I'm a Midwesterner with a background in writing and media. My articles are mainly about relationships, dating, and heartbreak.
Defeating the Friend Zone
You know who got out of the friend zone after seven years? You know who finally got the woman of his dreams? My boyfriend, that's who. And you may be asking yourself, how does someone get out of a friendship after seven long grueling years?
First off, it wasn't grueling.
Second, that little thing called the friend zone...we're going to break that down and make sure you stop calling it that. It isn't helping your case. I can promise you that.
Third, with only a handful of words to read in maybe about 20 minutes -- you'll be on the right track for setting yourself on a pathway to dating that gorgeous friend. So let's get into the nitty gritty.
How He Got Out of the Friend Zone
Yes, my boyfriend came out of a friendship. I knew he had a crush on me back when we were in law school, but it wasn't an obsession that he had. Not to the point where he would only focus on me and not his studies, life events, and so forth. He had at least two girlfriends while in law school. We were friends. His first girlfriend who he was in love with, the second -- likely a rebound from that first serious love. I'm sure there were plenty of other girlfriends and dates in those seven years before we got together.
But for whatever reason, he had a crush on me and didn't pursue it for a long time. He didn't flirt with me much during that time in school. Only when he was single I didn't see him around campus at all during his second relationship.
But when they broke up, I got a strange message on social media. He said he wished he had taken me on a date. That he regretted he didn't. And this surprised me. I wasn't expecting this sudden confession. I somehow by the grace of the powers that be wrote back to him about how I wasn't looking to date anyone... and friendship is really what I needed at the time.
Honestly, I was a little spooked.
I told myself I should probably dial down how much I communicated with this fellow. It didn't seem like a smart idea at the time. I was definitely coming at things with an eye for friendship. He was trying to figure out his place in the world -- what he wanted to do after school, what job, and so forth.
So in the years following that message thread, we stayed in contact. He ended up moving to far out to the west coast. I didn't really think about him that much. I was busy with a number of tasks, making money, and keeping up with the busy world. He often wrote on my social media. He tended to understand the things I put on social media. The staying in contact was mostly on his side. He kept things positive. (And this is key)
I had a bad relationship at some point. This guy I was dating was going around seeing other women and not communicating what he was doing. He made me believe he was interested in me and taking it somewhere, but it appeared he was interested in doing that with a few women. He eventually moved to Atlanta. We talked about going long distance, but that's actually when I found out he was cheating. I was pretty heart broken. I didn't understand what had happened to me. I didn't know how I felt about relationships in general.
At that time I made a vow to myself -- hit the refresh button on my social life. I decided to be a hermit. I did not intend to date or communicate with anyone until something naturally happened. I wanted to do my homework before getting involved with someone. That last heartbreak was a doozy, and I had no intention of ever having it repeat.
My perspective changed. I started looking for something different for my next relationship. My priorities got combed through. I wanted someone who was going to treat me right, who could communicate, who believed in romance, and who was genuine about their interest in me. I didn't want something fluffy or dialed in the wrong way.
I wasn't even paying attention to how I was using social media in those days. But someone kept bringing some positivity to my statuses. And after several months, it became very obvious that a spark was lit. The conversations got longer, more wacky, more comfortable. I honestly didn't think anything of it because -- he didn't live in the same city.
He lived hours away.
I honestly thought -- it doesn't matter if he is writing friendly things here and there. He isn't outwardly flirting with me. He isn't being creepy.
We can talk about our nerdy interests. We both like to write back and forth.
Then one day... he invited me to a wedding.
I talked to a few of my friends on whether I should go, and they all said -- you've known him for a long time, he seems to get you, you should just go for it. Nothing horrible will come from this.
And so I went. Then one date led into another date. Then suddenly you start introducing him to the people in your life. Then sky diving. Then kiss here. And then bam -- you're in a relationship. A serious one.
From the time he admitted he liked me after he broke up with that one girl till something actually happened -- 5 years.
That's five years of just living your life, getting crap done, and not spooking a nice woman. But slowly kindling a fire.
Friendship Is Important
Let's keep this really simple and talk about what are the keys to getting out of the friend zone. First of all, don't be desperate. You need to live your life. If you're constantly bothering this person, begging them to be in a relationship, and constantly confessing your feelings and attractions you're going to do one thing: push them away.
You need to play it cool, smooth, and have fun. Treat your friend like a friend. Do you know how hard it is to have friends in this world? Do you know how big of a deal it is to have a real friend? Someone who has your back and your interest?
Friendship is important. This is one of the biggest lessons about starting a romance with a friend. You have to respect the friendship first. You have nothing in a relationship if you don't have that virtue of friendship. Thousands of studies show that one of the best indicators of a happy relationship is having a friendship first. And other studies show a more successful relationship -- has a long courtship. So don't ever panic if you like someone and feel hopeless about it. I don't want to make a false promise, so yes, you might not connect with that person that way. What I really want you to focus on is having a healthy friendship.
