ating a friend is notorious for "ruining the friendship," but is that actually true?

It's tough to make friends as an adult, so the thought of risking it all on a romantic relationship that might not work can be nerve-racking. But when it comes down to it, people have been taking their platonic relationships to the next level throughout time. It may hit you as something of a surprise, or maybe it's something you've secretly been hoping for. But according to research published by social scientists and personality researchers in 2021, the Friends-to-Lovers pathway is responsible for nearly 70% of relationships. After all, who knows you better than your friends? 

Not to mention the fact that 18% of people originally initiated friendship with their current partner as a way to test the waters before dating. But just because it happens all the time doesn't mean taking friendship to the next level is easy.

If you're working up the nerve to ask them out one on one or are anxiety-scrolling in the Uber on your way to your first date with a friend, take a sec. Breathe. And read our best tips from writers who have been there, done that, and gotten their happily ever after.

We'll be going over the whole process, including:

  • How to survive that anxiety inducing first date with a friend
  • Things to talk about when making the transition from friends to something mroe
  • Some common pitfalls you might want to steer clear of

First Thing's First: Do They Feel the Same Way?

You know this person -- you've spent plenty of time together. You probably know what you admire about them and what drives you crazy. That your heart melts at the way they light up when they talk about animals, and you can't stand how they're always 20 minutes late when you make plans. But before taking the leap, take some time to really sit with yourself and see if you think there's enough chemistry to put your feelings out there.

How do I know if there’s chemistry with someone?

  • You feel like your authentic self when you’re with the person.
  • You enjoy the time you spend together. 
  • You notice small, maybe quirky details about their personality and character. 
  • Physically you feel very comfortable and safe with the person. 

Physical attraction obviously isn't everything, and particularly when you're already invested in a friendship you don't want to lose, it's important to make sure your passion won't fizzle and burn after you've stolen that first kiss or hooked up the first time. Romantic relationships build from friendships can be strong and last a long time if you really have chemistry, but they can ruin years or decades of history if it isn't genuinely a good match.

But if you're feeling the attraction, how can you tell if they feel the same way? This is probably the hardest part since it can be downright impossible to tell for sure if someone likes you back. Some things that indicate they like-like you (like making time for your or taking an interest in your life) are also things people who just regularly like you do. However, there are some basic signals that can hint at attraction.

How do I know if someone likes me back?

  • They take opportunities to be physically close to your, like sitting thigh to thigh on the couch, putting their head in your lap, brushing the hair out of your face, or touching your arm when they speak/laugh
  • They don't or have stopped talking about their romantic interests with you with no obvious reason why (fight, dating a friend of yours, etc) // they might get uncomfortable or change the subject if you bring up romantic interests of your own
  • They try to hang out with you one on one whenever they can
  • They get flirty with you when they're drunk
  • You have passionate arguments (sometimes those hidden feelings just burst out, ok?? And it's not always graceful)
  • You do couple things together, like grabbing dinner alone, going to weddings, etc.
  • They always look amazing when you're around -- no lazy sweatpants days here
  • They "joke" about being just like a couple, or being married one day, or being in the friend zone // your friend group does
  • They have an abnormally great memory when it comes to things you tell them
  • They message or call all the time with no real reason but to chat
  • They fish for details about your love life
  • They aren't dating anyone else

But you know them better than we do. So you should have a better idea -- even just a gut instinct -- about whether they hold hands with everyone or that little gesture means something.

Once you have a basic feeling about whether you really want to pursue a relationship with them and if there's a change they feel the same way, you'll want to find out as soon as possible what your goal is in all of this. You know the basic stuff -- their favorite color, their coffee order -- but now it's time to focus on why you are going on the date in the first place.

This isn’t meant to rush you, rather just get you thinking about the point of getting out there and going on the first date. You can ask them more specific questions like what their dream job would be or where they want to live someday, to see if both of your paths and goals will line up the same over time. Prior to the date, think of questions you might want to ask or segment into a way about where you guys might end up together. Maybe you’re ok with casual dating at the moment and going from there, or you might be trying to just settle down already. What points in life are you both in? Have you guys had feelings for each other for a while? Lay it all out there on the table. Let yourself observe the romantic chemistry and see how it feels to you. 

Friends playing pool ball on their first romantic date together
We can find chemistry between others in shared activities or hobbies.

Make an effort to learn new things

I’m sure you already know many details of your date’s life and who they are. But once you become romantically involved, the connection only gets deeper. Make the effort to ask questions to try and learn some new things about the person. These questions can also be romantically involved of course!.

Here are some ideas regarding questions you can bring up to learn more about them:

  • What motivates you to work hard?
  • What is your proudest accomplishment?
  • What are your pet peeves?
  • What’s your favorite family tradition?

