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.
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.
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.
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.