Love is one of the most priceless feelings you can experience in this life. And friends make this world a better place to live in. A friend keeps you grounded whereas a romantic interest makes you feel like you are floating. What happens when you experience both these feelings because of one person? What if you have fallen in love with a friend? It can be chaotic and messy if you don’t handle it well.
On the flip side, if you are genuine about your feelings and tread the line between friendship and love carefully, you may make them fall for you as well. To find out more about friendship love vs romantic love, we reached out to Counseling psychologist Tanvi Jajoria (MA Applied Clinical Psychology), who is the co-founder and director of MentAmigo and an internationally certified EFT Practitioner.
She says, “Friendship and love know no boundaries. Even so, research shows that we’re selective about who we make friends with. Romantic love can be even more selective. No matter how woke or virtuous one claims to be, we fall in love by taking into account a person’s physical appearance and social status.”
What Does It Feel Like To Fall In Love With A Friend?
Falling in love is a very personal and subjective experience. There are so many things happening all at once that it’s hard to catch your breath. The situations could vary from person to person as well. You could be:
- Falling in love with a friend who doesn’t feel the same way
- Falling in love with a friend who is married or in a relationship
- Falling in love with a friend while in a relationship yourself
If you aren’t able to distinguish between friendship love vs romantic love, take a look at these signs of falling in love with a friend.
1. You feel more alive when you are with them
There is suddenly this gravitational pull toward them and you don’t know how to stop catching feelings for your best friend. You feel different in their presence in the following ways:
- When you are in love with your best friend you want all their attention on you
- The way they touch you feels electrifying
- You want to spend more time with them
- Nothing makes sense to you as you find yourself becoming extra caring, loving, and thoughtful toward them
Tanvi says, “There may be no violins playing in the background to tell you when you fall in love with a friend. Because being in love with someone is a very emotionally deep connection that develops over time and goes way beyond the superficial criteria of having an ‘ideal’ partner.”
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2. You feel jealous when they give someone more importance than you
You will feel jealous when they prioritize someone else over you even if you are falling in love with a friend while in a relationship yourself. This jealousy won’t make sense to you and the last thing you want to do is ruin your friendship. You hate the idea of someone else touching or kissing them. This jealousy is normal. But don’t let this feeling consume you or get the better of you.
Georgia, a 26-year-old dentist from Boston, says, “Am I in love with my best friend of the same gender? I have only been attracted to men so far but when I see her talk to others and give more importance to someone else, I can feel a pang of jealousy hit me hard. I want her to give me all her attention. I genuinely want to stop feeling jealous when I see her with someone else. I don’t know if I should confess my feelings or if I should let it slide.”
3. Their flaws become perfect
Tanvi says, “One of the biggest signs that you have developed romantic feelings for one of your best friends could be when you start accepting their flaws and imperfections as much as you love the best of their qualities, and when you are comfortable enough to show your own imperfect side to them as well.”
You don’t just see their flaws anymore. You also celebrate them. You use motivating words of encouragement for them and start believing in them. Yes, love is capable of making you feel all these things. You realize they aren’t perfect but they are enough for you and you find them irresistible. This is the biggest indicator of friendship love vs romantic love. You may laugh at your friend’s flaws but when you are in love, you appreciate them and make them feel better about themselves.
4. You are ready to go the extra mile for them
When you are falling in love with a friend, you are ready to put them first. You consider their needs and wants and go the extra mile to fulfill them. If they need you, you are there for them no matter how busy you are. You will drop everything to help them out. They will think you’re just being a great friend. Little do they know.
5. You are worried about your friendship
This is one of the things you go through especially when you are in love with a friend who is married. You are worried your friendship will end if you confess your feelings. What if they don’t feel the same way? What if they are taken aback and terminate the friendship? What if they like you back but both of you are in a relationship so you can’t do anything about your feelings?
There are so many factors involved and you just won’t know how to tackle them in a healthy way. That’s why you need to prevent your friendship from turning into love if you are worried that this person won’t love you back.
What To Do When You Are Falling In Love With A Friend
When you are with your potential romantic interest, you are in a state of mind where everything around you is momentary. Is it the same when you fall in love with a friend who is married? Let’s find out.
