Contrary to popular belief, platonic friendships between men and women exist.
During my semester abroad in college, I went on a trip to Rome with my best guy friend, and I can guarantee you neither of us felt a spark or tried to make "love" happen, even when we were admiring the Colosseum together or eating spaghetti and drinking wine under the dim lights of romantic outdoor restaurants.
If you're in the category of male/female friendship in which something more could definitely be on the horizon, know that taking that leap of faith could be the best decision you'll ever make.
It might feel scary, and you might fear that it'll ruin the connection you already have, but the best – and easiest – relationships truly grow from friendships.
In a post for Fox News Magazine, Kim Olver, author of "Secrets of Happy Couples: Loving Yourself, Your Partner and Your Life," stresses the importance of friendship in romance:
When I think of reasons people cheat, I often hear things like, ‘She never supports me.’ ‘He didn't want to spend time with me.’ ‘She doesn't understand me.’ ‘He never really listens when I talk to him.’ ‘I don't even think s/he likes me.’ ‘S/he is always complaining.’ Aren't all these statements really the opposite of the core of friendship? Think about how you are with your friends: You tell each other everything. (Are there things you keep secret from your partner?) You look forward to being together. (Are there times you dread spending time with your partner?) You freely give your time, energy and attention to your friends. (Do you do the same with your partner?)
We should be giving our relationship partners the same kind of support we give our friends. We rarely criticize our friends or put them down in public, and we often take our time to listen to them and understand their perspective, even if we think they're wrong.
It would make sense, then, that the person for whom you already do all of these things would make the best relationship partner.
This isn't to say you wouldn't do these things with a romantic partner if you weren't friends with him or her first, but you're certainly more likely to do them when that friendship foundation is already there, when those levels of respect have already been established, before the passionate part comes into play.
According to Jeremy Nicholson M.S.W., Ph.D. in Psychology Today, in order for a relationship to be successful, there must be a balance between liking and desiring, two very different concepts that reflect both the friendship and passionate parts of a relationship.
The likeability factor is derived from catering to each other's wants and needs just out of kindness or thoughtfulness, which increases someone's platonic feelings toward another person.
The desirability factor is derived from the absence of those things, which ferments that kind of desire that reflects the old adage, "You want what you can't have."
If one of these is more present than the other in the relationship, the relationship will fail. Nicholson writes:
Being easy, congenial and friendly made a person more 'likeable,' but not more attractive or desirable as a romantic partner. In contrast, being aloof and challenging made a person more attractive and desirable, but did not make them likeable. Satisfying your partner's needs or wants increases how much he or she likes you and how friendly he or she feels toward you — but it can also reduce his or her desire to chase you for more. In contrast, not satisfying a partner's needs may keep him or her passionately pursuing you and trying to please you, but will eventually lead to dislike, dissatisfaction and animosity.
There must be a balance between the likability and desirability factors. Since it's easy to get caught up in the aloof and challenging parts of a relationship, this necessary liking-desiring balance could be more difficult to achieve without the friendship part fully in tact.
When you already have a history of friendship, of doing favors for each other just because you want to, you can easily consciously pull back a little bit to make room for some of that passion and desire to grow.
It's harder to do the opposite – that is, to put more effort in when you don't already care about your partner's needs.
Friendship is so important in a relationship that a 2012 study in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships found that couples who valued the friendship part of their romantic relationship over other aspects of their relationship (like, for example, the sexual aspect) had more romantic and sexual success in both the short and long term.
Valuing the friendship aspect more than the passionate aspects – or, in other words, the inevitably volatile aspects – means you will work harder to make sure your relationship remains stable, even when problems arise.
In a relationship that formed from a friendship, you'll treat each other like you would treat your best friend – because you will already have been best friends.