Women Get Stuck in the Friend Zone, Too — Here's How to Deal
DEAR DR. JENN,
I am totally catching feelings for my male BFF. We hang out all the time, text til we fall asleep, talk about everything, we Netflix and chill... except we actually chill. We are finally both single at the same time. How do I turn this friendship into something more? —Stuck in the Friend Zone
It sounds like you and your man-friend have a really strong bond. Turning your friendship into a romantic relationship should not be all that difficult. In order to do that, you need to have patience and strategy. But heads up: This is a long game.
Keep in mind the two key things that create a romantic attachment: emotional connection and sexual connection. Emotional connection bonds us to the other person and makes us want to keep coming back. Sexual connection differentiates the relationship from all others. To see if you have potential beyond being just friends, here are a few things to try:
Dress up. If you were going on a first date with someone new, you would wash your hair and pick out a cute outfit, even if it was casual. Men are visual creatures. Give him something to look at and think about. If you're Netflix-and-chilling in your sweatpants, make them the cute sweatpants. You know the ones.
Don't dating-coach him. Stop offering him dating advice and talking to him about other women. Telling him how to seduce the cute barista at Starbucks gives him the impression that you don’t care about him romantically, and makes you seem like “one of the guys.” It's friend-zoning yourself, essentially.
Hang out one-on-one. Make sure you are alone with him. Hanging out in groups doesn’t allow you to connect on a romantic level for the first time. One of the things that makes us feel drawn to someone romantically is focused attention and feeling special. Make him feel seen, heard, understood, and appreciated. We all want that in a partner.
Create a balance between light, fun, and deep conversations. We are all drawn to people who are fun. Allow yourself to be playful with him while also nurturing deeper more meaningful conversations. In a study about what makes people fall in love, psychologist Arthur Aron, found that “One key pattern associated with the development of a close relationship among peers is sustained, escalating, reciprocal, personal self-disclosure.” Allow yourself to be vulnerable with him and encourage him to do the same. The same researcher came up with 34 questions to ask that creates increasing closeness. Try them together. One professor who tried them with a colleague reportedly found them so effective, they fell in love and moved in together.
Touch him. Okay here's where a huge caveat about the "friend zone" comes in. You can not force or trick someone to be into you. You can not touch them in a sexual way, if they do not consent to being touched in that way. You need to check in with yourself and be sure you're respecting boundaries, and leaving room for him to express what his may be. That said, you can still be flirtatious, and use your body to communicate your intest to him. Touch his arm or his shoulder while laughing at his joke, for instance. Notice how he reacts. Start to break down the physical boundaries and play with the chemistry between you, while also respecting when a firm boundary is placed.
Understand his psychology. What are his typical relationship dynamics? What type of women is he drawn to? What similarities do you have with those types that you can emphasize? While is is important to stay true to who you are, there is nothing wrong with playing up attributes you know he likes or even tapping into some undiscovered parts of yourself.
Work on you. Fill your life with what you love. Happiness is sexy. If you find yourself totally fixated on your friend who appears to be unavailable, it is a worthwhile endeavor to get yourself into therapy to look at why you are so drawn to an unavailable man. Is this a pattern for you? In addition, you should be getting yourself out there dating people who are available. Don’t put all your eggs in this basket. You don’t want to take yourself off the market for someone who is not showing romantic interest. Not to mention, you never know when your sudden unavailability, or hearing about you on a date with someone else, might spark some jealousy or interest for him.
Talk about it. You could take a less direct approach to test the waters. Tell him you had this crazy dream that the two of you were dating, and see how he reacts. If none of the subtlety works, you can always be direct and just ask... “Have you ever thought about what it would be like if we dated?” Chances are he'll appreciate your honesty — but remember you have to be prepared to accept his, whatever it is.