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Thursday, November 10, 2005

Falling in love with your best friend

There are some who say it’s impossible to do that. They say once you’ve relegated someone to the Friend Zone, there’s no turning back.

I beg to differ.

Chris Rock said “When you’re meeting someone for the first time, you’re not meeting them, you’re meeting their representative.” I think that’s the most difficult part of beginning a new relationship, breaking through the outward façade and getting to know the real person.

Often once we’ve done that we don’t like what we find, but since we’ve already invested so much time and emotion in the other person, we’ll try to make things work with them anyway so that it doesn’t all go to waste, or out of fear of having to go through the whole process again – rather the devil you know that the devil you don’t.

I think this is symptomatic of our modern lifestyle. In the days of yore, our ancestors lived in small, close-knit communities: tribes and small villages.

Meeting a mate was a much simpler task in those days. You had a very limited number of possible candidates, and those candidates were already well-known to you. You had grown up together, you’d known each other your entire lives.

Post-industrial urbanized society has had profound impact on that part of our lives. Living in cities with millions of other people, most of whom we will never meet, is an unnatural state for social apes such as ourselves. It has necessitated the formulation of some new mating behaviour, specifically dating.

Although dating is necessary, it’s a flawed procedure, since many people end up in long term relationships with people with whom they are not really compatible.

But for those of us who are fortunate enough to experience it, there is an alternative.

When you’re friends with someone, you get to know them without the added pressure of trying to make a relationship work… it’s just a reciprocal sharing of thoughts, ideas, experiences and company, the sole goal of which is its own enjoyment. You often meet without the added burden of having to make a first impression, so you get to know the other person better from the start.

If you’re friends long enough, you get to see the other person reacting to a number of different situations, including relevant ones like being happy in a relationship, being unhappy in a relationship, and heartbreak.

Sometimes, if you’re very lucky, that friendship can develop into something even deeper and more meaningful: you can fall in love.

When you fall in love with a friend, the awkwardness is already out of the way. The “honeymoon period” is so much sweeter because there are far fewer nasty surprises.

One of the main misgivings people have about transforming an existing friendship into a romantic relationship is that there is more at stake: if the relationship fails, the friendship will probably be lost as well. The risk is a real one, but considering that the relationship was built on a far firmer foundation than most to begin with, the odds of that happening are diminished. In fact, it’s probably a safer option – the stakes are higher, but the risk is considerably lower.

As you know, I’ve recently fallen in love with one of my best friends. I often thought about what it might be like if it were to happen, and I always knew it would be awesome, but I had no idea how truly amazing it would be.

Since we’ve already shared so much, we have a pretty good idea of what makes the other tick. This gives us the added advantage of being able to anticipate each other’s insecurities and misgivings, and to address them before they become issues.

We also have a working knowledge of each other’s history, tastes, passions, philosophical and religious points of view, families, friends, careers, and, in our case, lifestyle. Having that knowledge upfront has facilitated a far more comfortable and natural-feeling transition, allowing us the opportunity to forgo the awkward first stages of dating and get right on with the good stuff.

Some critics might say that trying to get something going with your friend is taking the low road, the easy way out. Yes, I think it can be easier, but that doesn’t make it bad. On the contrary, what’s the problem with falling in love with someone you already know and care for? I think that fact makes it better and more real, not the other way around.

It’s still early days, and I’m still on “probation”. But I think that if I make it through the trial period, I will be able to make a significant contribution to her life - beyond what I would have been able to give as just her friend - and I will do my utmost to bring her as much joy as she does me.