Those Three Little Words

If finding a friend is the platonic version of dating, than declaring BFFship is like saying those three little words.

I’ve often wondered what I’ll do if and when I find The One. Or, even, The Ones. Is there a not-awkward way of telling someone that she’s your BFF?

A couple of weeks ago I got an email from a reader with this same question. It read: “At what point do you tell someone that you consider them a BFF (or the BFF)?  What signs do you look for that indicate it’s the right time?  Do you wait for it to come up in conversation, or do you make a point to talk about it?  And what do you do if something heartbreaking happens:  you tell them they’re your BFF and instead of them saying ‘Oh, I feel the same way too!’ they just smile sweetly and say something horrifying like ‘Oh, thank you!'”

Perhaps, at this point, you are chuckling in your head at how date-y this seems. These are, clearly, the same concerns when we want to tell a romantic partner that we’re in love. But let me be clear—this reader is not alone. I’ve been wondering the same thing and, in fact, her timing was impeccable. It seemed as if she might have been reading my mind.

Reader went on to tell me about her relationship with a new pal. “I really want to tell this ‘close local’ friend that I consider her a BFF, but I feel awkward doing so because [I know she has other local best friends].  I’m pretty sure she would say she considers me a BFF too, but there’s a chance she won’t.  I tend to wear my heart of my sleeve, so NOT telling her she’s a BFF is quite painful for me.”

I’m the same way. You know how when you’re in love you want to shout it from the rooftops? That’s how I feel about new friends. As our relationships evolve, it’s all I can do not to give my friends a Best Friends Forever card. Or necklace. On top of that—and I’m totally serious here—when we go out and get drinks, if I get buzzed enough I get that giggly “I want to tell you how much you mean to me” bug that plenty of us get when we’re out with a boyfriend. Anyone who’s made a slightly drunk profession of love knows this is not the best idea.

As I told this reader in an email, most of my potential best friends in Chicago already have a best friend of their own. So announcing that they hold the title could be end up, well, with a “thank you.” (Like Emily to Ross!) Yikes.

The good news is that this isn’t romantic dating. Declaring BFFship isn’t a necessity in taking a relationship to the next level. No one (well, except me and this reader, apparently) is waiting for those three little words:”You’re my BFF.” So saying it isn’t a necessity. You don’t have to wait until the time is right. My advice, to her and to myself, was to wait it out. Making a pronouncement could be awkward, but letting it come up naturally in conversation—in a joke, or a fun toast—is, in the words of another Friend, Monica, breezy.

If you’re in a friendship that’s working for you, the rational answer to this reader question is that the label shouldn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if you are the official BFF or not, you’re still getting the same social satisfaction. Of course, my rational side doesn’t always win. Whose does?

So, what do you think? When is the right time to tell her you love her she’s your BFF?


Filed under The Search

3 responses to “Those Three Little Words

  1. Ana

    I think breezy is the way to go, though that doesn’t preclude being honest & open about your feelings. The problem in this situation is that there is no universally accepted definition of “best friend”, and if your pal has a completely different concept of what best-friendship means, you could end up with hurt feelings, even though each technically feels the same way about the other. Some women may reserve the title for the BFF they’ve known since kindergarten, or their sister; everyone else is just a “good friend”. Or they have an “overall BFF” and a “local BFF”, or a “work BFF” and “mom BFF” or a whole group of 5 that are all “BFF”.
    The sentiment that you’re getting at is that you consider them a very very close friend, maybe one of the closest—-but do you really need to rank? So stick with the buzzed “I love you, man!” or drop into a conversation “I consider you one of my closest friends”; it leaves the hierarchy out of it and allows the friend to reciprocate that they think you are awesome too, without having to choose “favorites”.

  2. Well, this is an easy one. Clearly, it’s when you’re on the roof of the Bellagio, after you’ve read the poem about the wolf pack, but before you’ve given your friends roofies without their knowledge.

    Oh, wait. That might actually turn out badly…

    Seriously, though, with friends I feel less need to declare BFF-ship. With dating there are all sorts of reasons that you need to define the relationship – future plans for the relationship being foremost among them (“Where is this going?” and all of that). But with a BFF you’re not looking for a life partner, so I don’t really feel the need for labels. Also, in my experience, slapping a “BFF” on a friendship leads to all sorts of expectations that can be difficult to live up to. I’d rather enjoy the friendship, without worrying about to describe it.

  3. alison

    Here’s what happened to me once and I think it is a very elegant solution: when you introduce the as-yet-undeclared-BFF to a third party, introduce her as “and I want you to meet one of my dearest friends, [insert name”].” This happened to me with a girlfriend I really adore and I was already thinking that she really was one of my besties and most trusted friends so when she introduced me like that to someone else she knew, I knew that she felt the same way.

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