pre-empting the friend zone

Reader J. J. writes:

I’ve gone on a few dates with a girl I really like. We’ve been emailing and texting and even talking on the phone a lot since our first date, which I think is a good sign. We’ve even kissed successfully. The other day we were talking over IM and she asked me where I thought the relationship was going. I told her I think she’s great and I want to keep seeing her. In response, she told me she likes me too, but she thinks she could see us becoming friends instead of dating (so I guess it’s not definite?). Does this mean I’m already in the friend zone? Or can I do something to make sure I don’t end up there? We’ve got another date planned this week. Any ideas?

Dear J.J.:

This is definitely a toughie. She’s giving you some mixed signals if she’s saying “friend” while still kissing you goodnight. But I don’t know her motives or her history or anything else about her, so I can’t say for sure what she’s thinking.

Yes, staying out of the friend zone entirely is your best bet for not ending up there. It’s an extremely hard place to get out of, if it’s possible to get out of it at all. But the fact that she’s already said she could see you as a friend worries me that you’re already there.

Here are a few things I think could be going on in her head:

Let's be friends!

Let's be friends! Image: graur razvan ionut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

– She’s afraid of getting hurt, so she’s playing it safe. If she tells you she thinks you could be friends rather than dating, she keeps the upper hand while you’re dating. She could just be telling herself this because she’s been hurt in the past and already expects things to go sour, and if/when they do, if she can convince herself she didn’t want you in the first place, she’ll feel better about it.

– She really does think of you as a friend and just isn’t totally conscious of it. This is the answer I’m leaning towards, just because if she’s capable of saying “I think we’ll be friends”, that’s what she’s thinking somewhere inside. She’s still giving you a chance, which is nice, but it could mean you’re about to get crushed under the weight of “well, I’m really not that attracted to you”.

If the first situation is the case, then you just have to be patient and act oblivious. Keep going with your romantic intentions and don’t stray into friendship territory. If she’s protecting herself, it’s something you’ll have to deal with in the relationship as a whole later on, but at least for now you’re not in the friend zone. Just ignore the “friend” comment and proceed as normal.

If the second situation is the case, you’re basically effed. Unless you want to be friends, of course. The friend zone is like a black hole that you can’t escape from once you’ve reached the event horizon. Even just dipping your toe in it means you’re sucked in and there’s no way back out.

But maybe you can try anyway. Here are a few ideas for your date, either way:

Go romantic.

Eschew anything even remotely “friend-like”. Make clear your intentions are romance, not friendship. Bring her a small bouquet of flowers or a similarly romantic gift (three roses? a box of chocolates? It’s ok to be generic, you’ve got an agenda here and the clearer you can say it through culturally-accepted symbols, the better.) Go out to dinner somewhere and split a bottle of wine. Lean in close and hold her hand. Go in for the kiss. Make sure there’s tongue. NB: I will NEVER advocate forcing yourself on a girl. If she backs away from your advances, let her back away. You’ll know for sure she’s not interested. Never ever do something if she tells you no.

Go sexy.

Make her dinner at your place, and get into a game of strip poker. Or give her an erotic massage. A generic massage is nice, but an erotic massage is a great way to get into the sexy (i.e. NOT FRIENDS) area without necessarily having sex. Again, don’t force it. If she says no or backs off or checks her watch and says she has to go, let her go. And I mean entirely.

Go down in flames.

Take her to a strip club or a sex shop or something along those lines. If she’s put you in the friend zone already, you might as well go out with a bang. She’ll get the hint, probably.

Hopefully you get the romantic response you’re looking for, and she’ll can the “friends” thing, and it’ll be something you can joke about later. Good luck!


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