you can do, yet there is so much you will feel — no matter what happens. I hope my response will find you in a timely manner.
I dare to say that you are not in love with your friend. I think you’re forgetting that in reality, the part of her that you would be in a relationship with is much different than who you are experiencing right now. I’m not saying that she is fake or that you don’t know her like you think you do. But rather, I am saying that if you and her were to get together, the dynamic of the relationship will change how you interact because your roles and responsibilities to one another will change.
Begin with honestly assessing your emotions regarding your friend.
Saying that you are in love with someone is serious business.
The whirlwind feelings of attraction that we develop for others can usually be identified as infatuation, not love. However, coming from someone who has experienced both, feelings are intimidating to navigate no matter how we label them. From your friend’s perspective, it can be really overwhelming to find out that someone is in love with you — especially if you’re not expecting it.
Understanding what motivates this attraction is the first favor that you can do for yourself and for your best friend. These complicated emotions don’t usually begin in a logical place — that’s probably why people do crazy things like elope in Vegas and get matching tattoos. You need to consciously take a step back to think this through.
A general rule of thumb I use: If you can’t see all the ugly and flawed parts of your best friend, you are not in love, but rather experiencing infatuation. Not being able to see someone’s flaws is an indication that you are projecting an unrealistic fantasy onto that person. Everyone has flaws — love acknowledges them, infatuation typically does not. If you cannot see all of her, then you cannot be in love with her yet. This goes back to earlier when I said that you haven’t experienced the side of her that would be in a partnership with you.
If you’re still reading, you’re probably cursing me for calling you out, but bear with me. I promise there’s a purpose behind my answer.
Even though I am skeptical of the way that you’ve used “love” in this situation, that isn’t to say that your feelings aren’t intense or valid.
The possibility of being in a relationship with your best friend can be enticing. In fact, I believe that developing those feelings can be easy and common when you already have the emotional foundation that friendship provides. Sometimes we meet people or make a friend that stops us in our tracks. We think, “How could I not? To know you is to love you.” It is whether or not we take inventory of these feelings and process through them that matters.
The first option is not telling her — but then you are still left with all your emotions. If this is what you decide to do, I think that the friendship would be fine; however, you’ll probably need to distance yourself from the situation a little bit. I would recommend taking extra time for yourself to let the emotions simmer down. Not getting the space you need after developing intense feelings for someone can making the healing process a lot more difficult than it needs to be. Time away from one another might give you perspective on the friendship and what the risk versus reward would be for speaking up.
The second option is telling her how you feel; there are two possible outcomes of this scenario. She will either return the feelings, or she won’t. If she doesn’t, it’ll hurt, but you’ll have done all you can do. If she does, that might just turn into one of the biggest adventures of your life. Whether or not it lasts, enjoy it while you can.
I can’t tell you what to do. I’ll only strictly advise you to not drop the “L” word and suggest that your friendship with her changed the moment your feelings for her did.