A little hard work is needed sometimes for the happy ending.
couple on steps engagement photo

Like most things in life, all love stories are not created equal. How they start and develop over time, as well as the characteristics that make them special, are always unique to the couple. Some relationships take off much faster than others, for example, while other relationships require time to grow into a full-fledged romance. Others still start out platonic, with two people who spend months or even years as friends before realizing the potential for a deeper connection. This can be beneficial because it gives the two individuals a period of time to get to know each other before entering the romantic stage of things.

The most frustrating thing? When you realize a friend has the potential to turn into the perfect romantic partner but you aren't sure how get beyond the dreaded "friend zone." Here, couples share their been-there-done-that advice for taking a friendship to the next level.

Thandi M. was friends with her now-husband, Joshua, for 11 years before they started dating. Now, they're happily married with two kids. "We were just pals who would talk about everything from the planets to politics," she says. "We had the same major and had at least two classes together every semester, so it was hard to avoid him even if I wanted to." Although he was dating someone at the time, it didn't stop them from staying on the phone until the wee hours of the morning-and it was during those times that they two realized just how much they had in common (movies, books, goals, their college major, and even the city they planned to move to once they graduated).

Towards the end of their freshmen year of college, the hugs became longer and the goodbyes seemed more difficult to say. "He finally stopped dating his girlfriend, but I started dating someone else, so the migration out of the friend zone was prolonged, and it wasn't until I started dating that he realized that it was a possibility that he could lose me," she says. "I ended up breaking up with the guy that I was dating because I just didn't feel the same connection as I did with Joshua." After that, the two didn't waste time moving past the friend zone and started going on dates, talking about the future and meeting each other's families. "It was during that time that I realized that we were in it for the long-haul and those days of friendship set a solid foundation for the years to come," she says.

Kelsey J. and Steven G. were friends for a whopping 22 years before things turn a romantic turn for the romantic. "I was literally the girl next door," she explains. "As a child, I used to run into Steven's house in a ballerina outfit." He claims to have always had a crush on Kelsey, but thought she was way out of his league, so he never made a move until two years ago when they were both visiting their childhood homes and decided to go out for a drink. "While I wasn't sure if our first two hang-outs were actually dates, the connection was undeniable and quickly turned to more," she says. "Since then we've traveled the world, created a beautiful home, built the best family with our puppy, Molly, and are awaiting our April 9, 2019, wedding!"

Amy N. and her now-husband Matthew met at a student club organization meeting in college and became good friends since each was dating someone else. "We kept in touch throughout our freshman year, but after things were rocky with my boyfriend at the time, I rang him up, we chatted, and hung out more," she says. "There was something pulling us together, like a magnet-we just connected, but never officially called ourselves boyfriend and girlfriend. After a few months of dating, they drifted apart but continued to stay in touch. "We talked on-and-off for six years and remained really good friends and then we reconnected and became romantic again." Over 16 years after their first meeting, they got engaged and are now married with two beautiful children. "Sometimes it's all about timing," she adds.

Now-engaged Syanne C. and Joseph B. first met at church and were friends for about a year before they started dating. Syanne was seeing someone else and viewed Joseph as nothing more than a friend. "Even after I broke up with the man I was seeing I told him no numerous times when he would ask me on a date," she says. At the time, she just didn't see him as her "type." Ultimately, that idea started to shift, and she realized how well the two of them got along. One day, she decided to ask him on a date and the rest, as they say, was history. "After that I began falling in love with him," she explains. "Now we are engaged and plan to get married in August 2019!"


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