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We all know how complicated it can be when you start developing feelings for one of your friends. These feelings often creep on you, too. You can be casually hanging out with them and realise you’re looking at them differently. Suddenly, you start to care a bit too much about when they’ll call you, when you’ll see them next, and what you look like when you see them.
This is the case for one of our readers, Sam, who wrote in to say: “I think I’ve fallen in love with a friend I’ve gotten close to recently because of the pandemic. The feelings likely aren’t reciprocated, despite it maybe seeming like she could be interested in dating. I’m not sure if it’s worth risking or losing the friendship over feelings. I’m conflicted on how to handle this.”
This can be a tricky situation to navigate and before you even think about making a move, you need to figure out your own feelings first.
Counselling Directory member and psychotherapist Georgina Smith says “sexual desire is an important distinct difference between platonic and romantic feelings”. If you’ve started to think about a friend often in the day, that’s usually an early sign your feelings have shifted.
“Wondering what they are doing, how they are feeling, and when they will be in touch is also a good indicator,” she says. “The heady anticipation and excitement before we see them is key. Basically all the usual indicators of falling in love, we inherently recognise the difference even if the relationship started as friendship.”
Once you’ve established you have feelings for a friend, should you tell them?
Ultimately, this is a personal choice. You might want to pause for a few weeks to see if the feeling sticks, or think about what you’re hoping to gain from speaking up. Smith believes being honest about your feelings can ultimately help you grow, even if this romance doesn’t work out.
So if you decide to confess the feels, how should you communicate?
“Honestly and carefully,” says Smith. “I think the best way would be to gently name the feelings that have shifted from platonic to romantic and then give the friend time to process. It would also be about being open to not getting the response we may expect and naming that too – giving someone the space to be honest if they don’t feel the same way.”
Of course, feelings might might not be reciprocated and that’s a scary prospect. It can have a toll on your friendship, but Smith says you can get through it.
First, we should accept that everyone has the right to feel what they feel, she says, and try not to react with unhelpful emotions like defensiveness and anger.
“Working through the discomfort of rejection with a friend or counsellor will help, as it may not be right to work through those feelings with the friend in question,” Smith continues.
“Give them space to understand what happened, check in with them at the right pace for them and avoid any guilt-inducing conversation. And truly know that even though this person wasn’t right for you, being honest with your feelings and taking a risk (and learning any lessons from it) will only benefit your future relationships.”
Love Stuck is for those who’ve hit a romantic wall, whether you’re single or have been coupled up for decades. With the help of trained sex and relationship therapists, HuffPost UK will help answer your dilemmas. Submit a question here.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.