Romantic Friends

how to be friends with your loverShortly after meeting each other, Harry turns to Sally and declares, “You realize of course that we could never be friends.”

“Why not?” Sally asks.

Harry continues: “What I’m saying is–and this is not a come-on in any way, shape or form–is that men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.”

In this classic scene from When Harry Met Sally, Billy Crystal’s character asserts that physical attraction will always keep men and women from embracing true friendship. Harry sees friendship as a bond between two people that must exclude romantic feelings.

Can a man and woman be best friends?

Some people say the best relationship is one that allows you to act like lovers and best friends at the same time. But what does it mean to be “best friends” with a man?

I suppose that depends on what your definition of friendship is to begin with. I see friendship as a bond between two people who value each other for reasons that have nothing to do with romantic feelings. This definition does not suggest you cannot also be in love with your best friend.

Friendship is born when two people walk a shared path together. Each one expands their sense of self, their outlook on life, to include the other. They share their highs and lows. They team up to accomplish things. They have fun together, do work together, help each other, support each other, and bond throughout the process. It doesn’t matter if you’re venting about your day, painting your nails, moving furniture, or going to dinner–friendship is about sharing your life with someone else, the good and the bad.

While romantic chemistry might have sparked your relationship, the relationship will never be all it could be if you and your partner do not also develop a solid friendship. Friendship builds slowly, while feelings of attraction blossom fast.

Attraction is wild. It’s like a spark that ignites a fire. Friendship, on the other hand, is a slow burn. It’s all about companionship, loyalty and respect. Can a romantic connection really be complete without those traits?

But I need to point out one important distinction. Same-gender friendships are not the same as the kind of friendship between two romantic partners. Reaching for friendship does not mean lowering your standards to act like “one of the guys.”

When guys are buddies, they let their guard down and sometimes ignore rules of social etiquette. Respecting the romantic aspect of your relationship means doing your best to be your most attractive self whenever you spend time with your partner. It also means you retain your feminine elegance, which he finds so attractive.

how to be friends with your loverDoes that require a balancing act for you? You bet it does. That’s the very reason why so many couples fail to fuse friendship and attraction.

But it can be done. The key is to remember that a long-lasting fire has both sparks and a slow burn. To make the most of your relationship you need passion and companionship. Keep the passion alive by doing what you can to trip his attraction triggers. At the same time, weave in the best components of a solid friendship.

Even in the beginning stages of a romantic relationship, make an effort to include those qualities. You’ll know if the spark is there pretty quickly. If you want a truly vibrant, lasting connection, build the friendship as well.

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46 thoughts on “Romantic Friends

  1. Carole Micozzi said:

    Thanks James….yes we’ve had this conversation to some extent. It’s 2 fold. He has said that he is too close to me as a friend to have romantic feelings about me now although he has said we “danced on that edge” for a while when we were working together. This is true we did have some physical interaction, he also said he isn’t “good” at relationships and he fears that if we go that way he won’t be successful and he’s got too many insecurities to have a romantic relationship with me. He says by staying friends he will always be there for me. I’m sure some of this has a ring of truth to it. I think I’m having a hard time understanding it all because I have such a different view and I’m not finding anyone with whom I have the same chemistry with or desire for so it’s pretty much a hopeless situation for me. He is now “seeing” someone else for the first time in over a year while we remain friends.

    • James Bauer said:

      Hmmm… I see. So he admits that he has felt an attraction to you in the past, but he’s not owning any such feelings at present. He’s not giving you a foothold to work with here. In situations like these, I typically recommend that my clients try to keep the door open to communication (to let both time and propinquity work their magic over time). And while I know it feels impossible, you’ll want to expand your reach to date other guys while you wait. This article might be useful to you right now.

      • Carole said:

        Thank you James…Iโ€™m certainly doing just that while remaining a supportive friend.

