How to tell your best friend you love her: 15 steps

     
Billy Crystal & Meg Ryan in the genre-defining When Harry Met Sally. Photograph: Allstar/Columbia
Billy Crystal & Meg Ryan in the genre-defining When Harry Met Sally. Photograph: Allstar/Columbia
Popular culture is littered with examples of great love blossoming from platonic beginnings. But in real life, falling for your best friend doesn’t always go so smoothly



It was supposed lớn go the way things bởi vì in the movies. Nora would tell her best friend that she loved him, he would feel the same way and then they would kiss – preferably in the rain. So when the 30-year-old arts manager declared her love for her best friend when they were still teenagers, she expected a happy ending. “I was so convinced that if you’re best friends & one of you starts getting feelings, the other person would match you.” Sadly, that was not to be the case.

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“I said: ‘I’m in love with you và we should give it a go,’” Nora remembers, “and he couldn’t really meet my eye. I was like: ‘Oh God, oh God, I’ve made a massive mistake!’” He said some kind words & let her down gently. Humiliated, Nora began khổng lồ cry.


If there is one thing pop culture can agree on, it is that platonic friendship can turn to great romance – hence the genre-defining When Harry Met Sally, Ross’s mad airport dash in Friends and Ron & Hermione’s marriage in the Harry Potter novels.

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“You see that trope again and again,” Nora says. “They’re like brother & sister, then something magical happens & they start khổng lồ see that person differently.” But, in real life, things don’t always work out well. What is the best way to tell a friend you are in love with them?


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Jennifer Aniston and David Schwimmer as Rachel và Ross in Friends. Photograph: NBCSit with your feelings for a while, advises Simone Bose, a relationship therapist at Relate. “If you are going to take that step, ask yourself: are you serious about this?” Look for signals that they might be romantically interested in you. “Is it an intense friendship? Does it sometimes feel like boundaries are crossed?” Clues might be if you keep touching each other, or avoid talking about sexual partners around them.

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Nora wishes she had read the signs. “He hadn’t given me any indication that he was interested in me romantically at all, and friends had tried to lớn say that to lớn me very gently, but I wasn’t hearing it.”

Keith, who is 61 và from Bristol, has loved a close friend for more than a decade, during which time he has even put her in his will – but has decided against telling her. “I love her to lớn bits,” he explains, “but I daren’t bring that up because it could unhinge what we currently have.” He does his best khổng lồ be philosophical: “Hey ho – we don’t always get what we want.”

Perhaps he needs a “Cupid”. That’s how Janette Miller, 76, describes the man who helped her towards a very happy 30-year marriage. “Miles was 34 and I was 21; we met when we were learning lớn ice skate. Miles became my friend và dance partner for eight years. But, lớn him, I was just a pair of skates on legs. One day, our mutual friend Noel told me I ought khổng lồ marry Miles. I said that he would be perfect, but he never saw me that way. Luckily for me, Noel had said the same thing khổng lồ Miles – và Miles then started lớn court me.”


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Miles Heffernan và Janette Miller at their wedding in 1972. Photograph: Provided by Janette MillerIf you are unsure whether your best friend may have feelings for you, Bose has a simple solution. “Flirt! Try & get a gauge on whether they’re reacting in a positive way, or if they look really uncomfortable.” Be warned: the flirting may go over their head. When 28-year-old publicist Asher Alexander, from Barnet, asked his best friend, Rae, to the cinema, he thought it was clear he was asking her on a date. But his intentions were lost on her. “After the movie, I said: ‘Look, we should make this an official thing và date properly.’” Rae was so shocked she laughed in his face. Happily, she softened over time; six years later, they are getting married.

