So You've Fallen In Love With Your Best Friend… Now What?

Photographed by Renell Medrano.
When Harry Met Sally, You've Got Mail, Some Kind Of Wonderful, Clueless, 13 Going On 30, Love And Basketball — the list of movies about two best friends who fall in love is so long IMDB has devoted a whole category page to it.
But what happens if you fall in love with your best friend IRL? Can you really expect the happily-ever-after ending all of these movies promise?
Well, probably not, says Kate Stewart, a counselor and dating coach in Seattle. After all, movies are movies and this is real life. But that doesn't mean you should never act on your feelings, either. "You regret the things that you don’t do," she says. "If you sit on your feelings and then your friend moves away or winds up in a different relationship, you'll always wonder what would have happened if you had said something."
It just might turn out that your friend is also having romantic feelings for you, but you'll never know unless you do something about it. Still, that can be difficult. What if they don't actually like you back, and saying something ruins the friendship?
Unfortunately, that's a risk you're going to have to take. "Make friends with rejection and prepare yourself for it," Stewart says.
Stewart says she's known people who are so terrified of rejection that it takes years for them to finally tell a crush about their feelings — another common theme in these best friends-turned soulmates movies. Unlike the people in rom coms, though, you can't hold your feelings in for years and still expect a happy ending. Life moves too quickly for that, and there's a good chance that your friend/crush will wind up in another relationship before you finally speak up. But that doesn't mean you have to rush over to their place right now and declare your love, either. Take a month or two to weigh the pros and cons, Stewart says. You might even realize in that time that your feelings aren't really strong enough to risk losing a good friend.
But if you're absolutely sure that you want to turn your friend into a partner, then it's time to start working up the courage to have "the talk."
Again, don't feel like you have to rush right in if you're not ready. People who need some encouragement can start slowly, by first paying attention to non-verbal cues says Fran Greene, LCSW, author of Dating Again With Courage and Confidence.
"See what happens if your hands slip sitting next to each other," Greene says. "Or if you’re sitting across from each other and making eye contact." Do you feel romantic tension between the two of you? That could be a sign that your feelings are reciprocated. Just be sure not to put all of your chicks into that basket, Stewart warns. Non-verbal cues aren't 100% accurate, and you could end up confusing your friend if you've never been very affectionate and now you're suddenly putting your hand on their leg.
No matter what, never take non-verbal cues as confirmation that your friend does or doesn't like you — you still need to actually talk about your feelings to know for sure, Stewart says. Just think of these cues as a way to bolster your confidence.
Another possible way to figure out what's going on is to consult your mutual friends, Greene says. If your friend/crush is more of a casual friend than a BFF, hit up their friends to see if they're currently dating or interested in anyone else. If you're closer pals and already know their dating situation, consider asking the people you both know if they've ever talked about you or if they've showed any interest. You never know, maybe your friend has been telling friends that they're into you, too.
Eventually, though, you're going to have to have that talk if you want anything to change. Greene has a few suggestions for how to go about that, too, because the words you choose are important.
Don't say, "I like you, do you like me back?" It's too abrupt and demanding, she says. Instead, start by saying something positive like, "I really love spending time with you" and then slowly get into how you're really feeling. That can mean saying something like, "It's not easy for me to say this, but I'm starting to like you as more than a friend."
If you're really worried that revealing your feelings will ruin the friendship, then be open about your nerves. Tell your friend that you're worried about losing them as a friend, but just felt like you couldn't bottle your feelings up. If they don't like you back, there's always a chance they'll feel too awkward to keep being close to you. But there's also a chance that they'll be flattered and happy to remain friends.
"There’s nothing more flattering than letting someone know that you like them and would be into dating," Greene says. "The worst that can happen is that they don’t feel the same."
So take a deep breath and gather your courage. You've got this.

More from Sex & Relationships

R29 Original Series