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How to Navigate the...

How to Navigate the Friend Zone

You know that guy, the one who’s not really your boyfriend, but isn’t just a friend either? The one you hope will turn into something eventually, but who’s dragging his feet when it comes to making a move? If the answer is yes, you’re stuck in the friend zone, and it’s time to get out and move on.

Fromance. Webster’s dictionary does not define it at all—and neither can you, probably—but if it did, the definition would read: a friendship/romance with a member of the opposite sex, characterized by comfort, consistency, and plenty of sexual tension that offers no hope of resolution. Some may refer to it as being stuck in the "friend zone." 

Fromances aren’t necessarily bad. Your fromance is your go-to guy or girl for office Christmas parties, friend’s weddings, family gatherings, and just any old Saturday night on the couch. You guys have a great time together—that’s why you’re together all the time. But that also means you’re with him all the time, and not with all the other millions of eligible bachelors with whom you could be pursuing an actual relationship (Okay, maybe not millions, but how will you know if you’re with Joe Way-Too-Slow every weekend?).

It’s not all your fault—or all his, either. There are many roads to fromance. He could be a great guy who’s perfect for you in every way, except that he doesn’t quite set your knickers afire. Maybe you started dating and the flame eased into more of a soft glow, comforting and lovely, but not what you were looking for. Or maybe he’s an old friend who has always been on your to-do list, but whom you’ve never quite made the move on.

Whatever the case, I’m afraid it’s got to end. That is, it’s got to end if you’re going to begin the rest of your life and actually find the guy who will give you all those things you want from a relationship. So here’s the plan.

Step One: Call him back later, and I mean later.

You’ve gotten into the habit of making yourself available to this guy whenever and wherever he wants you. He doesn’t have to worry about losing you, so why should he put himself out on a limb to move the relationship along? Knock him out of his comfort zone by reminding him that you are fully capable of having a life without him. I’m not saying avoid him (that’s so junior high), just choose this time to catch up with all your other friends, assuming you haven’t completely ditched them all for the beau-that-never-was. Start getting busy with them and maybe he’ll decide to start getting busy with you … see? And if he doesn’t, you’ll have reminded yourself that he’s not your whole world.

Step Two: Come clean. This might get messy.

At this point, either he has approached you to find out why you’re avoiding him (to which you may honestly reply that you are not), or you’ve realized that this guy is way too good to let go. Either way, it’s time to have the talk, the one where you tell Mr. Right-There that he needs to be Mr. Right, or Mr. Right-Through-the-Open-Door.

And yes, it does have to be one or the other. Otherwise, you’ll just be back on the couch watching Friends reruns, eating Chinese food, and watching your youth disappear. If you want this guy to stick around, let him know, and move along to step three. If not, cut him loose.

Step Three: Set boundaries.

The whole problem here is that the two of you haven’t taken the time to sit down and discuss what you mean to each other or what the terms of your relationship are. Better late than never. If he’s your boyfriend, call it by its name and make sure you get some handholding and mother-meeting in to seal the deal. You might just be dealing with a really shy guy here who needs you to don the “I am your girlfriend, stupid!” t-shirt. You’ll want to come up with a clear plan for moving forward, as well, since both of you are apparently too busy to get to those important relationship milestones on your to-do lists. Set some concrete goals for the next weeks, months, and years, and stick to them. For example, decide that in six months or a year, you will decide whether to move in together, or some such deepened commitment. Only then can you have any kind of future together beyond watching mold grow on each other.

Now, if it turns out that this guy is only friend material, that’s fine, too. But you still need boundaries—big, fat, red-inked boundaries. I know it’s fun to hang out together, but you both need to get your single lives moving, too. Limit your interactions to a couple of times a week, at least for a while until you’re able to build and maintain relationships apart from each other. And avoid calling him the morning after to dissect your dates with other men. You’ll find that doing so weakens both your chances with those guys, and your friendship with #1.

Toxic Friends Come in All Varieties

You guys have so much fun together. He makes you laugh, and you spend hours on the phone. How could he be a toxic friend?

Well, if he’s freeloading on your affections, then he’s doing you far more harm than good. Give the guy a reasonable chance to step up and declare himself to you, but if he doesn’t, it’s time to call it quits. You wouldn’t want a relationship with a guy who couldn’t commit anyway, would you?

How does one end a relationship that never was? Cold turkey. After explaining the situation to him and why you feel the way you do, lose his number, and I mean really lose it. Then call your girlfriends (remember them?) and have them take you out to meet some new people. It may be the end of your fromance, but it’s a new beginning for you.

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