How To Start Dating A Friend, Because You Need To Forget Everything You Think You Know About This Person And Start Over

I’ve always thought the phrase “just friends” has a diminishing aspect to it. Friends are some of the most important people in the world. What’s wrong with being friends, nothing more? Why do we have to attach the diminutive? Why not, when denying a potential romance, say, “We’re friends,” period, end of story? All of that said, perhaps you have been friends — just friends — with someone for a while. And perhaps you two are really close, and really big fans of each other. And maybe — just maybe — you made out the other night. And you saw a movie on Tuesday and afterward they came back to your place. And on and on. In other words, there’s no “just” about it —when you're turning your friendship into a relationship, you’re in completely new territory with this person.

On one hand, congratulations, because that is really fun and exciting and opens up a whole new frontier that you previously may not have thought existed (or denied the possibility thereof for the sake of maintaining a friendship). On the other, this can be really anxiety-provoking and disorienting. If you were just friends, and now you're dating, here are a few things to keep in mind while you undergo the transition, because there’s nothing better than a friend — unless it’s a friend you can kiss.

1. Forget everything you thought you knew about the person.

You're on totally new ground, and you can't expect your former friend to be the same exact way now that you're dating. They might act weird or do strange things you’ve never seen them do before. Be patient and kind. And understanding.

2. They’re anxious too.

It’s entirely possible that they’re overthinking every date idea and overanalyzing every text message. Just like you. That’s just what we do when romance gets involved. Part of life. Normal.

3. Don’t expect them to do the same things they did when you were friends.

If they flopped on your couch and talked about their weird Tinder dates in the past, that obviously won’t be happening any more. But they might also be hesitant to tell you stories of past sexual conquests now, or not be so comfortable wearing their most homely of sweats around you, or whatever it is that makes them feel self-conscious that used to be just fine. Roll with it. You’re probably feeling the same way.

4. Intimacy can be difficult for everyone, so go slow.

Even if you were BFFAEAE, take it easy. There’s absolutely such a thing as too much too soon when it comes to relationships, and this still applies, even if you were friends first.

5. The rules of dating are different from the rules of friendship.

If you were in a groove with your friend, you will likely have to adjust your groove. Maybe you used to eat pizza every Wednesday night and pass out unconscious next to each other on the couch, but now they want to cook you a five-course meal and show off their knife skills. They are trying to impress you in a different way now, and will perhaps be holding you up in a new, more idealized light. It’s not “just” friendship at this point. We treat our lovers different than the way we treat our friends.

6. You will learn things about your “friend” that you never knew.

This obviously includes sex stuff, but you may also find out more about their family, or their desires, or the way they see the world. We naturally share certain things with partners that we don’t always share with friends. This may have something to do with the intimate nature of a physical relationship, or the types of chemicals released when you’re falling for someone. Who knows. Point is, don’t screech, “Why have you never told me this?!” when they reveal family secrets or long-lost stories of childhood.

7. You’re still friends.

So if your new beau comes to you with a problem they’re having at work, or if you had a rough conversation with a family member and need to talk it through, you can still do that. Don’t let your new romance get in the way of being there for each other. That is important, and can remain foremost in your relationship if you let it.

8. You already trust each other, so don’t start second-guessing everything now.

If in the past, your friend went out dancing until four in the morning with whomever and you never gave it a thought, now is not the time to start wondering what they’re really up to in da club. Trust.

9. On the flip side, knowledge is power.

If you already know this person has major intimacy issues, or cheated on previous partners, or has never committed to anyone a day in their life, don’t turn a blind eye now that you’re making out. It’s tempting to tell yourself that you’re special, or it’ll be different with you, or that, worst of all, you’ll change them. While it’s pretty to think so, it’s likely that none of that is true. Proceed with caution.

10. Don’t clam up.

You’ve already disclosed deep fears and embarrassing stories to your friend; now is not the time to go underground with that kind of thing. Don’t try to impress this person or hold yourself up to some kind of new and wildly sexy standard now that your relationship is changing. Be you.

11. It might not work out, and this may result in the end of your friendship.

I know: No one wants to consider this possibility. But it’s a real one, and it’s worth acknowledging. I’m a hopeless romantic, so I’d never suggest ignoring feelings in the interest of maintaining a friendship. I’d tell you to go for it every time. But do so with awareness, and talk about these things with your friend/partner.

Images: Merlijn Hoek/Flickr; Giphy