Have you ever ended up in the friendzone? It’s the no-man’s land of dating: you’re not in a romantic relationship with someone but aren’t a stranger to them either. You’re simply their friend, and have to squash down your emotional impulses every time you’re together.

According to research, over half of UK daters (53%) have admitted to putting a potential partner in the friendzone. But there’s hope: the same research found that 77% of people believed it was possible to escape the friendzone and become lovers instead.

Why do we friendzone people?

Why do we friendzone people

There are several reasons why you might end up in the friendzone. For example…

Lack of mutual physical attraction

A couple doesn’t usually end up in the friendzone when there’s a strong, immediate, sexual chemistry. In fact, the same research above found that 71% of people friendzoned a potential partner because there was a lack of physical attraction.


It takes courage to ask somebody out and fear of rejection is common. In a recent survey of UK singles, over 58% of people admitted they’ve chosen not to ask someone out in case they were turned down.

If someone is scared of being rebuffed, they might choose the less terrifying option of becoming friends first, hoping to upgrade to a relationship later on.

Valuing friendship over sex

Some people believe that friendships last longer than sexual relationships. When they meet someone whose company they really value, they might prefer a platonic friendship, which is less likely to be buffeted by emotional storms than a passionate fling.

Not wanting to date

Mary (62) initially put her partner Frank (64) into the friendzone when they met at a cycling group, because she wasn’t looking to get into a relationship.

“I met Frank soon after my first husband died. I joined the cycling group to get exercise and meet new friends. I liked Frank immediately but I wasn’t even close to wanting to date. He asked me out for a coffee but I was upfront about wanting to be friends rather than anything else. He said that was fine, but I could tell he was secretly a bit disappointed.”

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How do you know if you’re in the friendzone?

How do you know if you’re in the friendzone

It’s not always easy to tell you’ve been plonked into the friendzone. You might feel you’re building up to dating – albeit at a glacial pace – until you finally make your move and get turned down.

But there are early warning signs that your partner doesn’t see you in a romantic light at all.

For example…

You always meet in a group

Two’s company but three or more is the friendzone. If your potential partner always invites other people along on your dates, they might be creating some emotional distance.

As Mary explains, “I often invited other friends along to my nights out with Frank, so he’d realise I still wasn’t hoping for anything romantic. It was a way of keeping him at arm’s length, a subtle hint that I didn’t want us to be alone.”

There’s no flirting

“Who would one care to tease that one would not also care to kiss?” said Lord Byron (a man who knew how to sidestep the friendzone).

When there’s sexual chemistry, there’s usually flirting too: playful teasing, banter, and animated conversation. If your conversations remain sensible and staid, a snog probably isn’t on the horizon.

Minimal eye contact

Do they avoid gazing into your eyes? They might be avoiding a date.

Research published in the Cambridge University Press revealed that people often use minimal eye contact to signal their disinterest in forming a connection.

They keep their distance

People who don’t fancy you tend to stay outside of lunging distance. According to a study published in the Journal of Social Psychology, physical proximity is a reliable indicator of attraction.

The closer someone is physically, the closer they’re hoping to get romantically. If someone keeps their distance, they’re probably not keen.

They don’t make an effort

Unfortunately, it may not be that flattering that your friend lets you see them with bed hair and no make-up. They might be unconsciously signalling that they’re just not that into you.

When we find someone attractive, we tend to practise ‘impression management’ – a psychology term for ‘getting glammed up’. The more time someone spends on their appearance before they see you, the chances are, the more they’re hoping you’ll fancy them.

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How do you escape the friendzone?

How do you escape the friendzone

If you’re coming to the realisation that you’re in the friendzone, try not to be too disheartened, as there’s still hope.

Here’s Mary again… “Frank and I were friends for just over a year when I found myself thinking of him more romantically. He’d grown on me with his sense of humour, and I loved the way he’d always try to cheer me up. I also began to realise that he was good-looking – something I’d been shut off from before.