Related Reading: 5 Ways Being Honest With Yourself Will Help You Understand Your Relationship Better
What to do if you are falling in love with a friend who is married/partnered?
Tanvi says, “Falling in love with a friend who isn’t single can be very emotionally daunting and puts you in a very difficult spot. Whether you should confess your love to them or not, this cannot have a simple yes or no answer, as relationships or friendships don’t function in that black and white manner.”
Even though there can’t be one universal answer to this question, here are some questions that you can ask yourself if you have developed feelings for one of your close friends who isn’t single. These will help you gain more clarity:
- Why do I suddenly have feelings for my friend?
- Why do I want to confess my feelings to them? What is my real intention?
- How will it affect me if I do or do not confess my feelings?
- How will it affect them and our friendship?
- Can I sustain this friendship while being in this vulnerable position?
- Who all could be affected by this action of mine?
- What do I really need right now?
- Am I confusing friendship with love?
- Do I know them enough to call it love?
- Should I take some space from them to figure this out?
While getting answers to these questions and being able to accept them could be very difficult, reflecting on these can help you make a more informed decision for yourself.
What to do when you are falling in love with a friend while in a relationship?
If you are falling in love with a friend who doesn’t feel the same way or when you’re in a relationship with someone else, you need to tread lightly. Otherwise, you will end up breaking your partner’s heart. Here are some things you need to do if hurting your partner is the last thing you want:
- You need to set emotional boundaries with your friend
- Talk to your partner about this instead of cheating on them
- Decide mutually what will be better for the relationship in the long haul
- Respect your partner’s decision if they want to leave the relationship
What to do when you are falling in love with one of your single best friends?
If both you and your friend are single, then try to let them know subtly and see if they feel the same way about you. Use your body language to confess your feelings. You can try to flirt with them and see if they flirt back. They say the strongest intimate relationship is the one that starts as a friendship.
That’s what happened on this Reddit thread. A user shared their story of falling in love with a friend and said, “I fell in love with my childhood best friend. Yes, I told him I loved him. I suspected, well pretty much knew, he felt the same way about me, so there was no reason to not tell him. We’re engaged now and still in love.”
Regardless of the relationship status of you and your friend, try to have a one-on-one conversation with them about this. If you feel it in your bones that they like you back and you will have something strong in the future, then don’t miss this opportunity and be honest about your feelings. However, if you don’t want to ruin your friendship with them, then it’s best to let these romantic feelings slide under the rug for now. If they are partnered, you can broach this subject again when they are single.
Are You In Love With A Friend Of The Same Gender?
You may have fallen for a person belonging to the same gender like Zack, a 27-year-old professional scuba diver from Hawaii, who says, “Am I in love with my best friend of the same gender? We have a great friendship going on for the past four years. Whenever he is around, I really want to hold his hand and kiss him. I want to do so many things with him but I am afraid he would end the friendship if he found out about this. I don’t know how to make sense of this situation or how to fall out of love with a friend like him.”
It’s best to find out what kind of attraction you feel toward your friend because there are many different types of attraction:
- Platonic attraction: Wanting to form a close emotional bond with someone in a friendship-type way
- Aesthetic attraction: Enjoying the way someone looks
- Romantic attraction: Wanting to form a close emotional bond with someone in a more-than-platonic way
- Sensual attraction: Wanting to touch someone but in a non-sexual way (cuddles, holding hands, kissing, etc.)
- Sexual attraction: Wanting to touch someone in a sexual way
Furthermore, learn how to differentiate between friendship love vs romantic love. Tanvi shares, “When you are in love with someone, more often than not, you love and accept that whole person for who they are – their flaws and imperfections as much as you admire their positive qualities and strengths. However, infatuation may feel like a relatively more surface-level emotion that is driven by criteria like how the person looks, their personality, how they are treating you at present, and how others perceive them.”
When you try to understand why you feel attracted to someone and what importance they hold in your life, you will clearly be able to draw the line between friendship and love.
