Sorry Polin Fans, But The Whole Friends-To-Lovers Scenario Is Not Always Ideal

No Hollywood ending IRL.

Joey and Pacey. Monica and Chandler. Jim and Pam. Falling in love with a friend is truly a tale as old as time in the world of pop culture and entertainment. The highly anticipated third season of Netflix’s Bridgerton serves as yet another example of how this romantic formula captivates audiences. Indeed, after three years of watching wallflower Penelope Featherington (played by Nicola Coughlan) quietly pine for Colin Bridgerton (played by Luke Newton), it seems the endless buildup has finally reached its climax... pun intended. And while the frothy Regency-era world makes for the perfect setting of steamy, albeit predictable romance, is falling for a friend actually a good idea in real life? And, more importantly, does it ever work out in the end?

The short answer is: of course it can. However, there are some very real risks and even drawbacks that aren’t always captured onscreen. “Adding romance to a friendship doesn't automatically mean everything will be perfect,” says Dr. Michael Kane, M.D., board-certified psychiatrist. “Yes, you may have worked out compatibility issues through your friendship, but being in a romantic relationship opens up a whole new level of vulnerability and intimacy. You have to be prepared to show a different side of yourself and be ready to be completely open and honest with your feelings. It may not be as easy as it was when you were just friends.”



Yes, it’s true that dating a friend often means skipping a few steps. “Longtime friends often have a profound understanding of each other's personalities and life goals,” says Dr. Olivia Lee, AASECT-certified sex therapist. There’s also typically established shared interests and experiences that you don’t have to build like you would with a stranger. “You may also feel more at ease communicating with them and sharing vulnerable thoughts and emotions, which makes it much easier for both of you to get on the same wavelength,” says therapist Sal Raichbach.

A pre-existing foundation of trust can lead to a more secure and comfortable attachment. “Since you have known each other for a long time, you may have already seen each other at your best and worst moments,” says Raichbach. “This can create a deep level of trust and understanding that can be hard to find in new relationships. You don't have to question their intentions or worry about being vulnerable with them because you already have that established level of trust from the get-go.”


While this may all sound well and good, rest assured romantic partnerships with friends are not without their challenges. For starters, there’s adjusting to the fact that, well, you’re dating a friend. The dynamic you share as a platonic couple instantly changes. “For instance, maybe as friends, you were OK with not talking every day or canceling plans last minute, but in a romantic relationship, these may cause issues,” says Kane. “Since you leveled up your relationship, you must also level up your communication and commitment. This can be difficult for some people, and it's important to consider beforehand if you're ready for that change.

Also, feelings and emotions — including the negative — are intensified. “I think it would hurt much more if they betrayed you in any way,” says Raichbach. “Since you have a long history with this person, the potential for more significant emotional wounds is higher. Since you see this person as a lover and a best friend, any hurt feelings may feel more intense and last longer. This can also make it harder to move on if things don't work out romantically.”

This leads to the more obvious risk of losing the friendship altogether if you ever go your separate ways. “If things don't work out in a romantic sense, it may be difficult to go back to being just friends again,” says Kane. “You know how when a plate shatters, you can glue it back together, but there will always be cracks. It's the same with relationships. Even if you try to go back to being friends, things may never be exactly the same again. You have to really think about whether you're willing to risk losing the friendship if things don't work out romantically.”


Things To Consider

On-screen, the friends-to-lovers plot is often romanticized and sugar-coated. Even when the couples in question hit a snag, by the end of the episode or film, all is mended and forgotten. Real-life conflict can be a bit more awkward and trickier to navigate — and get over. So, naturally, communication is key. Yes, even if you think you and your new friend-turned-significant other are on the same page, it’s still possible that you are not (friends with benefits are indeed a thing).

For this reason, Suzannah Weiss, relationship coach and resident sexologist for pleasure product brand Biird, says pacing yourself is key. “Move slowly when pursuing a good friend romantically so that if anything isn’t working, you can nip it in the bud and preserve the friendship,” she says. “The deeper in you go with someone, the messier the breakup can get. I’d recommend taking your time and really feeling into whether you feel confident in the relationship before becoming official and probably also before having sex, just because physical intimacy can create a strong bond that makes it harder to let go of the person. Also exercise caution in telling your mutual friends so that you don’t then have to announce it if it doesn’t end up working out.”

Also, while you may believe that you and your friend have a strong connection and compatibility, when you start dating and spending more time together in a romantic context, you may realize that the relationship isn't what you expected, explains Raichbach. “This can be a difficult pill to swallow, especially if you both had high hopes for the relationship,” he adds. “It's essential to be prepared for this possibility and have open communication with your friend throughout the process.”

Be sure to also have those conversations with yourself. “My advice for someone considering a romance with a friend is to be honest with yourself about whether the relationship has lasting power,” says Weiss. “If you have incompatible future goals, for instance, such as one person wanting kids and the other not wanting them, it’s probably not worth the risk of dating to only have it end and then possibly hurt the friendship. If you really are compatible in the long term, though, it very well may be worth that risk because you already know the relationship has the potential to be healthy and last a lifetime.”