Whether men and women can truly be friends (without benefits) is an age-old debate. Those that do not believe men and women can be friends without the relationship progressing into deeper feelings often argue that the strongest romantic relationships are first built on solid friendships. When two people of the opposite sex become friends, it is only natural for the relationship to progress into one of a romantic nature. Whether you believe that men and women can be friends, the fact is, friends falling in love is definitely a common occurrence. The tricky part is knowing what to do if and when you begin to develop romantic feelings for a friend.

When you first realize that you have romantic feelings for your friend, you must make the important decision of whether you are going to tell your friend how you feel. Disclosing your feelings will probably make you feel like you have taken a huge load off of your shoulders. You may also feel relieved, because you will no longer have to mask your true feelings for your friend since everything will be out in the open. However, the feeling of relief may be brief if your friend does not feel the same way about you. If you decide that it is the right decision to disclose your feelings to your friend, you must first mentally prepare yourself for the many reactions he or she may have. These reactions include rejection, shock, nervous laughter, relief due to the fact that he or she feels the same way about you or a combination of all of the above. If you are lucky enough to have mutual friends, you may want to ask a few close friends who also know your love interest what they think of the situation. Sometimes third parties have insight that you may not be privy too, such as a secret crush that your friend has-that is not you. A little stealthy research can save you a lot of embarrassment.

If you decide that you are ready to confront your friend, and you have mentally prepared to do so, the next step is actually doing it-although this can be easier said than done. Before you approach your friend, it is essential to have an end-goal in mind. Simply stating that you are romantically interested in your friend can leave you with more questions than you started with. Be ready to tell your friend how you feel, but also let them know what you want. If you want to explore a relationship, say that. If you are not sure of what you want, say that too. Disclosing as much information as possible about how you feel will help your friend and potential mate know exactly where you are coming from. When and where you choose to share your feelings with your friend is also an important decision. Typically, an outing with a group of friends is not the best time to share your feelings. Choose a private setting, or at least a time and a place where your friend will be able to listen to what you have to say, ponder over the information and make a decision about how he or she feels without being influenced from outside sources.

In the end, if you realize you have romantic feelings for a friend, evaluate how dear the relationship is to you. Are you willing to risk hurt feelings if your friend does not feel the same way about you? Are you willing to risk your friendship if your friend agrees to be in a relationship, but it does not work out? Making the leap from friends to lovers is a big step; but it can also be well worth your while.

Author's Bio: 

Brooke Alexandria offers relationship advice for men and women of all ages, and in all stages of life. Regardless of if you are newly single, a dating veteran or married, you'll surely find useful tips to help you find love, navigate through your relationship and build stronger, long-lasting relationships. Follow Brooke on her journey through relationships at http://truth-about-relationships.blogspot.com.