How to get out of the friend zone
The friend zone is a common dating scenario where one person develops feelings for someone with whom their relationship has always been purely platonic. The friend zone can also refer to a situation where one person openly reveals a romantic interest for someone else only for those feelings not to be reciprocated. This second description is commonly referred to as the “let’s just be friends” syndrome, due to that phrase being a common response to unwanted romantic interest from a friend.
It is generally people with less dating options who easily become infatuated with a single person, and a lack of dating experience makes it more difficult to differentiate between emotional attachment and sexual attraction. A high percentage of my dating clients come to me wanting advice on winning over a specific person. My initial advice to those people is usually the same: in order to attract one person, become better at attracting all people!
This article will dissect the psychology behind having romantic feelings for a friend before describing the only reliable techniques to starting a relationship with someone who you are firmly in the friend zone with…
The reason why you are in the friend zone:
Romantic relationships form through the distinct progression of several different stages, namely attraction and rapport. Someone who finds themselves strictly in the friend zone has generally skipped the attraction phases and has instead created deep rapport with the person in question.
Deep rapport refers to being comfortable talking in depth with someone about meaningful or personal topics. The opposite of deep rapport is wide rapport, which is talking about a variety of topics in a casual and informal manner. Although rapport is a sign of friendship, attraction can be created through these methods too. It is specifically deep rapport prior to any sexual attraction or physical escalation that will triumphantly lump you in the friend zone!
To distinguish this muddled order of relationship phases more clearly, someone will be in the friend zone if they have failed to successfully progress the relationship at certain points, specifically regarding physical comfort and intimacy.
Making physical advances on someone you are interested in is a common anxiety for both men and women. Without knowing what you are doing, there is a genuine risk of accidentally overstepping personal boundaries, hence why most people do nothing.
If a certain window of opportunity has passed by with nothing being said or done to communicate romantic interest, friendship will always be implied!
Why do you want to get out of the friend zone?
If you acknowledge that you are in the friend zone and you really feel infatuated with one specific person, before I reveal a few methods for turning things around, there are a number of concepts worth thinking about.
First is to make sure that this isn’t a case of dating avoidance. Turning a friendship – one where you are already comfortable together and enjoy each other’s company – into a relationship may seem easier than finding someone else, but is that a good enough reason?
I advocate a proactive approach to dating, but putting yourself out there, developing adept social skills, and then embarking on the arduous task of finding the partner you really want is a tough thing to do. It is also time-consuming for someone who wants to be in a relationship NOW and wants to spend their time on other aspects of life. For some people it is not only easier to date a friend but it is also less painful than dealing with the fear and rejection that a proactive dating life entails.
More often than not, infatuation with a friend signifies a lack of options in the dating world. Be honest with yourself as to whether it really is the person you are attracted to and not just the opportunity. Revealing interest in a friend – and if all goes to plan, dating them – WILL change your relationship. Be honest to yourself about your situation and desires before proceeding.
How to get out of the friend zone:
The truth is that getting out of the friend zone is a particularly tricky thing to do. Your friend may have no idea of your true feelings. As I stated earlier in this article, in order to attract one person, become better at attracting all people. What I mean by this statement is that there was a fundamental reason why your relationship headed towards friendship rather than anything more. In order to turn things around you have to ultimately change the whole basis of your relationship.
There are many real-world examples of couples who were originally friends before becoming lovers. If these relationships don’t stem from the methods I am about to describe then they have usually developed from a temporary insecurity or emotional vulnerability in the less amenable of the two people. Although there is nothing wrong with a fulfilling relationship blossoming this way, you don’t want to be sitting around waiting for that unlikely opportunity.
The easiest way to start to get someone interested in you romantically and sexually is to start to show the more attractive sides of your personality rather than the affectionate sides. Be willing to break rapport and slowly start to become more physically intimate. Obviously there are respectful ways to do all of this. An article that will give you some idea of the required shift in attitude can be found here: Nice guy or bad boy – find the perfect balance.
The best way to practice having a more attractive presence, which will also be the healthiest method for your psyche, is to remove your feelings from the situation completely and practice attracting OTHER people as part of a more proactive dating life. You may just find that if you’re meeting other people, it could be best to remain friends after all… 🙂
Gday Sam! Another excellant topic! I’ve had crushes on friends before (or maybe its just friends that I know I would get it on with if you know what I mean) but I’ve never told any of them. Its true though that its always when I don’t have any other women in the picture that I get these feelings so your explanation and advice is spot on.
If you have time could you explain the window of opportunity part that you mention please. Do you mean that there is more than one woo (window of opportunity) or one specific woo?
What I mean by the window of opportunity is that there are certain points in the process of meeting, attracting and connecting with someone where the relationship should escalate in order to progress to the next level of intimacy. In conventional, adult relationships this normally means physically.
Some of these windows of opportunity are more prevalent or noticeable than others; a common, somewhat cliché one being a couple’s first kiss, although there are many more intricate stages as well.
