Escape The Friend Zone

« Previous 1 2 3 View All Next »

We’ve talked about The Friend Zone before. We’ve talked about what it means. We’ve talked about how you end up in the Friend Zone and how to avoid it.

Now, it’s generally accepted wisdom that women automatically classify guys as either Boyfriend or Just Friends, and never the two shall meet. The idea of guys crossing from “Just Friends” to “Boyfriend” is almost exclusively the domain of bad romantic comedies. People who have actually made the leap are like the Loch Ness Monster – everybody’s heard of it, almost nobody’s seen it and everyone’s pretty sure the people who say they have are lying.

They’re not.

Today we discuss how to escape the Friend Zone.

Now before we get to it, a little background about me. I am intimately familiar with The Friend Zone. I have spent so much time there that I could legally declare it my primary residence and run for political office.

Until my past caught up with me, anyway…

The fact of the matter is, I was one of those people who would willingly put himself into The Friend Zone because I was too chicken to make a move and would rather rely on the Platonic Friend Back Door Gambit to try to weasel my way in rather than risk rejection and make a move.

Even when I was starting to improve my approach with women, I could still find myself slipping back into old, bad habits. This took an especially sad (and ironic) turn when I let a case of Oneitis get the better of me and stayed “friends” with an ex in the hopes that I could stick it out long enough for another chance. And this is at a point when I should have known better.

Now years later and decidedly wiser for the experience, I’ve had fewer opportunities to escape the Friend Zone because, frankly, I’ve learned how to stay out of it in the first place. But the process of learning to avoid the Friend Zone also taught me how to escape it. And I have successfully leapt out of the friend zone several times, with old friends/crushes of long standing. The process was long and time consuming… and it decidedly wasn’t easy.

But it can be done. If you are willing to put in the effort. If you know how.

Which Friend Zone Are You In?

I’ve detailed the various forms that The Friend Zone takes, from the LJBF polite rejection to the genuine friendship, and it’s critical to know where you stand. In the first two: the LJBF and The Big Lie… well, to be perfectly frank, you need to bail. In the former, you’ve been given a more socially acceptable “thanks but no thanks” from someone who isn’t interested in you. In the latter… well, you’re not really in the Friend Zone because you’re not really their friend. At best, you’re an orbiter; at worst… well, you’re an asshole, really.

(One slight digression: it’s possible to end up as genuine friends following the LJBF speech; sometimes there’s chemistry but no attraction and being friends really is a viable option.)

Of the two remaining categories of the Friend Zone, the the folks who have found themselves in Mistaken Intentions have the easiest time of changing the nature of their friendship. If you’ve found yourself in this zone, then the odds are good that you haven’t been friends for terribly long; weeks rather than months or months rather than years. You have far less emotional inertia to overcome and her((For the sake of convenience, I’m going to be using the feminine pronoun – the Friend Zone is predominately something that guys inflict on themselves- but my advice applies equally for men and women.)) mental image of you is going to be considerably less entrenched than if the two of you have been friends for years.

It’s the poor bastards in the last, the long-term friends, who have the hardest time. You have the force and weight of shared history working against you. Emotions have a mass and intertia of their own and it can be incredibly difficult to shift them into new directions. Even more troubling, however, is the fact that your crush will have a mental image of who you are that’s tied up in how she responds to you emotionally – and this will have been reinforced through the months and years that you’ve been hanging out together. If you’re especially close – hanging out more than once per week – , it’s even tougher; familiarity may not breed contempt, but it will continually reinforce the fact that you’re Good Ol’ Wossisname, her very good friend that she is not at all attracted to.

On the left: your hopes and dreams. On the right: me.

If you’re going to get out of The Friend Zone, you’re going to have shake up how she sees you. You need to challenge her pre-conceived notions of who you are and how you’ve been classified in her mind.

What Do You (Both) Want?

Before we get started on the process of escaping the Friend Zone, you need to know what you’re actually hoping to get out of this.

It’s time to do some fairly deep soul searching, and you need to be absolutely, brutally honest with yourself: are you looking for sex, or are you looking for an actual relationship? It’s incredibly easy, especially if you haven’t had much experience with sex, to confuse physical desire for an emotional connection. This isn’t to say that a purely sexual attraction for a friend is a bad thing, but it can cause complications, especially if you aren’t on the same page. An infatuation can feel an awful lot like love, but it can be incredibly transient – especially after a couple of orgasms.

For that matter, you need to be sure that you aren’t in “love” with her because you can’t have her. It’s human nature to chase after things that are “safe” – things that we can’t have for one reason or another. It gives us an object and outlet for our emotions and provides a handy excuse to not pursue something that might – gasp, shock – actually have consequences.  If you go in expecting a fairy tale ending with cartoon cherubs and singing woodland animals and find out that your “love” for her was predicated on the fact that she was forever out of your reach; now that you actually have what you always wanted… well it’s not really what you expected, is it?

While we’re asking the hard questions, you also need to ask yourself what she is looking for and where she is with her life. You may be picturing the cliched house with the white picket fence, 2.5 kids and 1.4 cars, but if she isn’t interested in relationships at all, then even if you do manage to escape the Friend Zone, all you’re doing is setting yourself up for an even greater heartbreak. She may only be interested in casual, short term relationships. She might well be open to a Friends With Benefits situation but pushing the L-word1 might send her screaming for the hills. You may find that you just want sex while she’s looking to settle down with someone on a long-term basis.

