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"Just Friends" : Do The Best Relationships Flourish Out Of Friendships?

By Rachael Shearer 

During college, my friends took great pleasure in mocking my love life because I always seemed to go for guys that I was already friends with. I never saw a problem with it – we already like each other, trust each other ( to a point ) and we get to avoid all the awkward first date, small – talk nonsense that everyone else seems to enjoy so much. Of course, it doesn’t always work out and can be a huge catastrophic risk. Plus - as the story goes - once you cross that line… there’s no going back. 

Classic cases: childhood friends & friends with benefits:

The movies will tell you that the only way this works (or doesn’t) is if you are childhood friends or embark on some ridiculous “friends with benefits” endeavor destined for failure by falling in love. Childhood sweethearts who don’t see each other for years, meet on a chance encounter and suddenly realize that they were destined to be together forever. College friends pushing their liberalism to the limits and embracing their sexuality only to discover that they’ve been in love with each other since the moment they met. These situations are almost entirely limited to fiction – only “My Best Friend’s Wedding” retains some element of reality and is appropriately earth-shatteringly heartbreaking. 

How it works in the real world:

Firstly, you probably have friends and experiences in common which gives you plenty to talk about and you get to hang out with shared friends (so it’s not just the two of you all the time). Plus, likelihood is you know the people that he hangs around with so you can get a pretty good feeling for what he’s like based on his friends. There’s no boring first date interviews where you have to give a brief on your job, familial situation and sell your personality over three courses of awkwardness. The best part is, there’s an element of that Monica & Chandler excitement – sneaking around, knowing it’s slightly inappropriate, but realizing that it could actually be worth it. You have a secret that grows from an uncertain experiment to a blossoming romance. 

Why it doesn’t…

Taking another Friends example, let’s look at Rachel & Joey. Sometimes a flash of unresolved sexual tension can be confusing and create the illusion of romance. Basic physical attraction can often happen between friends but it doesn’t always mean something beyond the existing platonic relationship. While it can be worth pursuing to see if there is something “there”, as soon as it gets awkward, it’s time to bail. If, like Rachel, you find yourself swatting their hands away, then maybe you really are “just friends”.

Taking a risk:

Realistically, the way something like this is going to happen is after a few too many drinks in a scenario that you might not remember all that well the following day. If you need to keep up the “just friends” situation, you can laugh it off and move on with your lives as though nothing happened – problem solved. If this is the trigger that starts something bigger, you have to move into sober territory. This is where you take the risk of getting too involved, too attached and rushing into something without thinking. If it doesn’t work out, you could lose your friend. Even if reach a mature and amicable decision to be “just friends again”, it is important to recognize that that friendship will be forever changed and difficult, if not impossible, to regain entirely intact.

What about the “spark”?

In my personal experiences, more often than not these things happen out of convenience and are no more than a brief fling or a casual “thing”. Some fizzle out, some explode into a sea of hatred, some are a mere blip on the radar – a “spark” may have drunkenly fluttered a little but it never amounted to much. However, it all depends on the friend in question. More recently, I fell for one of my best friends, and the whole process has been endlessly surprising. We kept it a secret for an incredibly long time and constantly expected total disaster, but against all odds it worked out unexpectedly perfectly. The “spark” can come in many ways. Sometimes getting with a friend is just a bit of fun and the spark is nowhere to be seen… on the rare occasion, you might realize that it was there all along and you were just being blind, oblivious fools.

When Harry Met Sally

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