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Can you escape from the friend zone?

Jane Murphy / 16 May 2016 ( 12 November 2019 )

You've been 'just good friends' for a while – but you'd like to be something more. So how can you raise the issue without running the risk of ruining your friendship?

Can you escape from the 'friend zone' without risking your friendship?

You share the same interests. You laugh at the same jokes. You've even been known to finish one another's sentences. It's no wonder you've started to develop 'more-than-friendly' feelings for him or her. The problem? You're just not sure if they feels the same.

Finding yourself in the 'friend zone' with a potential love interest can be a very confusing experience. The prospect of romance may have been there at the start. Perhaps you met online or were set up on a blind date by mutual friends. But while your friendship has blossomed, romance very definitely hasn't. Or you may have been platonic friends for a very long time, but something has happened recently to make you view them in a different light: maybe one or both of you has become single again, for instance.

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Before you raise the issue...

So now you have some tricky decisions to make. Should you let them know exactly how you feel? Should you drop heavy hints and see how they react? Or should you continue to keep your emotions under wraps and just hope they take the initiative instead? Before you do anything hasty, it's important to take a step back and try to be honest with yourself.

'For me, the really important issue to consider here is the value of the friendship, just in case things don't work out,' says sex and relationship therapist Lorraine McGinlay. 'You need to ask yourself if what you're feeling for your friend is real or whether you're just feeling lonely. Would you normally feel attracted to this man and consider him to be a potential partner?'

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When not to make your move

If you realise you're simply craving affection and physical contact – and your friend just happens to be the nearest 'option' – it's rarely a good idea to act on your feelings. Try to think long-term. Will you still feel this way about him in six months' time? Probably not. So why risk compromising your friendship?

It's also worth stopping to consider the possible impact on your wider circle of friends if the two of you get together. 'Will it change the group dynamics or ultimately cost you friends if things don't work out?' McGinlay warns. Obviously, it's your love-life – not theirs – but if you don't consider all the implications and how you'd handle any upsets now, you risk being hurt at a later date.

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How to broach the subject

However, if you know you've genuinely fallen for him or her, it's probably time to speak up. Aim to choose a relaxed setting with no distractions: suggest going for a walk or meeting for a coffee, for instance. And steer clear of 'Dutch courage'. While it's true that many successful relationships began with a drunken lunge, there's far too much at stake here. Your aim is to sound out their feelings, not scare them away from your company for good.

'Communication is your friend here,' insists McGinlay. 'There are no guarantees that your friendship can survive if he doesn't feel the same way or if things don't work out between you further down the line. But having an open, honest conversation about your feelings will ensure your relationship has the best chances of survival, one way or another. Ultimately, this is a far better option than not being open and attempting to deny how you truly feel.'

What happens next?

So they have been feeling the same way and weren't sure how to broach the subject either? Great! This could be the start of a beautiful romance. But if they're taken by surprise and insist they want to remain 'just good friends', don't feel too despondent – and try not to take your disappointment out on them. This isn't a rejection of you or your friendship. It's simply a 'no' to a relationship.

If they are a genuine friend, they'll appreciate your honesty and work alongside you to ensure your relationship doesn't suffer in the long term. All friendships have their ups, downs and slightly confusing times over the years, after all. Trust us: you'll get over it.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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