  2. Carole said:

    I’m in a bad situation where I developed a strong “Best Friend” relationship with a co-worker over a year and a half. We have amazing chemistry and early on things were more romantic but because we worked together he didn’t want to take it to a sexual relationship. The friendship has grown and its amazing however now (recently) we aren’t working together and he’s told me that he’s too close to me as a friend to have a romantic relationship with me but still wants me as his best friend. 2 months before he left our place of employment he started seeing another woman for which he has said he has made a commitment. I’m utterly crushed because I am in love with him and all the reasons why we couldn’t be together are apparently resolved but now he is with someone else. I feel like if he really wanted something more with me he would leave the other relationship. I’m finding it hurtful to remain friends and it’s in fact effecting our friendship. Where do I go from here?

    • James Bauer said:

      I’m sad to hear that, Carole. I have to agree with you… it does seem like things don’t add up. If you had chemistry, and a real relationship, and the barriers to romance were removed, why would he NOT pursue something with you? I find myself wondering what he would say if I interviewed him about this. Of course, it’s hard for you to get the truth if he’s afraid the truth would hurt you. But it might be worth it to give him a nudge to see if he considered pursuing something more with you recently or at any point in the past.

  3. NAN said:

    My cousin introduced me to one of his co-workers. We had sex the very first date. He is younger then me. After 7 months, I feel that my feelings are deeper for him than his feelings are for me. I’m afraid to tell him that I am falling in love with him. Should I let him know my feelings or just keep my mouth shut? Some times when we talk he calls me sweetie and dear. He is also sharing more about his life and family. Am wondering if he is afraid to let he know his feelings because he has been married twice and is afraid to be hurt again.

    • Tracey said:

      Hi Nan,

      It sounds like you’re in a complicacted situation and your question requires a bit of back-and-forth dialogue though so I suggest you bring up in our private forum.

      Within this private community you can ask questions and share experiences with like-minded women and our most advanced members. This way you can get extra real-time feedback and support for your unique situation.

      Warm wishes,

      Tracey T.

  4. Mia said:

    Beautiful. Sorry for your loss. Here’s to hoping we all find and have the relationships as yours, 30 + years amazing!

  5. Nicole said:

    Hi James, thank you for your words of wisdom. I am in a committed relationship with a guy. Our one year anniversary is coming up here in October. He has a female friend that he hangs out with during the week. He has assured me that they are just friends and nothing more. It’s been a year and I’m still having trouble dealing with him hanging out with this other female during the week. We make plans together and we really enjoy our time together. What do you think of this situation?

    • Alejandra said:

      Maybe he should introduce you to her, your sixth sense should kick in if the vibe is not quite right!

  6. Kerin said:

    I met a man 6 months ago and we dated for 7 weeks. Our compatibility is off the charts and I definitely felt I could envision a future with him. Suddenly he took a step back saying the timing was off for him. 5 weeks later I found out his daughter is very ill and that he wouldn’t have the time to spend with me that I was looking for. I’ve stayed in touch, tried to be a friend, etc. Recently he has been back in communication with me and saying he wants to just be friends, but is worried I can’t handle that. Whether I can or not, I truly don’t know. What I do know is I feel like I’ve been handed an opportunity to take a step back, see the big picture and move forward in building a true friendship, which should be the solid foundation for any relationship. I feel like if I can rein myself in and trust in the friendship, then whatever is supposed to happen, will. I like what Telesia said and I hope that someday I will fall in love with this man every day. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • James Bauer said:

      You are wise, Kerin. And I do not doubt that your comment here will inspire someone else and be helpful to them in their own similar journey.

  7. dineo said:

    Hi James
    I have been dating this guy for two years now. He is very kind and loving. He proposed 3 months after we met and promised to marry me in January this year…it did not happen. He said September but he is quite and not saying anything. I’m scared to ask him because I don’t want to seem like I am forcing him. I also discovered that he has other women that he is seeing but he denies it. He just opened a business for me and bought me a new Mercedes but u feel like he is not there. What do you think of this situation?

  8. Kim said:

    Hi James :). Really liked this post – thanks so much for your words of wisdom – they are always encouraging and your manner is comforting and reassuring ๐Ÿ™‚

    • James Bauer said:

      I appreciate that, Kim. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Kim said:

        You’re welcome ๐Ÿ™‚ it’s a tough world out there dating in these times, and it’s nice to know someone cares :). Sometimes that’s all one needs to have faith and hope :). Keep up the good work! ?

