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The Friends-To-Lovers Trope Is A Common Fantasy, But Can It Work IRL?

When it comes to our favorite romances, people typically flock to stories of friends-to-lovers — we have the desire to find friendship and love all wrapped into one. And when we’re watching our favorite TV shows or reading our favorite books, what typically keeps us going is that sweet, slow burn.

“I think the friends-to-lovers trope is a universal favorite because people simply want to be seen and loved for who they are,” Mae Martinez, assistant editor of a romance imprint at Penguin Randomhouse, tells Betches. “There’s nothing quite like being known on a deep level and then being chosen in a deliciously unexpected way.”

But when it comes to real life, taking that next step with someone you’re great friends with is a little more complicated — and it doesn’t always end with a happily-ever-after. “People are so interested in watching friendships turn into relationships because it’s so relatable,” Laurel House, a relationship expert at eharmony, tells Betches. “Friendships to romantic relationships can become the best, deepest, and most sustaining relationships.” And while it’s probably an ideal situation for someone you already have a meaningful friendship with to become your romantic partner, it’s not always the natural transition you’d think.

Here are things you should consider if you’re considering turning your friendship into romance.

You Need A Good Foundation

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We have different kinds of friends in our lives: friends that we enjoy seeing from time to time, friends with whom we do everything, friends with whom we just like to party, and friends who know us down to our very core. (Of course, there are so many different types of friends, but you get the point.) If you’re looking to make any type of friend into a potential partner, it’s safe to say you might want to go with a friend who knows you pretty well.

“Healthy and enduring relationships are built upon a foundation of communication, trust, and understanding,” Laurel says. “These essential elements can take time to develop.” But if you have a friend in your life who checks all these boxes, she says it’s okay to consider a romantic next step.

“A romantic relationship formed around a friendship can be so powerful […] they have a basis of communication, trust, and truth,” Laurel explains. “Within that space, the individuals will feel safe, sexy, and seen.” And if you’re looking to build a real, lasting relationship with someone, you’re going to want to feel all those things.

But You Also Need More

Penelope and Colin 'Bridgerton'
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While conversations and trust are super important, I’d like to go out on a limb to say that you should have these things with all the really good friends in your life. “What makes a romantic relationship different is attraction, affection, and sexual intimacy,” Laurel says. Do you find yourself wanting to touch your friend? Kiss them? Do you daydream about you two together? If you have a really great friend that you’re consistently attracted to and nervous around, you might want to take things to the next level.

“Expanding a friendship foundation into a romantic relationship can, if true reciprocal sexual attraction is there, be deeply rooted and powerful,” she says.

Do You Just Want To Fuck Your Friend?

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On the other hand, are you maybe just curious about fucking your friend? I’ve been there. I’ve been in situations where I was attracted to a friend and thought it meant I wanted to be with them. But after assessing our friendship, I realized that I was just sexually attracted to them and not romantically into them.

“Most romantic relationships start with the sexual attraction component, which can blind individuals, as the physical desires overpower and outshine the importance of the foundational relationship sustaining needs of communication, trust, and understanding,” Laurel says. Think about how you think about this person when you’re alone. Are you just imagining sexual scenarios between you two, or do you also fantasize about holding their hand, cuddling with them, and getting to be around them all the time?

Are You Okay With Potentially Losing That Friend?

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One of the main hesitations people usually have about trying to make a friendship a relationship is the fear that the friendship will forever be ruined. “You have to ask yourself if risking losing the friendship is worth the risk to see if there could be more,” Laurel says. If your friend is too precious to you and you’re really not sure if you’d be a good match, sometimes it’s best to just let the crush die.

But if thoughts of your friend consume you and you don’t know how to be around them without oozing love, maybe it’s time to take a leap of faith. Just know that however they respond, it is completely up to them. And if feelings aren’t reciprocated, you might need a break from the friendship to heal. Even if feelings are mutual and you end up in a relationship, there’s always the chance you could have a bad breakup and never speak to each other again. Harsh, I know. But going from friends to lovers is a big deal, and you should know you’re making the best possible decision if you want to move forward.

You Should Both Be Equally Interested

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If you have romantic and sexual feelings and know that you’re great friends, that still doesn’t mean you should jump right in. You need to know that both of you are feeling each other. And for your best interest, you want to ensure those feelings are mutual in every regard.

Things in life are never going to be fully 50-50. “But if one partner isn’t at the same romantic depth as the other, maybe their sexual interest is not equal. This can mislead the relationship,” Laurel says. It’s probably only a good idea to pursue more than a friendship if you and your friend are on the same page about how you feel about each other. And the only way to find that out is to talk to them.

There Needs To Be Honest Conversation

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“If you are feeling something, say something,” Laurel says. “This is a conversation where you can focus on each other and speak thoroughly about how you feel.” I know it’s super scary to be vulnerable with someone and put yourself out there — but closed mouths don’t get fed! We’re all adults, and it is perfectly normal to develop romantic and sexual feelings for someone you enjoy spending time with, feel like you can trust, and make yourself feel heard. There is nothing to be embarrassed about. But before you plan on making a move, I’d check in with them first.

Be honest! Tell your friend you have feelings for them and want to see if there’s something there. Suppose they feel the same, great! If they don’t, that’s okay too — at least you know and can stop obsessing over it in your head.

Syeda Khaula Saad
Syeda Khaula Saad
Syeda Khaula Saad is a sex & dating writer at Betches despite not remembering the last time she was in a relationship. Just take her word for it.