Is It Ever a Good Idea To Date Your Friends?

A relationship coach explains how to navigate the tricky friendship-to-romance pipeline.
Relationships love advice friends best friend coach dating
Is it worth the risk? Photo: Khoa Võ, Pexels

There are lots of fish in the sea. But should you start with the ones you know? Whether or not dating a friend is a good idea is a question many people ask but few answer easily. 

The pro, of course, is that you likely know your friend well. You have a strong foundation built on plenty of common ground and shared memories. For some, friendship is like a litmus test for romance. They can’t imagine having someone as a lover if they don’t even have them as a friend.


But a lot of the time, the con of turning a friendship into romance is that one friend has feelings before the other does. Sometimes these feelings are reciprocated but this is never guaranteed. Romance is tricky on its own and navigating friendship along with it often only makes it trickier. Making that leap could lead to a solid romantic relationship but it could also end the platonic one you already have. 

“If you’re going to risk your friendship by saying you want to continue romantically, you have to be really sure that your friend is into you,” John Kim, a Los Angeles-based therapist, relationship coach, and author of the book It’s Not Me, It’s You: Break the blame cycle. Relationship better., told VICE. “Because if your friend isn’t into you, you’re going to risk the friendship [and] it’s going to get weird.”

In other words, people have to be careful about attempting to turn friendships into romances because it will almost certainly change relationship dynamics. Sure, you can always go back to being friends, but it may never be the same. So what do you do when you find yourself in this situation?


If you fancy your friend… 

First, get a feel for your friend’s feelings. You might be comfortable opening up to them as a friend, so much so that you feel like you can tell them anything and everything all at once, but that’s not always the best way to do it. 

Kim said that you have a responsibility to not disclose your feelings for your friend if there are no clues that they like you too, because it puts them in an uncomfortable position if they don’t in fact have feelings for you.

If you’re good friends, you’ll probably have an idea of how they feel about you without resorting to bluntly asking. You can flirt a little bit and see if they flirt back, for example. The point is to not dump your feelings on them. 

If you think they might like you too and are willing to take the risk, say something like: “Hey, we’ve been friends for this long and I’ve been noticing that my feelings are growing for you. Can we talk about this? Here’s what I’m willing to own, because I don’t want the friendship to be over. What would make it safe for you?”

Kim advised against setting ultimatums, or threatening to end the friendship if your friend doesn’t feel the same way. 

“I think that’s selfish. If you like someone and you know the other person doesn’t like you back, you have to process that,” he said. 

You could set some boundaries and limit the time you see each other, for example, “but to completely kill a friendship because you have feelings for someone, I think that’s kind of young.” It’s akin to using friendship as leverage for romance, as opposed to using it as a healthy foundation. 


If your friend fancies you… 

If you’re at the receiving end of the romantic confession, remember that you don’t need to give the relationship a shot just for the sake of it.

With romances born out of friendships, people run the risk of ignoring the signs that it may not work out because they worry about hurting someone important to them. In other words, they force themselves into romance for fear of losing friendship. Unfortunately, they might find in the end that they just lose both. 

But keep an open mind. Don’t just run the other way and never talk to your friend again. “That’s just cruel,” Kim said.

It’s important to remember that you’re not responsible for managing your friend’s newfound romantic feelings, but you can still be a good friend by asking what they need from you and being honest about what you’re willing and not willing to give.  

Whichever side you’re on, here are a few reminders:

Not all good friends make good partners

Friendships are different from romances, after all. You may not want to spend as much time with a lover as you would with a friend. Or vice-versa. Or you could find that you’re incompatible in bed. 

Dating a friend could lead to unrealistic expectations

When you’re dating someone new, you know less and expect less. There’s also no risk of losing a friendship, which could make it easier to explore these intimate details up front.

Honesty is most important 

For Kim, the key to attempting to turn friendships into romances is for both parties to be honest and responsible about their feelings. 

“That’s the only thing,” he said. “If we have two people doing that, whether you have feelings or not, there’s enough respect there for it to not damage the friendship.” 

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