  9. Sibylle said:

    Thank you for this post James. I have been following your posts since I started your course and have found huge value in everything you publish.
    I got divorced after 18+ years of marriage about 5 years ago. I met someone 21 months ago and it started out as a work collaboration. Then something sparked in me after our first lets-get-to-know-each-other coffee meet that went from a planned 1 hour to 3.5 hours as well as spending a day together at a music festival.. We found we had so much in common, even dating back to our teen years (we did not know each other then even though we were in the same places at the same time).
    I almost ruined the friendship we were building due to my feelings for him and in Dec of 2014 I asked him to forgive me for what I had said and done since we met. He instantly agreed and also agreed to give our friendship a second chance. Since then we have built up mutual respect, integrity, honor and a looking out for each other’s best interest at all times. So a really solid friendship developed with an entirely new resonance. That ignited into a physical encounter in August this year – exactly 8 months after we agreed to start our friendship over again. It has only happened a few times since then as his work is his priority due to his circumstances. He has told me he is not ready for a relationship and is very non-commital about wanting to date anyone, including me. It seems as if a really solid friendship based on mutual respect and values is being put into place from which the romantic relationship can develop.
    So I am giving him time as I know how he does feel about me. It is not always easy…some days I crumble and wonder if I can wait. From what I have learned in your course I know that not being needy, desperate or clingy gives him the space he needs until he is ready. It is just really challenging as I am crazy about him.

    • James Bauer said:

      Wow, Sibylle. He’s a very lucky man to have someone like you pursuing him. I hope he realizes it soon. Perhaps he already does. I think you are on the right track. But in the mean time, be sure you don’t hold your breath. Live fully in the moment.


  10. dior said:

    A student asked a teacher, ‘ what is love? ” The teacher said to him: “to answer your question, go to the wheat field and choose the biggest wheat and return.ยป But the rule is that you can pass through the wheat field that once and you no longer have the right to go back to retrieve. “The student has returned to the field, go through the first line, he saw a big wheat, but he wonders: maybe to again there will be one of biggest!” Then he saw another bigger than the first… so on he went along to look for a wheat that will be very huge than others. Later, when he finished more than half of the wheat field, he begins to realize that winter now are not as large as those that it has exceeded and rejected. He knows he missed most, and he regretted. Thus, he went back to the teacher with empty hands. The teacher said to him: “…” It is love… You fight to seek the best, but later you realize that you have already missed the person. “what is that marriage?” asked the student. Professor told him: “to answer your question, go to the corn field and choose the biggest corn and return. ” But the rule is: you can go through the corn field that once and you no longer have the right to go back to retrieve. “The student went to the cornfield. This time, he to ensure not to repeat the previous error, when he reached the middle of the field, he already has in hand an average corn and felt satisfied. Back, the teacher said to him: “this time you bring back a corn… You have chosen that ci despite its small size and you find enjoyable and you have faith and believe that it is the best choice… “It is a marriage.”

    • Salom said:

      There may be a bit of a language barrier here; however, the gist of the story still shines through. “Wow…” I DEFINITELY find this Parable to be choked full of Interesting Insights, and I find the concluding points to be Priceless…

      Thank You for sharing this ‘Dior’. ๐Ÿ˜€

  11. Luna said:

    Thank you for your suggestions to other women who posted here. I am in a situation with a man that really wants a close friendship with me but does not want to explore a long term relationship. I am 44 and have dated quite a bit and never had this happen so it has been SO confusing. He is consistently there, wants to spend lots of time together, we have fun and depth and he is open to sex. With my other male friends the boundaries seem so clear. With him, I have fallen in love with him and want more. I have called it off 3 times and he is crushed each time because he wants me in his life and misses me. I am having to be really strong to stay the course.
    I haven’t met someone who makes me laugh as much and who I can talk to about a lot of things but it is painful to not be moving toward relationship so I have ended contact.
    My intuition kept telling me to stay and give it time but then I would get hurt over and over.
    Your advice to move on is really helpful and any further insights on this would be great. Thank you!

    • James Bauer said:

      I guess my one question for you, Luna, would be whether or not you have tried to define (for yourself) what is still missing from the relationship. Obviously commitment is missing, but if you ask yourself what would be different and what you would have…what is it?

