Sentimental trigger: how does a friendship turn into a love story?

Like Chandler and Monica in Friends, close friends can take months, sometimes even years, to fall in love. But how can this development of the relationship be explained?

Dyears Friends, Chandler and Monica had been friends for a decade before falling for each other. If this romance allowed the cult series to find a new life, it also deeply surprised fans: there was no indication that the two New Yorkers, friends like pigs, would end up sleeping together for a wedding and then falling in love in stride.

If it is a fiction, this scenario is nevertheless very representative of “real life”. We’ve all had – or almost – two friends who woke up in the same bed one morning, after a full night, never to leave each other again. A British study, conducted with a sample of about 2,000 people, even reveals it two-thirds of couples were the first friends before they got a sentimental click.

Seen from the outside, this sudden transformation of the relationship inevitably raises questions. Were there any warning signs? Was one of the two dwarf parrots secretly in love with the other from the start? Is it really possible to be friends for years, without any ambiguity, and wake up one day with feelings for the other?

Reverse lightning strike

To understand how two friends can fall in love, let’s first look at science. For love is not just a mysterious force that unites two individuals. In fact, a whole lot of biological mechanisms are activated in our brain when we fall in love with a person and force ourselves to try to conquer them.

This is all the more true in the case of “love at first sight”. You see someone across a room and without knowing why, your heart is pounding, your hands are sweating, and you feel an urgent need to get in touch with him or her.

“At that time, in our brain, there is a release of a certain number of neurotransmitters,” sums up Bernard Sablonnière, professor of medicine and author of the book The chemistry of emotions (Editions Odile Jacob). “First, there is a release of adrenaline, which will activate our sensory perceptions. It will make us much more sensitive to the other person’s details, such as their smell or the tone of their voice.. Then dopamine sets in. She will tell us that we want this person right away. It is she who drives us forward without thinking, despite the stress of the situation. “

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Except that in our case, the exact opposite is happening. Two beings first got to know each other, became friends and developed a romantic passion a few months, even a few years after their meeting. How to explain it?

“Everything is very different from person to person. There are people in whom the release of dopamine will be very violent, and in whom” love at first sight “will occur systematically, Bernard Sablonnière resumes. In other people, there is not this immediate aggravation of the senses. With them, the ‘desire – pleasure’ cycle is activated more slowly. This is due to neurotransmitters that do not work in the same way from one person to another. But to explain more precisely how and why friends end up falling in love, neurobiology is not yet able.

Unrecognized attraction

For Julie, 27, the sentimental click took 12 years to happen. The young woman met him who was to become her partner in high school, and they both became very close, very quickly. “Gaétan *, he was my best friend, we were always stuck together, she remembers. We were so close that everyone kept telling us we were made for each other. But for me it was going out with a friend the worst case scenario I was afraid it would ruin everything. “

However, the friendship between Gaétan and Julie has ended up developing. When it happened more than a year ago, Julie was unemployed and back with her parents. Gaétan, he was developing into a job where he did not feel fulfilled at all. And it is precisely the vagueness that surrounded their existence, in this very moment, that transformed their relationship.

I would say that we found comfort in each other’s company at a time when things were not going well in our respective lives.. We had dinners, movie nights, and a new, very tender closeness gradually developed between us. Spending time together changed our minds, and we realized we were really both good. “

No one wakes up overnight thinking ‘Oh, hey, I love him!’

We are therefore far from the famous love at first sight described in romance novels. But Julie assures that some kind of attraction was already present between her and her future companion at the time of their meeting. “I think there’s an element of hidden attraction in every couple that has been through the friendship box before dating. No one wakes up overnight thinking ‘Oh, hey, I love him!’ There is necessarily an attraction, more or less strong, sometimes unconscious, that develops over time.

An opinion not shared by Camille Rochet, a psychologist specializing in the couple and author of the book Love begins after three years (Intereditions editions). For her, “two people can fall in love perfectly because they realize they are really responding, without being attracted to each other when they met.” And adds:To fall in love is also to agree to lower the demands we could make on the concept we had of love, namely an immediate love and hyper-passionate. It’s often a lot easier to form a couple with a friend. “

So falling in love with a friend is necessarily giving up the passion? Ciao the butterflies in the stomach, the raging heart and the impression of never being happy with the other? That’s a little sad, right?

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“Every scenario is different,” Camille Rochet weighs. In some people, the passionate box doesn’t actually open up. I am thinking especially of people who have been very hurt in love in the past. The latter seeks to develop the side of friendship by virtually forbidding itself from falling in love, for fear of suffering again.. And so, having been confident in friendship, they finally allow themselves to consider another kind of relationship that can trigger a true passion for love.

The influence of the environment

Like Julie and Gaétan, Laura and Martin took more than ten years to fall in love. “There was never any ambiguity between us, Laura assures. We were not attracted to each other, but on my part I was also not closed to the idea that something would happen between us one day. But it was not really conscious.”

As a couple for almost 5 years, the two Landais took the plunge one summer, during a vacation with their group of friends. “Martin always used to tease me, but that summer the quarrel started to get more and more ambiguous … until we both broke up., sums up the young woman. It was weird at first, because at that point I was interested in another guy, and then everything finally started to make sense. It was simple, obvious, we already knew each other so well. “

By not repeating to us that we would get along well, I ended up asking myself questions

At the other end of the line, Laura marvels at the sudden development of her relationship with Martin. What was the actual trigger? An attraction for the other, well buried, that finally shows up? Neurotransmitters that go to waste in the brain at a certain time? The outpouring of two soulmates reuniting on a summer evening?

I think we were subconsciously influenced a little bit by those around us, she finally points out. Ever since I went to college, my mom has told me that Martin is her ideal son-in-law. Same with Martin’s family: his brother and his friends often teased him and asked him when we were finally going out together. Everyone saw something in us that we did not necessarily notice. And by not repeating it to us, I ended up asking myself questions. And him too, I think. “

Very close to her family, Laura acknowledges that her relationship could never have existed without the consent of those closest to her: “I once had a boyfriend that my parents did not appreciate, and that immediately put a brake on my relationship. I also think that I could not live with someone who displeases my family. “

Reverse love at first sight, unrecognized attraction, help from loved ones projecting themselves into our place … defining exactly what is pushing two friends to transform their relationship is impossible as there are so many reasons there are specific to each. And maybe it’s better that way.

* the name has been changed

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