Picture this: For the better part of a year, you’ve been confiding in your BFF about your deepest, most intimate #feelz regarding your significant other. Together, you’ve analyzed text exchanges, DMs, and dissected your IRL conversations. You’ve (tried to) psychoanalyze their other relationships—with their parents, doting exes, gaggle of friends—to make sense of how they shows love, and you recounted your best between-the-sheets sessions. Then one day, your BFF sits you down and tells you she has feelings for them—your person—and that she’s planning to pursue her crush.
Turns out, the BFF-falling-for-your-partner plot line isn’t just the stuff of drama-drenched TV shows like One Tree Hill (Brooke, Lucas, Peyton), Gossip Girl (Blair, Nate, Serena), Friends (Ross, Rachel, Joey), and The OC (Seth, Summer, Anna). It’s actually rather common IRL.
And since close friends tend to have many qualities, interests, and preferences in common—maybe even similar personalities—it kind of makes sense why. “The ways you are similar increase the likelihood that you might also like the same qualities in a partner,” says licensed family therapist Shadeen Francis. “Think about it: We probably trust our friends’ opinions about restaurants to try and TV shows to watch—so why not partners?”
Having feelings for your best friend’s partner doesn’t automatically make you a bad person. But it’s a sticky situation nonetheless.
If the three of you happen to spend a lot of time together, there’s more time to notice how great of a partner this person is—in addition to noticing their dashing good looks and winning sense of humor. In fact, face time isn’t even required for this effect to take place. Simply hearing the positive details from your friend can plant seeds of desire in your mind. “Getting the inside scoop about how great someone is and how wonderfully they treat people or what they’re like in bed makes them more attractive,” Francis says.
And keep in mind that having feelings for your best friend’s partner doesn’t make you a bad person—it’s human nature. “We can be attracted to all sorts of people, even people who are ‘off-limits,’ unavailable, or not a good fit for us. It’s not an indication of your character,” says Francis. But what is indeed is quite the sticky situation.
So what do you do if you have feelings for your friend’s S.O.? Proceed very carefully, that’s what.
Check out 5 expert tips for deciding whether or not to pursue your BFF’s S.O.
1. Talk with someone else about it
“Secrecy fuels passion, so if you keep your feelings to yourself, it can actually make things feel hotter between you and your friend’s partner,” says licensed family therapist Anita A. Chlipala. “That’s why I recommend talking to a different friend or a family member about it. It’ll make the whole thing feel less illicit.”
Other people can remind you of the factors you might be missing, because when left to it’s own rosy-hued devices, your mind lend a serious glamorized bent to things. For instance, you might only be hearing the positive qualities of this person, so you’re not even getting a full picture of who they are.
And if you don’t have that kind of relationship with a family member, and you don’t want to involve another friend, a therapist is a great option for confiding in.
2. Think hard about the possible friendship fallout—is it worth it?
Turn off the rom-com in your mind. Stop the walking-down-the-aisle fantasy. Press pause on the warm-and-fuzzy feelings. Let’s think about this logically: You have feels. For your BFF’s boo. Even if the feelings are mutual, there is a 0 percent chance this can end without someone you care about getting hurt.
Even if the feelings are mutual, there is a 0 percent chance this can end without someone you care about getting hurt.
First assess just how important that friend is to you, because that relationship is totally on the line. “Whether or not you decide to act on your feelings, your friend may decide that you two cannot be friends anymore.” says Chlipala. “Think of the consequences of if you were to act on those feelings. You wouldn’t just lose your friend, you might be judged by your mutual social circle too and might lose some of those friends who now deem you as untrustworthy.”
3. If you decide *not* to act on those feelings…
It is possible to have a desire and not act on it. There’s a difference between feelings and behavior, after all, Francis says. If you go this route, boundaries are the name of the game. Try to get some space from your friend’s partner. Avoid spending time alone with this person, don’t seek them out at parties, and work to interrupt any fantasies and daydreams you find yourself having about them.
Also, consider asking your friend to confide in you less about their special someone—and you don’t even have to spill the beans as to why. “Tell her you have your own problems to deal with, or that you have nothing new to offer, so maybe she can find another friend or a therapist to help her,” says Chlipala. “Think of it like a one-sided break-up.”
4. And if you do go for it…
There are a number of reasons why this could end up being your A-okay course of action. “Maybe your friend is dating this person casually. Maybe the couple is non-monogamous. Maybe you’d be interested in a threesome or a polyamorous relationship. Maybe you’d just like to simply have a clarifying conversation. Maybe you decided that pursuing the partner is worth the risk of your friendship with your BFF,” says Francis.
Would you still like your crush if you found out they were cheating on your friend? Would you trust this partner to be faithful to you?
However, Francis suggests asking yourself the following questions before pursing the partner: Would you still like your crush if you found out they were cheating on your friend? Would you trust this partner to be faithful to you? “Sometimes recognizing that this person is mistreating your friend by flirting with someone else (even if that someone else is you) makes them less attractive. And it can help you realize this situation isn’t worth the end of a friendship,” she says.
5. Tell your friend—if you’re going to pursue the partner
No need to create awkward energy if you commit to yourself that you will not pursue your feelings, but if you’re going for it? Do the right thing. In this case, Francis says telling your friend before pursuing their significant other is a must.
“Have a clear, honest conversation. Tell them that you aren’t telling them to be cruel or salacious, but you wanted to forewarn them,” However, you will have to honor whatever boundaries your friend sets after learning of your plan, because no matter how graceful you are, and no matter what the result is, a friendship rift is likely to form.
Ultimately, both experts say going after the S.O. probably isn’t worth the drama and potential loss of a bestie. Sure, Blair and Serena may have come on out on the other side of their issues, but life’s not an episode of Gossip Girl. XOXO.
If you’ve decided to let go of your crush, these tips on how to find love from matchmakers could help you find your own S.O. Or just, y’know, mention Pilates in your dating profile.
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