      I once heard a money-coach ask a client of his why the client wanted to be a millionaire. Through the discussion it was eventually revealed that his reasons for wanting to be a millionaire were actually reachable with far less than that lofty goal. He got more clear about what the million dollars would actually do for him and realized he could do it sooner and with less stress about money.

      Are there things you could ask him for that he might say “yes” to that would give you what you need to be able to stay and enjoy this relationship?


    • Mia said:

      Luna ,
      I was in a very similar relationship with a guy, I broke up with him several times. The last break up was final cause it became obvious that he wasn’t going to commit to a relationship, even though he wanted as much sex as I would be willing to give. I was the one doing all the giving and he was receiving. For me I had to let it go just to save myself for the hurt that was looming if I continued. My opinion.

  12. clee said:

    I have a issue,I been with the same man for 3years.we have only dated each other.nobody else.he ask me to meet his parents and i did.he started inviting me to family things.well just recentely hes been telling me,we arent married or engaged.but yet we are in a relationship.we don’t date other people.we hadn’t had no sex since 4or5 months we have maybe twice.I ask him was it someone else? Cause I’m not ugly, very sexy small woman,who loves sex.but not addicted over it.he said,no one! But what man or woman is going to tell u.but I have noticed he gets upset with me more and gets really mad.offensive.I told him if it is someone tell me.I don’t know,we don’t live in the city.but only 30 mint drive.I don’t know why he is acting this way.I want more and at first he did.but now I hear,I’m not going to be forced.I havent done that.
    This clee

  13. Christina said:

    I found this interesting… So I was dating a guy and we hit it off! Very open and honest with each other. The feelings we felt was like no other. Then 9 months later I told him I wanted a little more out of the relationship, to be officially a couple. Guess the timing was wrong because he was, well is, going through some life issues with the ex. We talked and he said he just wants to be friends. That he just needs me to be his friend and support for now, so the dating status went away. Then she found out about me and wants him back. Needless to say I’ve been friend zoned and he is kind of working things out with her. He still calls and texts me everyday to talk and we hang out. The sexual intimacy is still happening too. He’s told me that I make him comfortable that he can be himself with me where as with her he can’t. So I don’t get why he’s trying to be back with her. I just want to know if I should still support him and be his friend even though I completely fell in love.

    • James Bauer said:

      Oh, that’s a tough question, Christina. It all comes down to how much you are willing to risk/tolerate. The risk is spending more time with him (being his friend) which can cause you to hurt more and more if he never returns to you. It may be better to tell him you need to protect your heart by moving on. I know that can be hard to do in real life when you really want to keep him. On the other hand, it prevents him from having the benefits of an intimate relationship with you while denying you a real relationship.

  14. Amy said:

    I’m new here
    What are the attraction triggers? Or have I yet to read them?
    Tnx much
    Love this site!

    • James Bauer said:

      Glad to see you interacting with others in the comments, Amy. Stay tuned for more on attraction triggers.

  15. Teresa said:

    Hi James,
    Can you tell me how and where to find a mature grown up guy who is not just wanting to play the field?
    I am 59. The guys I am meeting( 60 +) give the impression that having been hurt by love or marriage they have transformed themselves into the kind of hedonistic feckless playboys completely ineligible and totally disrespectful to all women.
    This really saddens me and makes me want to give up.

    • James Bauer said:

      Hi Teresa. That’s the right kind of question to ask. It’s not an easy question to answer, but it’s an answer worth pursuing nonetheless.

      Spend some time thinking about the kind of man you want to end up with. Get very specific, even if it seems a bit ridiculous to do so. For example, if you want to find yourself with a medical doctor who enjoys rockclimbing and goes to church, an exercise club with a rockclimbing wall near a medical facility would be a good place to start. You would leave behind the bar scene and join a small social group at a church. Getting specific seems ridiculous because you can’t actually pin down a man’s character that easily and figure out exactly where he’s going to be. But it’s a starting point to get you thinking outside the box.

