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Getting Out of the Friend Zone

A girl resting her head on her guy friend's shoulder because he is so in the friend zone.

Dear Joan Actually

I definitely blew it. I’ve liked this girl for months, but she sees me as a friend. It’s at the point where she’s telling me about another guy she likes. I did everything I could to be a good dude–I brought her soup when she was sick and helped her get a new job. But, it’s like these things have worked against me. I want to make a move, but I’m not even sure it’s worth is at this point.  How can I get out of this friend zone?

-Houston, TX 

Ahh the friend zone—romantic purgatory for the overly accommodating. It’s where you’ll end up when your romantic interest likes you, but not in a romantic way. Getting friend zoned is frustrating and painful. Despite your best attempts to show your “friend” how well you could fit the role of significant other, your “friend” just doesn’t see it. It’s torture.  It’s also the closest you’ll come to feeling like a neutered animal.

There’s no better expert on getting out of the friend zone than Psychology Today’s Dr. Jeremy Nicholson. With over 10 years of experience studying dating, relationships, and persuasion, he understands what you’re going through. I took some notes from his playbook to help you ditch the dreaded friend zone in 5 Easy Steps:

1) Be Prepared to Walk  – Your friend zone problem stems from an imbalance; you value someone more than he or she values you. You can’t force someone to value your company, but you can choose to find someone that values you more. “If you’re not getting what you want it’s time to walk,” says Dr. Nicholson. Afterall, he adds, “being ‘needy’ is no way to negotiate.”

2) Fill Your Calendar – We’ve all heard “distance makes the heart grow fonder,” right? Well, put that saying to the test. Create some space between you and your “friend”. Give this person the opportunity to miss you. “If they truly appreciate you,” adds Dr. Nicholson, “then your absence will make them miss you and want you more.” If, however, your absence has gone unnoticed, it’s time to move on.

3) Entertain Other Options – Remember, you’re not taken. So, go ahead and meet some new talent. Then, casually bring up the new romantic possibilities to your “friend.” Why would this work? “Because people value the things they might lose,” says Dr. Nicholson. “If you are “busy” with other people, you might just find your friend a bit more eager and motivated for your time and attention.”

4) Ask for Favors – Dr. Nicholson has surprising news: “Contrary to popular belief, people like you more when THEY do favors for you, rather than when you do the favor for them.” Apparently, the more “your friend” invests in you, the more valued you will become. Your days as an errand boy have ended; it’s time for you to relax.

5) Appreciate Good Behavior – When your “friend” behaves the way you like—affectionately or romantically, for example—show your appreciation and reciprocate. In other words, reward the response you want. “Being attentive and affectionate, only when your friend does what you like, encourages your friend to continue those behaviors,” says Dr. Nicholson. “Also, ignoring him or her if he or she behaves badly helps to reduce unwanted behaviors.”

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