I have feelings for my friend...how do I get out of the friend zone?
August 13, 2012 10:17 PM   Subscribe

I started having feelings for my good friend and mustered up the courage to tell him, but he says he doesn't feel the same way, yet still wants to remain close friends. I'm not happy with that. How do I get out of the friend zone? Or should I just get over it?

So I started having feelings for a close friend of mine because we'd been spending a lot of time together over the past year and I've gotten to know him on a very deep and personal level. And well, I enjoy spending time with him and one day, it was like a light bulb went off and I started seeing him as more than a friend. We also have great chemistry together and we get eachother.

He's a few years younger than me, though. He's still an undergrad and I graduated a couple years ago. The 3-4 age difference doesn't bother me. He told a close mutual friend of ours that he was really into me, but he was a little concerned I might be "too old." So when I heard this, I was disappointed and tried my best to move on, but alas, it was difficult because I still hung out with him all the time as friends. The feelings kept getting stronger and stronger.

He started giving me what I perceived as hints that he likes me, too. He would often give me more time than he would give to our other friends. He also took me out a few times in which I felt like were unspoken dates. We would go for dinner alone and he'd pay. We'd walk around and talk for hours. He'd sometimes flirt with me or sometimes do things like touch my leg or lean in really close to me. He also used to call, text, chat and email me frequently. We didn't go more than a day without communicating.

Then a month or so ago, I finally mustered up the courage to tell him I had more-than-friends feelings for him. I thought he'd admit that he had feelings for me, too. But NOPE. He said he only sees me as a friend and wants to continue to be friends. He said he has had feelings and attraction to me, but he isn't ready for any type of commitment, so he didn't see the point of talking about it. He also asked that maybe we should have "space" from one another to make sure we're just friends. We haven't spoken in weeks, but today he texted and called me and left me a voicemail saying he misses me and doesn't see the point of this whole "space" thing and wants to go back to how we were.

So I'm not sure where to go from here. I still have feelings for the guy, but I don't know if I should be friends with him like before. I clearly want to be more than friends. Honestly, I probably wouldn't want to start talking to him again unless I know I have a chance to be more than friends. Has anyone else ever been in the same situation? How do you think the best way for me to react to him would be? Any help or guidance would be highly appreciated. Thanks!
posted by impactsmoothie to Human Relations (28 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Stay away from him for now until your feelings change -- definitely don't start hanging out with him again trying to get "out of the friend zone." You're not being a real friend if you're doing this and it's not fair to either of you.
posted by sweetkid at 10:20 PM on August 13, 2012 [19 favorites]

You just provided your own answer -- you don't want to hang with him unless you can be more than friends. And he's clearly stated that he doesn't want more than friendship. So don't hang with him.

The time you spend thinking of him is keeping you from finding a real Mr. Right who'll actually be right for you.
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:27 PM on August 13, 2012 [17 favorites]

Don't wait around hoping that he'd change his mind. That way lies madness; you'll end up reading tea leaves and interpreting every little action, trying to weigh out whether he's changed his mind or not. And, as stated above, you wouldn't be a decent friend doing so either.

If you can handle staying his friend - and only his friend - then do so. But you can't, so it's perfectly fair to tell him "Hey, I respect that you don't feel the same way and I'm not personally offended by it, but I haven't turned my feelings off so I need to step back until my feelings settle". That's a fair statement and not blaming his choice.

Then you go off to lick your wounds and find another guy who will be into you.

And yes, lots of us have been there before. Good luck!
posted by Hakaisha at 10:31 PM on August 13, 2012 [16 favorites]

Then a month or so ago, I finally mustered up the courage to tell him I had more-than-friends feelings for him. I thought he'd admit that he had feelings for me, too. But NOPE.

Ugh. This is the worst. But you should totally be proud of yourself for being brave enough to say something to him. And, yeah, I think all of us have been there in one way or another, wanting more from a relationship than the other person.