For that matter, she may be feeling the pressure to date someone, anyone – and you happened to catch her in a moment of weakness.

If you have any hope of escaping the Friend Zone and making the relationship work – especially without damaging your friendship in the first place – then you need to make sure that you’re both on the same page. The last thing you need is to find out that you don’t want the same things and wind up hurting each other.

Get A Second Look

The trope of “suddenly sexy” is a long-standing cliche in fiction, especially romantic comedies; one moment it’s your old childhood pal who’s like a brother/sister too you and then all the sudden there’s a slight change and then you can’t get them out of your head.

The problem is that it can be hard to pierce the filter of our pre-concieved notions about our friends; we have built up these images in our heads, a sort of mental short-hand that stands in for the real thing. You need to give her cause to re-define who you are to her – and that means it’s time to make some changes and shake up the status quo.

And the best place to start is with your body and your look.

If one of your friends has ever made a sudden change to their wardrobe or hairstyle  – one that seems out of character for them – then you know the effect that I’m talking about; you know that it’s your friend, but they’ve moved so far out of your expectations that you’re forced to look at them in a new light. Sometimes the changes work – they feel natural and help emphasize your friend’s good points – and sometimes they don’t… but either way, your mental image is shaken.

This can be a critical tool to making your escape from the Friend Zone.

Back in the bad old days I didn’t exactly know how to dress – oversized clothes in the hopes of hiding that I hadn’t gained the Freshman 15 so much as the Freshman 40, really godawful t-shirts layered with ugly flanel (hey, it was the 90s!) – or how to carry myself. I slouched and folded in on myself, afraid to take up space for fear of inconveniencing other people. Everything about me screamed “LOW SELF-ESTEEM!” My style was “whatever is (mostly) clean and is comfortable”. My archetype was “Reclusive Nerd”.

It was no wonder why women weren’t exactly beating down my door, is it? This was my default for decades – and this was the image that was locked into the heads of my friends – especially the ones I had an interest in.

When they saw me few years later, they were astounded. I had made a complete transformation – I’d lost weight and taken up weight training, I had learned to appreciate stylish, well-fitting clothes; I had a hair style that wasn’t the SuperCuts Discount Special and – critically, the way I carried myself had changed. I was standing straight, with my shoulders back and my arms held loose at my sides. When I walked I had what could almost only be described as a “swagger”, born out of the fact that I was more relaxed and moving with purpose. I was so out of line with their pre-conceived idea of who I was and what I looked like that they were forced to re-consider who I was and how we related to each other. I was no longer “that nice guy I’ve known for years”, I was almost a stranger. They had to re-learn who I was  – and this gave me the opportunity to re-define our relationship.

“There’s something different… about… um… is it hot in here?”

Now, this is not to say that you have to completely re-invent yourself in order to get out of the Friend Zone; in fact, you might be surprised by the returns you get on some small changes to your look. Better fitting clothes and a new, more flattering hairstyle can work wonders. Improving your body language and posture by adopting more confident attitudes can make you seem like a new person. If you wear glasses, consider contacts. If you have facial hair, shave it off or adopt a style that works better with your face – not every style works well for every sort of face.

Just keep in mind: the longer you’ve known your crush – and the closer you are with them – the harder it can be to shake that mental image of you. I’d been friends with mine for close to a decade or longer before I got out – and part of what assisted my transformation in their minds was my having to not see them for a few years.

Act Like A Lover, Not A Friend

I covered this some last time, but it’s worth reiterating: if you want to get out of the Friend Zone, you can’t keep acting like a friend. You need to be willing to treat her more like someone you’re dating.

This means that you can’t be available to her all the time, the way you are now. You have to be willing to say “no” to her when she asks you for favors or to hang out; you aren’t going to convince her to change how she sees you when you’re dancing in attendance on her at all hours. Let her miss you a little; we tend to value things that we miss more than what we have available to us at all times. Don’t forget: this doesn’t mean that you’re going to make yourself artificially scarce and lie about being unavailable in hopes that she’s going to break down eventually – you need to have your own life going on, one that doesn’t necessarily include her all the time.

Similarly, you need to be willing to express yourself sexually and have her acknowledge you as a sexual being. We sometimes can have a problem acknowledging that our friends have a sexual side to them – it’s part of how we compartmentalize people. In practice, you need to be able to talk about sex – especially your sex lives – with her. It may be tough hearing about the other people she’s slept with; not to sound cold but deal with it. Everybody has a sexual past, and it’s a mark of maturity to be able to handle it without freaking out, pouting or acting squirmy. A hint of jealousy is good; acknowledging her other partners as “lucky bastards” is a nice, subtle way of indicating that you wouldn’t mind being in their place without driving the point home.

How do you bring up sex without sounding like you’re trying to perv out on her? Talk about the other girls you’ve dated, especially in the context of what makes a good boyfriend or girlfriend. “Yeah, Michelle was sweet and she gave great massages but we just didn’t click in bed, you know?” “Leah and I were a bad fit. She was needy, I was in a bad place but we stuck together because the sex was just mind-blowing.” Leave a little bait to encourage her curiosity and wait for her to ask for details – you don’t want to just launch into a conversation about how this girl you knew gave the greatest head because she could do this one thing; you run the risk of too much info, too fast and making your friend uncomfortable. Let her take the lead when it comes to finding out more. If the conversation starts to flow away from sex, let it. Once again: you don’t want to sound like you’re trying to convince her that you have sex, nor do you want to sound like you’re trying to pump her for details for your masturbatory fantasies. You want her comfortable with the idea of you being sexual in general.

