Deciding to Take a Friendship to the Next Level

Question: I've been friends with this girl for a few years now, and over the past few months, I've noticed that my feelings for her are moving beyond just a friendship. We have so much in common, and we love spending time with each other. I really want to talk with her about my feelings, but I am afraid this will ruin our friendship. I don't know how she feels, but there are times when I think she may feel the same way. What do I do?

Answer: It sounds like you want to make a move only if you know exactly how it's going to turn out. The first thing you have to do is accept that there are risks involved. Your friend could feel the same way, but it's also possible that she could not. The "I'd like to be more than friends" conversation could certainly affect your relationship in the long run. What you have to do is decide whether taking your friendship to another level is worth the risk.

Most mature individuals, however, are able to talk about these situations, figure out which direction to go, and continue to be friends even if it does not work out. This happens every day. So get your head on straight about the risks, and accept responsibility for them.

Then, if you have decided to move forward and act on your feelings, tell your friend exactly what you have told me. For instance, you might say something like: "We've been friends for a long time, and I have never really seen us as anything different. But lately, I've been wondering if there might be more between us beyond a friendship. And I'm wondering if you've ever thought about that too. I don't want to ruin our friendship, but I am open to possibly taking our relationship to the next level. If you don't share those feelings, I understand."

I know taking this course of action and opening your emotions like this can be hard, but if you decide to do so, you must realize that you're only being open and honest about the situation. To deal with the truth of any situation directly leads to the best results.

Now, as with anything, you may not get the result (or answer, in this case) you are hoping for; but in the end, it's better than keeping your feelings bottled up. If anything, your friend will appreciate your honesty, and she'll most likely be flattered by your feelings for her (at least she should be).

Just remember to think through the risks involved, and move forward accordingly. And always be honest.

Dr. Henry Cloud is a clinical psychologist and the co-founder of Cloud-Townsend Communications in Southern California.

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