Flirting With A Friend: Escaping The Friend Zone

Updated March 19, 2024by Regain Editorial Team

Attraction can be an interesting phenomenon. Sometimes, it may be present from the very beginning. In this case, you might feel an immediate draw to someone. Other times, the attraction might grow over time and through exposure to another person. Regardless of when you start to have romantic feelings for a friend, things can get complicated alongside these new emotions. In some cases, one person may feel a spark while the other does not. When this happens, some people might choose to remain friends. In other cases, two people who have been platonic friends for an extended period of time could start developing feelings for one another. 

Can friendships turn romantic?

Flirting with a friend might create challenges. The other person may not reciprocate the same feelings, for instance. Or things might not work out in the long run. There is the possibility you could end up losing a good friend over what could be temporary romantic feelings. There could be endless "what ifs" to consider before trying to leave the friend zone and considering a romantic relationship with a friend. It could be beneficial to take some time to consider your options and properly weigh the pros against the cons. Then, if you feel like making a move to get out of the friend zone is worth the risk, you might want to proceed with awareness, caution, and most of all, respect. Although friends-to-lovers relationships can be exceptional, it’s essential that mutual feelings are there.

Defining the "friend zone"

One might say that an individual is in the “friend zone” when one person in a friendship develops strong feelings for the other and wants to become more than just friends, but the feelings aren’t reciprocal. There are a couple of things that can happen here. Fearful of how their friend may take this new development, the person in the friend zone might never discuss their romantic feelings.  Instead, they may continue the friendship, hiding their true feelings. Often, both parties remain happy in their friendship, though one is holding on to a potentially game-changing secret. Alternatively, a person might express their feelings and find out that the desire for a romantic relationship isn’t mutual.

Remaining friends, even when you want more, might not be a “bad” thing. If someone isn’t interested, it could be helpful to remember that it doesn’t make you less attractive. It also doesn’t mean that your relationship is any less important or meaningful as a platonic versus romantic one. Whether your friend simply loves you as a friend only or there’s another reason they don’t want to be in a romantic relationship with you, it’s vital to respect their boundaries.

Still, being in the friend zone can be tough. Navigating your friendship and trying to keep the relationship “normal,” or the way it was before you developed deeper feelings, can become trying when you have other feelings. This can be especially difficult when the other person is dating or wants to talk about crushes and other romance-related topics.

Sometimes the “friend zone” may be completely platonic and non-physical. Other times, there could be a “friends with benefits” arrangement. In this case, there may be a purely physical element to the friendship, involving no romantic feelings. Or maybe you started out with a flirty relationship, and their feelings fell off while yours got stronger. In all these scenarios, there could be the potential for feelings to grow.

How did you wind up in the friend zone?

Many who have been friend-zoned may wonder how things progressed to this level. You might wonder how the romantic feelings developed in the first place or where you went wrong in the relationship. Still, you may have done nothing wrong at all.

When you begin a friendship, you're essentially creating an unspoken agreement with another person to be friends, however you define that. However, feelings are natural, and you can’t always control who you fall for.  Sometimes, feelings change over time. 

As the relationship progresses, one or both parties may realize they’re not receiving what they want out of the friendship. One person may have developed romantic feelings and find that they want more. This inequality within the friendship can cause tension that may sometimes result in a loss of friendship or a shift in the friendship dynamic.

It could be important to be open and honest with your friend. This could help you both determine how to best approach any shifts in feelings so the friendship doesn't turn sour.

Escaping the friend zone

You may find that you need advice on how to escape the friend zone and the less-than-comfortable feelings it can spark. It could be helpful to approach the situation optimistically, whatever the circumstances. Perhaps  you don't want to escape the friend zone and instead just return to the friendship. It could work if both of you are willing to put effort into the friendship. Perhaps the most important thing is to nurture yourself and find a new balance between yourself and the other party.

Distance your interest


If you're the person who has feelings for your friend, the scales could be imbalanced, and you may find you’re giving more to the relationship than the other person is. If that’s true, you may need to consider taking a step back. Consider distancing yourself romantically and redirecting your energy into the friendship out of respect for both yourself and your friend. 

When you distance yourself, you may start to view the relationship from a new perspective. You could realize that your friend isn’t a good romantic match for you. Or you might recognize that you deserve a partner who naturally and enthusiastically feels the same way as you do about them. Distance can help you heal from any feelings of rejection so that you can continue the friendship without bitterness or resentment.

Do things for yourself

Sometimes, when we have romantic feelings for someone, we can find ourselves doing a great deal for the other person, whether emotionally or tangibly. We might even begin to neglect ourselves. For instance, you might find that you’ve spent much of your time recently thinking about what your friend wants in a partner. You may have started to ruminate on how you could make the romantic relationship work or how you could build their attraction toward you. You may have spent a lot of time bargaining in your head, wondering how to win them over while also protecting the friendship in case things don’t work out.

It could be time to center yourself. You may choose to work on your career or your self-confidence, for instance. You might decide to devote time to your hobbies and passions. Or you could take time to explore what you need and how you can be the best partner possible in future relationships. Consider investing effort into your own well-being outside of the unrequited romance.

Acknowledge your need to heal

Getty/Vadym Pastukh
Can friendships turn romantic?

Sometimes, we want so badly to be “over” an emotional experience that we stifle our feelings rather than working through them. Though they may be painful, it’s okay to acknowledge the feelings that came about through this experience. Radical acceptance and reframing are both tools that may be practical and beneficial in this situation. These techniques can help you manage your response to circumstances you can’t control.

Counseling can help

It might be beneficial to remind yourself that it’s okay to take time to process your feelings. Many people need help moving forward in these situations, and that can take strength to recognize. A therapist or counselor can help by offering a judgment-free environment where you can get candid about your emotions and acknowledge your needs.

While common, developing feelings for a friend can bring on negative emotions like embarrassment or shame, for instance. These emotions may present a barrier to therapy, especially traditional sessions in a therapist’s office. In these cases, online therapy could be preferrable. Many people report feeling more at ease discussing sensitive topics like romance within friendships in a web-based environment. You might also find that online counseling is more convenient since you can schedule your appointments whenever it fits your schedule. 

Online therapy can be just as effective as in-person counseling, too. A comprehensive meta-analysis of studies found no significant difference between the two modes of therapy in terms of outcomes. Researchers reviewed nearly 10,000 different cases spanning a wide range of populations and mental health challenges. 


You may wish that you could simply flip a light switch on and off when it comes to your romantic feelings. This can be true when a breakup happens or when love is unrequited. However, romantic feelings don’t have an “on” and “off” switch. While processing these feelings, it can be helpful to have a place where you can be transparent and say what’s on your mind. Therapy, whether in an office or on an online therapy platform like Regain, provides that place for many people. Our compassionate therapists, counselors, and psychologists are here to offer a listening ear and provide tools to help you through difficult emotions and circumstances. You deserve to have a life full of healthy, fulfilling relationships, and having a trusted professional on your side can help you get to where you want to be.

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