IT HAPPENED TO ME: I Dated My Best Friend and It Didn’t Destroy Our Relationship

It was the age-old fear: What if we gave it a shot and things didn’t work out? Then, we wouldn’t just be losing a significant other, but we’d be losing a best friend as well.
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Lanie Pemberton
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It was the age-old fear: What if we gave it a shot and things didn’t work out? Then, we wouldn’t just be losing a significant other, but we’d be losing a best friend as well.

Nick and I met during my junior year of college when his cousin, Dave, invited me to a party they were attending. Was it love at first sight? I can say without a doubt that it was not. 

We were both friendly, but that’s just not the way it went. I was actually seeing someone else at the time, so the thought of anything romantic didn’t even cross our minds.

Soon after this, Dave was cast in a scene I was directing for one of my theatre courses. He started inviting me to hang out with him and Nick after rehearsals, since they often cooked dinner and watched movies at Nick’s apartment. 

The hang-outs became more frequent, and I was soon finding myself at Nick’s place several times a week. And I wasn’t the only one -- Nick’s place became a sort of hub for our friend group. I can’t count the number of movie nights, parties, dinner parties, and casual hang outs that were held in that apartment. 

When I was there spending time with him, it was rarely just the two of us. My boyfriend and I, plus a score of other people were in and out constantly. Poor Nick barely got to enjoy the benefits of living alone because he almost always had people showing up to hang out.

Just a couple of college kiddos who were just friends…

Just a couple of college kiddos who were just friends…

Our friendship began in such a casual way, and developed so organically, that I can’t even pinpoint when he became my best friend. But after spending so much time together, it was suddenly very clear that he was the person that understood me more than almost anyone else. 

I knew I could count on him for anything, just as he could count on me. We could talk for hours, or we could sit in comfortable silence and just be. He was one of the few people I could spend endless hours with and not get sick of being around.

I do want to stress that it was always extremely platonic. Like I mentioned before, I was seeing someone else. Actually, that’s a bit of an understatement -- I should actually say that I was in a serious relationship for the first two years that Nick and I knew each other. 

And Nick had his own love interests, he wasn’t pining after me by any means. He was, however, a very present and constant friend to me throughout that time.

Although I cannot pinpoint when he became my best friend, I can pinpoint when I started to realize that I wished he was more. It happened like this: My current boyfriend was visiting a friend out of state and we hadn’t had a chance to talk in several days. 

One night that week, I was hanging out at Nick’s place. Nothing unusual about that, but this was one of those semi-rare occurrences when I was the only other person at Nick’s apartment. I don’t remember what we were talking about, but I do remember that we were having an in-depth conversation. 

My phone started buzzing, and I looked down to see that my boyfriend was calling. At that moment, a realization hit me like a ton of bricks: I didn’t want to talk to my boyfriend. But that was crazy! My boyfriend was the guy I was supposed to be in love with! The guy I should be missing like crazy when he was out of town. But I didn’t answer the phone. I didn’t want to talk to him because I wanted to talk to Nick, instead.

I drove home that night deep in thought. Nick was such a close friend -- he was my confidant, my comedian, my texting buddy, my cook, my encourager, my advice-giver. He was my best friend. And then, for the first time, maybe he was something even deeper.

When things finally ended with my boyfriend, I can honestly say it was not because I wanted to be with Nick. Yes, I had the beginnings of feelings for him, but I had no way of knowing if he was feeling the same way. 

In fact, based on our history, it was safe to assume he felt nothing more than our usual friendship. I knew how stupid it would be to end a relationship based on mere hopes that another one may sprout from its ashes. I had other reasons. 

I remember telling my friends that if I was going to be dating someone seriously, I wanted to think that he was the best guy that I knew. I couldn’t say that about my boyfriend. I couldn’t say it because Nick was the best guy that I knew. 

So even if my feelings for him never fully developed and even if we were never anything more than friends, I couldn’t stay in the relationship I was in.

So then I found myself (finally) single with just a few months left before graduation. For awhile, Nick’s and my friendship chugged along as usual. There were the hangouts, the movie marathons, the parties. And then slowly, slowly, we were hanging out a little more. Slowly, I was spending more time with him alone, sans our large friend group. Slowly, I was falling in love with my best friend.

It took a while, but I was finally confident that Nick felt the same way. He gave me all the signs to suggest it -- from spending every free moment with me, to texting me constantly, to planning his schedule around mine. 

I finally couldn’t handle the suspense and broached the subject of dating. I was all for it, obviously, but Nick had reservations. It was the age-old fear: We were such close friends, and what if dating destroyed that? What if we gave it a shot and things didn’t work out? Then, we wouldn’t just be losing a significant other, but we’d be losing a best friend as well.

After many discussions, we decided to go for it. It was a risk, but we were both ready to see where a romantic relationship could take us.

Summer of 2012…finally a couple!

Summer of 2012…finally a couple!

Guess what? It was the best choice we could have possibly made. It seems ironic now that we almost didn’t get to be together because of friendship, when in fact that friendship is what I believe made us perfect for each other. 

Our dating life flowed just as organically as our friendship had because the usual phases of dating didn’t really apply to us. There was no awkward first date. There was no blissfully ignorant honeymoon stage followed by a hard slap of reality as we realized who we were really dealing with. 

I knew Nick before I ever even held his hand. I knew his quirks, his pet-peeves, his habits, his good and his bad. I knew him deeply and I loved him because of it. The foundation we had built by being best friends for so long made our relationship strong, healthy, and wonderful.

Fast forward several years later and Nick is still my best friend. Only now, he’s my husband, too.

Married 2 years and living in Korea.

Married 2 years and living in Korea.

It’s surreal and terrifying to me that I could have lived a life in which he was not mine. I don’t like to dwell on the thought that fear could have robbed us from each other.

Friendships are important -- and best friends are not something to be taken lightly. Finding someone that understands you on such a deep level is rare, and those relationships should be treasured, nurtured and protected. But being captive to fear will only ever lead to missing out on all the amazing things that life has to offer.

We spend so much of our lives avoiding things because we are afraid -- afraid of failing, afraid of getting hurt, afraid of making mistakes. And, sure, things don’t always work out like we hope. 

Sometimes we will fail. Sometimes we will get our hearts broken…but not always. Don’t let fear stop you from living your life and taking chances. Maybe, just maybe, the thing you are afraid to try will be the most beautiful part of your story.