Should I tell my best friend that I love them?

I get this question a whole lot on Quora and it’s getting to the point where I feel like the thoughts warrant a blog post. I think about it a lot, not just because people are asking me this question, but because I’ve been thinking about a variation of that question for a while.

The question of, do I regret telling my best friend that I liked them or not?

I fell in love with my best friend and we had a relationship for ten years. We lived together in the same house, shared bank accounts, the whole shebang. In the end, we parted. There was no happily ever after, not in the romantic sense and not in the friendship sense, probably because it wasn’t one of those “we knew each other for ever and ever and then we got together things”.

That was said somewhat tongue in cheek, but I suppose it’s true in a way.

We were friends, yes. We clicked to an almost alarming extent, to the point where we were finishing each other’s sentences within days of meeting. We were best friends and then we were in a romantic relationship. All within the span of about, what, three months? Less? I don’t remember, but it was fast. Maybe too fast.

I guess we’ve never had a chance to see what we would have been like as just friends. So when we took the romantic component out, maybe that meant that we were set adrift with no real idea of how to behave and how to treat each other.

Some days I wonder if I wouldn’t be happier if we had never taken it to the next level. Maybe I’m deluding myself about that possibility. Two of our friends took him aside and talked to him, because as one of them put it, “the pheromones you two put off could fertilize the eggs of passing birds”. Wrongly constructed analogy aside, perhaps we never had a chance in that way.

I wasn’t really ready to move on, to shift gears, before the decision was essentially taken out of my hands. Maybe I never would have been ready. Maybe I would have been ready after more thought and relationship building. Maybe that would have meant the difference between whether or not we could stay friends now or not. We’ll never know and I try not to think about it because it’s a useless train of thought.

But yes. We’re probably no longer best friends. We’re probably possibly not even going to be friends anymore.

I shouldn’t be surprised. There are too many questions from men on Quora asking, “we’ve broken up and I agreed that we could be friends, but do I have to talk to her?” for me to think otherwise. And I’m not.

But I am disappointed.

This is someone who I told everything to, who was my confidante for ten years, someone who I allowed in me, bare, in ways more than just the physical. This is someone, who if science is to be believed, might have left his DNA in me, who might therefore have changed me fundamentally in small but certain ways. To think that our ways might just part now… it hurts. I’m not going to lie about that.

But was it worth it?

I think so. If not just for the experience, then at least for the truth that I gained. I don’t have to daydream and wonder if it couldn’t be one of those fairy-tale endings where you fall in love with your best friend and you get to spend the rest of your lives together, in perfect love and perfect trust, with a baby or two to love and cherish. I’ve tried it and now I know.

I know what it was like to be loved by him. I know that we ultimately don’t suit, not in that way. I know the pain of loving someone and being loved in return and understanding that love sometimes isn’t enough, for either of you.

The funny thing is, we could probably be better friends now that almost all of the questions have been answered.

But back to the question of what to do and best friends and what if things are ruined.

The answer is that nothing will ever remain the same even if you say nothing.

Would a friendship between a man and a woman be the same after one or the both of them marry? Would it even be the same after one of them starts going steady with someone else?

My ex had a best friend, one he took multi-hour long transatlantic phone calls with, one he knew since he was fourteen. A woman who knew him before I did and who would always know a part of him that I wouldn’t, secrets and shared experiences that I would never share.

I was lucky. I wasn’t jealous and all I wanted to know was whether we could be friends in turn.

My ex introduced us and I fell in love. I loved his best friend for the same reasons I liked his personality, his wit, and his ability to make me laugh.

Again, I was lucky.

Maybe she was lucky too. Heavens only know what he would have done if I had tried to make him choose. At that point, he probably would have chosen her, but maybe I could have swayed him by using his hormones against him. But even without that level of crazy, I could have made it difficult. I could have refused to have any part of her, to see her as competition and to try and wedge her, ever so subtly, from our shared lives.

I’m lucky. I haven’t felt the bite of jealousy yet and I hope never to, but I know that some people aren’t similarly blessed. I know it’s possible for perfectly non-sexual friendships to shatter under the scrutiny of a significant other. I knew a woman who freaked out because her boyfriend would ask after the day of another woman, claiming that “asking about people’s days” is something that only lovers shared.

But it’s not all insanity, anyway. I understand how it goes.

How would his girlfriend or wife feel if I cuddled against him when we sat on the couch? How would she feel if I fell asleep in his lap during a boring movie? Physicality aside, how would she feel if I kept him as my confidante, running to him every time I wanted to cry? Would she be okay if he was the first one I called when I wanted to celebrate? Would she be fine with my asking him to go traveling with me to all the places that I want to go? Could I drop by on the weekends, cake and drinks in hand, just to hang out and watch TV?

I know better than to do that. Of course I do.

In fact, my ex demurred from helping me with my website issues in the future because “wouldn’t it be weird?” so I know better than even to ask for normal friend things lest it be…weird.

But those things are what I would do with a best friend. Which means, if I can’t do it anymore, then that means our relationship will have shifted from its original course.

And as a woman, I’m not going to bet on having a boyfriend or husband who will be okay with me cuddling with another man, snuggling into his lap for a nap, or hugging him for long minutes in greeting or farewell.

I could do it, without sexual intent, just as friends. I’ve done it, in fact, towards the end of our relationship where it felt more like a friendship than a romantic relationship. But would people believe it? Even more important, would any significant other in our lives believe it?

Even separate from that — what relationship stays static forever? One of my best friends asked that and it’s true. The only thing to rely on is change itself.

I was best friends with a woman for eight years and it ended in fire despite everything we tried and possibly also because of everything we did.

There are no guarantees in life. All we can do is choose the path that leads to the least regrets.

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