You’ve Got To Touch

Once again, much like with avoiding the Friend Zone, touch is incredibly important. Part of acting like a lover is to be willing to make physical contact. You have to be willing to touch her, and with greater intimacy than just a sock on the shoulder. You need to be willing to be physically affectionate. If you’re not touchy-feely already, then you need to learn. Give her your arm when you’re walking some place. If you’re leading her to her seat, put your hand on her lower back. Put an arm around her and pull her in for a side-hug and let it linger for a second. Give her a hug goodbye. Snuggle up on the couch while you’re watching Netflix.

Just remember to be aware for signs of discomfort: muscles tense up, she doesn’t lean into the hug or the arm or moves away; you want to be the one who breaks contact first, before she becomes aware of her discomfort. The last thing you want while you’re working your way out of the Friend Zone is to have her associate your touching her with feeling uncomfortable or awkward.

You Want Her But That’s Cool. Because She’s Awesome.

Now obviously, you’re going to want to flirt with her and even hit on her a little. This is critical – you can’t just come out one day and confess your undying love for her and expect the purity of your passion to win her over in an instant. You need to build that attraction.

At the same time, you can’t just start telling her you that you think she’s hot and you totally want to bang. Doing so is going to make her think you’re only her friend because you’ve been trying to get in her panties from the beginning. You want to acknowledge your attraction to her… while emphasizing the fact that you love being her friend too. You’re not friends with her because you’ve been harboring this secret desire for years, you’re friends with her because she’s awesome. The fact that she’s awesome is also why you are attracted to her.

Early on, I had one case of being in the Friend Zone with somebody who knew how I felt and was incredibly uncomfortable about it and about the fact that I kept bringing it up and hitting on her in my clumsy way. The problem was that I made my constantly throwing my feelings for her in her face a condition of being friends with me. We couldn’t have a conversation that didn’t eventually come around to how I felt and our relationship. It made things awkward and nearly sank the friendship entirely.

For some reason, nobody seems to respond well to “BUT WHYYYYYYYY WON’T YOU LOVE MEEEEEEEE?”

It took years to repair the damage… and those years didn’t make me any less attracted to her.

What did change was my attitude towards her and how I expressed my attraction. When we had managed to fix things and we were back in regular contact, I was still flirting with her, but I made sure that she understood that I was uninvested in the outcome. I was willing to keep things to the level of “Hey, I like you, I want to get together with you, it’s all good if you don’t feel the same way.” She was much more comfortable with this;  the fact that I liked her and was attracted to her was not going to be a big deal. As a result, she didn’t feel put on the defensive about how she did or didn’t feel about me and was able to relax and enjoy herself. She was even willing to flirt back a little because it was low-stakes.

We hooked up soon afterwards. And it was awesome.

The fact that I was willing to start flirting with my crushes – even bringing sex into it – was a major part of how I would get out of the Friend Zone; it was easier to accept because a) it was leavened with humor and b) I was also willing to acknowledge our friendship was great too and I was really happy to be her friend. I wasn’t asking her to make a decision – be my friend or be my lover – I was just expressing myself in a way that was entertaining, even flattering, but unthreatening. You want to let her know: “Hey, look, I think you’re awesome and you’re a great friend, and I want to get together with you. Feel free to shoot me down, I’m going to be totally cool with that, but that’s not going to change the fact that I’m attracted to you. I think you’re cool to hang out with and I’m super-happy that we’re friends.”

Send Mixed Signals

This is going to sound manipulative and mind-game-y but stick with me here.

You need to keep your crush off balance. You want to be a little unpredictable. You don’t want to just be hitting on her or flirting with her incessantly – even if it didn’t make her uncomfortable, it just ends up becoming part of the background radiation of your relationship. Similarly, being permanently unavailable is just going to mean that your friendship is going to wither and die. You want to run hot and cold – you flirt a little, you pull back. You give a sincere compliment and follow it up with playfully giving her shit. You want to keep a balance of pushing and pulling, basically, “go away a little closer,” if you will.

You don’t want things to be too comfortable or too easy to define; the last thing you want is to reaffirm the status quo of being “just friends”. There’s value in ensuring that keeping your status in flux – after all, you want to be seen as more than just a friend, you want to be seen as a potential lover and partner. The unpredictability and uncertainty is, contrary to expectations, surprisingly attractive; as much as we like certainty, certainty can be boring. We find unpredictability to be intriguing because it challenges us. We want to know, which means we keep coming back to it in an attempt to define it and understand just where we stand.

Sending those mixed signals will help spur your crush to invest more into your relationship… and into you.

Date Other People

You want to break out of the Friend Zone? You need to date other people.

Yes, it seems counterintuitive, but it works. To start with: you don’t want to be hung up on just one person, no matter how attracted you are to them. Dating other people will keep you from spending all your time moping about “Whyyyyy won’t she luuuuuuuuurve meeeee” and annoying all of your friends about how unfair it all is. It will help keep you grounded in the reality of relationships instead of getting caught up in the fantasies about your fairy tale romance with your crush. It will also do you a lot of good to be reminded that not only are there other awesome women out there, but they find you attractive too – not only will this boost your confidence and self-esteem, but it also means that you will ultimately be less invested in your non-relationship in the Friend Zone.

