Is he a friend or more?

Annoyed with your partner? Having trouble on apps? Dealing with a crush? A breakup? What's on your mind? Send a letter to [email protected] or fill out this form.

Hi Meredith,

I am in a committed relationship with someone I love. My friend is in a committed relationship with someone he loves. Can you have deep love for someone and be happy/content being friends? How do you know if your subconscious just wants to be friends or more? In my logical brain, I would like to just be friends and we are happy in our relationships. But sometimes my brain drifts away and comes up with fantasies of being together before I snap back to reality.

Perhaps it has been so long since I've developed a deep friendship that my brain doesn't know how to organize my thoughts and feelings. I am going to therapy and will discuss these feelings with my therapist. We work outside in dangerous conditions, and I trust him with my life. I don't know quite how to describe it, but when we are spending time together, I feel like I am radiating pure happiness and excitement that I haven't felt since childhood. When I am around him, I feel incredibly grounded and safe, emotionally and physically. This is a big deal for me because I've struggled with anxiety and depression my whole life. I have put in a lot work to feel safe within myself, but this is another level.

It feels like knowing you are strong enough to swim across the ocean alone, but looking through the water and seeing a dolphin offering its help for an easier journey. Is it OK that my current relationship does not provide me with this same sense? How can I stay satisfied with where we are now and not worry about the what-ifs? Thanks for taking the time to read this.

– Loved and safe

This confusion might have to do with the job. You were vague about the "dangerous conditions," but it's very possible that these feelings are about how you protect each other at work. I assume your actual romantic partner does not get the chance to support you in a similar way.

It's great that you’ll be able to talk about this in therapy because there's a lot to unpack here. One big question is how you feel about your real partner. Is the relationship really making you happy? Is it possible that this crush on your dolphin friend is about what's lacking elsewhere? It might help to center that conversation for a bit. Be honest with yourself about the strength of that relationship and how you might feel if you were single.

Remind yourself that when you imagine what it would be like to be with this work friend, it is, in fact, a fantasy. One of the reasons he's so safe is that you're not dating him. You have shared goals at work, and a natural boundary that keeps scary, more complicated questions off the table. Make no assumptions about what things would be like if the nature of the relationship changed. The answer to your very first question – "Can you have deep love for someone and be happy/content being friends?" – depends on your ability to stay rooted in reality. All you know is what he's like right now.

– Meredith

Readers? How do you train your brain to continue to see someone as a friend? Does loving someone at work mean you'd love them at home? Should the friendship be minimized? Advice for this LW?