Abigail Ruhman is a freshman journalism and political science major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about student life, politics and social issues for The Maneater.
Distinguishing between a friendship and the beginning of a romantic or sexual relationship can be difficult. Weighing the pros and cons of pursuing a relationship isn’t something you can do between one moment and the next. It may feel like it’s right in the moment, but the consequences of that moment may be bigger than you think.
While shows like “Friends” or “How I Met Your Mother” like to have a close friend as a love interest, that doesn’t mean that the real world will work similarly.
One of the major consequences of dating within a friend group is that it can shift the dynamics of the group dramatically.
During my sophomore year of high school, I wanted to be more than friends with someone within my inner circle. Once I discovered that they felt the same way, we started a romantic relationship.
When it fell apart a month or two later, the dynamics of the group had already changed. The relationship didn’t end with a fight, but with an acknowledgement that it wasn’t what we needed. At the time, I didn’t know that conversation would lead to months of not talking.
All of a sudden, people had to decide whose side they were on, as if there were sides to begin with. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret the relationship, but I regret the consequences. I’m lucky that we only stopped talking for only a few months, rather than never talking again. Those consequences are enough for me to never try it again, however.
There are times when pursuing a relationship with one of your close friends feels like the best decision in the world. Relationships, romantic or platonic, are built on the same elements. Relationships should feel like a fantastic friendship with extra affection, but sometimes dating your close friend means you miss some important signs.
New York-based relationship and etiquette expert of Relationship Advice Forum April Masini explained to Bustle that spotting red flags can be difficult when it comes to close friends.
“When you don’t know someone very well, and you start dating, you’re usually more careful and you don’t let things slide the way you do when your best friend is now your date,” Masini said. “It’s not until you’re deep into the relationship you realize that you let someone in who doesn’t share your values as a partner.”
Those differences can lead to the end of not only a romantic relationship, but also the friendship. They also tend to lead to a messier break-up, which can contribute to the changing dynamics of the friend group.
In addition, close friends tend to know too much about you. Masini also explained that your close friend may know who you’ve had a crush on, who you’ve had a relationship with or even some of your “deep-dark secrets.” These are things that friends learn as confidante, and significant others learn as a show of intimacy.
When your partner already knows your secrets, you lose that chance to form that type of intimacy. Not only that, but they may already have knowledge that can lead to feel jealous or insecure. If they act on that, it can become difficult to mix that trust, knowledge and insecurity in a healthy way.
There are times when a relationship with a close friend can work out. They may be the one, or you can be really good at the whole friends-with-benefits situation. The issue is that often times those relationships start without considering the consequences.
If you want to pursue a romantic or sexual relationship with a close friend, weigh the pros and cons. Figure out if this is what is best for you because you may be risking an important friendship, or the current dynamic of your inner circle.
Enter into whatever relationship you want, just remember that you may have to pay more attention to different aspects of a relationship. Whether it’s allowing yourself to notice red flags or finding someone new to confide in, dating a close friend means putting more effort or thought into the relationship.
Make sure to weigh the risks and benefits because it may mean the difference between a lifelong best friend or just another regret you have from college.