If you are supposed to be in something romantic together, it will naturally happen. You won't feel like you need to force it. You won't feel like you're misunderstood. I am someone who had been in an unrequited romance, and it is no fun at all. But you have to accept when it isn't happening, and you have to respect the friendship first. Once you start getting down about how it isn't turning into a relationship, you might start hurting that friendship and pushing it all down into oblivion.
One of the other big keys about getting out of the friend zone is keeping things positive. People are more attracted to being in your company when they have positive connections with you. Work on making your life more positive. Work on yourself and shaping you into a better version of yourself. Focus on improving your health, wealth, and friendships. Don't focus so much on one person that you make yourself crazy. Go into the world with positivity, and you'll attract the right person if it is to happen. This guy who caught my interest wasn't always bugging me about relationships -- in fact, he never really did. He always left positive, humorous, and witty messages. He kept the friendship in tact. You have to treat the friendship like it is a fine wine. The only way it is ever going to turn sultry is to treat it like a fine wine. The moment you start huffing and puffing your chest and getting aggressive because you're stuck at friendship is the moment you'll scare this person away, and possibly for good.
Worst Case Scenario
I've had another friend try to pursue before in my life, and we are not friends at all now. I told him I wasn't interested, and he took this really hard. He started sending me messages daily about how I should reconsider my decision, that I wasn't being fair just because he wanted to kiss me and I should give him a chance, he told me he was angry with me, he started stalking guys that he thought I was going on dates with -- and I mean he was stalking them while on his bicycle. He even was calling my friends and asking them why I wasn't dating him and what he could do to change that.
Does any of that ring sane to you? Why would I date that person who clearly isn't being sane at all? All he is doing is setting himself up for more rejection. You can either set yourself up for more rejection, or take it like a champ. Focus on making the friendship stronger and healthier, and trying not to scare the crap out of your friend. Show them you have self-control and that you're not going to take your hurt feelings out on them. Do not demand a relationship, do not go on about nice guys finish last, and do not stalk them when they are on dates.
If you want a friendship to turn romantic, you have to be classy about it and treat the person with utmost respect. Prove to them that you have loyalty.
So there are a couple of key areas I really want you to focus on if you want to up your chances of having a friendship turn into a romance.
There may be a day when everything clicks. When you have the perfect invitation to something, when you can tell there is a change in the air. Wait until you know that you have a good hook to try to take them out to something special. Do not lash back if they deny your request. Taking someone to a wedding is a great idea. Especially if you've known them for awhile.
Think about what makes sense for them, what kind of interests do they have, and what kind of offer would be the one they can't refuse. Don't try to put too much pressure on them, but do look for a way to get your foot in the door. Once you get your foot in the door -- that's when you can start making moves to seal the deal -- and by seal the deal, I mean get into a serious relationship. Timing is everything. Think about where they are in life and whether what you are inviting them to makes sense.
2. Mutual Friends
Women are hawks and they are looking to see if you are flaky or if you are devoted and loyal. You want to come off as loyal before you even start dating. Your dating history has a reputation to it. Women can absorb this in the blink of an eye. They're watching how you interact with others. They are getting a feel for your life through pictures on social media. They are getting the information about your life through your mutual friends. You can't control how someone views you -- but you can live your life in a way that you'll be represented well by your mutual friends and by your pictures on Facebook.
One of the best ways to get out of the friend zone is through a mutual friend. Do you know what is the best way to land a date? It's when someone hears from a person they trust about a good dating prospect. When someone says another guy is great -- or that girl is promising -- that makes people's ears burn a little.
You can't really force these things. Some people can see right through the smoke and mirrors of a wingman. But if you are playing your cards right, someone will naturally tell another person they should date you. Again, work on your friendships and reputation. Your best allies are your mutual friends who can help you overcome the obstacle you have in getting into some romance. Your mutual friends can also work against you if you have a bad reputation. Think how awful it would be if someone went up to your sweetheart and told them they should steer clear of you.
I'm going to be honest -- I have definitely acted as a reference for others. And I have definitely of my own free will told someone that the person they are dating is a train wreck. Your reputation precedes you. Your reputation will define and set the tone of your romantic relationship. Think about what kind of momentum your life has.
There is a right amount of how much you should be communicating with your interest, and I would say it is better to do so sparingly than over the top. Don't start communicating like crazy until you know that things are starting to heat up. Leave a positive comment here and there. Make this a normal part of their day. Maybe you are in a similar situation to me -- maybe it's long distance, but you don't care about long distance. Do little things first to help more so develop the friendship. Get them used to these comments. Maybe write on a Facebook status or on Twitter every once in awhile. Don't let it consume you -- keep going on with your life. Show that you are progressing in life, going after your goals -- but do this discretely. And create a friendly presence with this person. Creating the friendly presence is what you can use to your advantage.
4. Play It Cool
Okay, so maybe you're the lucky duck who actually got them to go on a date with you. On that first date, don't go on about your feelings from over the past seven years. It is time for your poker face. Show them you are cool, calm, and collected. Focus on having fun instead of trying to get a kiss. Show them you are a person of class, that you are great company. Keep the conversation going before the big event and keep the conversation going after the next date. Before even the next date, have in mind what you could ask them to do next with you. Save it on a list for later. If the first date goes well, ask for another date in a text or other type of message. You don't need to rush in like you are trying to control the path of a bull. Be smooth. Be observant. Be patient, kind, and lovely.
