How to turn a friend into a lover
Most people that I’ve met have, at some point in their life, fallen in love with one of their friends. Sometimes they easily manage to turn the friendship into a relationship. But more often, they keep their feelings secret for fear of embarrassment or of ruining an important friendship forever.
Sometimes these friendships aren’t purely platonic. Couples can end up in “friends with benefits” relationships, where they engage in physical passion but share no other parts of a proper relationship. Although satisfying physically, these arrangements can be very draining emotionally.
If you’re in love with a friend, don’t give up hope, and don’t be afraid to act on your feelings. These can be the strongest, most satisfying and longest-lasting of all relationships. Modern dating is often based on instant attraction and shared interests. But friendships that turn into love are based on a true understanding of each other, honesty, and a shared history.
A word of caution, however: you can’t just jump in. It took time to develop your friendship, and it will take a little more time to change it into a relationship. In order to help you navigate the change successfully, I’ve created a simple, three-point plan.
Step 1: Drop a tiny bombshell
Open a conversation about your feelings. But, to prevent feeling embarrassed or putting your friend on the spot, phrase it in a subtle way. I suggest you lightly tell them, with a smile, “Do you know, I used to have a huge crush on you.”
The beauty of this remark is that it puts absolutely no pressure on your friend to reply in any particular way. If they’re not interested, they won’t be searching for a tactful comment to spare your feelings, because you’ve suggested that you’ve dealt with your emotions and moved on, happily.
If they are interested, it gives them an easy opportunity to reply that they had a crush on you, too, and in fact they still do. But psychologically, this comment goes a little deeper: it also inspires a competitive spirit in your friend. By saying that you used to have a crush on them, you’re equally saying that you no longer do. They’ll immediately wonder why not, and what they can do to turn you back around. Almost without realising it, they’ll be driven to win over your feelings.
After you’ve dropped your bombshell, don’t try to prolong the conversation. Your friend will need time to ponder, so give them some room.
Step 2: Back off, just a little
Next, it’s time to inject a little scarcity into your friendship. The Scarcity Principle is well documented in psychology. Robert Cialdini, an influence expert, found that “people value and desire something more when it is rare or difficult to obtain” (see more here).
None of us like to feel we are being pushed into anything—whether it’s buying a product or choosing a romantic partner. But as soon as we are told that the product has almost sold out, or we feel that a possible romantic interest is slipping away, we react and take action so that we don’t lose out. This is how the principle of “playing hard to get” works.
When you’re friends, you don’t try to appear elusive or aloof. There’s no need. But when you’re trying to win over a romantic partner, it’s often a good tactic—especially after your bombshell.
Become just a little more difficult to pin down. If you usually see your friend three times a week, reduce that to two, or even one. If you usually spend 30 minutes on the phone to each other, cut back to just 10.
If you are “friends with benefits” but you want more, then you have to stop the physical side of your friendship. This might feel like you’re taking a step back, and you’ll worry that it’s the only thing keeping your friend interested. But if that’s the case, it’s definitely time to stop; to find someone who wants a real relationship, you’ll need motivation to get out and start looking. Having a pseudo-partner will hold you back.
The best way to introduce the Scarcity Principle is to charmingly turn down last-minute suggestions, or mundane activities like watching TV together. If your friend suggests you go for dinner or plans a fun activity for the weekend, go! But don’t allow yourself to become a stand-in or a back-up if their other companions are busy.
Instead, build up your own social life and actively engage in more of your own hobbies and interests. The more life and energy you build up for yourself, the more attractive you’ll naturally become to everyone else.
Allowing your friend to miss your company a little bit is a sure-fire way of inspiring them to think about you more, and realise whether they can— or can’t— live without you in their life.
Step 3: Flirt your socks off
The final step in turning a friendship into a relationship is the most fun: it’s time to flirt.
All those things that you love and admire about your friend—tell them. Don’t be afraid that you’ll scare them off: the beauty of combining flirting with the Scarcity Principle is that you’ll never become overwhelming.
In her 1928 groundbreaking book, The Technique of The Love Affair, a young Doris Langley Moore advised women seeking to inspire love in men, to use “warm words, but cool actions”. Never hold back a compliment or miss an opportunity to admire your friend. But equally, don’t smother them with gifts or demand too much of their time. Just be charming. This allows your friend to see you in the role of their partner.
So, to turn a friendship into a relationship, try:
1) Revealing your feelings (with a post-dated confession, to save embarrassment);
2) Pulling back just a little, and building up your own life, happily;
3) Being flirtatious and complimentary every time you’re together.
If your friend also wants to explore starting a relationship with you, you’ll know very soon. And if they don’t, you’ll have lost nothing. You can continue being friends, while you keep widening your own social circle and eventually find someone who does share all your dreams and goals. Good luck!