'I'm in love with my friend' - Why people catch feelings and want to move from platonic to romantic

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Illustration. Photographed by 
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Illustration. Photographed by Flashpop
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  • Many believe a woman and a man cannot have a platonic relationship, but this is an age-old debate.
  • In an instance where you do fall in love with a friend, what should you do? 
  • If you decide to express your feelings to the other party you might be tempted to first look out for signs that will make it easier for you to communicate - but we all know how assumptions might lead to disappointment and embarrassment.
  • Registered counsellor, Catherine Malahlela-Mathebula shares why you may have fallen for a friend and how to handle the situation.

According to Psychology Today, platonic love is a special emotional and spiritual relationship between two people who love and admire one another because of common interests, a spiritual connection, and similar world views.

It does not involve any sexual engagement. While we might argue that it is possible to remain just friends with your friend, we cannot dismiss the fact that feelings of wanting to be more may develop over time, hence the term "friend-zone" was coined.

READ MORE: Dating over Zoom? Don’t be surprised if those online sparks fizzle in person

Taking to Quora, a user shared how she would like her platonic relationship with her male best friend to be more; however, she had no idea how to go about it.

The user asks, "So I have a crush on my best friend, but we're like very, very close, we've been friends for more than four years, and we share a good relationship. Plus, he just broke up with his girlfriend. But he always thinks that I'm his sister. What should I do?"

We asked registered counsellor, Catherine Malahlela-Mathebula, if it is a good idea to cross the line of friendship. "Old school thoughts would say no; however, it is ideal to tell him as the secrecy may lead to unwarranted negative feelings being projected onto him or his counterparts, e.g. new girlfriends or his other female friends. Living in authenticity is essential to be fruitful in your different relationships. As such, transparency and finding your ideal place in the lives of those around you is imperative," Catherine says.

READ MORE: 33 entertaining lockdown date ideas, especially if you're so lucky to be with your partner

Should you decide to go straight ahead and express your feelings, you might be tempted to first look out for signs that will make it easier for you to communicate but we all know how assumptions might lead to disappointment and embarrassment.

Catherine advises not to look for any signs, "Acting according to internalised assumptions will not help you in this case. Remember, there is a high probability that he does not know you have these feelings towards him, therefore what signs would you be hoping to see that are a figment of your infatuation. You cannot exist holistically if your actions are dependent on other people's supposed 'signals'. Just like a friend who does something you don't like but does not realise it, you need to address the matter as per your identified need and not assume the incident is viewed the same by both of you."

READ MORE: Struggling to find love in this lonely time of Covid-19? Why not pay an expert to do it for you?

Before you confess your love, you need to understand why you ended up falling in love with your friend.

There are millions of reasons that cause us to fall in love with our male friends, but the most common ones include:

Familiarity

Friends usually treat you like their family, and they do not treat you as your boyfriends would as they are not judging your companionship compatibility.

Unconditional positive regard

Friends usually laugh at your imperfections and act as though they accept them. They really are not assessing your skills or characteristics of being their lover; hence, you will feel unconditionally loved, unlike the male lovers who compare you to other partners that they consider ideal.

Positive affirmation

Friends give you good treatment without the massive expectations to be impressive, and because they usually have not dated you yet, they tend to compliment your strengths more than feel challenged by them, which gives off the "he just gets me so much" impression.

False perfection pedestal

Women often get direct and indirect compliments from their friends who hold them at a highly revered position as an ideal woman. Of course, this tends to come at the price of the other women in the friend's life being minimised. This then causes some women to assume that they are more ideal for the guy, and so is he for them, therefore why not date.

READ MORE: Love at first flight - How a drone and a bubble secured a date for this couple during quarantine 

Now that we have covered why you may have fallen in love with your friend, we have to move on to the steps necessary to ensure effective communication.

Catherine suggests following these steps:

-         Assess whether this is a relationship that you would like, as at times we get excited by some characteristics that our friend has but do not necessarily assess the whole person as a potential lover.

-          Look at whether he is suitable for the fundamentals you want in your relationship portfolio. This friend may genuinely be ideal, but he would not be your ideal match romantically.

-          Prepare yourself for awkwardness whether things go your way or not. Any new proposals for restructuring a relationship cause a sense of ambivalence: how do I react around him now, is this gesture not more friendly than romantic?

-          You need to be ready for any outcome and ask yourself if you can move on from this amicably?

Remember the outcome you might have hoped for may not be the result. Always keep in mind that the other party is allowed to have a choice in this matter.

No one has to comfort you with a falsified sense of mutual agreement. Always remember that at the centre of all this, you have a good relationship that you should not dismiss because you cannot be lovers.

Preserve that care and platonic love by moving on to building an even better friendship.

Have you ever caught feelings for your friend? Tell us here

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