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  • Ngan Dang

Toeing The Line: Between Friendship and Love

Discovered by Ngan Dang (she/they)

Fess up folks. Have you ever been truly, profoundly, pathetically in love with your friend? I’ll be truthful hereI totally have. From tingling butterflies for a high school friend to a massive queer awakening courtesy of my swim team, I have had way too many internal crises over the not-so-big dilemma of crushing on my friends

The thing is, knowing if you are really smitten with your friend is fucking hard. As a gal who is insistent she “has a crush” on a friend as soon as they pay any attention to her, I wish differentiating genuine care from actual feelings was easier. In my mind, the line tethering admiration and attraction is etched in dark red ink, bleeding through pages of memories. It leaves a mark, taints your perspective, leaves you questioning and agonising over any small interactions you share. 

Constantly in your mind is a mantra. Is it really a crush? Do they like me the same way?

The way friendships go, it is understandable why people find it easy to fall for their friends. Any meaningful connection requires a certain amount of chemistry. When you’re that close to somebody, in such a heartfelt way, the sickly sweet feelings are bound to develop. 

My mate from high school, Abi, understands the feeling of falling in love with her friends all too well. For her, realising these romantic feelings is usually a slow process of learning about her friend’s quirksand falling in love with them. She finds comfort in the affection developing through the profound connection of close-knit friendships and prefers it over your typical date with someone you don’t know well. Even if her experiences have never wound up in the fairytale ending of her dreams, she says that she would fall for another friend all over again. “You don’t go into a friendship looking to catch feelings for this person,” she reflected, “but you kinda get to get to know someone... and falling in love that way is so much more beautiful.”

Navigating her romantic interactions as a queer woman, Abi feels like the intimacy of female friendships is also an incitement for her feelings towards her friend. When friends become closer, many things you do shift into a no-man’s land of half-platonic, half-romantic acts. Without communication, there’s no defining the intention behind the half-drunk kisses between friends on a night out, or the intertwined hands as the two of you walk down the streets. Once those tingling butterflies in your stomach flutter, the ambiguity of it all feeds into rose-tinted vision. It’s what makes our hearts stutter, what keeps us hoping for something more in a friendship.

On the flip side, this secret yearning is what makes having a crush on your friend so crushing. In such a close vicinity, you can’t truly hide your feelings. But, confessing your love to your friend is more complicated than asking a cute stranger out on a date. To even consider being upfront about it is to put on the line the dynamic you two have built together. A love confession can change everything in a friendship, especially when the romantic intentions are unrequited. You feel an obligation to let go of this devastating love to not suffocate your friend with the affection that you can’t truly give them. They also feel the need to push away, to change their behaviour and not lead you on further. Most likely, it ends up with the two of you tip-toeing over each other’s feelings, drifting away from each other in doubt and unsolved problems. In that case, why would it even be worth it, when mentioning anything about love can ruin everything that you’ve wanted to keep?

But then, to dwell on this intense attachment in secret feels pretty damning as well. Love, once harboured, consumes your thoughts and affects every interaction.  You are actively hiding one of the deepest thoughts from the one person you should be able to share it with. As the muse to your affection, but more importantly as a friend, you feel the pressure to spill your heart out, to let them know the depths of your love. It is not only a weight on your heart, it can cast a cloud over your friendship. 

The fear of losing this deep connection amongst your intense feelings might prevent people from developing feelings for their friends. A friend of mine admitted that she has never had a crush on her close friends. “Maybe because knowing too much about someone kinda creates a barrier [for me] to develop any feelings with that person,” she mused. She found her attraction gravitating towards people outside of her social circle. Dating someone who is not a close friend introduces her to new perspectives on the world. For her, that was the exciting part of being in a relationship. But most importantly, it also avoids the risk factor of a friend-crush, the fear of your well-established friendship changing. 

All of our tangled thoughts for a friend-crush leads to one question. Is having a crush on your BFF as disastrous as the whole freaking universe trying to warn us about? 

Yea, maybe. But life is not always a tragedy. There is a good ending to any crushes on your friend after alldevoid of heartbreak, awkwardness, and change. For some people, it means having an honest conversation with your mate, and you two are both mature enough to accommodate each other’s feelings. Having that clear empathy and emotional understanding can strengthen your friendship. Perhaps, the story will pop up as a funny inside joke. But for some others, a confession might lead to a revelation, that you and your mate are both as deeply in love with each other. You might end up with a partner that already understands you inside out, a person that cares for you as a friend and as a lover. Wouldn’t that be a dream scenario for all of us hopeless romantics?

I guess what I have learnt from crushing on my friends is that feelings, whether platonic or romantic, are damn hard to identify and process on your own. The thrill of affection, mixed with the weight of harbouring a secret, makes being in love with a friend such a conflicting emotional dilemma to deal with. I don’t think I will ever grow the guts to confess my love, with so much at stake. But sometimes, these pining thoughts are inevitable. Despite all the agony these unrequited friend-cruses caused me, they also brought good fun into my love life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

In the future, don’t be surprised if I indulge in my delusional thoughts a bit too hard and end up falling for another friend. To speak or to die on my heap of feelings, though? Not deciding that, mate.


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