A bipartisan look at the age-old friends-to-lovers narrative.
The storied friend-to-partner pipeline is a trope I spent much of my young life raging against. To me, it stood as a testament to the fallibility of all my platonic friendships. As a straight woman, it implied that my relationships to men were, at their core, disingenuous—that friendship could only act as a prerequisite for romance and was thus merely posturing. All a sham. As Nora Ephron so astutely put it in When Harry Met Sally, “Men and women can never be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.”
Gender normativity aside, this is an old tune. The thesis is simple: You cannot maintain a friendship with someone you could potentially, theoretically, in some version of the world, find yourself attracted to. But for our present purposes, that is beside the point. In fact, for most defenders of the friends-to-lovers paradigm, the intent is not to undermine the quality of platonic friendships, but rather, to imply that friendship can be the basis for a valid romantic relationship. In fact, it’s actually been proven that you’re likely to find someone increasingly more attractive, the longer you’ve known them—which makes friendship a plenty stable ground floor for love.
So, with that in mind, should you date your friends?
Well: Maybe, maybe not. Like any other romantic rule of thumb, there are as many success stories as there are...missteps. But the idea here is that there is some merit to building intimacy out of platonic friendship. There are obvious benefits: Likely, you’ve already curated some level of trust, you've familiarized yourselves with one another’s quirks, you’ve earned the pleasure of skipping the ever-awkward niceties of introducing a new partner to friends and family. Then, naturally, there are cons—the loss of a meaningful friendship due to romantic complications, or the realization that perhaps there was a reason you were friends rather than lovers in the first place.
In any case, with the intent to help you weigh your odds, we’ve come up with a roster of questions to ask yourself before you prepare to plunge into romantic territory with a long-standing friend. May they help you consummate your friendships in good conscience.
Is your chemistry actually romantic?
Chemistry is chemistry—it can be a powerful thing. But be sure to take some time to contemplate whether that chemistry is truly the magic of natural camaraderie, or if the romantic undertones are salient enough to pursue.
Are you doing this for the sake of convenience?
Starting from scratch with anyone is a scary prospect. It requires that you willingly let someone else in on the ins and outs of your family history, your bad habits, your occasionally cute and occasionally insufferable idiosyncrasies. Stop and ask yourself if you’re leaning on an already existent friendship as the premise for romantic partnership simply because all that dirty work is already over with?
Maybe this particular friend knows your family, shares a history, has a relationship with your mother. These are all wonderful things, but they should be accessories to your feelings, not the premise for the feelings, themselves.
Is this worth losing a friendship over?
So you’ve got this friend. Maybe you’re attracted to one another. Maybe there’s some sexual chemistry there. But before you plunge into anything at all, assess the pros and cons. Know that, in all likelihood, pursuing a romantic relationship will eradicate the possibility that you can return to an entirely normal iteration of platonic friendship (maybe not forever, but for the time being at least). Is the juice worth the squeeze, so to speak?
What kind of relationship are you looking for?
Being that you’ve already established a rapport — you already know each other in a substantial capacity — it’s likely that any friendship-turned-romance will move quickly. You have the luxury of skipping a few of the preliminary stages. That said, when considering making the jump, be sure that this is something you’re ready for. It’s difficult when you’ve already garnered so much intimacy, to move slowly or cautiously.
How will this alter the dynamic amongst the rest of your friends?
We’re not saying you should avoid pursuing a romantic relationship with your *former* friend because it might splinter your dinner party dynamics. We’re just saying that this is a factor. Know that whether or not this pans out, it will shift alliances or rejigger the social dynamic in your shared community. Maybe that shift will be for the better, maybe it’ll feel neutral, maybe the opposite. All the same, be prepared to shoulder that weight.