As more and more of these ‘moments’ pass by unfulfilled, the more passive person in the relationship will start to assume that nothing romantic will manifest, which is when they will start framing the other person in a friendship role, be it consciously or subconsciously.
So what it is really saying is that in the ideal situation, if you really like someone then you want to progress the relationship at every available opportunity to avoid ever becoming ‘just a friend’.
I hope that explains it a bit better, 🙂
I actually fall in to the opposite or rather I have been on the recieving end of this stuff several times in my life rather than in the friendzone myself. I’ve had guys who I had presumed were nothing more than close friends but then on a random drunken night they will admit they feel more for me. My friends say it is because I unintentionally lead guys on or am more flirty with them even if I just want to be friends bt I really never intend that. It hasn’t happened recently [touch wood] but do you have any advise on spotting the signs of a friend falling for another friend before its too late? Thanks in advance keep up the good work xx
I’ve actually seen the situation you describe occur more times than I can remember with many of my female friends, including my girlfriend and some of her male friends in fact, so it isn’t too uncommon.
What it comes down to is the way men are taught to read female sub-communications. Men are not always the best at interpreting these cues and can easily confuse affection for attraction. This can often be something as simple as you being enthusiastic when you talk to them. Obviously you don’t want to change how you act around your friends but there are some ways in which you can spot if their intentions are contrastive.
The easiest way is if you notice that they are doing things around you or for you that you know they wouldn’t do with their other friends, or if they are going out of their way to spend time with you or do things for you that are out of character. Men (usually younger men that are less socially experienced) will be very forthcoming and needy in both their body-language and interactions with you long before they actually admit their feelings to anyone, so learning to spot these signs is how you will be able to know what is going on.
If a friend does admit his feelings for you and they aren’t reciprocated, the worst thing you can do is continue acting as if nothing has happened and give them hope or signs that you will sporadically change your mind. Sometimes ‘tough love’ is the best remedy!
Thanks for your question Cindy, 🙂
The bad boy or nice guy question comes up in my book “Sensitivity 101 for the Heterosexual Male” along with 10 lessons all men need to learn. Check it our at Amazon.com or my website. I’m following this blog…great info to share. Thanks!
Sounds interesting… I’ll be sure to check out your book! Although I have a reading list the length of the Great Wall of China, I am always looking for new perspectives.
Good luck with it,
This has been a perennial problem for guys and your article is sure to help at least a few of us 🙂
Hi Sam, I only found your website today and I think that you provide some excellent information. I’m in a situation at the moment and I would be very grateful for any advice that you may be able to offer.
I met this girl a couple of months ago and after a few minutes was able to get her number (I’m OK when it comes to the approach). Over the next couple of weeks we caught up a few times, and as it turns out she is pretty much exactly what I am looking for. I know that she enjoys my company (it only took her a couple of weeks to invite me to a dinner with her parents) and I always make sure that I’m fun company, but there are a couple of hurdles that have appeared.
1. She has had an awful 12 months with the death of a very close family member, and she has had to spend time looking after another family member who is not coping so well. This then caused her to fail several subjects at university, and she ended up deferring for a semester.
2. While she was away for the funeral, her boyfriend of several years started cheating on her. This went on for months before she found out, and the relationship ended 3 months ago. During that period the boyfriend also didn’t turn up to her birthday party. Apparently he continues to contact her now and then, and I get the feeling he is trying to win her back.
Because of all of this drama it became apparent to me that she would be unlikely to rush into a serious relationship, and this was confirmed during a drunken conversation a few nights ago when she said ‘I promised myself that I would focus on me for the time being’. She also has good and bad days; on the bad days she doesn’t return calls/texts and so on.
My problem is not waiting for her – she is definitely worth the effort and I can easily keep myself occupied with work. My problem is that I don’t want to lose her interest and fall into the friend zone. But at the same time I don’t want to come across as too aggressive, because she is still quite fragile and I genuinely care for her wellbeing. Last week I kissed her (which was reciprocated) but I got the feeling that she thought I was moving too quickly.
My question therefore is: what is the best way for me to approach this? We catch up about once per week for coffee or dinner, so I just try to make sure that I am fun company and we always have plenty to talk about. She understands that I am interested in her, so there is definitely no confusion.
Any advice that you can provide would be greatly appreciated. Thanks =]
This is obviously a delicate situation you’re in but you’re on the right track… It might just take a bit longer for things to develop than you are used to.
The girl you speak of will have her own ways of dealing with the bad things that have happened in her life and you definitely want to respect that. Without all the details it is hard for me to know exactly how she is feeling but I imagine that she possibly fears getting hurt again.
Whilst a woman might say she is not ready for a relationship and wants to be temporarily single, a relationship is ideally a smooth escalation of intimacy and connection, so it is more her logical mind speaking rather than how she would react emotionally if things progress with you.