It also will help her realize that a) you’re not waiting around for her, b) that you clearly have something going for you if all of these other women find you attractive and c) maybe she’s just a little jealous that these women are getting the attention that used to be hers and hers alone.

Ultimately it’s a win-win situation; on the one hand, you win your crush’s heart. On the other, you may have been shot down by your crush, but you’re still dating awesome women. Hard to go wrong, really.

Take It Slow, Bro

Look, even under the best of circumstances, this isn’t going to be a fast process. In an ideal situation, it will take weeks to  months. If you’re dealing with a long-standing friendship, it could take years. Changing a long-held perception of you and your relationship is a marathon, not a sprint. You want a slow boil; getting impatient and trying to rush things will only make her uncomfortable and end up blowing thingsBadly. Push too hard, too fast and not only are you not going to get out of the Friend Zone, you’re going to lose the friendship entirely. You need to be calm. You need to be patient. If you aren’t willing to put the time and effort in knowing in advance, you need to seriously reconsider whether you’re feeling honest emotion or that you just want something you can’t have.

Make Your Move

It’s starting to look like maybe all that effort is paying off. She’s flirting back with you. She’s initiating the physical contact and is more accepting of more intimate (but non-sexual) touch like snuggling on the couch. She’s sharing much more of her own sexual interests with you. She’s starting to show signs of jealousy when you bring up the other women you’re seeing.

If everything works well – if you’re starting to get definite signs that she’s starting to see you as more than just a platonic friend rather than trying to analyze her every word like it was the Zapruder film – then it’s time for you to make your move.

This does not mean that you’re about to confess your deep and abiding love for her; even if she is becoming attracted to you as a potential lover, dropping the L-bomb2 is going to freak her out. You’ll be putting way too much pressure on her considering she’s only just starting to see you as someone she could date.

Yes, I know I told you to let her know you were attracted to her – there’s a world of difference between acknowledging that you like her and want to get together with her and telling her that you believe the two of you are soulmates and you’ve already picked out the names for your kids.

No, you’re going to have to make a physical move.

You’re going to have to kiss her.

The best time for it would be at a point when you’re fairly intimate already – hanging out at a bar together with your arm around her, snuggled up on the couch watching TV, something – but ultimately there is no “perfect” moment. The “Perfect Moment” is the one that you make. It can be as the two of you lean over the balcony of your apartment and admire the view or it can be spur-of-the-moment in a bar watching a band. What ultimately matters is that you take that attraction that you’ve been building and act on it.

If it goes wrong – if she’s not into it… well, your attitude needs to be “no harm, no foul”. She will likely take her lead from you; as long as you treat it like it’s no big deal, it won’t be a big deal. Shrug your shoulders, say “Sorry, thought I’d take my shot,” and move on – preferably to one of those other women you’ve been dating.

But if it doesn’t go wrong, when she wraps her arms around your neck and starts kissing you back…

Well, just try not to get distracted by all the fireworks.

Or that your crotch is starting to sing “We Are The Champions”.


  1. No, not lesbians. Smart-ass. []
  2. still not lesbians. []

« Previous 1 2 3 View All Next »

Pages: 1 2 3

  • Amber

    I would just like to say that there is nothing hotter than a guy in glasses.

    • Marty

      Seconded. Yum.

    • Corsair

      Yay for guys in glasses!

    • Jess

      Yeah, I almost fell off the couch.

  • UnderOrange

    This article makes me kind of uncomfortable, honestly. I can see where the information would be helpful for some situations, but if any of my dude friends started doing any of this stuff with the express intent of getting together with me I would be -fucking livid-.

    Maybe I'd feel more comfortable if there was a bit more emphasis on the "What do you (both) want" section? I honestly don't know. I'm in a unique position though. My reasons for not wanting to date are universally applicable to everybody, so I guess to me I'd see it as extraordinarily disrespectful for any of my friends to try and weedle themselves into any other position when the reason I'm not dating them specifically is because I really don't want to date anybody at all. Like honest to god, it isn't personal, the thought of compromising with somebody right now makes me want to scream.

    Very few people believe me when I say that, though. Even my girlfriends just blow it off with "Well you just haven't met the right guy." *sigh* Maybe I just needed to rant about being a special snowflake.

    • Squirrel

      I went through a similar period in my life, where I was very specifically not dating *anyone*. I can't say whether our reasons were similar, but I also found it frustrating when a couple of friends saw my self enforced singledom as an opportunity to step out of the Friend Zone. The problem there was with those particular friends not stopping to evaluate (and more importantly, fucking listen when I explained) to what it was that *I* wanted.

      I agree that there needs to be a greater emphasis on "What do you (both) want". At the same time, there is a fundamental truth which I have found works in customer service, webdesign, dating, and all sorts of other areas of life: People who refuse to read clearly written signs won't read them even if they're 6 feet high and blinking. If someone is determined to break out of your Friend Zone regardless of what you want, then and extra paragraph or two on the subject probably isn't going to do much good.

