Can You Get Out of the Friend Zone?

This came up this weekend.  I was talking to a guy friend of mine who recently started dating a woman he’d been interested in who hadn’t been ready to date him when they first met and so he said that he believes that a guy can work his way out of the friend zone over time and that this notion that you can get stuck in that role isn’t really true.

I tend to disagree.

I think if two people who are both single meet that they will soon end up dating or probably never end up dating.

Generally when you hear of two people dating later on in their friendship it’s because something has changed.  Scenarios I can think of include:

  1. Throughout their friendship one or the other of them was not single.  So the attraction was there but couldn’t be acted upon at the time and when they both finally found themselves single and in the same location and with enough time and head space for dating, they did.
  2. There was some sort of misperception when they first met.  For example, the woman thought the guy was an ass, but somehow she came to see that he wasn’t.  Chances are these two were not willing friends.  Maybe they had mutual friends in common and kept getting thrown back together until she could see that the guy was actually nice.  Only then was a relationship going to be possible.  (Think Pride & Prejudice)
  3. There was a break in the friendship.  They met, were friends, likely one was attracted but the other wasn’t (because that often drives the formation of a friendship), they moved apart and lost touch, met again, and bam! attraction and dating.
  4. They were both single but one or the other wasn’t ready to date at the moment they met.  (What happened with my friend.)  For example, one had just ended a serious relationship or was planning on moving out of state or country.  (Although the moving thing doesn’t always prevent something from happening, it just makes it hard to keep going once started.)

Hate to say it, but this notion that if you hang around a girl long enough showing her what a nice, great guy you are or if you just buy her enough things she’ll finally see how wonderful you are and want to be with you is a fairy tale.

With the stories where you do hear of it happening, I’d bet almost every single time that if you dig deep enough you’ll find that the spark was there at the start even if it wasn’t acted upon.

Scenario 3 above is probably the only exception to that one.  And I would say it only works if the person changed in the interim.  Short guy from high school grows two feet after graduation and suddenly he’s a completely different person.  Or asshole from college loses his brother in a tragic accident and finally grows up and gains some emotional depth. (Although chances are the girl was always physically attracted to him even back then and just knew better than to go there).

So if you’re all hung up on someone and it just isn’t happening?  I’d say walk away.  Don’t try even harder to make them feel something that just isn’t there.

That will then free you up to find someone who can see what a great catch you are and wants you.

And if it’s really too hard to just walk away, then force the issue. Suck it up, tell them you like them, and see what they say.  Maybe yours is one of those very rare situations where  both people are attracted but neither one has the guts to start things and so you’re just circling around each other without ever realizing how close you are to dating.  (Keep in mind, this will likely fail, but at least you know and can move on with a clear conscience knowing you asked.)

Whatever you do though, don’t hang in there hoping for it to magically change.  If you get value out of the friendship, sure, stay friends.  But if you’re friends because you want more?  Nope.  Move on.  (Take it from someone who has been on both sides of that losing equation.  It’s a waste of your time and energy.)