I highly recommend walking away from the friendship. For now. I am now friends with my early-twenties ex-boyfriends and guy friends I had unrequited crushes on, but it took several years of very limited contact and dating lots of other people for me to only feel friendly towards them and not wish we could give it another go (exes) or revert back to those feelings of limerence (crushes).

It's for your own mental and emotional health, really, and for the health of relationships you'll have in the near future. I dated a guy who has unrequited feelings for a girl in his social circle and he could not move past it because he kept (and I assume, keeps) hanging out with her and their mutual friends. It put a big damper on my enthusiasm for our relationship because I knew I was never going to be #1.
posted by peacrow at 10:43 PM on August 13, 2012 [8 favorites]

I agree with the answers here. Given the situation you've described, with such intimate and daily contact and discussions, he would have to be oblivious not to have already realized that you had feelings for him. It sounds to me like he was leading you on/using you as if you were a girlfriend, but without the benefits of being a girlfriend.

Not only that but he thinks you might be "too old" when you're only around 3 years older than him. Come on! He sounds immature. Give him time to sort out his issues and see if he realizes he might be ready for commitment after all.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:52 PM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

You have two options:

A. Remain close friends. Keep hanging out just as often as you were before. Say nothing. Do nothing. Try nothing. Just concentrate on being friends. True friends. Not "biding my time" friends.

B. Step way the fuck back. Don't see him for a while. Collect yourself. Move on. Probably lose him as a friend, or at least resign yourself to being a lot less close than you have been.

The former is infinitely more difficult, but could preserve the friendship if your interests are true. The latter is definitely the easier way out, and the thing to do if you have no particular interest in staying close.

You have zero chance of "getting out of the friend zone" or of him becoming attracted to you. Put that out of your mind. If you can't, you have to pick option B. Option A isn't going to work if you think you're playing the long game of winning him over.
posted by Sara C. at 10:55 PM on August 13, 2012

Wait, did I write this? Except in my case, he told me about his feelings for me and then proceeded to confuse me for a few weeks culminating in him asking to be just friends. He doesn't understand the need for space? Unfortunately, your brain does need space, because you are attached to him, and it's a real neurological phenomenon that you can't just turn off at will. You probably need at least a few months of not being around him to get your brain to stop thinking about him "that way." If he doesn't like that, he shouldn't have de-facto dated you and then backed out at the first signs that things could be going somewhere. I told the guy in my case that I didn't want to hear from him in X amount of months unless he wanted to legitimately date him.

Some time later, I realized I had 0 feelings for him, I wasn't waiting for that call at all anymore. I'd moved on. And now we are friends, but I am careful not to let our friendship skirt into dating territory (no more romantic-ish dinners where he pays for example). I still admit I have some lingering resentment because I feel he played games with me, but he was immature and honestly I don't think our relationship would have been too great.
posted by melissam at 11:03 PM on August 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

Yes, and I regret not stopping being his friend sooner. When I stopped hanging out with him, I immediately met some wonderful people... including an amazing guy who wanted me to date me right from the start! My former friend starting hanging around and missing me, but that ship had already sailed, so I kept my distance.

I like this quote when thinking about relationships - "Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same." You had a great friendship with this guy from the sound of it, and now it has run its course. Bid him farewell, take with you the good memories and life lessons, and set your sights on the horizon. Just my take on things based on experience.

Trust your instincts and emotions above all else. Do what makes you feel happy and whole.
posted by sunnychef88 at 11:05 PM on August 13, 2012 [7 favorites]

you can't really be friends with someone until you only really want to be friends with them, period.
posted by violetk at 11:05 PM on August 13, 2012 [6 favorites]

Yeah, this guy sounds to me like he's doing the non-girlfriend girlfriend routine - he gets to flirt and talk with you like a girlfriend so that he can get emotional/flirting experience with women but he doesn't want anything approaching a relationship, because you're older and that's more serious than he's after.

In the meantime, your heart is going ballistic because you actually have genuine feelings for him. Him - well, he likes you, but he's not got a lot invested in this.

