The Friend Crush: Is This Love Or Friendship

He's your good friend. She's your best confidant. You have known each other for a few years and have shared meals, movies, hobbies and vacations. You have confided to each other about your latest love interest and turned to one another for support when the relationship(s) failed. You can't imagine life without your good friend.

But for a while....

You've felt jealous of his dates. You've been overprotective of her since she has been seeing the jerk. You've been having very strong feelings of attraction and a desire for something more than friendship. Could it be that your feelings for him/her have grown into something more? If so, your relationship may have developed into a "friend crush".

You don't know what to do. You know you want to continue spending time together- more time. But it's getting hard. You fantasize about having more with this person and are beginning to feel like a jealous would-be partner. Do you pretend everything is the same? Do you start distancing yourself- hoping your feelings will go back to the way they were? Do you actually TALK directly and honestly with your friend about how you feel?

What will happen to the relationship if you make the WRONG choice?

Just as all people are unique, so are the characteristics of their relationships with others. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this increasingly common dilemma. So, let's take a look at your options. You can:

* ignore your feelings, keep your boundaries in check and pretend everything is status quo

In order to choose this option, you must be able to deny your feelings so well that even you don't know what they are. You will also have to continue being comfortable on the sidelines while someone else has the relationship with this person that you desire. You will most likely be asked what you think of this or that person and be expected to be happy and supportive of your friend when they meet the right someone for them. In return for all this, you will still have your friend.

* begin to spend less time with your friend (crush) while seeking out new friendships to pursue and strengthen

This option will most likely cause confusion and hurt on the part of your friend who will wonder what happened. They may be understanding and accepting of your need to spread your wings and support you in doing what you need to do. Either way, you will see less of them and your relationship can weaken and perhaps disappear altogether as they move on with new people. If you can distance yourself for a while and no longer feel the romantic butterflies, you can always give them a call and may be able to pick up somewhere near where you left off.

* continue the relationship with your own hidden agendas - a desire for romantic intimacy and the hope that the person will realize that they feel the same way

If they become involved with someone else in the meantime, you can work to sabotage their new relationship or you can leave them wondering where all your anger and hurt feelings are coming from. You can spend a lot of time and energy handling it this way, without anything to show for your efforts but the loss of a good friend.

* have an open and honest discussion with your friend regarding your new feelings for them

This is the choice that seems to be the hardest for folks to make. Often what I hear from people in this position is that they fear "ruining the friendship" if they discuss their feelings honestly. While this is a very understandable concern, it isn't well thought out. It is emotional, not rational. Look again at the other options. Every one will bring about a change in your current friendship.

Why?

Once your feelings have changed, so does the relationship. Ignoring them, hiding them or distancing yourself will lessen your closeness and the positive dynamics that flow between good friends. You can't go back. You need to decide how you want to move forward or if this is an option for you. . It is also possible in choosing this option that you will learn that they have similar feelings for you that they were afraid to reveal. Therefore choosing this option could result in romance and a love relationship based on true friendship.

Intimacy exists in all close relationships. It is the ability to be completely open and vulnerable to another without fear of harm or rejection. So, by definition, we cannot be intimate with another while hiding or denying our true feelings and needs to them.

The choice will always be yours. Choosing wisely is about really knowing the options, the consequences they bring and what will be best for you and your friend.

Toni Coleman is a licensed therapist and relationship coach in private practice in McLean, Virginia. She specializes in working with singles that want to create lasting, intimate relationships. Toni has over 20 years of post-masters experience in relationship counseling and coaching with singles and couples. She is the founder and President of LifeChange Coaching and Consum-mate Relationship Coaching. She developed and teaches the Creating Lasting Relationships Training, a tele-workshop designed to help singles to define, implement and fulfill their life and relationship goals. She has also written numerous email classes for singles on all aspects of meeting, dating and relating. She is the author of the email newsletter, The Art of Intimacy, which goes out to thousands of subscribers monthly. http://www.consum-mate.com

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