You can even ask them if they have a hidden secret talent or two! Regardless, you should make an effort to learn some new things about your friend. This will show interest and help you to understand more about the date to decide if they are a good match for you! 

Use the past as a benefit 

Like we’ve mentioned previously, when going on a first date with a friend there are going to be a lot of things you know about them already. If there are moments throughout the date where you don’t know what to talk about, or feel there is too much awkward silence, you can use the friendship as a benefit. Talk about inside jokes or fun memories you may have had in the past. If you have mutual friends, you can also take some time to talk about them a little bit! 

woman with blond hair and man with brown hair seated outside a cafe with paper coffee cups on their first date with a friend
Sharing jokes is always a great way to build connections with people and ease some tension.

Impress them 

Friendship presents itself with a level of familiarity. Think of ways you can do something special to stand out this time and impress your date. Maybe you’ll want to dress up in something you’ve never worn before to show off, or reveal an accomplishment about yourself they never knew. Either way, take this opportunity to stand out and grab their attention! 

Some other words of wisdom  when taking the next step with a friend

There are some things you should expect to happen when transitioning from friends to lovers. That friend status will change, which may bring on some upsets. True friends are always there for you when you need to vent and let it out. When you start dating a friend and issues arise, you’re not going to be able to vent to them the same way you did previously. Because this time the issue could be from that former friend who you’re dating now! Communication in a relationship differs from communication in a friendship. We tell our friends everything and can fully let loose around them, while a relationship can often function differently and we are not as open with everything. 

Don’t rush things 

Even though it is appropriate to ask questions about the date’s future and what they would want out of life in general, it’s important to remember to not rush the process. It’s okay to be curious about things such as their place in life and where they want to be someday, but avoid taking any actual big steps towards the romantic relationship right off the bat. During the date, please just remember to have fun and enjoy yourself first. You can remain casual in conversation, and don’t feel like you have to go over everything the very first time. Take things step by step!

Physical intimacy is a topic that differs from person to person. However, it’s important to note that too much touching and a sexual relationship formed right off the bat can confuse the meaning of the relationship and conflict with boundaries. If you act on sexual urges too soon, this can lead to things feeling more awkward after the fact and you might lose that innocent romantic connection you both were starting to share with each other. 

Early sex can create something known as counterfeit intimacy. This happens when both partners think they are a lot closer to each other than they actually are, and can even get themselves convinced that they are both “in love.” All in all, you know yourself more than anyone else. Make the right choices you know you won’t regret later on! 

Partners hugging each other as on their first date with a friend
A hug is the perfect first physical connection to share!

Avoid assumptions

No matter how many juicy post-date stories you've swapped in the past, the fact is that you know this person as a friend. And getting to know them as a potential romantic partner is a totally different ballgame. So no matter how much you think you know about what the other person wants from a relationship, take a step back and talk through it. The information you've been told about their general preferences or their preferences in past relationships don't necessarily apply to the current situation.

This is one of the easiest ways to smooth out potential bumps in the road before they trip you up. Communication is key, and since you're already close and looking to get closer, hopefully it makes broaching the subject in a direct way easier. It's a key step in finding out early whether you and your friend are a good romantic match or better off as pals.

Here are some examples:

  • Maybe your date told you they didn’t want a codependent relationship in the past. Don’t assume they automatically want you to be distant. Once you build more of a connection, you will discover how they function in a relationship. 
  • If you knew about their previous romantic partners, avoid assuming how their relationship dynamics are right off the bat. We can act differently around different people!
  • Don’t connect all of their behaviors as a friend to how they will act as a romantic partner. Two completely different situations!

Risks of dating a friend

The transition from friends to romantic companions presents itself with some risks. If the relationship doesn’t work out, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to return to that same friendship you two once had. This can be from a mixture of hurt feelings and even jealousy regarding the past relationship. Even if there were issues to arise that just concerned the two of you, these problems can spread and make their way on to other mutual friends. Sometimes when someone decides to date a friend and it goes haywire, mutual friends of both parties can take sides. 

Going on a first date with a friend can be nerve-wracking, but with these tips you can find out if it's worth pursuing or not.

When you decide to start a relationship with a former friend, understand that there can be potential threats to other friendships in your life as well. However, if you feel like the romantic dating route is the way to go with your once friend, always do what’s best for you. Just remember to create a mindset that the romance might not completely work out. 

If you are reading this and happen to be going on your very first date with a friend soon, good luck! Remember to use this opportunity to learn more about the date both as a person and potential romantic partner, and avoid moving too quickly.

Jul 22, 2022