The situation where you start to have romantic feelings towards someone who previously had just been a friend with is a very common situation that most of us have experienced. We have either had those feelings or have been on the receiving end of another friend’s feelings or both. When it happens, it is a big deal as there are no rules about how it should be handled. Should you do anything about it or not?
Factors to consider in this situation will include: How close of a friend are they? How strong are your feelings about them? Will doing anything impact mutual friendships? If they are not a close friend then it probably will not do much harm if you act upon your feelings, but if they are a good friend then you saying or doing something will 100% guaranteed affect your friendship from that point onwards.
I’ve developed feelings for a friend twice in my life and neither were good situations and I wished I hadn’t had those feelings, but I did and I had to deal with them. First time round it was with a friend who was not a close friend but we had a lot of mutual friends and she was sort of dating another friend of mine. (Sort of = rather complicated) They then finished, but he was still interested.
I knew she didn’t fancy me and also, of course, I didn’t want to upset my friend who was still into her. I stayed silent about my feelings hoping they would go away. A couple of months later and my feelings hadn’t gone away; if anything, the feelings got stronger. I decided I needed to say something to help move on from this, to be able to get closure. I told her that I had these feelings (note: I didn’t ask her out or make a move on her in any way) and it was actually a great relief to unburden myself with these emotions and thoughts that had been bottled up. At the time I thought I had definitely done the right thing as I was almost immediately able to move on and get past the feelings I had.
Although the friend I confessed my feelings to seemed to be okay with it when I spoke to her, I was unaware she was under the impression I was being very disloyal to my friend who she had been seeing previously. I found out later she had been basically bad-mouthing me to a lot of our mutual friends. This was hurtful in a number of ways as it wasn’t true as I hadn’t tried to get with her; I was just confessing feelings. When I had met with her many times before I had been advocating her getting back with my friend as she seemed to still have some feelings for him. It was also hurtful as she was being the biggest hypocrite in the world (as she got with him when seeing someone else and had then proceeded to mess my friend around) and I suspect was using my confession to try and divert criticism away from her.
This seriously affected our friendship, but am pleased to report that 11 years later we are still friends. Although I am certain she does not think I still have feelings for her, the incident of my feelings and her resulting actions has made an indelible mark on our friendship.
Seven years later, I unfortunately developed feelings for another friend and the end was far worse. She had been a friend for a few years who I saw infrequently and then we started to see more of each other. This had been precipitated by her being upset that her current relationship was coming to an end. She asked for support and as a good friend I offered it. Without even thinking about it we had suddenly become really close friends who were in touch every day. It was almost like we were in a relationship but we just didn’t do any of the intimate stuff.
I was really enjoying having this close friend, but became aware that my feelings of friendship were now being added to with romantic feelings. I ignored this at first and thought that it was just because I was spending lots of time with her. However, the feelings became stronger and so I became very worried as I was genuinely close friends with her but also had these other feelings. As I’ve described, the first time I had feelings for a friend did not work out well so was anxious this would be even worse as she was a much closer friend.
I kept my feelings to myself and thought unless she showed any signs of being romantically interested in me, it would be foolish to say anything and ruin a friendship I enjoyed and valued. My feelings just got stronger and stronger. We were out together at a mutual friend’s birthday and I could tell she had taken a shine to a mate of mine. At her request I made it clear to my mate she was interested in him, being the dutiful friend, and they went off together to her place at the end of the evening. My journey home in the taxi in the opposite direction was heart-wrenching and it was only at the moment I realised how much I had fallen for her.
I kept my feelings quiet but she could tell I was not my usual self and eventually told her I was in love with a friend of mine who didn’t feel the same way. I didn’t say the friend was her, but she of course later guessed. The moment she asked me if it was her and it came out in the open, I had that same feeling of relief again and she seemed to be really cool with it and knew I wasn’t asking her out or that I was being fake with my friendship to her. All seemed good.
I was very very wrong. Although she appeared to be handling the situation well, in reality she wasn’t and ended up doing some odd things. It had put a massive strain on our friendship and then she did something that was quite disrespectful to me, so much so that I called a day on our friendship. I wrote her a letter explaining why I was upset with her. This did not go down well and all hell broke loose. We stopped being friends, then we were friends again. This happened a few times and without boring you with all the unpleasant and trivial details, we stopped being friends altogether and I have not heard from her at all in three years.
So, the lesson I have learned is that if you do happen to develop real feelings for a good friend, then the best thing is to not say anything to them about it (unless there are genuine signs they fancy you too) and probably a good thing to keep your distance from them for a while. Otherwise feelings will get so strong that it will all come out anyway and make no mistake about it, it will severely damage your friendship. If you value your friendship, then do not tell them about your feelings.
For the female perspective on this topic, see Risa’s article Controlling the Butterflies: What To Do When You Have A Crush On Your Friend.