      (Clue by fours on the other hand…)

      • Yeah basically. If they're not hearing where your boundaries are, if you're not trying to date anyone then it isn't gonna make much difference how much the good doctor belabors the point. But he does make that point and moves on, because, the assumption is the people you're pursuing are *available.*

        • To re-iterate UnderOrange's point: Being single doesn't mean I'm available.

    • litterature

      Sorry for necroposting, but I'll just mention that you've got the power to reject people rather than being -fucking livid-, and if they don't get the clue, then just call them out on it. I don't think it's disrespectful of anyone to try and get to a point where they can ask someone out, the key word here being *ask*.

  • Beth

    Yeah the "Send Mixed Signals" section would just convince me that he wasn't interested. Remember Doc, girls can be insecure too, and many (more than you'd think) of us are much more inclined to believe in a guy's disinterest than otherwise.

    I think it's good to have your own life and not sit by the phone, but the whole keeping her off balance and intentionally making her confused about your relationship thing? Yeah no. There are more effective ways (outlined in this post) to get a potential bf/gf/whatever to look at you in a new light.

    • Marty

      I am also seconding this. Like the guru Dan Savage says, if you're getting mixed signals, trust the ones that DON'T rub your ego, as humans have a tendency to ignore the information that is unflattering to our sense of worth.

      As a girl, if a guy is sending me mixed signals (and honestly, I get mixed signals a LOT from guys) I usually just give up and move on, because that is the appropriate thing to do. A girl herself doesn't want to get stuck in the Friend Zone, and there's just too much of a risk of that when the guy isn't being clear about his intentions.

      • Amber

        I don't think that the Doctor meant you should give mixed signals and then wait for the girl to come to you. It's about building attraction over a period of them. You have to follow it up by making your move. As a girl who is comfortable with flirting and dating (unlike a lot of the lady commenters on this blog) I think that this is all very good advice. I especially like the emphasis on making sure you know what you want AND what she wants and dating other people. Most important is the emphasis on having your own life and not being destroyed if she's not interested of if it doesn't work out. This will make women MUCH more likely to date you, I promise.

        • Marty

          Hmm. For me, if a guy is dating other people and giving me mixed signals, I just assume he's a flirt and not interested and for SURE put him in the Friend Zone. Maybe I'm weird?…

          • Amber

            Huh then again I'm attracted to flirts… Guess it depends on the girl. The point is that you should have you own life that wouldn't be destroyed if the girl wasn't interested, even if you don't date a whole bunch of other women.

          • Kira

            Well, but this is about getting *out* of the FZ once you're in it already.

    • Caitlin

      Same. If the guy I was even remotely interested in started dating other women that would be my cue to give up and move on. By the time they get to the last step I wouldn't be interested anymore since I've assumed that he's not interested. It wouldn't get me curious- I might be jealous at first but it would send a big red flag that he's off the market.

      • Jess

        But this article is assuming you have a standing close friend relationship. I thought this is all very good advice. With dating others, be sure that when you do try to make a move it is clear to her that you are AVAILABLE only to her at that time. If a guy made a move on me when I knew he was dating someone else, I wouldn't pursue it because he's just proven with his actions that he'd drop me if a better offer comes along. I wouldn't trust him as a lover.

        • Astral

          "If a guy made a move on me when I knew he was dating someone else, I wouldn’t pursue it because he’s just proven with his actions that he’d drop me if a better offer comes along. I wouldn’t trust him as a lover."

          This. Actually happened to me. Although I didn't believe his drunken proposition because any time I had ever flirted back, he had given me the cold shoulder. Plus his fwb was at the bar, too. Some kind of game I don't really get…

          So, yep. I totally agree with "the mixed signals will drive me away" sentiment, and I always believe the ones I don't like. What has been happening to me a lot lately is I meet guys through various social circles and there seems to be some mutual attraction and some or a lot of the banter the Dr. is talking about. I'll take the flirting to the next level and show that yes I am interested in them in a romantic/sexual way. At which point they will back off, flake out on plans, not call me back for a week, etc. And not ever follow up with an actual non-ambiguous date/sexytimes offer but most will eventually go back to the ambiguous hanging out. (By contrast my last two boyfriends, at the point where I showed my interest, asked me out/kissed me at an apropos moment–within a couple months after we first met). So I'm like, well gee, I totally misread that flirting! And assume that everyone just flirts for fun and attention these days…not because they actually want a date or sex. Which is going to make it harder for the next guy who actually does want a date/sexytimes with me!

      • chris

        so you only talk to one guy at a time? And what do you mean by dating? There's casual and there's the more exclusive kind, and men typically go on dates if the first kind with multiple women simply owing to how flirtation and that sort of thing work.

  • Less

    I'm gonna go ahead and agree with what Beth and Marty said. Mixed signals are one of the most likely things to make me stop considering a person romantically. If they're not willing to be open and honest with their feelings to me and 'give me shit' after flirting with me, there's no way in hell I'd be willing to date them. I'd just tell them off for being a douche.

  • SomePerson

    I'd say put a bit more emphasis on the "what you both want" thing. Sometimes it just isn't going to happen, and putting pressure on the other person is going to make you both uncomfortable. If they are quite obviously not interested, don't press the issue. They aren't required to be interested in you just because you are interested in them.