Related Reading: Is It A Date Or Are You Just Hanging Out? 17 Helpful Tips To Know
How To Stop Falling In Love With A Friend
Here is the most important thing you need to know — you can’t force your feelings to feel a certain way. The more you try to bow your feelings to your wishes, the more rebellious they become. If you really want to prevent your friendship from turning into love, here are some things you can do to stop catching feelings for your best friend:
1. Set boundaries with them
We ask Tanvi how to fall out of love with a friend. She shares, “Try to set certain boundaries for yourself and in your friendship. Limit the time you spend with them. You don’t have to completely cut ties with your friend but you need to stop hanging out with them every single day.”
Some other things you can do to establish all types of boundaries with them include:
- Meet your friend in a group setting so you don’t get uncomfortable
- Remain friends but don’t do couple activities together like hand holding or cuddling
- Openly communicate your boundaries but don’t tell them about your feelings yet
2. Understand your attachment style
According to research, falling in love with someone you can’t have is more likely experienced by those who have an anxious attachment style. As we all know, attachment styles have their roots in childhood. The things that have happened in a person’s childhood largely determine their attachment style.
If your primary caregiver was unpredictable with showing affection or they were inconsistent in meeting your needs, you may grow up unconsciously reenacting that dynamic in your adult relationships. In simple words, you may be more likely to develop a romantic magnetic attraction for people who are unlikely to return your feelings. If you want to prevent your friendship from turning into love, heal your attachment issues slowly and steadily, and don’t let the troubled early years of your life dominate your adulthood.
3. Let go of the hope that you can end up together
If you have fallen in love with a friend who is married, then try to overcome your romantic feelings by keeping yourself busy. Fantasizing about a future together will make things worse. So, every time you drift into your fantasy land, go back to your project, go shoot some hoops, go do your squats. Just don’t hang on to the hope that they would leave their significant other for you.
If they realize their feelings for you on their own and leave their partner for you, then that’s your good fortune. But don’t do anything to ruin their relationship and become the reason for somebody’s marriage falling apart.
Related Reading: 10 Things That Attract A Woman To A Man Instantly
4. Work actively on distancing yourself from your feelings
You didn’t know how to stop catching feelings for your best friend. And you can only try to fall out of love now. Keep in touch with your friends and family members who you think could help you with genuine support or reach out to a mental health professional if you feel stuck. If you’re looking for professional help, Bonobology’s panel of experienced counselors is only a click away.
When asked on Reddit how to stop loving someone but stay friends with them, a user replied, “Cherish the time with them but make it very clear to yourself that they are off-limits. Don’t fall into a trap of “I’ll just wait until they’re single” or think it’s okay to privately fantasize about how great you’d be together. Just put up a big red NO sign in your brain for that. Anything else is unhealthy and if you can’t train your brain to overcome your attraction, it’s better to let the friendship go or at least reduce it because it would be greatly unfair to put that burden on your friend.”
5. Practice acceptance
Accept the things you cannot control or change. That’s the best possible way to let go of someone you can’t have. Set them free because the mental anguish you are experiencing at the moment is driving you crazy. You are losing your rationality with all the daydreaming and “what ifs.” Here are some things you can do to practice acceptance:
- Don’t reject your romantic feelings right away. You have fallen in love. Now what? Pause and accept your feelings but don’t force your friend to feel the same for you
- Go easy on yourself. Unrequited love is one of the most painful yet glorious feelings in the world. It may hurt you as much as it brings you joy
- When your mind wanders and begins to daydream, distract yourself by watching a movie or reading a book
- Meditate every day. Meditation is all about mindfulness and being present “in the moment”
- Falling in love with a friend while in a relationship can be really tricky if you don’t get your act together. You may end up cheating on your partner
- If you have romantic feelings for your best friend who is married or in a relationship, it’s best to not confess your feelings and put them in a situation where they have to choose between their friend and love life, or worse, where they are offended and never speak to you again
- Set boundaries with your friend and don’t do affectionate or romantic activities with them
When two people spend copious amounts of time together, it’s natural for either or both of them to experience butterflies and secretly hope that the other person is feeling the same way. Maintain a platonic relationship with them if the thought of losing this friendship scares the life out of you.
If you want to stop loving someone but stay friends with them, then understand that this feeling is normal. You don’t have to act on your feelings yet because you don’t know how they feel and how they might react to your love. They may even walk out of this friendship if you are not careful.
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