Understanding Your Urges: Sexual Tension Between Friends

Updated March 8, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Sometimes a friendship blossoms over time into something deeper, eventually becoming a romantic relationship. Since the foundation of these partnerships is friendship, they can produce some of the deepest and longest-lasting relationships. Taking the time to develop a strong foundation upon which you know, care for, and understand each other, can lend itself to nurturing a healthy romance. Not all friendships will (or are meant to) turn into something more than that. It’s normal to have romantic tension between those you call friends but knowing what to do with those urges is what matters.

Should I Tell My Friend I’m Attracted To Them?

Catching Feelings For Friends

You may feel more comfortable interacting with someone that you consider more of a good friend than a potential romantic partner. However, over time, more romantic feelings may start to grow. If you realize that you’re attracted to your friend, know that this is normal. When someone knows you deeply (and vice versa) it can be hard not to become attracted to them. Knowing someone for a longer amount of time can also increase their attractiveness. Deciding what to do with this tension will be up to you; there is no one right answer for every situation, though there are factors to consider.

Defining Intimacy

The innate desire to be seen as who we are is what steers the emotional attachment termed "intimacy." As social creatures, this is something we all long for. It is defined as a positive emotional bond that evokes feelings and behaviors related to understanding and support. Through mutual acceptance and valuing one another (or showing respect), we can build intimacy with others. Intimacy is associated with positive emotions and is considered one of the biggest rewards to humans in pursuit of maintaining close relationships.

Types Of Intimacy

Intimacy is normal within relationships, even those between two friends. There are different types of relationships – with specific needs that each of them meets. You can have familial bonds, sexual bonds, or friendships. In each of these relationships, the kind and level of intimacy will look different. Intimacy can be:

  1. Intellectual: You can have discussions that center on big life questions, philosophies, and political ideologies.
  2. Emotional: When you are emotionally intimate in a friendship or relationship, it means your innermost thoughts are bare before the other person. You can be vulnerable around them instead of walking on eggshells, and you don’t feel judged.
  3. Physical: Physical intimacy means you can be affectionate towards someone without necessarily being sexually intimate.It is most common within the bounds of people dating.You hold hands, cry on each other’s shoulders, or hug.
  4. Sexual: Those who have sexual intimacy are often highly passionate toward one another. Usually, it involves both people physically pleasuring one another. This kind of intimacy can be the most powerful and vulnerable.

Intimacy can be built over time, and every relationship will move at a different speed. Keeping different boundaries with different people can help keep relationships healthy and thriving.

Signs Of Sexual Tension

Noticing sexual tension is something you may feel or experience rather than be able to explain.The signs of sexual tension can even be physical, such as prolonged eye contact, continually talking about the person, increased heart rate, or how you respond to the person's touch. You may feel nervous around this other party or giddy to see them. 

Acting On Sexual Tension

Even if you're friends, sexual tension can be very natural between two people that find each other attractive and have the same sexual identity. It's up to each person to decide if the sexual attraction you feel is something that you want to or should act on. Choosing to act on a sexual attraction may change the relationship the two of you already have, and there could be both positives and negatives to that.

There are many different reasons why some people act on sexual attraction and why people may decide not to follow through on these feelings. One example might be that sexual tension can exist between two people who are already committed. It's unrealistic to think that you'll no longer find others attractive just because you decide to commit yourself to a relationship. Other reasons could be that you work together or are not interested in a long-term romantic relationship and are worried that sex could ruin a good friendship.You might worry that the person will treat you differently if you get physical, or that you could start acting differently toward them.

Maybe it’s appealing to think of starting a romantic relationship with a person you already know and care about. You may have already discovered that you are ready to take a relationship to the next level. Either way, it's wise to talk through your feelings with someone you trust to try to make sense of your urges.

Should I Tell My Friend I’m Attracted To Them?

Coping With Unreturned Urges

What if the sexual feelings you are having are not returned? People can’t always read other people’s behaviors, and we are especially bad at reading minds. Even if you're almost sure that your friend feels the same tension you do, it's a good idea to check for certain before you act on anything. Does my guy friend like me too? While it may be awkward to take that risk and ask, it could save you from awkward, uncomfortable, or more hurtful situations down the road.

Your friend might feel differently than you do, and rejection is never easy. Accept how you feel and validate your own emotions. Being sexually attracted to someone is normal, but those desires don’t need to be fulfilled each time if there are healthy, logical reasons for moving on instead.

If you have acknowledged that a sexual relationship with a certain person is unwise, then what do you do with the feelings of attraction you can't seem to shake? Here are some helpful tips to avoid "getting physical":

  • Avoid being alone with the other party.
  • When you are tempted to act on your sexual desire, remind yourself why you cannot be with this person.
  • Do not flirt with or touch them; "friend zone" yourself.
  • Have an honest conversation with the person.
  • Spend less time together.
  • If you're single, try dating other people to see if the way you feel has more to do with needing physical intimacy or feeling lonely.
  • Talk to another friend about the tension you are feeling and let them be your voice of reason.
  • Focus on yourself – your hobbies, needs, and interests.
  • Talk to a mental health professional.

Communication Is Key

Becoming romantically intimate with a friend can change the friendship. If this happens, be honest with them about what you are feeling and what you hope to get out of becoming closer to each other in a new way. You may be able to avoid pain and confusion with open communication and respect for one another as people.

Online Therapy With BetterHelp

Interpersonal relationships, whether they involve sexual intimacy or not, can be confusing. If you have found yourself in a situation that you are having a hard time making sense of, or if you feel you could use some guidance in your relationships, you are not alone. Speaking with a therapist through BetterHelp could be beneficial for your mental health.

The only relationship guides we have are the ones we have experienced or observed, and it can be hard to recognize the qualities of supportive, healthy relationships. It can be helpful to have a support system to lean on as you work through your feelings. A therapist can provide you with the tools and resources you need to move forward productively. Though you may not have healthy friendships you can turn to in difficult times, you can message your therapist at any time throughout the day for advice.

The Effectiveness Of Online Therapy

If you’re experiencing problems in your interpersonal relationships, you may develop mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. Online therapy can be an effective option to help you move forward. One study found that online therapy benefitted people with both anxiety and depression, as well as those with emotional distress. In this study, the results showed that online therapy was just as helpful as traditional face-to-face options.


Feeling sexual tension between you and a platonic friend can be confusing, but it’s a common experience. However, itmaystill be difficult to decide what to do with your feelings.With the right tools, consideration, and support, you can work your way toward a decisionyou feel confident about. Should you need guidance while you make choices about your relationships, online therapy may be of benefit. 

For additional help & support with your concerns

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet Started