“I noticed I was excited when I knew I was going to see him, and I made sure I always sat next to him when we went out.

“One night, we were walking home from listening to live music in a local pub, and I asked if he’d hold my hand. I was relieved when he agreed, as part of me wondered if I’d left things too late. When we reached my front door, I asked if I could have a goodnight kiss.”

So, if you’re looking to break free from the friendzone and turn your connection romantic, try these science-backed tips.

Build emotional connection

According to studies, emotional closeness is a key predictor of romantic attraction. The more emotionally intimate you are together, the more attracted you’ll become.

Try to build up the emotional intimacy every time you see your friend. Watch a sad film together and don’t hide it if you well up. Or, open up about your day, and share something vulnerable or embarrassing. When your friend talks about their life, empathise as much as you can. The safer you feel sharing your feelings, the closer you’ll become.

Go to a concert

It’s probably no coincidence that Mary and Frank finally got together after they’d watched some live music together.

Singing releases oxytocin in your body – the same powerful bonding hormone that we release when we touch or have sex. Oxytocin brings couples closer because it boosts feelings of affection and trust while lowering anxiety and stress.

So, why not try going to a concert with your friend and singing your hearts out? Or playing music you both like in the car to create your own Carpool Karaoke?


Another great way to release oxytocin is to touch. We’re not suggesting that you launch yourself onto your friend like a heat-seeking missile, but increasing your physical touch a tiny bit would be a good start.

Dance classes are perfect for this. It’s not a coincidence that so many couples fall in love while filming Strictly Come Dancing, as ballroom dancing requires just enough physical touch for your bodies to become oxytocin factories.

If you don’t like dancing, you could use small, friendly touches instead. Try holding hands during a walk, hugging hello and goodbye, or just touching their arm when they make you laugh.

Try not to play it cool

2013 study found that responsiveness is a key factor in building attraction. So, it’s best to try to forget looking all aloof and mysterious, and instead be enthusiastic. Responsiveness could be replying to texts swiftly, being an engaged and active listener, or making sure you seem enthusiastic about spending time together.

If you’re scared of looking overwhelmingly keen, focus on keeping your words more responsive than your actions. For example, reply to messages warmly, but don’t always send the first text. Or, give your friend plenty of verbal compliments, but don’t feel the need to buy them presents or ask to see them all the time.

Focus on self-improvement

The sexiest thing you can do when you’re suffering from unrequited love is to take your focus away from the other person and turn it firmly onto yourself. You could launch a self-improvement program and work on any part of your life you feel isn’t up to par. For example, build up your fitness, take an evening class, redecorate your home, or join a social group.

Why? Confidence. Psychologists have consistently found that the more confident someone feels, the more attractive they are to other people. Consider your life as it is now and ask yourself: what would you change? Which areas are feeling a bit dusty and neglected?

Working on these things will not only help you feel better about yourself, but your attractiveness will also rise to head-turning, I-like-you-more-than-a-friend levels.

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Remember…happy ever after is possible

Try not to get too downhearted if you’re in the friendzone, as you’re certainly in good company. Some of the happiest celebrity marriages began in the friendzone, including Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, and Barack and Michelle Obama. As Michelle said in her autobiography Becoming, “We’re best friends and we’ve been through a lot together.” And let’s be honest, you don’t hear mushy stuff like that from the cast of Married At First Sight

The friendzone has always been a classic trope in romantic films and literature too. So, if you feel lonely tonight, consider going to bed with a heart-warming friendzone novel like Pride and Prejudice, Far From The Madding Crowd, or One Day by David Nicholls.

Or just invite your friend over and drop the world’s biggest hint by putting on When Harry Met Sally. Spoiler: they end up together. And there’s every chance that’s how it’ll end for you. Good luck!

Have you ever found yourself in the friendzone? Did you manage to escape? We’d be interested to hear from you in the comments below.