We all love a real-life friends-to-lovers story, but not all of us are Jim and Pam.
Unfortunately, for many that means that the friend zone is eventually inevitable. Sometimes we friend-zone a guy, and sometimes we don’t know how to tell a guy friend we like him to get out of the friend zone ourselves. If you're experiencing the latter, here’s your go-to guide to approaching the friend zone discussion.
Analyze the Friendship
Believe it or not, starting off as friends before getting into a relationship is a great idea because friendship is a solid building block for a relationship. You get to know the person well enough to decide whether or not you’re compatible before hearts are involved. Relationship expert Amy Masini writes, "When you've been friends and then decide to date, you've had the opportunity to know each other in a completely different way than you would if you met on [a dating app] or at a party and had a first date the next time you met. This will give you a different perspective on that person."
Being friends with someone before developing a romantic relationship will also show you how they handle tough situations, as Masini continues, "When you start dating someone, you may wonder what they'll think when they see you with food poisoning, without your game face and fancy dating clothes on, or after an emotional crying jag over a fight with your mother or best friend. All that is obsolete with a friend. They've already been there, done that – and they still like you.”
When you’re already friends, it’s much easier to get to know him on a deeper level. Conversation comes more naturally, and your connection will make asking deeper or more personal questions easier. Learning more about him will help you discern if you really do want to move out of the friend zone or if your feelings are fleeting.
Go beyond getting to know what his favorite team or movie is. What was his dream job as a kid? What’s his relationship with his parents like? What’s something he’s passionate about? Learn about what makes him unique. Ask good questions and really listen to his answers. This will not only help you get to know him, but strengthen your emotional connection, especially if you can show that you remember what he has told you about himself.
Don’t let the time you hang out in a group go to waste either. You can still learn a lot about a guy when you’re with other people. From the way he interacts with new people to how he handles friend group drama to how he treats the waitstaff at restaurants (major red flag if he’s rude to waiters or waitresses), you can get insight into how he views himself and others, and how he values friendship, consideration, honesty, and more.
How To Make a Move
Let’s say you’ve done your due diligence – you know your guy friend pretty well, think you’re compatible, and you’re feeling your crush get stronger. How do you give him hints that you like him? Or do you take the initiative and straight up tell him?
Let’s start with the flirting option. The weird thing about flirting is that you can be giving it your all, and he might not notice, even if he’s into you. I’ve put effort into flirting with guys who couldn’t get the hint (and vice versa, a guy could be flirting with me, and I almost always think he’s flirting with one of my friends), and I’ve noticed other guys pick up on the most subtle flirting techniques. Every guy is different, so you need to approach flirting differently with every guy.
This is another benefit to being friends with someone before you date them because it’s much easier to flirt if you know what they’re interested in. Flirting with someone through joking with them isn’t for everyone, but it’s the perfect way to a sarcastic guy’s heart. Learn what makes him tick and go with it.
That being said, there are universal flirtatious cues that work on every guy, things like playful physical contact, eye contact, spending more time with them, engaging them in conversation and really listening, remembering something they said in the past, laughing at their jokes, dressing well around them, sitting next to them, and being on their team during games, to name a few.
Personally, I think light physical touch will work on almost every guy. I’d argue that this can be more powerful than eye contact (which also works on almost every guy) because it’s more intimate. “Accidentally” brush his shoulder on your way back from the bathroom or briefly touch his arm during a conversation. Pay close attention to how he responds – he might be interested in you too if he reciprocates.
Good flirting is the easiest way to signal that you’re interested in more than just friendship, because if he reciprocates then you’re less likely to need to broach the topic first, he can take the lead. Or if he doesn’t reciprocate then you can get the message and back off without needing to have a conversation about it.
The number one thing you absolutely do not want to do is jump into hooking up with him. Hooking up after a few cocktails or a particularly spontaneous night might seem like an easy way to get out of the friend zone, but all it really does is ruin your friendship and make things awkward.
Telling Him How You Feel
Maybe you’ve been flirting and getting some encouragement, and you’re feeling ready to see if there’s a chance for something more. The best way is to broach the topic with gentleness and honesty. One way is to ask if he has ever thought of what you two would be like as more than friends and see where the conversion goes from there (and don’t forget to mention that you’ve thought about it). When you tell him how you feel about him, be sure that your friendship comes first in case he doesn’t feel the same way.
When should you tell him? One rule of thumb is to do it when you’re both single (this is real life, not a romantic comedy). You also want to do it when you’re comfortable with him – but not so comfortable that the friend zone is already in the equation or you like him so strongly that the idea of being just friends if he doesn’t like you back is too awkward. It’s best to listen to your gut and not let your nerves get the best of you.
By the end of the conversation, he either feels the same way about you, is open to giving it a shot, or sees you as just a friend. If you got the answer you wanted, congrats! But if you got friend-zoned, keep reading.
What To Do If You’re Friend-Zoned
It can be a blow to the ego to find out he sees you as just a friend (trust me, I’ve been there), but it just means you’re not meant to be together. It says nothing about your friendship or about who you are as a person, he’s just not your Prince Charming.
If you’re friend-zoned in the process but want to maintain the friendship, then the best thing to do is to let go of your feelings for him. This can be difficult, so it’s important to keep your distance from him until your feelings die down. Take time for yourself and practice self-care. It’s normal to feel embarrassed after getting rejected, so don’t forget to be kind to yourself.
Spend time with other friends and try your best to not give in to the urge for a rom-com binge (avoid watching When Harry Met Sally at all costs), and don’t be afraid to be honest about how you’re feeling. Bottling it up won’t make your feelings go away and will make it harder to move on, so make sure you have a few close girlfriends who are good listeners. Though this process can be tough, the most important thing to remember is that you’re doing this to preserve your friendship. Continuing the friendship while you still have feelings for him will only make it worse, so letting go of your feelings for him is the best thing you can do if you care about him enough to remain friends.
Approaching the friend zone conversation with the guy friend you’ve been crushing on can be intimidating, but it’s less stressful when you learn to put your friendship first. Whether you work out as a couple or not, you’ll rest assured knowing that you put yourself out there. If it works out, it can be the beginning of a beautiful love story you’ll tell your kids one day.
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