As the old saying goes, ‘attraction isn’t a choice’! As you know though, the key in this instance is finding the balance between not being too forward and not being too distant.
The only way you’ll end up in the ‘friend zone’ is if you treat her exclusively as a friend. This may well be an intention of hers to prevent having the pressure or risk of a relationship with you.
The physical escalation is where you are likely to come across as too forward, so I would only do stuff like that if she is responding positively (such as the kiss the other week, which is obviously a good thing). Even without physically escalating, continuing to state your intent and telling her in a non-needy way how much you like her and more importantly WHY you like her, will start to make her consider you as boyfriend material.
Your attitude about being fun and having lots to talk about is great so I would definitely continue with that. Each time you meet up, try also finding a way that you can progress the relationship even slightly (either physically or emotionally), else you risk become the fun, listening friend that she hangs out with. Try to avoid communicating that she is anything like ‘the only one for you’ at this stage but continue to ensure that she does know your interest as you take two steps forward, one step back, each time you meet.
It seems like the attraction is definitely there on her part so you just have to ensure that things do actually progress at whatever speed seems appropriate whilst maintaining that level of attraction. 🙂
Let me know how things progress,
Hi Sam, thanks for the reply, all excellent advice.
I’d like to give you an update.
You’re not going to believe this but more drama has arrived. A few weeks ago her mother became Ill, and they have since found out that it is life-threatening. Her brother has moved back from overseas to help care for her mother.
Things were going well until about a week ago. The usual weekly coffee; last week I could tell she was really into me and she took the initiative for a kiss this time.
I called on the weekend and she was sobbing. I knew that there had been a fight at home. The mother and father have big fights with each other and the children. She said she would call the next day but didn’t. I left it for a couple of days and gave her a call tonight. I knew immediately that something was wrong. She was cold and short with me. She told me that she found out that her ex boyfriend (the one who I suspected was lurking in the background) had been seeing one of her friends, and that she found herself in a drunken rage, driving to his house to scream at him. I’m not sure what happened exactly, and I’m not interested in the details to be honest. She then made some comment about “I don’t need any more complications in my life right now – I’ll call you tomorrow”.
Here is how I am interpreting the situation.
1. She likes me but sees me as someone who would complicate her life.
2. She still has feelings for the ex.
3. The combination of all the drama is exhausting her and causing her to become depressed and make irrational choices.
I’m a pretty laid back person, so my natural reaction in this situation would be to give her time, try to always be positive and fun to be around to cheer her up and not push too hard, while still making it clear that I’m interested. My problem however is the ex bf. As much of a prick as he is, he still has some type of hold over her.
My question is therefore: Do you think I should give her more space, and if so how could I do this without the ex bf stepping in?
Once again your insights are greatly appreciated 🙂
Hi again Harry,
There could well be validity in all three of your points.
As I mentioned before, people react and cope very differently to upsetting circumstances in their personal life and understandably, her mood and emotions may be very changeable.
If she doesn’t seem receptive at certain times or seems preoccupied with the personal issues you mention, unless you think you can directly comfort her or change her mood at the time, I would try not to get too roped into those instances and try and catch her another time when she is more receptive.
As for her ex-boyfriend, even if it seems he still has some sort of ‘hold’ over her (which is understandable for such a long relationship), the emotional roller-coaster he is putting her through is doing him no favours.
In fact, if anything it only heightens your value if you continue to be her source of fun, positivity and attraction, like you mentioned.
The amount of space you should give her should be determined by how well you think she is dealing with each of these personal issues. Like you say, you don’t want your relationship with her to ever seem like a chore, a trouble or a “complication”.
Keep me posted with how things go,
Thank you Sam, much appreciated.
There is a girl that i have been friends with for about a year but we haven’t been very close. Recently we’ve hanging out alot. We’ve went out for lunch, movies, etc. Just a week ago she came to the conclusion that i wanted to be more than friends. I didn’t deny it and then things got complicated. She had just started dating a guy who i am also loosely friends with. He didn’t mind us hanging out and we
generally were pretty cool around the subject. When she confronted me on subject of being more than friends told her i retspected the fact she was in a relationship but i did have feelings for more. She said there was something she wanted to say but i wasn’t the right time. What could this be? Since then we’ve remained friendly and we still visit occasionally. How should i approach this situation? I don’t want to intrude in their relationship although it doesn’t seem like a very strong one.
If she now knows that you like her as potentially more than a friend then you don’t need to say any more on the subject. Lead things through actions rather than words and be very smooth and gradual with any advances.
Show respect for her relationship and in fact you can even use it as a barrier, creating sexual tension: along the lines of “nothing can happen as you’re in a relationship”.
She might have been referring to feelings of her own when she said she wanted to say something to you but the last thing you want is for her to feel awkward or uncomfortable.
Continue to be a fun and attractive option for her, with no pressure or neediness and you never know what might happen.
Take it easy,