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Sex + Relationships

Why “Just Friends” Sometimes Really Means Just Friends

Have you ever been walking through town or down the street, minding your own business, when you see a couple acting a little, well… friendly? I know I’ve definitely been there; I often catch myself assuming they’re a couple, thinking “oh that’s cute” or possibly more around Valentine’s Day, “ugh, I guess that’s fine too”.

But here’s the thing about assumptions—they can be wrong. Maybe you’ve been there, shoulder bumping a friend or losing yourself in laughter with a person that you genuinely care about. You get it, just because two people are close doesn’t mean they need, or even want, to be together. 

Has someone ever said those few uncomfortable words that are expected but still kind of weird: “Have you ever thought about, you know, dating?” While I’m all for laughing off awkward moments, sometimes awkward gets really awkward. And then you start thinking about that person in that way when it wasn’t ever about that at all. You question whether the other person thinks it’s that way or if it should be.

That’s what happens when we make assumptions about people; it can make things harder than they have to be. Instead of living in the moment, we like to make our own happy endings for stories that never even started and make things more complicated than they have to be. 

As human beings, we come with a social side and, introverted or not, people are a necessity in our lives, whether that looks like a big group of friends or just a few. Especially in college, we might see our relationship definitions change a bit in the boundaries of how we all let each other in. Sometimes the lines can get blurred and at some points, even crossed. But make no mistake: there’s a difference between an intimate relationship and a romantic one.

Take a romantic relationship. You’ve got movie dates, possible PDA, a Valentine’s celebration, gift giving, and anniversary dates you should probably put in your calendar to remember. Those are important. But when you think about a romantic relationship, this is probably what you get.

So what about an intimate relationship? Here we have plenty of time spent together, friend dates (if you need some more ideas, check this out!), study sessions, and basically everything you would see in a romantic relationship. Without the romance part.  

Don’t forget now, relationships are a game changer that some people don’t want to deal with when they’re happy with the way things are. In a relationship, priorities can shift, from being best friends to being something more— even just a little bit of that something can mean everything. Even on a regular night out, not everyone wants to bring their SO out with their crew, and when someone no longer fits into that crew, things can get weird. Really weird. The dynamics of your relationship can change when you make the jump from intimate to romantic; you can have one and you can have the other, but in some cases, they really should not go hand in hand.

Just because two people are close or they “get along super well” doesn’t mean they need to be dating one another too.

Now, think about this: have you ever heard about the Bitching Paradox? Being “just friends” means that they are your go-to rant person about everything and anything, you know what I mean. Did your SO borrow some money but not pay it back, like they always do? Or they said something that hurt your feelings, but it’s a new relationship and you don’t know how to bring it up?

Well, that’s the thing about having a best friend who is purely platonic. They’re your person… But if you’re dating your person (if you don’t know what that means, here you go) and your go-to, who else do you have to, well, go to?

When college hands you people, some of them stick around and some of them don’t. But when college gives you a friend, someone you just click with from the beginning, then maybe they stick around for a little longer and you didn’t even have to ask them to. It just made sense. There’s a chance they come with intimacy, the kind that just happens, but in a weird way, it’s not weird at all. When we find them, we hold onto them because we genuinely love who they are— no we are not in love with them, but with who they are to us.

Who knows, at some point, you really aren’t just friends. Maybe you’re best friends. And that’s more than okay too.

Cal Poly SLO Senior, author of Live, Laugh, Love Like a Teenager, and blogger at KWilliamsbooks, Karina is one of countless women with a voice to be heard and a dream to be chased. Perhaps a little bit of both at the same time; follow her on the journey and you can find out.
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