Be Willing To Be Sexual
There are some readers who will be uncomfortable with this in concept. In fact, I fully expect that there will be many comments about how injecting a little sexuality into the interaction would repulse them instantly and cause them to never talk to anyone who would do this ever again. And to you all I say: I understand where you’re coming from, but I think you may be misunderstanding things.
Straight talk: every relationship, no matter how fairy-tale romantic it may be, has a core of sexual attraction. Even if you are someone who prefers to take their time to build up trust and emotional intimacy before escalating on a physical level, you have to acknowledge that any relationship that is going to move beyond platonic friendship is going to have sexual interest. Trying to pretend otherwise is, frankly, either naive or dishonest.
There is nothing wrong with acknowledging the fact that yes, you are attracted to somebody. If that person isn’t comfortable with the fact that you are sexually interested in them, then you simply aren’t going to be able to progress in your relationship.
So, yes, you are going to want to build some sexual tension into your flirting.
Now keep in mind: this isn’t something to bust out when meeting someone for the first time, nor is it first date material1. There does need to be a level of comfort and existing intimacy before you begin ramping things up and that can vary from couple to couple. But it is a critical part of dating, especially if you’re looking to avoid getting classified as a platonic friend.
The best way to do this without being offensive is through humor. Teasing and joking – getting her to laugh – is a great way to inject some sexual tension into the interaction. You can do this with some creative misinterpretation – deliberately interpreting something she said as innuendo and responding – for example. You can tease her about your attraction to her: “I’m sorry, I was too busy thinking about your lips. You were saying?” You can also jokingly reframe the situation and insist that she is trying to seduce you: “Look, I appreciate this but I’m not going to give it up right away. I need intimacy and comfort.” “I’m fine with you buying me dinner but I’m just not going to sleep with you tonight, ok?” “Quit looking at me like that. You’re giving me ideas and they’re totally inappropriate right now.”
You want it light, friendly and funny; if you push too hard, you only end up creeping her out instead.
Fortunately, as geeks, we have a sterling example of how to nudge the line towards the sexual without pushing past the point of acceptability:
Bill Murray plays Peter Venkman as a charming flirt, especially where Dana Barrett is concerned. She may get a little exasperated with him. She may even find him a little annoying at times. But the fact of the matter is, even when he pushes the envelope, she still can’t deny that he makes her laugh.
…But Not Too Sexual
Now having said that, there’s a careful balance to be maintained. While humor and teasing is a good way to keep some sexual tension going in the interaction, there’s a difference between tension and pressure. In fact, if you put someone into the position where they feel as though they have to decide whether or not sex is going to be a part of the relationship at that moment, the odds are extremely high that they’ll immediately default to “no”, cutting off any future possibility of being more than friends.
Not sure how to tell the difference?
Imagine if you will, someone that you’ve been hanging out with over the last couple weeks. There’s undeniable chemistry. You’ve been doing everything right: there is no question that you have been going on dates. There’s been ample amount of touching. You’ve been flirting, but you haven’t quite mastered that sexual edge.
Now imagine if you were to say “I want to fuck you so badly.” This is going to shut things down, hard. Beyond the fact that this is incredibly crass, you have essentially asked her to decide – right at that moment – whether or not the two of you are going to have sex. When you put pressure on someone to decide right then and there to sleep with you, most people will instinctively respond with “no”. Nobody appreciates being put on the spot like that and being made to feel as though you are pushing them to say “yes” before they’re ready.
On the other hand, if you were to say “If there weren’t people around, I would so totally be making a move right now”, you’ve put things in the theoretical. You’re firmly2 establishing that, yes, you want to sleep with her, but by putting things in the conditional, you take away the pressure to decide one way or the other. It allows for the fantasy of sex without making her feel as though that she needs to decide whether she’s ready to make that next step.
Keeping things in the realm of the *possible*, whether it’s by using the future tense or by making phrasing it as a conditional (i.e. it’s impossible right now but if it weren’t, then GODDAMN) you allow for wiggle room; she knows what you want, but you’re willing to give her the space to decide on her own terms.
Be Willing To Walk Away
One hard and fast truth: sometimes things just aren’t going to work out. The chemistry just may not be there, she may have met someone who she clicks with in ways you don’t… ultimately, the reasons don’t matter. The one surefire way to avoid the friend zone is to be willing to accept that things aren’t going to happen the way you hoped and to be willing to walk away and start looking elsewhere. Staying with the hope that they will come around is ultimately a matter of pretending to be somebody’s friend under false pretenses, and it’s a shitty thing to do to somebody. Staying as their friend in the hopes that your attraction will go away… well, that’s a very good way to make yourself miserable.
Is it possible to be a true friend to someone you have feelings for?
You see, I stuck myself in the friend zone more times than I can count back in the bad old days. When I started to make my progress towards being better with women I began to learn that I could maintain a friendship – a genuine friendship – with someone I was attracted to… but only by moving on. That often meant that I had to go away for a while and – critically – get involved with other people. I’m an advocate that sometimes the best way of getting over somebody involves getting under somebody else, and these were no exceptions. Once I had learned to accept that other people found me attractive and that there were other people in the world that I was attracted to, it made it easier to repair the bridges and keep that friendship alive. I was usually still attracted to them – and I would own up to it. But I could also accept, appreciate and enjoy our friendship for what it was without trying to make it anything more.
If you want to try to maintain a real friendship with someone – someone you’ve put yourself into the Friend Zone over – you need to be willing to put them aside for a while and cut yourself off from them. No email. No texts. No Facebook. Nothing. Go and date other people. Learn that you can and will love (or lust) again with others.
If you’re truly friends… well, you’ll still be friends when you come back later.
- especially since if the two of you end up sleeping together on the first dates, odds are pretty good you don’t need to worry about finding yourself in the Friend Zone [↩]
- fnar [↩]