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Telling a friend that we have romantic feelings for them is a big deal.
It’s a vulnerable endeavor. We have to confront the possibility of rejection, and that’s scary for every human on the planet. Conversely, it could be the beginning of an incredible love story.
I’m a big fan of braving these kinds of conversations, and not just because the feelings could be mutual. Oftentimes, both people can feel the presence of the unspoken crush-energy anyway. And when we name truths like this out loud, with care and courage, it can deepen the friendship even when romantic love isn’t meant to be.
I did a little recon with people in my circle about how they would want to be told by a friend that they were the object of their affection.
This is the framework I came up with:
Step One: Set your intention. (This is important!)
Consider why you are really sharing this with your friend. Do you think they are amazing and see the potential for a deeper, more committed love, or are you just wanting to get it off your chest?
Note: the latter is not a high integrity intention. This is us wanting to make ourselves less uncomfortable by handing the burden of discomfort off to someone else. It is neither supportive of friendship nor a healthy romance. I do not recommend proceeding if this is the reasoning behind your confession.
Ask yourself if you’re ready for the real possibility that they don’t feel the same way back. Are you committed to showing up for the friendship no matter what anyway? Especially now that it might get awkward for a little bit?
You need to be clear that you’re showing up for the highest and best good of both parties.
Step Two: Get consent.
We may have been ruminating on this for a while, but for all we know, this is going to be unanticipated news for our friend.
The most generous thing we can do is set them up to be ready to receive our unexpected, vulnerable share, instead of dumping it on them because it’s loud and at the top of our mind.
This is also an amazing thing to practice in all relationships in our life. Whether it’s a colleague, roommate, friend, or partner, consider asking when it works for them to have a complex or nuanced conversation, rather than imposing what works best for ourselves, and springing it on them without their say so.
If it was me, I would send them a text with something like:
“Hey, Travis! I know this text may sound a little mysterious, but bear with me…There’s something I’d like to share with you that would benefit from your full, undivided attention. When would be a good time for you to connect on the phone/get together in person*? And don’t worry, I think it’s a pretty good thing! It’s just not a ‘discuss over text’ kind of thing. Lmk!”
I am goofy and verbose, so this is very me. Make it your own based on your personality and communication style.
*Choose whether you want to do this in person or not. Consider which option would set both of you up to feel the safest and most confident in a vulnerable conversation like this.
Step Three: Prepare.
Now that you’ve set up when you’re going to connect with your wannabe-valentine, let’s set you up to communicate clearly and completely in the moment—when it really matters—so you’re not tempted to send “addendum texts” after the fact; like when you think of the perfect thing to say hours after a conversation is over.
Consider taking some notes on what you want to share so that you aren’t just nervously rambling on. There is nothing wrong with rambling, but oftentimes, when we try to improvise in the heat of the moment, we forget to say important things that we really want to communicate.
This isn’t about getting it perfect. This is about saying what we mean and meaning what we say. The better we are at communicating, the more we increase the likelihood of true understanding happening.
Step Four: Get grounded.
If our energy is all out of whack, the other person may feel the subconscious need to make us feel comfortable—even though we’re the one springing this on them.
The more we can do to get grounded so that we can bring a stable, steady energy to the exchange, the better we’ll be able to care for our friend and let them have their experience in the moment.
Step Five: Do the deed. Share your feelings with them.
There is no one-size-fits-all way to do this. There is no textbook “right” way. The right way to do this is with love, care, generosity, and a readiness to welcome and dance with the messiness of this kind of confession.
Start by being really clear that you value their friendship, that it is incredibly important to you, and that what you’re going to share will have an impact on it, but that you are committed to showing up for the friendship no matter what shakes out.
Now, tell them what you like about them; tell them why you’re attracted to them; and most importantly, tell them why it was important to you to share this with them.
Finish off by inviting them to respond:
“I’d love to hear your thoughts and feelings but first I want to remind you that our friendship is not at stake—whether you reciprocate my feelings or not.”
Be compassionate with yourself and with your friend. Be patient. Be tolerant of your and their clumsiness. Be kind to everyone involved.
Step Six: Give them time to process!
Ask: “Would it feel good for you to have some time to process before you respond?”
If they say “yes,” ask them if they would like you to follow up with them in a couple of days, or if they would prefer to follow up with you.
Step Seven: Aftercare.
So, you’ve shared your romantic feelings with your friend.
Outcome One: They said they were into you too! Yay! Wahoo! Bask in it. Enjoy the rewards of your willingness to dare into the possibility. You took on the risk and now both of you get to adventure into a bright new romance.
Go ahead and invite things to take that first step:
“I would love to ask you out. May I?”
This is one of those moments that shows how getting consent really is sexy because it’s a super high integrity form of psychological foreplay!
Outcome Two: They said they do not feel the same way. Reassure them. Remind them that the friendship is number one for you and you are not going anywhere, that you recognize that things may feel a bit “off” for a little while but that you’re here to navigate it until things restabilize. And then take the lead on hanging out as friends.
Consider a text like:
“Thanks for showing up in that conversation with me the way that you did. Like I said, I’m definitely down to ‘just be friends.’ In the spirit of keeping that friendship magic alive, let me know if you’d be down to go throw some axes at some targets this weekend. Again, I’m here for all of it!”
Let’s not gloss over the real bummer of rejection. You’re entitled to your feelings of sadness and disappointment. They may be there, and they are real. If you need more support in processing your feelings about the rejection, reach out to someone else in your circle to talk it out with. If you have a therapist, coach, or mentor, these are also great resources to lean on. Do not use the friend you were attracted to. It would not be of service to the friendship to put them in that position.
In conclusion, if our intentions are pure, and we do our best to care for ourselves and our friend throughout this experience, then we are brave humans indeed.
Love is mysterious in the fact that it is something we all want but that remains elusive and hard to codify. It requires us to take risks, and the pursuit of it inevitably makes all of us vulnerable in the most human ways possible.
I wish you and your friend the absolute best! You got this!