  • QD

    The objections to the mixed signal advice seem to be "if I'm getting mixed signals from a dude, I am going to move on." But that seems to assume starting interested in the dude. The Doctor is speaking from an already established non-interested context; the mixed signals are not supposed to "hook" the lady in question, but walk the fine line between "he's not interested in me" and "oh gosh why is my friend suddenly hitting on me grosssssssss." And walking that line means that the assumed nature of the relationship "just friends" is called into question.

    At least, that's the reading I got from the article. As someone who's never attempted exiting the friend zone through any means other than "SURPRISE! I WOULD LIKE TO ASK YOU OUT ONTO WHAT IS KNOWN AS A 'DATE.' Wait. This sudden revelation makes you uncomfortable!? How odd!" I wouldn't know from experience. Anyway I think the intent behind that passage is being misread here in los comments.

    • Paul Rivers

      Yeah, the majority of the comments seemed to completely missed that this is a situation where you're already friends with a girl, *then* you're taking the above advice. It's totally different than a situation where you just met someone and you're wondering if they're interested in you (though sending mixed signals seems to work well there to – but that's a different discussion).

      It seems like it's kind of like if you've worked with someone for years, but never hung out outside of work – if you want to start being non-work friends, you have to mix things up and break out of your old routine.

  • "….but pushing the L-word1 might send her screaming for the hills"


    • Robert

      See the footnote 😉

  • Denny

    "you can’t just come out one day and confess your undying love for her and expect the purity of your passion to win her over in an instant."

    Someone needs to tell the MTV show "FriendZone" that. Because that's basically the premise of the show. Some guy or girl has a crush on their platonic best friend, so with the help of REALITYYYYY TVVVVV, the crush-er tells their crush-ee that they are setting up a blind date and they need their help. But what the crush-ee doesn't know that SURPRISE SURPRISE, it's not for a blind date, it's all for themmmmmm!

    Unsurprisingly 99 times outta 100, it ends in awkward embarrassment.

    What I do find SO cute about the show is that it sooooo feeds into the fantasy that every time the GIRL asks the guy out, he always says yes; meaning the Platonic Friend Backdoor move finally paid off because she realized how awesome he is.
    Basssssk in the epic failness!!!

    • Matt

      HOLY CRAP!! I cringed just reading the explanation.

      Time to fire up the browser!

  • I thought I share this wonderful image, because it summarizes the two Friend Zone articles very nicely:

    • Gman

      HAHAHA!! Nice one, god I love the matrix meme 😀 (which btw I have a final project to hand in about it in a month from now LOL)

  • animatedmadness

    An interesting read, doc. I'm sure the advice will come in handy if I ever get a lady-friend I like who's not already taken.

    However, I would like it if you'd post an article about how to approach a person you may like to ask out (that applies to both men AND women) and how to handle the (extremely possible) rejection that could happen in said situation. if one exists a link would be helpful.

  • Mme. Hardy

    Here is what I do not get about the friend zone.

    I married my best friend. I married the guy I met the first week of my freshman year, the one I met at the computer center. We didn't start dating — or consider it — until a year later. He was just one of those guys, one of the guys in the geek cloud. Not the handsomest, not the one I picked out first (boy, could I tell you stories about HIM). Just one of the guys. But I gradually noticed how funny he was, how nice. And one night we went out on a date and … well, 35 years later we're still doing fine.

    So the idea that guys need to avoid THE FRIEND ZONE baffles me. I fell in love with a friend. I know a lot of other women who did, too. Women geeks, like me. They fell in love with the nice guy, the one they didn't necessarily pick out at first glance. They found that guy because he was good to be around. He was company. He lasted.

    So what is this "friend zone"? Looking at it from the outside, it's the zone of "I need to turn you down politely, because it just doesn't click for me." Which, you know, happens to women, too. "I'd rather be friends" is like "I'm sorry, I'm busy that weekend." It happens to be true, but it's a socially acceptable way of saying "The way you laugh drives me up a tree" or "I don't find you hot" or "It's great to be with you for an evening, but your politics drive me nuts." It's just "no".

    • Patrick

      If both parties want to be just-friends, then everyone is happy and there is no friend zone. The friend-zoning occurs when only one of the people involved wishes to push things in a more-than-friends direction.

    • Paul Rivers

      fyi, "friend zone" is a term – usually a guy relating to a girl – when you feel you've been friends with a girl so there's no chance of her seeing you as a romantic interest.

      When used in a complaining context, it usually refers to the phenomenon where if you don't make a physical/sexual move on a girl within a short period of time of meeting her (say, hanging out 3 times, on average), she'll categorize you as "just a friend" and even though she had some interest in you to begin with, you'll no longer have any chance of her seeing you as anything but a platonic friend past that point.

      It's often seen as a huge point of frustration by guys who have been raised with feelings that they don't want to "date and dump", as they feel (often from personal experience of constantly getting friend zoned) that there's no way to get to know the girl in a non-dating context before dating her. They feel that they're kind of stuck having to jump which girl they want to date almost entirely on her looks, or do the "date and dump" where they date her, then if after they get to know her they don't like her personality, dump her and move on to the next girl. It's particularly frustrating to guys who's emotions don't let them do that – they just don't feel strong attraction to a girl until they get to know her, so they feel that they're kind of screwed on the dating scene because girls categorize them as "just a friend' before they would even have developed strong enough feelings for the girl to ask her out.

