One of the commonest dilemmas in love is when you start having feelings for a friend and realize you want something beyond just friendship with that person.
This is a common situation because if someone is your friend you usually like them and respect them, and you also enjoy spending time with them. They are fun and funny and interesting to you. So why would it surprise you to develop feelings for them?
But what should you do next?
How About Telling Them?
The grown up thing to do, and the healthiest thing to do psychologically, is to tell them. Maybe they feel the same way about you, and perhaps they’d also like to deepen your friendship and progress to a romantic relationship.
Even if they don’t, they will understand a little better why you’ve been acting a bit weird around them lately. And they’ll understand why you might be acting a bit weird in the near future as you try to deal with these feelings.
It’s important to remember that falling for someone is not a choice. You didn’t wake up one morning and decide, hey, I’m going to complicate and maybe endanger my friendship with this person by falling in love with them. There’s a reason they call it falling in love, not deciding to be in love.
The expression reflects the reality that you can’t help it. Think of the other metaphors we use for love – things like swept away or swept off your feet or struck by lightning. All reflect our loss of control over the situation.
So your feelings aren’t a problem, and you shouldn’t deny them. If your friend is single and available, and you are too, then tell them. What have you got to lose? Friendship, perhaps, but you may lose that anyway if you keep your desire secret and start acting strangely.
But It Can Get Complicated
Obviously, if your friend is involved with another person, or you are, or both of you are already in relationships, then the situation is a bit more complicated. Even so, you can, in theory, still find a safe way to talk about your feelings with this person, to defuse them by getting them out in the open.
A caveat, though. If by telling this person you are really trying to create a dramatic soap opera moment where they will be stunned and shocked and perhaps dump their partner or decide to cheat on them with you, then stop before you go there.
I said you need to find a safe way to talk about how you feel. Dropping a bomb on a married person or someone who is already in a serious relationship is not safe. Nor is it nice to drop that same bomb on a single friend when you are in a committed relationship.
Some people actually enjoy and thrive on that kind of drama, but they rarely stop to consider the wreckage that their reckless revelations cause.
Back to the grown up situation. If you’re in a relationship and you have feelings for a friend, the healthiest, most grown up thing to do is tell your partner – again in a safe way.
Married people and those in serious relationships do sometimes develop feelings outside those relationships. It’s just human nature. But acting on those feelings causes a lot of trouble.
That’s why you need to look for a safe way to express those feelings and thereby defang them. A trained therapist or counsellor can help you figure out safe ways to deal with feelings like this and express them. They can also help you figure out whether you want to tell your partner or not.
I don’t know many people who operate at that level of maturity. If you do, good for you. If you can tell your partner something like that without making it a weapon against them or a way to try and bully them into changing, then go for it.
If you can talk about it without feeling like a victim, great. But for many people, the conversation never reaches that mature level due to fear and embarrassment.
When You Decide to Say Nothing
So you may decide to keep your feelings secret. It is your decision. But I encourage you to find someone you can talk to about how you feel, whether a friend or a therapist. Talk through how you feel and what your options are. Perhaps you will decide never to tell your friend how you feel.
That’s fine, but make sure you stick to your decision. Don’t moon around and sulk and try to get them to notice you are feeling differently about them. Either tell them openly and honestly, or don’t tell them and go on being friends.
Let me sum up here. The best option is to tell your friend how you feel – in a safe way – and see what happens. Even if you don’t end up together, it is healthy for you to express those feelings.
If, for whatever reasons, you decide to keep your feelings to yourself, don’t keep them secret from everyone – find a friend or a trained counsellor who will listen with a sympathetic ear.