Falling in love with a friend is agonizing. Knowing that they like you but “not in that way” feels like a death sentence to your ego and your romantic aspirations. But don’t give up hope. These steps will tell you how to get out of the friend zone for good.
Be more mysterious. One of the best things about friendship is that you can be the messiest, weirdest, most embarrassing version of yourselves and feel closer because of it. That won’t work when you’re trying to get someone to fall for you. Flirtation and seduction require an element of mystery. Your friend needs to be intrigued by you. They need to think you’re holding something back that they want to know about. They need to feel like you’re a mystery they need to solve. This is what turns the tables and puts them in pursuit of your attention rather than the other way around. Sadly, this means you need to distance yourself from them before you can get closer.
Change your appearance. Your attractiveness goes far beyond your physical beauty, but the only way to get out of the friend zone is by making your friend see you in a new light. We get used to the appearances of people we’re close to. When you spend a lot of time with someone, it’s hard to see them objectively, no matter how attractive they are. If you’ve always wanted to change your hair or experiment with a new style of clothing, now is the time. Catch them off guard with what you look like and they will be shocked out of friendship mode long enough to see you as a possible love interest. Step into a new version of yourself and they won’t see you as “just a friend” anymore.
Be objective about them. One of the quickest ways to end up in the friend zone, ironically, is by making your romantic obsession too obvious. Neediness is unattractive, and unfortunately, we’re hardwired to get that way when we fall for someone who isn’t interested in us. Research shows that being rejected by a crush activates parts of the brain that are associated with motivation, reward, addiction, and cravings. Unrequited love is basically a drug. So before you spend any more time pining over your True Love, consider this: are they actually your destined soulmate, or are you just addicted to rejection?
Date other people. Going out with other people has a few benefits when you’ve been put in the friend zone. It distracts you from thinking about your friend, it gives you perspective about other options for partners, and it just might make your stubbornly-disinterested love interest jealous. When they see you with other people, they will recognize how attractive you are and see your value from a more objective standpoint. Competition makes people recognize the thing (or person) they don’t want to lose.
Don’t be their therapist. Like showing too much romantic interest, being overly sympathetic is a big turn-off. Are you attracted to people who agree with everything you say and ask nothing of you? Probably not. When a relationship is valued by both people, you are there for each other in equal measure. It’s a two-way street. If you’re the one who’s always listening and being sympathetic, the dynamic needs to change. Your crush on them makes you want to please them, but it’s backfiring. If you want them to see you as a romantic interest, you have to assert your needs (as a friend first) and voice your opinions. Be your unique and interesting self, and they will start to see you as more than a free therapy session.
Have exciting shared experiences. If you want to use biology to make your friend fall for you, science says that you should embrace your inner adrenaline junky. You’re probably aware that attraction can make you anxious and exhilarated, but it turns out that it works the other way around, too. According to research, “moments of anxiety” and exhilaration cause sexual stimulation. People who experience a rush of adrenaline through death-defying stunts such as rock climbing and roller coaster riding are romantically aroused and rate the attractiveness of those around them more highly than people who are not flooded with adrenaline. Going skydiving might be your fastest ticket out of the friend zone.
Be less available. The saying goes that “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” and science agrees where couples are concerned. But it can also work for people who aren’t romantically involved yet. By being less available, you’re avoiding the pitfalls of seeming desperate, and you’re giving them space to miss you. Longer intervals between meetings also mean that they’ll have more objectivity when they see you again. They won’t have a chance to get so familiar that they stop seeing your attractiveness. Scarcity will also give you time to gather your emotions and feel less frantic about your attraction to them.
Test the waters. The “friend zone” exists in many different types of relationships. It can happen between two people who have been friends since childhood, or between a couple who has been on one date only for one of them to realize that they don’t have romantic feelings for the other. Because of this, there are no standard clues to determine when it’s time to make your first move to get out of the friend zone. The only certainty is that, if you want out, you will at some point have to take the leap. Use eye contact or touch to gauge the sexual tension between you. If it’s strong, you’ll feel it. While the thought of betraying your feelings may terrify you, remember that holding your feelings inside is not an option either. The truth will have to come out at some point.
Recognize a dead end when you come to it. Sadly, one of the major causes of the friend zone is inflexible: they’re just not attracted to you. Only you can determine when to give up, but it’s better to do this before you lose the friendship to awkwardness and frustration. Recognize that attraction is a mysterious thing that isn’t tied to the value of a person. Remember that there are other people out there who will see your best qualities and fall head-over-heels for you. If you thought your friend was the love of your life, you were wrong: the love of your life will have no problem falling hopelessly in love with you.
How to know you’re in the friend zone
Before you can start extricating yourself from the friend zone, you have to confirm that’s actually where you are. Here are some of the most common signs that your friend has put you out of romantic contention:
They tell you about the people they find attractive. If they’re talking about their crushes, it’s a sign that they don’t see you as a romantic prospect. If they did, they would feel awkward talking about their love life because they would worry that their attraction to you would come across.
They say “I love you” as if it’s no big deal. No one who is romantically attracted to someone would say, “I love you” lightly. “Love” is one of the only words from which there is no going back, and people spend weeks agonizing about when it’s the right time to deploy it. Friends, on the other hand, say “I love you” all the time. It’s an accurate description of their feelings, but there’s a big difference between platonic love and romantic love.
It never gets awkward. This may sound like a good thing, but if you’re hoping for more than friendship, you want all the awkwardness. Discomfort is a sign of sexual tension. Feeling awkward when you share eye contact or accidentally brush hands when is a sign that you’re both hiding something. If your silences are always companionable rather than awkward, you are definitely in the friend zone.
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