Is the Friend Zone a Real Thing?
The term was popularized by a 1994 episode of Friends entitled "The One with the Blackout." Ross Geller has a crush on Rachel Green... and Joey Tribbiani described him as the "mayor of the friend zone." Now what happened in the Friends series? Ross ended up with Rachel.
This concept has been criticized as misogynistic, and rightly so. It often carries with it the expectation that women should have sex with men even when they don't have an interest in them. Why? Because the men were nice to them. Just because you are kind doesn't mean you should be rewarded with sex or a relationship. A man or a woman are not at fault if they don't want to reciprocate the same thing to you. The best thing to do if someone isn't interested is to be kind to them. Treat them with respect and don't freak out. You'll really make them worry if you freak out. The friend zone isn't really a real place. Why? Because several romances come from friendship. Setting a friendly space and working from there is to your advantage. People often have fantasies about dating their best friend. Don't focus so much on your needs and wants -- you're only focusing on your ego. I can't say this enough but a healthy romance comes from a healthy friendship. A relationship isn't just about passion.
I think the best thing to do about your situation is not call it the friend zone. I think if you are using this term you'll be setting yourself up for negativity. Focus and define more what you can about the friendship. A number of friendships do not change into a relationship... and the mechanics for that are just not there for whatever reason. You can't take a magic pill or use a magic spell to make someone fall in love with you. If the chemistry is there, if the right pieces are in place, and if you treat the situation with kindness -- you'll be upping your odds.
So let's talk about upping your odds.
How to Up Your Odds
- Think positive. Use positive body language, smile, be creative, be engaging, be supportive. A positive person will attract positive energy. You have terrible odds if you start being negative all the time, complaining, and general pessimism.
- Refine yourself. Workout, buy new clothes, expend energy on hobbies, spend your free time doing cool things.
- Keep yourself engaged with the real world and focus on hobbies and social groups so that you have plenty to say. Sitting in your bedroom and sulking all the time or journaling about your feelings for hours isn't exactly taking progressive action.
- Start culling your social media. Make it look more charming. How do your pictures look? What about your interests? Do the two of you have any shared interests? Is there anything on your person's profile that you could add to yours that fits yours interests?
- Keep things light, not heavy. Women and men are not super fans of drama or insecurity. Show that you got your crap together.
- When the time is right, show your flirty side. Break the touch barrier, have an amazing conversation, cook some excellent food.
- Stop acting like an idiot in high school or college. You are not a dorky person. Whatever is dorky about you, address it, challenge it, and figure out how to be cool. People want to be around cool people, not dorky people. My dog is dorky as all get out and it's adorable. But figuring out your cool range is exactly what you need to do. Take dance classes, go rock climbing, go travel the world. Tell your dorky side to go take a hike.
- Save the gushy stuff for later.
- Spend time with them. Let them feel comfortable around you. Don't make a big deal about things. You don't have to say everything you are thinking.
- Compliments, thank yous, and walks down memory lane can be powerful.
- Use mirroring techniques. Copy their body language and mannerisms. This is a socially comforting move.
J on June 15, 2019:
If you are in the friend zone and don't want to be then you have to be willing at some point to walk away. When you see that person with someone else it will destroy you.
Nick on November 30, 2018:
I've read the article and I am in the zone. And obviously I wanna get out of it. And I wanna know what you think of my situation.
I've been friends with a girl for like 3 years and slowly I started developing feelings and even though I was a bit afraid to confess, I did. And she rejected me politely saying I'm the best person she ever met and she knows that she's losing the right person but she doesn't feel the same way like I do. Said she wanted to remain friends. She even said who knows about the future. But it hurt really bad. It hurt so bad that I now have anxiety and depression because of that. We still used to talk after that. And she used to flirt with me sometimes but yesterday while talking I found out she likes someone else. It hurt so much. And now I'm clueless to what should I do.
James on November 29, 2017:
Hi, I've read your article and I am on the friend zone. Of course I want(ed) to get out of it.
Just want to know what you think about the following story:
I told my friend I liked her, she rejected me. I tried to keep the friendship and tried to hang out with her since that day, but she always had an excuse. So I got tired and stopped even texting her.
After a while one of her close female friends texts me to ask me my opinion about which computer does her sister should buy for the University. And kept for a while the conversation.
Then, I crossed paths with another of her close female friends. We started talking and suddenly asked me if I had seen her friend/my crush (I believe she knows about what I told her because my crush spent the night with her the day I told her I liked her). I told her I didn't, and she told me she was really busy right now, like justifying her friend that she could not see me.
Do you think my crush is checking on me? I mean I really got a bit startled when talking to her friend she suddenly ask me about her.
Andrea Lawrence (author) from Chicago on October 18, 2017:
Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on September 27, 2017: