Realizing that you have feelings for a friend can be incredibly confusing — whether they are romantic feeling or just a sexual attraction. Friendship is tricky, because it seems like it go one of two ways. Either you get to know each other so well it becomes almost familial and there is no sexual tension whatsoever — or the warmth of your friendship can breed something that feels a lot like sexual chemistry.
But as soon as you realize you're attracted to a friend, things can get complicated. Should you act on it? Could it be friends with benefits? Is it something more? And, the eternal question: will you ruin everything forever? It's really tough to know where to go with it. "Generally I say go for it," relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW tells Bustle. "But be direct and realistic. The reason I say go for it is because a friendship is really a great starting ground for a relationship. You like each other, respect each other and enjoy each other’s company. If you find that you are sexually attracted to each other you can have the whole package."
And she's right, it can be the whole package. But like Hartstein says, you have to be realistic, because if it's only a one-way thing then it can mess up the entire friendship. So what should you do?
Know It Can Go A Couple Of Different Ways
What's your dynamic with this friend? If you've been friends for a long time and it hasn't turned romantic, there's a good chance it won't — life is not a rom-com and I am not Ryan Reynolds, no matter how hard I try. But if you guys have had chemistry, it could be a good friends with benefits situation. The only problem with that is if you have more than sexual feelings for them. Then there's a good chance of getting hurt. So make sure you're being honest about what this attraction really means for you and what you would want out of it.
If you haven't been friends for very long, there's normally a bit more flexibility. You can still mold things to go your way and maybe move into a romantic or sexual realm with ease. But how can you do it?
Move Cautiously And Feel Them Out
Unless you're OK with the whole friendship potentially going up in flames, you're going to want to move slowly. "The reason I say to be realistic is because there’s a good chance that your friend still sees you as a platonic friend," Hartstein says. "Just because your feelings have changed doesn’t mean that theirs has as well. The best course of action is usually to feel your friend out. Say something like, 'I really enjoy spending time with you. Sometimes I wonder about it turning into something more. Do you ever have those kinds of thoughts?'" Dip your toe in the water and see where it goes.
Remember It's A Risk
But you need to know that there's a possibility this attraction and interest won't be reciprocated — and be ready to deal with the consequences of that. "If the friend says yes then it might be the beginning of something," Harstein says. "If the friend says no, be prepared to be a bit self-conscious for a while but if you were on solid ground to start, most people can easily weather something like this." You know your friendship, so if you think that it can weather the storm, then go for it.
Realizing you're sexually attracted to a friend can be a bit of a wakeup call and make you wonder about other possibilities in the friendship. Make sure that you think about where you would really like this to go and if it's realistic. If it is, then it's time to move in — but proceed with caution. Who knows? You might get a great friends-with-benefits situation out of it or even something more.