In the college dating scene, there are few things more frustrating than the friend zone. Affectionately known as “platonic purgatory,” this is the dreaded zone in which hoards of beautiful, talented, and down-to-earth collegiettes find themselves stuck together, all wondering why and how they ended up there. Since none of us have “JUST FRIENDS” tattooed across our foreheads, we’ve spoken with college guys, college girls, and relationship experts to determine how you got stuck in the friend zone and to how to get out so your crush can fall as hard for you as you did for him.
How you know you’re in the friend zone
It’s obvious that if he’s cuddling up to you for a heavy DFMO, he’s interested. But if he isn’t grabbing you mid-party and trying to swap spit, that doesn’t necessarily mean he isn’t into you. So how can you tell if your crush is simply too afraid to make a move or if he actually only sees you as a friend?
Kim Olver, author of Secrets of Happy Couples, reveals, “You know you've been friend-zoned when your ‘friend’ consults you on what to do on dates with other girls, tries to hook you up with his friends, and basically treats you like one of the guys.”
Sam*, a junior at the University of Michigan, says he makes it clear when he only sees a girl as a platonic pal. “She’ll know we’re just friends because I’ll bring up other girls in front of her,” he explains. “I also wouldn’t do anything touchy like holding her hand.”
If he never gets that “I’m going to kiss you in the rain” look in his eye or if he only wants to hang out during Family Guy marathons, chances are, he’s not interested.
Why you’re in the friend zone
Even if telltale signs like these are flashing in our faces, most of us just can’t let our feelings go (that’s how we know we actually like the guy!). We ask ourselves, our friends, and even his friends the same question: Why, why, why?
Alicia*, a student at Northwestern University, asked her crush directly for an explanation when she sensed she was being friend-zoned. “I was feeling much less into the guy I was actually dating, and a lot of that came from how attracted I was to [my best guy friend] Kevin*,” she says. “I brought it up with him, not explicitly but in a, ‘I sort of feel this way maybe...’ kind of way, and he told me that he cares too much about me to have a relationship with me that could end our friendship.”
While many of the objects of our affection share Kevin’s fear of risking a solid friendship, many others have less noble reasons. According to Marla Martensen, a professional matchmaker and author of Excuse Me, Your Soul Mate Is Waiting, “The most common reason for a guy to view a girl as just a friend is a lack of physical attraction on his part.” She explains, “Guys are visual and there is no way around it. A lot of guys even have a specific type that they are attracted to like blondes, or girls with a full figure, and they won't veer from their taste.” This extends to personality as well; a guy can like hanging out with you as a friend but prefer dating someone who is quieter or louder, or an artist or an athlete. Let’s be honest: haven’t we all done the exact same thing to great guys who just weren’t our “type”?
The Guys Weigh In
Even though every case of friend-zoning is different, we asked college guys to explain why they did it:
- “She acted like one of the guys, so that’s how I saw her.” – Danny, University of San Diego ‘16
- “I just wasn’t attracted to her. It’s as simple as that.” – Brian, Skidmore College ‘15
- “I couldn’t help it, she just wasn’t my type.” – Sam, University of Michigan ‘15
- “She’d already dated my friend. Exes are off-limits.” – Jason*, Boston University ‘14
- “If I went for a girl I was friends with, we’d probably date. I’m in college and now is the time to be single.” – Eric*, Tufts University ‘15
How to get out of the friend zone
Some motives behind friend-zoning shouldn’t be challenged – if he’s not dating you because his friend already did, it’s probably best to step back and avoid creating drama. Luckily for us, other motives are a bit more flexible. If he sees you as one of the guys, there’s nothing wrong with trying to change his view. You should never change yourself to get a guy’s attention, but according to Dan Lier of Ask Dan and Mike, the co-authors of Men: 10 Secrets Every Woman Should Know from Two Guys That Do, being more attention grabbing is A-ok.
“If [you’re] dead-set on attempting to break out of this zone, do something extreme to get his attention like show up to a party looking absolutely stunning and then ignore him,” Lier advises. “Guys love the chase and want what they can’t have.” He adds, “Simple flirting and compliments to a guy [are] always good beyond body language.”
Kim*, a senior at Tufts University, says she wiggled her way out of the friend zone by having a girl friend casually mention to her crush that the two would make a cute couple. “She dropped the hint and I continued flirting with him the way I had before, but suddenly he started paying more attention. Eventually he was flirting back, we talked, and I was free from the friend zone!”
How to avoid the friend zone in the future
Unfortunately, not all friend zone situations have happy endings like the one in Just Friends. Sigh. On the bright side, you can try to make sure that when your next crush comes and sweeps you off your feet, he won’t be sweeping you right back into platonic purgatory.
“If your behavior is what is consistently getting you friend-zoned and you want a date, then start studying what your friends are doing that [is] getting them dates that doesn't go against your value system,” Olver advises. “Be yourself, that's important. Look at some of the things you might be doing that [are] contributing to your friend zone status and ask yourself, ‘What, if anything, am I willing to change to get a date?’”
Lier adds, “You are what you attract! So if [you’re] constantly being friend-zoned, change the behavior into one that has swagger and confidence, one that doesn’t come across as friendly but one that reeks of, ‘Friends NOT welcome – only suitors allowed.’”
It’s all about the attitude! You can’t control a guy’s type or what he’s attracted to, but you can control the signals you give off. If he’s hanging out with you as friends, he already likes you – all you have to do is make it clear that you want him to like you as more than a friend.
*Names have been changed.