This article is part of James Bauer’s top four relationship question.
The dreaded “friend zone” can be a frustrating trap. No one wants to get caught in it. Allow me to offer a few tips on breaking free of the friend zone to become the object of his desire. Before I do, let’s consider why you might be in the friend zone in the first place. The most common reason is simply that his cup is too full. I’ll explain.
A guy’s cup can be too full to receive anything more than what he already has in his cup. It’s not that the tea you offer has no value; it’s just that he can’t hold any more tea in his cup without it overflowing. Many women find themselves stuck in the friend zone, not because of any flaw of their own, but because of one of the various reasons a man’s cup can be too full.
Here are a few of the reasons his cup may be too full:
- He is already in a relationship.
- He has too many irons in the fire, meaning he is working on several somewhat romantic friendships and enjoying it, which decreases the pressure to move forward quickly with any one person. Men often like the feeling of options. He knows he has to choose just one, especially if he wants to make the relationship romantic, but he may not be ready to do that. It’s the same for you, when you make a choice; you lose your other options.
- He is too busy working on various life “missions” that have nothing to do with relationships. He simply doesn’t feel he has the time or emotional energy for a relationship right now.
Now let’s move on to what you can do about it. I should point out that being in the friend zone also has a few advantages. The greatest advantage is time. Time is on your side because other relationships may come and go, but friendships tend to last because they are low-pressure and typically involve less drama. Don’t make the mistake of turning your relaxed friendship into a stressful drama by getting angry with him for wanting to be “just friends.” Instead, plant seeds. When time is on your side, you can plant seeds that will pay off with a harvest later on down the road.
One of the best ways to plant seeds for becoming more than just friends is to gradually increase the intimacy of communication. I am actually coming out with training materials on building intimacy through communication in the very near future. Keep an eye out for that. In the meantime, let me suggest that you work on getting him used to talking with you about him hopes, fears, and frustrations. Let him share his live, vibrant emotions, as they unfold in his life. This kind of emotional intimacy can gradually open the doors toward feelings of another sort. If you get frustrated with the fact that he wants to be just friends, he will sense that and feel uncomfortable opening up to you about his internal world. Play it cool.
Here’s another tip. Social psychologists have discovered that when you pair a guy and a girl together in a situation that is slightly stressful or anxiety provoking, they tend to make the mistake of attributing their slight increase in heart rate and adrenaline to the person they are with. They end up misattributing their physiological response on an unconscious level and feel attracted to the person they are with. This happens because the physical body responses of attraction are identical to those of mild anxiety.
The mind has a lot of different possible labels for the same internal sensations. When research psychologists had opposite sex strangers meet each other at the middle of a swinging bridge, they were far more likely to want the other person’s phone number at the conclusion of the experiment than couples who met in a normal location. The anxiety of the long drop below the swinging bridge caused, “butterflies,” that were misattributed as attraction.
Here’s how to use this information. Create opportunities to do things with him (just as friends) that provoke a slight amount of anxiety. For example, you could ask him to drive you to an airport that he has never driven to before when you leave for a trip to visit a family member. The slight stress of driving in a busy city to an unfamiliar location while having conversation with you just might spark something new. Or, invite him to try golfing with you some warm Saturday morning even though neither of you know how to golf. The anxiety about looking dumb could actually work in your favor.
Here’s another technique that works for some people, but not all. This one really depends on the nature of your friendship. In a nutshell, the idea is that you allow him to “lease you as his girlfriend.” Now before you get the wrong idea, let me explain. I certainly do not mean anything physical. Maybe “borrow you as his girlfriend” would be a better way to say that (whew… just saved myself from a whole bunch of hate mail). The idea is that you do something that would be more traditionally thought of as an activity shared by a couple in a romantic relationship.
It goes something like this. Valentine’s Day is coming up and his only plans are to play video games with a bunch of his buddies. So you politely offer to allow him to “borrow” you as his girlfriend for the night…”you know…just for the fun of it.” You tell him he could take you out to eat and the two of you will just have a good time talking before he returns to the video game marathon and you turn in early to spend some quality time with a good book.
The reason this is helpful, is because people often begin to feel the things they act out. When he finds himself holding the door for you and sitting across from you in a restaurant while gazing into your eyes, it’s natural that some part of him may begin to feel a different sort of attraction. This kind of thing happens all the time in real life. A great example of it is the high frequency with which bridesmaids and groomsmen paired up during weddings end up hitting it off and trying out a relationship a few days after the wedding.
Yes, it is possible he may see through this and make fun of you for the effort. If he does, have a backup plan ready. Tell him you are flattered that he would see it that way, but if he wants to treat it like a serious relationship instead of a “pretend date,” he will have to ask you out for real.