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Friends or More?
Dear Dating Coach,
A male friend and I have been through several ups and downs together over the past year and we now both consider each other "best friends." After a few months, we decided that we would continue to be friends, but be open to something more between us in the future. I personally feel that this is a healthy way to begin a relationship, and I know he feels the same way.
He has always said we are friends, but on the other hand, he has always acted like we're a couple, whether in public or when it's just the two of us. After a year, I'm beginning to have some romantic feelings for him, but neither of us has brought up the subject yet. My instincts tell me that he feels the same way for me as I do for him, and friends have confirmed that it's not just "in my head," they see a mutual chemistry between us.
I've told you all this as a lead up to the question: Is there anything to be read into the fact that, even though he says we're "just friends," he continues to act like we're a couple? I know I should probably just ask him, but I sincerely don't want to risk losing him as a friend. If I perceived his acting as though we are a couple as a good sign, I might be more inclined to bring up the subject rather than waiting for him to take the lead. Help! --Mixed Up By Mixed Messages
A twist on the friend crush. You two are "best friends," you both seem to be feeling and wanting more, yet no one is addressing the issue. You fear bringing it up because it could hurt the friendship if he isn't feeling what you are. He hasn't done so because he either shares your concerns or has some other agenda.
The first step for you should be to weigh the risks against the gain of broaching the subject. Only you can determine if it is worth the risk--because there are never any guarantees about how any conversation will go, especially one of this nature. Make sure you factor in the risk that he could meet someone else while you two avoid addressing this. Once you have decided what you want to risk, then it's time to act. Wait until a moment when you two are behaving like a couple, having a great time together, and then just ask something open-ended and easy like- "So, what's really going on with us anyway?" Don't just listen to his response-- watch what he does with his eyes, hands, facial expressions, tone of voice.
Again, if you keep it open-ended and easy- you will leave him room to think and react in a way that is comfortable for him. If he doesn't have an answer at first, just back away gently. If he asks for more clarification from you, respond again in an easy way. Something like, "We have such a great time together and it's so easy for us to relate to one another. Are we becoming something more than just friends?"
Don't force the issue, and be careful of your reaction to whatever he says. If he gets a very negative response from you, his defenses will go up. However, if you are open and neutral--it will be easier for the two of you to continue as friends even after this subject is raised, unless you decide at some point that isn't enough for you.
(from July 2009)
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"Soul mates or Something else"
Toni Coleman, LCSW
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