If you don't want to be only friends with him, cut this off now or you will end up in a world of personal heartache and pain.
posted by heyjude at 12:09 AM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Tell him your feelings haven't changed and it is painful and not fun to be around him.

Don't take maybe for an answer. Dates or nothing.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:51 AM on August 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

He doesn't want to be your boyfriend. He was getting something out of your relationship and he made it clear that he doesn't want more than that. He'd probably have sex with you, he probably likes you a lot and likes spending time with you, but he doesn't want a committed relationship with you. Seems like you want one with him. So you two really can't be friends right now.
posted by Polychrome at 2:14 AM on August 14, 2012

Yes, I think we all have been there. Please, for your sake and his, don't do the "act like a friend but always wanting something more" routine. That's bad for your dignity, and bad for your happiness.

If you can go back to just being friends, great. Otherwise, keep giving yourself space until you have moved on from this infatuation.
posted by Forktine at 4:35 AM on August 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Honestly, I probably wouldn't want to start talking to him again unless I know I have a chance to be more than friends.

You have answered your own question.
posted by headnsouth at 5:07 AM on August 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

What's going to hurt like hell is when he does meet someone, when he decides he wants a commitment with someone who isn't you. If the idea doesn't hurt like hell than you can probably be friends, but if the thought of it upsets you, you probably need to take a break for a little while.

(I really liked a guy who told me he didn't want to date long distance. I held out hope--until he started dating someone who lived further away from him than I did. But, in retrospect he wasn't really a good friend to me, and we haven't spoken in years.)

There's really nothing wrong with saying, "one day we can be friends but not today."
posted by girlmightlive at 5:08 AM on August 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

In my experience, trying to read tea leaves from mixed messages like this never goes well. The part of what he said that you need to listen to is that he doesn't want to change your relationship and doesn't want to be more than friends. Given that, well, you even acknowledged you don't want to be friends with him. Nor should you, I think. Continue having some space from him.

Look, you can't make someone change how they feel, and this guy doesn't feel strongly enough to want more than your current "friendship" provides. He's not going to change his mind, but he might waffle and be ambivalent and cause you more heartache if you really ask him to.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:25 AM on August 14, 2012

Keep away, and do tell him why. You don't want to give the impression that you don't even value him as a person enough to acknowledge your absence before you disappear - that will make him feel like the whole friendship was fake.

You really do have to take no for an answer and you also have to stomp on any resentment you might feel about his doing a "non-girlfriend girlfriend" routine, because that's probably not what he was doing. He probably was actually being friends with you and it's not fair give in to the temptation to see that as leading you on (I know that can happen but I don't see any evidence that that's what's happened here). I don't mean to insult your intelligence but it is very easy to perceive things as flirtation when that's what you want to see, and besides, you have a definitive answer now. So, no trying to get out of the "friend zone".

Sorry, it sucks.
posted by tel3path at 5:26 AM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

In the past, I've had a fair number of my female friends develop crushes on me (why this happens is something I'm baffled by, since I don't flirt with them at all). Regardless, I have never hooked up with my female friends, no matter how attractive they are, since if things go poorly then I would lose a friend. The farthest I got with any of my friends was to second base, then I stopped immediately when she mentioned that she was not into "casual sex" and was "a relationship girl."

Do you understand how, from a purely logical perspective, a relationship with you would be a bad investment? There are a million reasons you and your friend might not work out. Sexual incompatibility, emotional baggage, or any of the other various reasons that relationships fall apart. And once you're broken up, usually the friendship ends as well. That's a high-risk, high-loss scenario with a potential high reward (a successful relationship), but also a very low probability of getting that reward, statistically speaking. That's why I only date strangers - if things don't work out, at least I haven't lost a friendship that I treasure.

