What To Do When I Love My Best Friend?

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There's a lot of stuff out there about "the friend-zone," a mysterious line that designates whether you're date-able or not. Falling for friends can be quite natural because you often spend a lot of time together and have similar interests. Flirting can be a joke to start with, but over time much of what goes into a best friend relationship is no different from a loving one asides from the physical aspects. It can get tiresome to constantly tell people you're "just friends" because the line has become so blurred.

How To Tell You Love Them

Love is a very intangible thing, but according to Gary Chapman there are five clear love languages you can look out for:

  • Quality Time
  • Service/Devotion
  • Gifting
  • Touch
  • Compliments

When we like someone, we want to spend as much time with them as possible, and when we're not with them, we think about them, so we end up buying them gifts or doing things to make their lives easier. Without realizing we're already doing to first three on that list. It's also natural to want to make our friends feel good so we often give them compliments - there goes number four. Do you hug your friends?

Well, that's where it starts to get confusing. You're exhibiting touch by hugging, holding hands, and while you might not be sexual with them, your body doesn't know the difference, so it's giving you the same chemicals and hormones needed for a bond to form. Your body works on a survival/biological instinct which is to find a mate and reproduce. Since you seem mostly compatible with your friend, it's natural that you'll start feeling that urge to take things to the next step. There may start to be sexual tension if the feelings are reciprocated.

What's Wrong With Me?

Nothing. It's perfectly normal to love someone, and loving your best friend can lead to a great relationship since you're already so in sync. The problem is when the feelings are not reciprocated. Taking that step between friendship and relationship can be tough. If you've been thinking about the fact that you love your best friend you may also be worried about losing their friendship. You have to make a decision about which is more important. Is it more important to give what could be an amazing relationship a shot or keep your best friend? Only you can make that choice. What if they say no?

What If They're The Same Sex?

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Same sex relationships are pretty mainstream these days, but many people have been brought up in cultures which don't accept them. If you feel that one of the reasons you feel there is something wrong with you is because you're attracted to the same sex, then you are not alone. Many people struggle with accepting their sexuality, especially at a young age. These feelings are normal, and it's a good idea to reach out to trusted people like family and teachers if you're struggling with them. You may even want to talk to a close friend or someone you can trust to keep it a secret until you're ready to let everyone know. Don't automatically assume you will not be accepted as most cultures are changing to understand that same-sex love is no different than heterosexual love.

Unrequited Love

It's normal when you are rejected for that person to want distance. They need time to re-examine their interactions with you and will likely be wondering if something they did has been misinterpreted. Reassure them; only you can control your feelings, and let them have the space they need or you will damage any chance of retaining the friendship.

Dealing with unrequited love is difficult, we have all the feelings without any of the justification. Part of what makes unrequited love so tough is that we spend a lot of time grieving for a relationship that "could have been" yet never was. We grieve for something that never existed and, while we may kid ourselves to feel better, never had a chance to exist. It sounds romantic to pine away after someone, but the reality is that it's painful and can be devastating.

Rejection sucks, you feel broken-hearted, and you'll go through all the symptoms of a bad break up which can tear your friendship apart. You may feel physical pain, but the body reacts as if all pain was physical. Studies have shown that even the person doing the rejection feels pain and usually guilt from having to reject the love offered. The body doesn't have more than one mechanism for dealing with pain which is why our emotional stress is interpreted like physical pain. There's even such a thing as Broken-Hearted Syndrome which can be fatal.

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To deal with unrequited love you often search for closure, the same as you would in a real relationship. It's important to give that up because there will not be any evidence that "it's over" since there never was an "it." This is the part which many people end up needing a therapist for. Relationship therapy or counseling can help you get that need for closure fixed and channel your energy into moving on. It might even save your friendship. Start by finding a therapist that can work for your situation and budget but make sure they're the type of person you can open up to. Without being wholly honest with yourself in this situation, your friend will probably not want you around. Sites like BetterHelp give you search tools to narrow down who you want to talk to.

Other Options

When dealing with a situation where your best friend doesn't return your love, it's best to treat it like a breakup situation. Your body is treating it that way so the rest of you should too. It's just going to be a little harder because usually you would turn to your best friend and you can't. Your goal with this exercise is to push through the grief over the lost relationship until you reach the acceptance stage and can comfortably move on.

Talk To Someone

Just because you can't talk to your best friend, it doesn't mean there isn't anyone else there. Talk to your parents, a different friend, even a teacher at school about what is going on. Getting your feelings out can be cathartic, and it can help you organize your thoughts. It needs to be out loud because the very act of getting the words out is what makes the exercise work, emails, etc. are just not the same. By admitting it, you'll also reinforce the fact that it's over. You may choose to ask them before you broach the subject with your friend and save the awkwardness by knowing in advance that they're not interested.

Create A Playlist/Do Some Self-Care

It's amazing what a little pampering will do when you're dealing with a breakup. Spend some time on you - do your nails, have a massage, and crank up some feel-good music to stop yourself from wallowing. There are tons of feel-good playlists out there and while you might end up having a good cry at some of the songs getting it out is the only way you'll be able to move on from there.

Many people who are feeling down often neglect the basics of self-care but doing them may help make you feel better. Getting your hair changed is a great way of being able to see a "new beginning" right away and is a common metaphor for "cutting off" the old relationship. Even the act of making a playlist is more productive than sitting moping.

Work On Yourself

When we're putting energy into a relationship, we often neglect our self-growth. To keep your mind busy try and be proactive and work on something that improves you as a person. Consider taking some classes, starting a fitness routine, doing some yoga, or even learning a new language. By using your time productively, you'll spend less of it moping.

What If I can't Get Over Them?

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If you're still struggling to move on then, it's important to get help. When you love your best friend, sometimes the only thing to do is to tackle the subject head-on - ask their feelings, then deal with the answer. If they say they feel the same or they're willing to give it a shot, then you're a very lucky person. Treat them specially and appreciate that you're one of only a small amount of people who do get to be in love with their best friend. If you've been dealing with this issue for more than six weeks, it's likely you'll need some professional help. Don't be ashamed to reach out; it's better than things get fixed than continuing to live with those feelings.

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