What you shouldn’t vị is tell your friend you love them when you are drunk or high. “You can behave in a more emotionally catastrophic way,” Bose warns. “Things can get out of hand quite quickly. So have the confidence to tóm tắt your feelings when you’re sober.” Keira, 28, learned this the hard way after confessing her feelings for her best friend after taking MDMA on a night out. “It wasn’t just like: ‘I’m high and I’m just saying this because I’m high,’” the editor, from London, clarifies. “I genuinely believed it at the time. I’d been thinking it for ages and blurted it out before I’d processed it.” He responded positively & they made plans to go on a date. But as it neared, Keira started having doubts. “I’d think: ‘Do I actually fancy him? He’s a great guy, but I couldn’t imagine us having sex.’” So she did something she profoundly regrets: she ghosted him. “It is probably the absolute worst thing I’ve ever done khổng lồ a friend.”

Alex, 27, who works in the fashion industry, fell in love with his best friend. When they met in 2015, “it was love at first sight”. They bonded over everything – their childhoods, values & favourite photographers. “I connected with him in a way that I have connected with few human beings on this Earth.” But Alex has never said anything. Why? Because his friend is straight. “There was nothing khổng lồ be gained from telling him, because I knew he didn’t like me in that way.”

Eventually, Alex had to take a step back from the friendship because it became too painful. He knows he made the right choice. “I believe he knows and, in my heart of hearts, I believe he did love me back in some way. He used lớn say I was like his soulmate, or brother – lượt thích a soul brother. I didn’t believe in love at first sight or soulmates until I met him. If there’s a platonic version of a soul mate …” He tails off. “The connection was very strong and very real.”

Be mindful of how you transition from a physical relationship to a sexual one. For 31-year-old copywriter Tom, who has been in a relationship with his best friend for two years, it came easily. “The sex was totally mental và as soon as that happened we were both like: ‘Well, if we’re best mates and the sex is mental ... We’ve been inseparable ever since.” But what if the sex feels awkward, like you’re kissing your brother or sister? “Go with the flow và what your desires are, rather than forcing it,” says the sex therapist Miranda Christophers. If at any point it doesn’t feel right, take some time out. “Think about why it’s not feeling right. Focus on that feeling and ask yourself: ‘Am I just feeling nervous, or is it actually that I don’t really want lớn be doing this?’ In which case, you need to remember that they are your friend, first & foremost, và you should be honest with them & say: ‘It’s not feeling right.’”


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Rae & Asher, who have been together for six years và are getting married next month. Photograph: Provided by AsherWhen things go right, falling in love with your best friend can be magical. “I have nothing khổng lồ hide from her,” says Alexander. “I can be my most complete self, & open, and I never have to succumb khổng lồ any of that bullshit toxic masculinity where I have lớn ‘be the man’.”

The downside? “It can be claustrophobic,” says Tom. “Sometimes we’ll be having a tiff & our group WhatsApp will go off and I see her respond lớn it – even though she’s ignoring my messages.” Alexander has never been able khổng lồ keep a secret from Rae, because she knows him so well. “She’s so good at reading me – from my tone of voice khổng lồ my facial expression. It’s just really hard lớn keep things on the downlow. I don’t think I’ve ever got her a surprise gift without her knowing what it is a week before.”

And what if the relationship doesn’t work out? In a word: communicate. “Say: ‘This is hard, but let’s work this out, because we want to lớn be friends,’” Bose advises. “That can be tricky, because once you’ve gone over the line it’s hard lớn go back. But it’s not impossible.” Ellen, a 26-year-old HR manager from Ashford, is proof you can transition back to friendship amicably. She discovered her love for her best friend lượt thích they bởi vì in the movies – by kissing him in the rain. (It was less cinematic than it sounds: they were drunk, waiting for a night bus and standing beside some bins.) After three years of dating, they broke up in 2016. “The passion had gone & it was back khổng lồ us being friends again.” As they both felt the same way at the same time, the breakup was frictionless. “Our friendship is still as strong. I can talk to him about anything at any time.”

Some names & identifying details have been changed. Additional reporting by Rachel Obordo