I’ll set the scene: we’ve got this guy friend – maybe we’ve been friends for a few years already, or maybe we recently met. He’s sweet, funny, and always down to go to a movie. We feel free to be ourselves with him, and we always have so much to talk about. We really value him and his friendship.
Then, he starts showing up to our hangouts dressed a little nicer, starts giving us compliments that we’d expect from a boyfriend, or starts insisting on paying for our coffee. And it strikes us: he has got a crush on us. It suddenly becomes fairly obvious that he’s interested in pursuing a romantic relationship rather than a purely platonic one – he wants out of the friendzone.
We start to assess our own feelings – do we like him back? Could we see him in a romantic sense? Are we attracted to him? And as much as we do enjoy his company, we realize we aren’t romantically interested in him.
But where do we go from here? We want to stay friends with him, but how do we navigate that with this new dynamic introduced? How exactly do we stay friends with a guy who’s into us without ruining the friendship?
Start Introducing More Group Activities
We won’t necessarily see going to dinner all alone with him as romantic, but he might. Consistently hanging out with him in potentially romantic contexts, which could easily be mistaken for a date, is one of the most confusing things we can do. Hanging out with him like he’s a boyfriend will further his belief that he should continue pursuing romance with us.
The less we can hang out with him one-on-one, in situations that feel very much like a date, the better. Start initiating group hangouts – invite a bunch of friends to a bowling night or a picnic, organize group dinners at home, or get together for a beach day. This will help steer our relationship with him back in the direction of friendship.
Be Careful Not To “Lead Him On”
It’s not uncommon to overthink every tiny thing our crush does. When we’re into someone, we’re taking in their every action and word and attempting to understand the hidden meaning behind it. We desire to be privy to whatever is going on in their mind, and in our hope to have our feelings returned, we often end up construing their actions incorrectly.
Be mindful of how your words and actions could be interpreted by him.
We don’t always realize it when we’re giving off signals to a guy friend which he could take as interest. We might just be attempting to encourage him when we say, “You’re such a great guy, any girl you date is lucky to have you,” but it’s not difficult to see how he’d take that as us showing interest. We need to be mindful of how our words or actions can be taken by him, even if our intention is just to be a good friend.
Tone Down Any Physical Contact
We’ve all been there – crushing hard on someone, just hoping for their hand to brush ours. Any little instance of physical contact with them immediately has us decoding what it meant, calculating how long their hand stayed on our shoulder, and drawing conclusions about their level of interest.
For some of us, physical contact is totally normal, not necessarily romantic. But when there are already feelings involved, basically any physical contact can be interpreted as romantic. This makes it all the more important that we steer clear of any physical touch that isn’t necessary – maybe instead of hugging goodbye, a fist bump or just waving would suffice. We can consider how we’d want our boyfriend to interact physically with his female friend and go from there.
Be Supportive of Him Dating Someone Else
Perhaps the simplest way of saying we’re not romantically interested in him without actually saying anything at all is to show genuine enthusiasm about him potentially dating another girl – even if there’s a part of us that’s worried that we’ll lose our friend.
Being dubious of his prospects because we want his attention for ourselves (even if just as friends) might make him wonder if we’re jealous. So if there’s any girl on the horizon, ask questions about her, be supportive, and show an interest in meeting her – even becoming friends with her.
Don’t Seek Out Flattery
It’s always flattering when someone likes us, especially when it’s someone who already actually knows us. It reflects our desirability and appeal in a positive way, and feels more meaningful than if a random guy across a room liked us. It’s tempting to milk his flattery for all it’s worth and give ourselves a nice ego boost.
Treating what he’s feeling for us as something to be used for our benefit will only hurt him.
But this isn’t just ultimately an unhealthy way to seek out validation, but also inconsiderate of our friend’s very real feelings for us. Treating what he’s feeling for us as something to be used for our benefit will only hurt him and will definitely ruin the friendship.
If He Asks You Out, Be Upfront
Even if we attempt to keep the relationship on friendly terms, he might go ahead and ask us out anyway, forcing us to go beyond just steering clear of physical affection or planning group hangouts.
If he asks us out, it’s imperative that we let him down as gently as we can (if we have any hope of the friendship continuing) while being upfront about how we feel instead of beating around the bush. A simple “I really value you as a friend, so I don’t think that’s a good idea” will get our point across quickly without being overly harsh or awkward.
Make Your Intention To Stay Friends Clear
As soon as we turn him down, it might feel like everything has changed. He’ll be wondering if we even want to be friends anymore; we’ll be wondering if we embarrassed him or hurt his feelings with our rejection. Suddenly, the friendship has landed in a gray area where no one knows what the other is feeling.
Resume the group activities you both engaged in beforehand.
We can help this by making our intentions to stay friends clear to him. We can invite him out to a group gathering, text him a funny tweet, ask if he has seen Netflix’s latest series, or do anything else that we would’ve done before the relationship took a turn into romantic territory. Continuing to be his friend as we were beforehand will help him recover more quickly and move on.
Be Prepared for Him To Pull Away
It hurts to be turned down – working up the courage to even ask someone out is challenging, especially when we’d be changing the dynamics of a relationship that has already been established. But either way, being turned down is never what anyone is hoping for when they stick their neck out and express romantic interest.
Even if we handle turning him down well, we can’t control how he’ll react. He might need to take a step back from the friendship, and we need to be respectful of that, even if we want to continue the friendship. As much right as we have to not date him, he has a right to pull away after being turned down.
There’s no magic formula to keep a friendship intact after one party tries to make a move, but if we value the friendship, it’s worth trying at least a few things. Remember: group get togethers, limited physical touch, and straightforwardness will always help.
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