Comfortable in the friend zone, but considering leaving


Comfortable in the friend zone, but considering leaving

  • Hayley Matthews Hayley Matthews
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    March 11, 2013 at 1:54 am #25398
    Comfortable in the friend zone, but considering leaving

    Hello all,

    First post! Woohoo!

    I have a question that’s probably as old as time itself, and isn’t exactly easy to reconcile. But I figured I’d ask around and see if it’s doable.

    So, I have a female friend. We’re awesome together – we think a lot alike, we have a lot of similar life experiences, and we really enjoy each other’s company, etc. Her face lights up when I enter the room, and I’d be lying if I said the same wasn’t true for me. However, there’s a problem.

    When we first met at a staff meeting over a year ago (we’re colleagues), I was in a weird place. I’d broken up with a serious girlfriend fairly recently, and I wasn’t really in a dating mood. I was also, frankly, entirely too busy to entertain the notion of dating. She sent me some of the usual “interested” signals, but they were also pretty mixed – she would be really, really interested and into me, talk to me for hours, have interested body language… and then she’d stand me up for a coffee date. She also revealed to me that she had issues with dating – it kind of scares her, which is why, despite being an absolutely gorgeous, intelligent woman, she’s been single for four years now. If I wasn’t in the place I was, I might have pursued, but I really didn’t feel like wading into mixed signals territory, and I let the “just friends” situation stand. I was comfortable with it, she was sort of comfortable with it, and we have a pretty good friendship these days.

    Things change, though, and as of this year I’m coming out of my shell – and I have time to start considering dating. In the meantime, though, I’ve become something of a mentor to her. There’s a four year age gap, and we’re both in my twenties, so she comes to me for life advice, friendship advice, and occasionally dating advice. Tonight, I even walked her home to confront one of her FWBs that was doing some unwanted pushing into the dating zone.

    I was honestly perfectly happy with this relationship until a few months ago, until I realized that I have pretty high standards, I’m interested in dating again, and… she’s one of the few people that meets all of my “worth dating” criteria.

    So, my question is this: is there a way out of the friend zone that I helped create? And even if there is, is it worth it, considering the mixed signals she threw my way initially/the anxiety she has around dating? Either way, we’ll still be friends, and I’d be happy with that… but I also do really like her quite a lot, and I would like it to be more.

    If it is doable (and advisable), how do I go about doing this? More importantly, how do I do it without making things awkward? Our friendship is strong enough to withstand some missteps and awkward interactions, but if possible, I’d like to avoid it, obviously.

    If it’s not doable, that’s fine too, and I’d like to hear it. Either way.


    March 11, 2013 at 4:32 pm #25472

    Well, the way I see it you have two options. You can either sit there from now to eternity scrutinizing every little thing she’s every said or done and analyzing those things for clues as to how she really feels about you. Or you can just sit down and have an open and honest conversation with her about how you really feel. There is nothing particularly tricky about leaving the “friend zone”. You just tell the person how you feel and either they feel the same way, in which case you take the relationship to the next level, or they don’t feel the same, in which case it often becomes too awkward to continue the friendship. Either way you are most definitely out of the friend zone.
    That being said, I have to say there are a few lines in your post that make me think you are not being very honest with yourself. First of all you said that when you first met this girl you “weren’t in the mood for dating” and that you were “too busy for dating”. The truth is when people say things like this it really means that they are simply afraid of putting themselves out there. But as they can’t bear to admit this to themselves they have to make up some other excuses as to why they can’t date, excuses that usually have some small truth to them, but which don’t make them seem weak or afraid. Basically they choose the excuse for their actions which makes them feel most in control of their lives. A person who is afraid to confront something is not in control but a person who convinces himself that he is choosing not to do something because he’s busy gains the illusion, at least in his own mind, that he is calling the shots. This is even evidenced by the fact that you mentioned that you “helped create” the friend zone situation.
    Another odd thing you said was; “I was honestly perfectly happy with this relationship until a few months ago, until I realized that I have pretty high standard”. Now if I were to take this sentence out of context I might think that you were just settling for this woman because you suddenly realized you couldn’t do any better. Taken in context however it’s pretty obvious that you were never in fact “perfectly happy” with the relationship as it is. You’ve always wanted it to be more and just won’t admit that to yourself.
    As for this girls mixed signals all I can say is I personally would not pursue anyone who would stand me up for a date. This is because being stood up means that the person is either a total flake, or she’s just not that into me, and either way that means she not the one I want.
    Anyway you just need to bite the bullet and tell her how you feel.

