I Fell In Love With My Best Friend
I felt like a different kind of connection was forming, beyond the best friendship. Can this be?
Editor’s Note: We have studied relationships for the past four decades, but there is still so much left to learn. Through the individual stories and experiences that are shared in Real Relationships, we want to paint a more realistic picture of love in today’s world. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the author and are not necessarily based on research by the Gottman Institute.
It wasn’t love at first sight. In fact, it took me five years to realize my feelings for her. Kristin and I started out as friends, “girlfriends” who bonded over a shared passion for health and fitness. We had dates with friends who worked together to make the latest superfoods, go hiking, search for the best supplements, and eventually both become certified nutritionists.
Over the years we got even closer. We both had similar health problems and relied on each other for support from someone who really understood them. We communicated daily and seldom went beyond a few days without seeing each other. She had become my best friend.
It wasn’t until New Year’s Eve, five years after our friendship, that something sparkled in me when I looked over at Kristin that night. We were out with a group of friends to celebrate the fresh start that comes with a new year and had great fun as always. When I got home, I repeated the evening with her and had the feeling that a different kind of connection was being formed that went beyond the best friendship.
That confused me so much. First, I shouldn’t see my gay best friend like that. Second, she’s … a woman. Being in a same-sex relationship was new territory and something I hadn’t thought of. I had never felt such attraction to a woman before. Can this be?
My newfound attraction for Kristin led me on a path of self-exploration. While still firmly convinced that I couldn’t fall in love with her, my best friend, I opened up to the idea of looking for love in both sexes instead of limiting myself to men, which I had done by then .
While this opened up a whole new dating pool for me, I still couldn’t overcome my growing feelings for Kristin as hard as I tried to stop him. I was so afraid of making things uncomfortable between us, or worse, ruining the friendship. I was in denial.
One day, months later, after a fun weekend together, I decided to say something. I experienced an intense knowledge that everything would work out and that we would create a beautiful life together. She had to know that too, no matter what the outcome. I wanted to tell her how special our bond was and that it was something that went far beyond friendship. I wanted her to see this very special, beautiful relationship grow between us. I wanted her to give us a chance. Most of all, I wanted to tell her that while I say I want more with her, I would do anything to keep our friendship and keep this as the most important consideration.
I knew without a doubt that she would be scared. (A great benefit of going out with your best friend – and you already know exactly how she’s going to react.) She would hesitate because she fears that it will ruin our friendship and bring about irreversible changes. She wouldn’t believe that I was serious and that I wasn’t just going through an “experimental” phase. Which meant my approach had to be gentle, calming, and engaging.
Thank goodness for text messaging because while I’m the type who makes things happen once I have an idea, I’m also terrible at confrontation and awkwardness. Simple, humorous text would be the way to get this life changing message across.
I spent several days trying to find the perfect message. And then I needed everything to hit that send button. Staring at it for hours, opening and closing the app. Move my finger over the button and you won’t be able to hit send.
We now call it “The Text That Changed Everything”. And it really was. After several long discussions taking into account all aspects, we decided to experiment in order to develop our friendship to a greater extent. It wasn’t easy, it certainly wasn’t smooth, but we wouldn’t change anything. We both recognized that this would be a process that could at times provoke uncomfortable or unfamiliar emotions and that an open mind would be required. Without a solid commitment to getting the job done, it would be far too easy to return to the comfort of a friend zone without giving our experiment a fair chance. Instead, we agreed to be open and intuitive, rather than fear or ego. It took a lot of effort to rewire five years of friendship, but we succeeded. Here’s how we did it:
Constant, open communication
Starting our experiment with a simple text message laid the foundation for how we would continue to communicate during the transition. It was important to create a non-judgmental space where we could express and acknowledge each of our feelings and worries along the way.
Setting clear expectations from the start and being open and honest strengthened trust. We talked and listened a lot. It was a roller coaster ride of mixed feelings and fears versus hope and excitement. Being able to openly express the good and bad with one another at every step made us feel more confident and confident about staying on course.
By far the greatest challenge was to maintain a romantic atmosphere between us. As besties, it was typical for us to hang out in sweatpants or yoga tights, hair in a bun, with no bras or makeup. Comfortable but not exactly romantic! To counter this habit, we introduced specific “date mode” times during which we struggled to put on “real” clothes, do our hair and makeup, and essentially treat the occasion as if we were with us go out to a stranger. We took turns every two weeks to come up with ideas for appointments and to interview each other formally (including a calendar invitation). A huge benefit of already knowing the person you are dating is that it is almost certain that they will love your date idea. These structured times were a critical step in changing the way we think from friends to dating couples. And yes, it was very awkward at first.
We accepted the awkwardness
We knew it would be there, but it still surprised us. As besties, we supported each other through life struggles, health problems, dating frustrations and crushing breakups. We shared an intimate knowledge of each other’s personal life, but each of us had a side that was completely unknown. Getting to know the romantic side of each other was something else. Imagine a longtime friend with whom the limits of physical contact never went beyond the hugs of hello and goodbye. Now imagine that you are holding her hand, trying to cuddle or kissing her for the first time. It felt unnatural. The most effective relief was recognizing the elephant in the room and laughing at it. Changing our dynamics required some patience, persistence, and a sense of humor, but as time went on the awkwardness subsided and we fell more easily into romantic thinking.
We chose privacy
As excited as we were about our potential new love, we didn’t tell anyone right away. We share similar groups of friends and didn’t want any external voices or influences influencing our experiment. We decided it was best to keep it private until we felt more secure as a result. Having that little secret also added an extra layer of fun and excitement while we met. And it turned out no one was surprised when we were comfortable sharing the news with our friends and family!
We have made friendship a priority
We made an important agreement from the start – first and foremost, to prioritize the health of our friendship. It is the foundation of our relationship, romantic or otherwise; without them we have nothing. If at any point either of us felt that the friendship was being compromised, we would stop the experiment and do whatever we can to restore our friendship. This gave both of us a feeling of security to proceed.
Now, over a year after “The text that changed everything”, we are a more-than-friends lesbian couple living together, building a business together, and creating a wonderful life together. We took a chance, made it through the transition alive, and both agree that it was the best thing we’ve ever taken a chance on.