      I've also seen it used in the context of a girl complaining that "there's no good guys left", then their males complaining that the girl is surrounded by "good guys", she's just "friend zoned" all of them – in other words categorized them as friends but undateable.

      If you've been dating / married for 35 years, that may also be part of why you don't see it – these things are often different between different generations. For example, I had dinner with someone who started dating her husband after her husband asked her father for permission to date her – she was like 82 or something – nowadays asking her father for permission would be considered really weird – at best.

      It's also used just to describe other similar situations – when a girl just sees you as a friend (and unlike above, there was never any indication of romantic interest), when you've gone out with a girl a couple of times but she seems to have lost romantic interest in you, when you've just been friends with a girl for a long time so she just sees you as a friend, or even when you actually did something specific for her to put you on her "do not date" list. It's not always a big complaint – I've definitely seen it used in just a "matter of fact" kind of way, or in a "slightly annoyed but nothing more" kind of way.

      Fundamentally, "friend zone" is when one party is interested in dating the other, but the other one views them *only* as a friend. It isn't necessarily huge and dramatic, but sometimes it is.

      While girls can technically be friend zoned, it's usually seen as something that happens to guys because of differences in the way the genders think – guys don't usually develop "I can't date you feelings" towards a girl just because they'e been friends a certain length of time – if he finds her hot, he could have known her for 5 minutes, 2 months, 3 years – it doesn't influence how attracted to her he is. Whereas with women, the length of time you've been friends or "dating but not sure where it's going" does seem to have a large impact on whether they feel attracted to a guy or not .

      That's not to say that girls don't have complaints of their own – if there's an equivalent, it's probably the very valid "I'm so sick of hearing you complain about women, then passing me up for dating because I'm not a 9/10 on your looks scale you moron" kind of complaint that women have towards men. But friend-zoning tends to be something that happens to guys.

      • Patrick

        "even though she had some interest in you to begin with"

        I don't think that happens in most cases. You may end up in the friend zone after she showed some initial interest and then you screwed up (or she flaked out), but the classic friend-zoning usually involves one person never being thought of as boyfriend/girlfriend material (or a sexual being) in the first place.

        "guys don’t usually develop 'I can’t date you feelings' towards a girl just because they’e been friends a certain length of time"

        Neither do most girls – I don't think length of time is any kind of issue here. In fact, many women on this thread have stated that they need to be friends with someone before getting into a romantic relationship with them. I think guys friend-zone women for the exact same reason that women friend-zone guys: you like her but you don't have the hots for her.

        • Paul Rivers

          but the classic friend-zoning usually involves one person never being thought of as boyfriend/girlfriend material (or a sexual being) in the first place

          While the definition definitely does cover the situation where one was never thought of that way in the first place, I would disagree that that's the more common situation.

          In another article on this site there's a whole section dedicated to it –

          "Most instances of The Friend Zone can easily be avoided, but it requires a willingness to take risks. Getting stuck in The Friend Zone is almost always the result of playing things too safe; it’s the end result of being too passive and too unwilling to put yourself out there in such a way that you couldn’t possibly be misinterpreted."

          I've been friend zoned by a girl I dated for a month, who wanted to sleep with me – I can assure you she was interested in me as boyfriend material at one time, lol.

          The above article said something similar –

          "This took an especially sad (and ironic) turn when I let a case of Oneitis get the better of me and stayed “friends” with an ex in the hopes that I could stick it out long enough for another chance."

          “guys don’t usually develop ‘I can’t date you feelings’ towards a girl just because they’e been friends a certain length of time” – Neither do most girls – I don’t think length of time is any kind of issue here.

          You're certainly welcome to your opinion, but that's not the common current theory, or my own experience.

          In fact, many women on this thread have stated that they need to be friends with someone before getting into a romantic relationship with them.

          That – is an entire topic of it's own – but notice the number of women in the comments who say how appalled they would be if any of their male friends tried to date them.

      • chris

        yeah, I'm the first group – meet someone, and by the time I get to know them, I'm a friend, so not allowed to date. So instead, I'm working on getting them interested if it looks like there's any potential, then deciding whether to continue after I get to know them. I'd really rather go the other way, but that just doesn't work.

  • Guys, if you're in a friend zone there's almost no chance to get out there, believe me.

  • Errant

    "How do you bring up sex without sounding like you’re trying to perv out on her? Talk about the other girls you’ve dated, especially in the context of what makes a good boyfriend or girlfriend. 'Yeah, Michelle was sweet and she gave great massages but we just didn’t click in bed, you know?' 'Leah and I were a bad fit. She was needy, I was in a bad place but we stuck together because the sex was just mind-blowing.'"

    And men who've never been in a relationship before just don't exist? They aren't good enough? Similarly with the "date other people" advice… what about the men who aren't attractive enough to date other people? Who've been trying to date other people for years and gotten absolutely nowhere?

  • Tony

    Oh man, what a pile of shit this post is. If you get friend zoned move the fuck on, dudes. This guy's all like, reinvent yourself, play some mind games, blah blah blah…bullshit. What you do is take a walk and find a new girl. If you won't do that because your crush is a special flower and she's The One and you can't move on, you're just making excuses because you're scared to get out there and meet new people. If you want to be a chickenshit that's your business, but you'll suffer for it your whole life.

