Flirting With A Friend: Escaping The Friend Zone
Updated March 02, 2020
Reviewer Dawn Brown
Attraction is an interesting phenomenon. Sometimes it's present from the very beginning, immediately when you meet someone. Other times, attraction grows over time and through exposure to another person. Regardless of when you start to have romantic feelings for a friend, once there are these new emotions, things get complicated. In some cases, one person immediately feels a spark, while the other does not. When this happens, some people choose to remain friends. In other cases, two people have been platonic friends for an extended period and feel seem to sneak up.
Flirting with a friend produces many challenges. What if the other person does not reciprocate the same feelings? What if they do, but things don't work out? What if you end up losing a good lifelong friend over temporary feelings? There are endless "what ifs" to consider before escaping the friend zone and considering a romantic relationship or any romantic actions with a friend. Once you've had time to consider your options and have properly weighed the pros against the cons if you feel like making a move to get out of the friend zone is worth the risk, you're going to have to proceed with caution.
Defining The "Friend Zone"
Before discussing how to escape the friend zone, let's talk a bit about what this is and how you got here in the first place. One gets stuck in the friend zone when one person in a friendship starts to develop strong feelings for the other and wants to become more than just friends. Fearful of how their friend will take this new development, most of the time, the person stuck in the friend zone never discusses their romantic feelings, and instead, continues the friendship, hiding their true feelings.
Most of the time, one person is not aware of the other's growing feelings, so while it may seem 'cruel' to some extent to be stuck in the friend zone, it's usually completely unintentional. A lot of the time, both parties remain happy in their friendship, though one is holding on to a game-changing secret. Now, the person remains a friend, when they have a desire being a girlfriend or boyfriend, a significant other.
Being in the friend zone can be tough. Navigating your friendship and trying to keep the relationship 'normal' 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 romantically motivated topics.
There are different levels to the friend zone. There is the friend zone that is completely platonic and non-physical, which is where two people are strictly traditional friends. Another version is where you have a 'friends with benefits' arrangement, where there is supposed to be a purely physical transactional sort of element to the friendship, involving no feelings. Both have the potential to grow feelings where one friend wants more than the other.
How Did You Get Stuck Here?
Everyone who's ever been friend-zoned has asked this question of themselves. How did this happen in the first place? Where did you go wrong? How do you fix this?
It's interesting to begin by thinking of friendships, and all other relationships as well, as social contracts. You're essentially creating an unspoken agreement with another person to be 'friends,' however you define that. There are expectations from both parties. The friend zone is an uneven, unequal exchange between two friends. Both parties are not receiving what they want out of the friendship. One person has developed feelings where they want more than what was originally agreed upon. 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's important to be open and honest with your friend to make sure that both people are on the same page and both can figure out how to best approach any shifts in feelings, so the friendship doesn't suffer.
Escaping The Friend Zone
Okay, now for the part you've all been waiting for, advice on how to escape the friend zone you've found yourself stuck in. The good news is, there is hope. You're not going to have to remain here forever. The mission, when escaping the friend zone is to 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 are imbalanced, as you are giving more to this relationship than the other person is. You value the other person more by having feelings stronger than just a 'friend.' To get what you want, you may need to consider taking a step backward, being less interested and proactive in the friendship. When you distance yourself, you will be able to view the relationship from a new perspective and demand a change in your friend's part to restore balance. You'll be able to see just how much your friend values your relationship and start demanding more of it. You should be ready to walk away from the friendship if the other person does not reciprocate feelings. Unfortunately, that's how things go sometimes, but it's healthier to make your stand and go after what you want, rather than stand idly by, allowing resentment to fester.
Show Your Friend There's Competition
This may seem like the timeless 'make them jealous' cliche, and to an extent, it is. However, if you're trying to light a fire under your friend and make them start realizing your value, you may need to instigate the action. You can do this by expanding your social circle. Meet new people that you're attracted to. Talk about this with your friend to show them that you're getting out there. This also puts you in a more desirable place because others are looking at you in this romantic light.
When your friend starts to see a decline in how available you are and how interested you are in others, this naturally creates feelings of jealousy. People tend to value whatever they think they may lose. Keeping yourself busy will make you more desirable to your friend (who you desire) because they are going to start craving more of your attention, eager to have your relationship get back to the close ties of before.
Pay attention to how your friend reacts to the changing dynamics, the new additions to your life. If you notice the feelings of jealousy described above, there is a chance that your friend may be interested in something more. However, if you notice there is no change in behavior, no interest or concern, then there is a chance they are not romantically or sexually interested in you. Always be ready for the possible rejection because feelings do not always develop within both people.
Be Bold And Go After What You Want
As great as it would be, we don't have the ability to read each others' minds. If something goes unspoken, we cannot expect someone else to 'just know.' This is very applicable to the friend zone. You'll never get out of the friend zone if you don't make an effort. While yes, there is a slight chance that someday your friend may start to develop feelings and want to be more than just friends, it's way more likely that your feelings will continue to go unnoticed. After all, nothing is changing within your friendship dynamic.
If you want to get out of the friend zone, the best way to accomplish this is to be proactive in getting out. It's like breaking out of prison - it won't happen by accident, you have to work at it and plan for it. Okay, maybe that example was a bit extreme, but still, effective.
Let go of your fears, which we know is easier said than done. However, nothing is ever gained through inaction. Find a balance between being overly pushy/aggressive and instead, firm and wanting. It's okay to want something more. That's something that may not be discussed enough. You shouldn't feel bad or guilty for growing feelings beyond just being friends. Embrace this new opportunity and have an open line of communication. You can tell your friend that you have started to feel a bit more for them and would like to explore this avenue further. Again, like all other options, you do have to be ready to face rejection, as you cannot control whether someone else develops feelings or not.
Show You Can Be Assertive
This goes hand in hand with going after what you want. Studies have shown that while women do see 'nice guys' (the ones in the friend zone) as intelligent, they also see them as less assertive. Evolutionarily, women look for assertive and dominant males, ones who can provide for a family, one that can take care of them.
Women acknowledge that 'nice guys' are the better long-term relationship option, but for the short term, they tend to choose someone more assertive. This may leave you feeling a bit confused because women seem to like both the 'nice guy' type and the assertive type. If you want to get out of the friend zone, find a balance between the two. Continue to express the qualities your friend enjoys, also pair this with confidence and assertiveness that shows them you can take control of a situation.
Being in the friend zone doesn't have to be a lifelong thing. However, getting out surely won't be easy. We caution you to weigh your friendship against the relationship potential before proceeding further. Be ready to lose your friend or have them not feel the same way about you. Accept that you both have personal feelings and neither is right or wrong, though both should be respected. If you are willing to take the risk and think that your friendship can become something more, communicate with your friend so that you don't end up growing negative feelings of resentment that can negatively impact your relationship.
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