She’s basically the perfect girl: She has a great sense of humor, she shares a ton of your interests, and you guys talk all the time. She’s one of your closest friends…and that’s it. But you want more.

Falling for your best female friend isn’t just the plotline of every romantic comedy, ever—it’s perfectly natural, according to psychologist and relationship expert Tracy Thomas, Ph.D. “It just makes sense,” Thomas says. “And if you can turn that into a relationship, it’s basically the holy grail of relationships: Someone you have a history and tons in common with.”

Key word: If you can turn that into a relationship. But taking a friendship to the next level isn’t easy (not to mention, nerve-racking), so we had the experts weigh in on how to navigate this tricky situation.

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1. Take a step back

It’s tempting to rush over to her place and spill your feelings all over her doorstep—you know, before you lose all of your courage-slash-adrenaline.

Don’t do that.

Before you go in with guns blazing and visions of happily-ever-afters dancing in your mind, take a step back and consider that you may be confusing a close friendship with sexual chemistry, says sex therapist and relationship expert Kat Van Kirk, author of The Married Sex Solution. There’s more risk involved—she’s not some random girl on the street that you can just walk away from—so Van Kirk suggests sitting on your feelings for a couple of weeks to make sure they actually stick, and it’s not just a passing crush.

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2. Figure out if she feels the same way

Good news: Because she’s your friend, and not some random girl on the street, you have both the time and resources to figure out if she thinks of you as a potential partner. There’s no reason to go into this blindly, Van Kirk points out.

“If something’s changed for you, chances are something has changed for her, too,” Van Kirk says. “Drop some hints—verbal and non—to see if she feels the same way.” ‘Hints’ can be anything from talking hypothetically (e.g. “Wouldn’t it be crazy if we got together?”) to brushing up on your chivalry and paying more attention to her. You can also use your social circle to help assess the situation—who better than a neutral third-party to tell you if she seems more flirtatious than usual?

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3. Go for it

There’s only one way to go from buddy to boyfriend: You have to make a move and tell her how you feel.

The key to keeping this conversation—which can be scary, I know—out of the awkward-zone is honesty and low expectations, Thomas says. Be direct and honest about how you feel, but make it clear that you’re sharing your feelings and not looking for an answer. “If she feels pressured to give you an answer right away, she may run for the hills,” Thomas says. Make your speech and then give her some space—the relationship is not necessarily doomed if she doesn’t jump into your arms immediately.

One thing to keep in mind: Once that two-week waiting-it-out period is up, have the talk. “The longer you wait to tell her how you feel, the more you risk being officially relegated to the friend zone,” Van Kirk says. “Plus, women appreciate directness.”

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