Question: What if you’re into a guy in your friendship group, but you don’t want to pursue it due to fear of ruining a good thing with the group? What’s your advice?
Answer: Realizing you want to date a guy in your social group is perhaps one of the most common dating dilemmas faced by women in their university years and early twenties. Dating someone in your group of friends isn’t always a bad idea, but complications are bound to arise, so it’s important to think it through carefully first.
It is easy to develop feelings for a guy who is part of the group because you spend so much time together in low-pressure situations. You feel like you can be yourself, and you’re getting to know each other on a genuine level, as opposed to trying to impress each other on a date. While I’ve learned that first dates don’t have to be stressful, I’m also well-acquainted with the appeal of a guy who you’ve already gotten to know with zero pressure or expectations.
On the flip side, you also know that any potential relationship will likely have repercussions for the group as a whole, and thereby your social life and other friendships that might be important to you. It’s scary to think that if things don’t work out, you could lose your connection to his friends, or the traditions and habits that you share as a group.
I won’t lie to you and tell you that this isn’t going to happen. In fact, I’ve rarely seen a situation in which this did not happen eventually. However it is important to realize that other forces in life will shape your group regardless of your dating choices. The group will grow, mutate, and divide, no matter what you do. People will come and go, and you’ll grow closer to some and drift away from others.
The group of 5 lifelong friends I had when I graduated from university at 22 was very different from the group of 20 co-partiers I considered my friends in first year. Many relationships formed and dissolved throughout those years, which contributed to the group mutation. In the end, I was way happier with the group I ended up with than the one I started out with – and it was one quarter of the size.
My point here is that your concern for the welfare of “the group” is natural, but shouldn’t be your top priority. It shouldn’t determine what relationships you do or don’t pursue because ultimately, your true friends will stand with you either way. And as any cliché will tell you, these are the only people who matter.
Those who don’t care enough to try and preserve their friendship with you probably won’t add much to your life in the long run. While it may be fun to knock back drinks with them at the bar on Thursday nights, or watch hangover Disney movies the next morning, if they don’t support you they won’t stick around for long. They’ll eventually be replaced by different people who add more to your life.
All this aside, the formation of a new relationship doesn’t usually do any damage to the group in and of itself. If anything, a relationship can bring the group closer together. Even the confession of unrequited feelings doesn’t usually do much damage beyond a few awkward hangouts before things revert to being normal – at least for the rest of the group. Lasting damage to the group usually only occurs in the event of a disastrous breakup where there is drama, anger, betrayal, or a shitty person involved.
This brings me to what is, in my view, the most important question in this situation – what is this guy like, and what is the dynamic like between you two? Do you think (or know) that he is into you too? Has he told you, or made gestures to show you? Most guys will make it clear in one way or another if they are interested, and the only boyfriend worth having is one who wants to be with you.
If the answer is “yes” or “I think so”, then the next questions to ask is how much you trust him. Are you confident that he’s a good person? More on the importance of a good guy (and how to identify one) in this article. Are you sure he wouldn’t try to turn your friends against you if things didn’t work out?
Beyond the characteristics that originally attracted you to him (usually humour, charm, and physical chemistry), does he have the capacity to be affectionate, caring, and generous? Would he be a good boyfriend, as well as a good friend? These questions seem obvious, but they are important, and you’d be surprised how often we overlook them.
Sadly, I’ve witnessed the fallout for women who dated guys in their friend groups that turned out to be emotionally manipulative, cruel, vindictive, possessive, indifferent, disloyal, and the list goes on. You need to be sure you aren’t blinded by attraction, and that you try to see this guy for who he really is.
If you are confident that he’s a good guy who reciprocates your feelings and will treat you like a girlfriend (not just a buddy or FWB), then do not hold back on account of concern for the group. The group will be fine, and you’ll be fine too – your good friends will always stand with you. They’re the core of a group that will morph and change throughout your life, no matter what. You’re just along for the ride, so pursuewhat you believe will make happy.