      Think about what kinds of things the man of your choosing would be involved in (and where). Then show up at those places. Be as specific as you can. Think about the social networks where you would be most likely to find the kind of man you like. A guy who is a romantic might be auditing a class on literature offered in the evenings at a university. If you are having trouble finding a kind of man with strong moral convictions and a belief in romance, you may need to go outside your own social network. You might need to branch out and start spending time with people who are not like your typical crowd. That can be uncomfortable, but it can also lead to opportunities to interact with the kind of men you really want to be with.

      • Ruth Pallett said:

        Most useful dating advice ever (or at least getting into dating advice lol) I started reading your information as my husband and I were having problems and I was trying to work out how to fix them, however it turns out he was seeing a 23 year old who was pandering to his every whim. It has been an incredibly difficult year, as I was still in love with him and we have 3 children, the youngest of whom is 9, the next one up is suspected of Autism and doesn’t cope well with change and my husband was not as clear as he should have been about the marriage being over. I’m now stuck with trying to work out how to meet new people not already in my circle who I would like to make a connection with. So Basically after all that waffle: THANK YOU VERY MUCH! I shall definitely think about the things you have said.

  16. Amber said:

    I met a guy 7 months ago.. and we hit
    If off right away.we always had a wonderful times.about 4mnths into relationship I asked him where does he see us going? He said he just wants to be Freinds and can’t give me a reason
    Why..(so he says) i accepted it..not really because I care. Very much for him.. Well about 4 months later I brought it up again and told him I can’t be just Freinds with him.. He doesn’t understand.why I can’t. Meanwhile he dates other women..and makes comments like it shouldn’t affect me.
    For instance” I’m looking for exclusivity
    I thought I would have a girlfriend by now! Should I dump him? I tried and actually didn’t talk to him for a month.
    And then he wanted to meet.and we had a great time like always.. Help!
    Don’t know what to do.. I miss him so much but it’s killing me not to be with him more than Freinds.

    • James Bauer said:

      Hi Amber. Sometimes feelings of romantic compatibility go one way. It hurts when that happens, especially when your personalities work well together (which may be why it took him so long to tell you he was not feeling the romantic chemistry). I recommend you cut him loose and refocus your energy on developing new relationships. There is someone out there who will fall head-over-heels in love with you.

      • Jenny said:

        James, I’m in the same situation, but it’s equally as painful to walk away because he is my best friend! I’m the only one that has an attraction beyond that, but I can’t imagine my life without him. What am I supposed to do? We celebrated his birthday recently, and out of nowhere he told me he loved me…but it never turns physical or sexual. I’m miserable either way I go! Help!!!

  17. Kevin Curtis said:

    I just had this conversation with my Fiance’ yesterday. She told me that attractive men and women could not “be” friends but then today, she didn’t remember telling me that. I am confused. I have a “female” friend that is attractive and hitting on me wanting more. I do not want more. I am far away from the woman I love with ample uncertainties. HELP!

    • James Bauer said:

      Maybe you could clarify what you question is, Kevin.

      • Kevin Curtis said:

        James, FYI….I did not post the comment about “Harry Met Sally” or the “attractive friend”. Please remove this from the message board as someone is playing some type of game that I do NOT appreciate. I am Kevin Curtis but did NOT, REPEAT DID “NOT” post that message above.
        Thank you.

  18. Kim said:

    Thank you for reassuring me that wanting a friendship with my partner is not settling. Great article.

  19. telesia said:

    James, I was married for 31 years to the love of my life. We also had a wonderful friendship… just thinking about it makes me smile. He died very suddenly, but I will tell every young lady I know… that romance and friendship are both possible with the same person. Your friendship and bond is created slowly, over time; your romance creates fireworks in the beginning…. and every day thereafter, if you are very lucky (and work to create them)
    Lover really is a choice.
    You can fall in love with the same man every day…

    and if he’s your friend as well… you have the best of everything. Joy is certainly possible in this world.

    • raji said:

      Beautiful! Thank you for sharing this. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Julia said:

      Thank you for sharing your story, I really appreciate your encouragement! May your husband rest in peace and may you find solace in the happy memories!

    • Joan said:

      Telesia, I completely understand. My husband used to tell everyone that I was his best friend and I felt that way too. He died 2 years ago after 35 years married. I still so miss talking with him about everything. Love and joy are choices for sure! Best to you in the future.

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