If you want your friend to sleep with you, I feel that you need to mitigate his risk by explicitly letting him know that it will start out casual and also giving him an exit strategy that will allow him to preserve the friendship. (For example, saying that either of you can end it within the first three months without any judgement or explanation needed.) As for getting him to love you, that's a different kettle of fish, and varies from person to person. Speaking for myself, I never fall in love with anybody unless I have already been sleeping with her for a couple of months - the sex helps trigger the warm fuzzy feelings. I also know that several of my other male friends also have that as a prerequisite. Of course, YMMV.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 5:32 AM on August 14, 2012

Walk away. You need time to get over him, and you can't do that if he's hanging around. Also, you yourself said that if he doesn't want to be your boyfriend, you don't want him as a friend-friend. That's cool. Good for you for knowing what you want.

As others have said, we've all been there. Pining for a friend sucks. Funny thing is, all those "friends", I didn't miss once I decided that they were boyfriends or nothing.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:40 AM on August 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Honestly, I probably wouldn't want to start talking to him again unless I know I have a chance to be more than friends.

Tell him that. Say that you're not angry at him or anything but you do need a bit more space and time until you're over the crush.

You can't make him want to be with you. When he says he's worried about the age difference and/or isn't ready for a commitment right now, he's doing that thing people do where they think they're rejecting you kindly. Trying to soften the blow, etc. What he really means is he doesn't want to be with you. It doesn't matter why.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 8:26 AM on August 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

As a veteran of these kind of situations and who is actively trying to not get into them any more, I'm just going to say that you need to choose yourself over choosing him. Don't waste your time with someone like this.

Like others in this thread, I never missed the "friends" that I had this kind of relationship with once I decided to walk away for my own sake. Guys love the energy and attention that they get from you, without the commitment. Once you start dating someone else and giving that time and attention to some guy that isn't them, then they start acting even weirder...

Remember, you will meet someone out there who actively wants to be with you. Mourn the end of this relationship for a bit, and then move on.

Choose yourself!
posted by so much modern time at 12:15 PM on August 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

Give up on this one for now. You can only be friends once your heart has given up, which it hasn't. Maybe some other year.
posted by ead at 5:29 PM on August 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

by wanting to by friends what he really means is that he wants you to continue to court him. before, you were treating him like a potential romantic partner. of course he wants you to still be "friends": he's hoping you will keep giving him the special attention without having any of the commitments associated with the kind of relationship you want.

I'M NOT SAYING either of you would do any of this consciously, so i'm not trying to blame either of you.
posted by cupcake1337 at 8:37 PM on August 14, 2012

Don't be friends with him unless you can actually be just friends with him, and vice versa. So not right now, and maybe not anytime soon/ever.
posted by sm1tten at 9:11 AM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you everyone for the answers. Since I posted this, we had a long conversation where I told him that I need lots of space to work out my feelings before we could ever be friends again and he seemed to have understood. But after that, he constantly kept contacting me and I was being distant toward him. It got him really pissed off and we had a fight yesterday. But I again reiterated that I respect his decision that he just wants to be friends and I'm only doing this whole space thing so that we could be friends again someday soon. I asked him to be patient and sensitive with me and give me time if he's serious about wanting to be friends again. I hope this works.It's really hard though, sometimes I just wish he could finally admit to me his feelings and we could live happily ever ever. But I need to move on and stop thinking like that. This is the extremely difficult part. But I hope to get through this. Thanks again to everyone for your help.
posted by impactsmoothie at 9:13 AM on August 24, 2012

But after that, he constantly kept contacting me and I was being distant toward him. It got him really pissed off and we had a fight yesterday.

well, yeah, he threw a tantrum bc he was no longer getting what he wanted, regardless of how it was affecting you, especially that it was affecting you negatively. he's a child. find someone who will treat you the way you want and deserve to be treated.
posted by violetk at 2:31 PM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

He is pissed off and not respecting your decision? What a jerk move! Give yourself the space you need and don't let yourself be bullied by this ridiculous temper tantrum.
posted by J. Wilson at 3:55 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nthing jerk! No contact!
posted by tel3path at 4:39 AM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

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