    March 12, 2013 at 4:13 am #25514

    Hey, thanks for responding.

    So, I can understand where you might think that I was really secretly afraid of dating, but honestly, that’s not it. I really did mean it when I said I wasn’t really in the mood for dating/didn’t have the time (to be honest, after my previous relationship which ended very badly, the idea of dating someone scared me, and I actually was doing the 60-hour workweek thing), and I actively turned down a couple other people I was into who expressed interest in me because the thought of dating simply wasn’t appealing at the time.

    You’re absolutely right when you suggest that I’ve always been interested in her; I have. I’ve never hidden that from myself, or her. However, that’s not the same as wanting to date her. At the time, considering I didn’t want to date anyone AT ALL, I was actually comfortable just being her friend. That’s also what I mean when I say I “helped create” the friend zone – she expressed some interest, so did I… and then I decided I didn’t want to deal with the potentially emotionally draining process (for someone like me, anyway) of dealing with mixed feelings and fear of committed relationships on her part, and I didn’t really respond to her interest. Side note: What? It’s the woman who’s scared of being in a serious relationship? Well, I guess there’s a first for everything…

    Speaking of which, let me explain what my tactic has been so far, and see if you think it’s viable or just going to lead to disaster/broken hearts. (Anyone else that reads this, I’d love your opinion too.)

    Let me start by saying that I haven’t been doing the “nice guy” thing. I find it infuriating, and it’s generally kind of a douchebag thing to do. I treat her like a friend – no more, no less. I’m not always there for her, I don’t obsess over her constantly, I don’t stalk her male friends, etc. We chat once a week on average, and sometimes we’ll discuss life over beers, just like I do with most of my other friends.

    But when I realized that I wasn’t actually scared of dating anymore and was interested in maybe re-entering that side of life, I did intentionally create some distance between us. Nothing terribly artificial, but I made a point of not really talking to her or seeing her much over the summer and changing up my style a bit in the meantime, because I know from personal experience that sometimes seeing someone in a different light can make a lot of difference. Since then, I’ve started hanging out with her again, and I’ve been treating her a bit differently. I’ve been a bit more flirtatious, a bit more forward, a bit more touchy-feely, and I’ve made it quite clear that I’m interested in her again. I haven’t said, “OH MY GOD YOU’RE THE LOVE OF MY LIFE MARRY ME,” of course, but I’ve been less-than-subtle about my thoughts, and she gets it. She also doesn’t seem to mind, although she still definitely treats me like a friend, not as a potential partner.

    Normally, I probably would do what you suggested. I’m generally a pretty straight-forward, frank guy. However, considering that I’ve seen her actively freak out and run away from guys that have tried that in the past, I’m sort of reluctant to take that approach this time around. I would like to explore the possibility of more, but I feel like building up to it is better than the abrupt approach.

    I also have other viable options in the dating scene, even if she’s the one I think I’d be happiest with if I ended up with her. So, this isn’t a matter of desperation, either… I just haven’t really been in this situation before, and I’m not really sure how to proceed. Or if I should at all. Honestly, if I were to go with someone else and just remain her friend, I would be okay with that. It’s not my ideal choice, but I wouldn’t be devastated or anything.

    Anyway. Thanks again for your thoughts.

    March 13, 2013 at 2:12 pm #25736

    Well, I will say this, I have known long time friends who have successfully become more than friends. In fact I know one couple who were best friends for ten years before dating and now they have been married for at least ten more years. However, if you are TRULY “okay” with just remaining friends with this girl, and not just kidding yourself about it, than I say why risk the friendship by trying to take it further. Of course the problem with that is that people are RARELY ever truly honest with themselves about these things. In fact the things I mentioned in my last post are things that people are seldom ever consciously aware of in themselves even if its pointed out to them.
    As for taking the “slow approach” all I can say is, to each his own. As for me, I look at it like getting into a cold swimming pool. You can either take slow agonizing steps as you sink deeper and deeper into the water, or you can just jump in and get it over with in an instant. I know which way I prefer to do it.
    By the way when a girl “freaks out and runs away” from a guy who is expressing an interest in dating her it has nothing to do with the timing of it all, or the fact that he may have been her friend up to that point. She’s either physically attracted to him or she’s not, and it’s as simple as that. And having the “right timing” is not going to change that fact.