Why You Can’t “Just Be Friends” with Someone You Love

Or the reverse

Jessica Wildfire


Friendship is messy business. So is love. It’s hard to be friends with someone who turned a cheek to your kiss, or cut your heart strings. And yet, getting over rejection is basic adulting.

You crush on someone, and they let you down gently. Someone asks you over a drink, “So are you still friends?”

You shrug and say, “Sure.” And you try.

But it feels weird.

When you think about them, you still touch yourself.

The darker truth comes out. We have no idea what it means to be friends with someone we love.

Friendship is a stretchy word

There’s not a great word in English for the kind of relationships we have with the ones we love or loved, who don’t love us back. We use “friend,” a catch-all that ignores those infrared emotions.

Think about the different types of friends we have. This is why we always stick anterior shifters onto the f-word. We have work friends, college friends, high school friends, friends we have sex with…

Friendship means something different every time we say it. We even use friendship to define what a relationship isn’t.

We use the word “friend” too much

A lot of us define this as being friends with someone we used to have feelings for, like an ex:

You can stand being in the same room at a party, because they’re still in your social circle. You can make small talk. You’re not planning to frame them for murder or or anything.

You laugh at their jokes.

You even admire them from afar.

All of this makes you a mature, healthy person. But it doesn’t really make you friends, just acquaintances.

That’s such a thick, soupy word to drop into a conversation though. So we stick with the shorter one— a very loose definition of friendship. It’s easy to say, and hopelessly vague.

Calling them a friend doesn’t help