    He does have some good advice in there…a couple of gold nuggets in the shitpile. Yes, clean yourself up and hit the gym. As a general rule us guys have unrealistic body images, but the reverse of women: we think we're hotter than we really are. Too many of us think that lifting a 12 ounce beer can to our lips constitutes exercise. Second, dating other people is a good move. Hell yes, date other people…but don't do it to make your crush jealous. That is mind game bullshit and not fair to the new girl you're taking out. Date other people because you're moving the fuck on from the girl who turned you down.

  • SarahGryph

    Sometimes I think it's easy to forget that general advice is just that: general. As in the same things won't work in every situation, so you try what seems to make sense and if it doesn't work, you try something different. But that's not actually the point I wanted to make, just a sidenote. =P This could get long…
    A friend of mine and I recently surprised the heck out of each other by realizing we both wanted to admit it was something more and we wanted to pursue that; I wanted to note what (in my own case) I see as some of the reasons. First, when we met there WAS initial chemistry and interest on both sides. However, I was in a place in my life where I needed to not date anyone and I told him that near the end of the first night we talked bc I didn't want to seem like a tease. He said that was alright, shared some stories that told me he had listened and understood and respected what I'd said; and said he'd still really love to stay in touch bc I seemed like a really awesome person to have as a friend…

    • SarahGryph

      And big key #2, he MEANT it. I've had the platonic backdoor thing attempted on me way too many times and I can't stand it, esp once I start feeling guilty even if I know it's not my fault bc I've been clear. Anyway, he and I maintained friendly flirting but he didn't bring up the dating thing at all, never implied even subtly that I owed him more than friendship; it was really quite wonderful to have a guy actually *listen* to what I'd said. I briefly dated another guy and he was fully supportive – not the creepy you know he's just trying to make himself seem like a cool guy support, the sincere support of yay I'm happy for you and I hope it works out. He was flirting with a girl from work for a while there and I also honestly wished him the best on that. Fast forward a bit and I'm realizing not only do I want to date again (well other than the one brief fail), but I really really am still attracted to my friend.

      • SarahGryph

        Only I can't tell if he still has interest, he's been so sincerely mature about things that I assume he's moved on. So guess what? I gathered my own guts together and asked him; seemed to make sense since I was the one who gave the big NO in the first place. And what do you know, once I did I found out that while he truly was happy as friends he still had a lot of that interest too.

        I guess if there's any point I'm getting at with the story, it's just that sometimes the best "tactic" is just to honestly care about the other person, try to be an adult when things don't go your way, and keep honest communication bc you never know? Apologies for the length, btw. ^^

  • Susan

    Yeah, From a womans perspective, if we say no, not interested and not attracted to you, none of the things above will work. Ive had guys try them all, but if Im not into you its just not going to happen. Period. If I see you trying this stuff anyways then you are done as a friend and if you ignore me ill just be relieved to not have to deal with you. Women are not the same as men, we are not as easily sexually attracted so when Im not attracted to a guy, Im not playing games, that feeling is not there. I might enjoy your company but I dont want to sleep with you. I understand if you like a girl and want more and yes it sucks when its not returned but any guy holding out is wasting his time and yikes, dont try to touch a girl who has already made it clear shes not into you. Bad advice. So, so many sites on the internet with guys telling guys how to get a girl who isnt interested, not really sure what part of "not interested" is confusing? Changing your look, ignoring, talking about sex, other girls etc….uh, no its just too desperate and obvious to most girls. When someone says no, you have no choice but to move on or you have just become creepy!

    • Now are you basing that off of no initial attraction than that makes since but if there's was spark their and sexual attraction. Then do you stand by your statement ?

  • brandon

    Dr Nerdlove,

    This is an extremely cruel article, you’re giving people hope. That’s pure cruelty! This only happens in 0.0000001% of all cases.

  • Laura

    I don’t agree with sending mixed signals and dating other people. I am an adult. I like flirty push and pull as much as the next woman but I do not want to play games. If a man I am interested in starts dating other women or suddenly acts like he’s not interested at all I am going to move on. I am not going to sit and try to figure out his true motivation by polling all of my friends by text like I am some 16 year old. That advice is for the immature and will turn off many women.

  • Aida76

    I think that games, mind tricks & co. are spicing up things when you clearly know from the start that both people want more and are sexually attracted. When you're friends, it's just something you do for fun and in 98% of the cases it doesn't lead to anything else.

    In my case, we're friends for over 5 years, we clearly were attracted, flirted like hell, there was sexual tension, went on awesome trips, at a certain moment behaved as if we were together, been for each other through thick and thin etc. But when the talk came, he said that he saw me like a friend, that there is no chemistry (although he said that he is attracted to me etc.), that seduction doesn't work – it either is or isn't and that if he wanted something, he would have said, and that if he'd be with me it would be only in a serious relation (but I thought there wasn't chemistry, so why talk about a relationship?).

    There was contradiction in his answers (as he said: in a way, I'm just a friend, in another way, I'm the only woman with whom he can be himself and evolve), in his attitude after the talk (he would call me daily without reason), so yeah, there wasn't much clarity, but I respected his choice.

    So after this experience, I think that you have to say what you want/think/feel without games & shit as soon as you can and not have expectations, because not everybody takes games and connexion to the other level. They are just their balance and fun in life, but for sex sometimes they prefer someone with whom there isn't a more deep bond. Plus, adapt to your context.