dating and relationships

‘How Can I Move Out Of The Friend Zone With The Guy From My Running Group?’

today28 April 2022

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You’re reading Love Stuck, where trained therapists answer your dating, sex and relationship dilemmas. You can submit a question here.

There’s a reason why the friend to lover trope is so popular in film and TV. You’re friends with someone for years, you date other people and then you realise the person you’ve been looking for has been right in front of you.

Having a solid friendship with someone can be a great foundation for a relationship. But the movies we watch don’t tell us how awkward it can be to tell your friend you fancy them. What if they aren’t attracted to us? What if it ruins the friendship?

This is what this week’s reader, Carol, is worried about. “There’s a man that I like and we have been friends for about five years. We are in the same running and wild swimming group and get on well. How can I move out of the ‘friend zone’?” she asked.

Though the term “friend zone” has been debated, there’s nothing wrong with exploring the potential of a relationship with a friend – as long as you’re fully prepared to accept that they may not reciprocate your feelings.

Though it can be scary to shift the dynamic, Counselling Directory member Simona Bajenaru says we should be honest and authentic.

“Speaking your feelings might be as rewarding as perhaps the hesitation to do so. Whether reciprocated or not, once the initial fear and shame subside, your sense of confidence and pride might blossom,” Bajenaru says.

How can we get out of the friend zone?

Bajenaru first invites anyone in this situation to ask yourself five questions:

  • Why now?

  • What drives your desire to move out of the “friend zone”?

  • What are your expectations, moving out of it?

  • Would you say he completes or complements you where you are at now?

  • What feelings come up when you envisage your future together?

Bajenaru emphasis that “although answering these questions logically is important, digging deeper into your feelings will help clarify whether your desire to advance this relationship is genuine or acting on a temporary need to be fulfilled (company, intimacy) or fear to be satisfied (loneliness, low self-esteem).”

In a situation like Carol’s – where you usually see the other person in an activity group – asking them if they’d like to meet up one on one for a coffee or drink is probably a good first step.

Why do people struggle to move from friendship to romantic?

“Coming out of the ‘friend zone’ is terribly scary for most of us,” Bajenaru says. “Hesitation is a natural reaction to such prospects since a non-reciprocation of your feelings blurs your treasured friendship’s way forward.

“Best case scenario, his feelings are mutual and knowing each other well enough provides a beautiful and safe space to nurture the next stage of your relationship.

“The less fortunate scenario may be a slow distancing leading to potentially losing a valued friend, a perhaps abrupt end to his reliable, consistent presence in your life. Should this be the case, please know you have not done anything wrong.”

How can we continue a friendship with someone if they don’t reciprocate feelings for us?

There is an overall risk of awkwardness between yourselves for a while after feelings are shared.

“Sometimes the response is not even immediate: your friend may choose to process his own feelings first. A beautiful placeholder to receive might be ’I am flattered, I need to process it,” Bajenaru says.

“However, they may choose to never respond nor engage, avoiding difficult conversations with you and themselves.

Bajenaru adds that “continuing the friendship would require an honest conversation about the attempt to have more than a friendship and setting some boundaries and perhaps ‘ground rules’ until some new kind of ‘normality’ is established.”

Love Stuck is for those who’ve hit a romantic wall, whether you’re single or have been coupled up for decades. With the help of trained sex and relationship therapists, HuffPost UK will help answer your dilemmas. Submit a question here.

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today28 April 2022

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