What to Do When You’re Falling for Your Friend

It’s a tale as old as time — when a text on the screen or an invite to movie night from your friend give you butterflies in a way you hadn’t expected. Many of us will realize we’ve developed feelings for a friend at some point in our lives — but what, if anything, are you supposed to do about it? This can be a delicate situation to navigate — here’s my advice.

Consider whether your feelings are something you feel called to act on

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Developing feelings for someone you already have an established friendship with can be intense — you already have a closeness and affection that can make it confusing to sort through your feelings. It may also feel like you’re hiding something from your friend or being dishonest if you don’t disclose your feelings immediately.

Crushes can be something fun and light — are your feelings intense in such a way that it’s causing you distress not to act on them? Or does the idea of having a direct conversation with your friend about this stress you out immeasurably? Despite what movies and TV may suggest to us, having feelings for someone isn’t always a sign that we need to make a grand gesture or give a speech revealing our attraction. A crush can be something lowkey that makes your life a little more exciting, even when it’s on someone you see regularly in your personal life. Is a relationship what you want, or are you enjoying the feeling as is?

Think about how disclosing your crush would impact your friend

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It’s important to keep in mind that your feelings for your friend aren’t shameful, predatory or toxic — you aren’t betraying or harming your friend by having them. How you choose to handle your feelings for your friend is completely up to you. 

At the same time, it’s important to consider all the factors. What’s your friend’s current status? Are they looking to date or find a new connection — or are they perhaps even already in a committed relationship? Regardless of what you think about their current partner, it’s not kind to put your friend in a position where they feel they have to defend their fidelity in their relationship.

Are they going through anything in their personal life right now such that navigating a new romantic overture might make their life more complicated? Are they in a position where they’re relying on you for platonic emotional support, and may feel unsure of how best to interact with you going forward?

It’s always hard to move through life balancing our own emotional needs with our knowledge of how they may impact others. You and your friend are both adults, and more than able to navigate a conversation about your dynamic — but it may be helpful to both of you to fully think through its full range of impact.

Imagine how acting on your feelings might impact your friendship and your wellbeing

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Often, people worry about “ruining the friendship” when they develop feelings for a friend. This may or may not be a real concern — if done respectfully and without expectations for how the revelation will be received, it’s totally possible for a friendship to stay strong after someone develops feelings, even if they aren’t reciprocated. 

The key to having your friendship stay the same despite your crush is to commit to being genuinely okay with it if your friend doesn’t return your feelings. You want to be able to tell your friend something like “it’s totally okay if you don’t feel the same way” and have them be able to trust that that’s true. 

If you feel in your heart of hearts that it may be difficult to do that, or that you’ll feel too hurt by any potential rejection to continue the friendship, then it may be a good idea to either hold off on sharing your feelings or be open to the idea of taking some space and time apart before trying to return to friendship.

How important is this friendship to you? If the thought of this friendship changing or being interrupted at all is too distressing to consider, then that’s something to keep in mind. Our relationships are complex, and the question of what someone might mean to us as a date or partner as opposed to a friend is a loaded one — it’s an act of considerable emotional intelligence and vulnerability to sort this out. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by this situation, it might be a great time to begin working with a therapist or counselor to get some support in figuring it out.

Recommended Products:

The Emotional Intelligence Skills Workbook: Improve Communication and Build Stronger Relationships

Fighting for Our Friendships: The Science and Art of Conflict and Connection in Women’s Relationships

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