Do you have feelings for someone but he’s told you he wants to be “just friends?”
Perhaps you’re looking for help navigating the transition between friends and lovers.
If so, you’re in the right place.
The guide below explains why men say they want to be “just friends,” signs to look out for that indicate you’ve been friend zoned, and what you can do about all of it.
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There are many different reasons why men might say they want to be friends but show the opposite behavior. Decoding these sorts of mixed messages can be confusing and even hurtful at times, and sometimes you need an outside perspective to gain a better understanding of the situation.
Below are some of the personal reasons why he might want to remain friends while he’s actions show otherwise:
We delve into this in more detail below. However, in short, when someone is afraid of commitment they’ll very rarely enter a serious relationship with someone else. The friend zone is generally their comfort zone and a place they’re likely to keep you in.
He might be attracted to you and keen on physical affection and physical intimacy but if he shies away from any form of commitment, it’s likely because he’s not interested in a romantic relationship with you.
There are lots of reasons why the timing might be off in a man’s life making him want to stay friends with you. Perhaps he’s still getting over his ex, going through financial stress, changing careers, got family issues, or dealing with a health crisis.
You never know what’s going on behind closed doors that’s causing him to avoid entering a relationship - more often than not, these issues have nothing to do with you.
Some people simply enjoy the attention that comes with flirting and talking to someone, despite having zero intention of taking things further. Leading someone on like this is narcissistic and unfair. If you have a guy like this in your life, I highly suggest cutting ties.
“Narcissists are generally grandiose people with an unending need for admiration and a lack of empathy,” says psychologist Danielle Forshee, PsyD. “These core qualities can be most harmful in a relationship—whether it’s a platonic or romantic relationship or otherwise.1"
If he’s a player, you can bet your bottom dollar he’s got a string of women who he’s talking to and leading on. This is probably why he’s keeping you at an arm’s length, to keep his options open.
Unfortunately, there’s sometimes undeniable and unplanned chemistry between two people, even if one, or both, are in relationships. If this is the case, he may have friend-zoned you for obvious reasons but the chemistry can still be felt.
Maybe he’s unsure about his feelings for you and keeping you close by as a “good friend” while trying to decide on whether to pursue a relationship with you or not. My advice - don’t wait around too long for him to decide.
He might enjoy flirting with you, maybe even hooking up, but if he can’t see something long-term with you (for whatever reason) he’s likely not going to make the move from friends to official partners.
If he tells you he’s not ready for a relationship, believe him. I’ve seen many situations where a man has told a woman he isn’t ready for something serious but because she likes him so much she ignores what he’s said and tries to change his mind through her behavior. This only leads to heartbreak on her end.
If he says he isn’t looking for something serious and you are, it’s in your best interest to move on, as hard as it may be. Be true to who you are and what you want, set clear boundaries and expectations, and wait for the person who wants what you want.
Watch out for how frequently he uses the word “friend” when referring to you. Sure, the two of you might have a great relationship, even a flirtatious one, but if he refers to you as his friend or best friend time and time again it should raise some relationship red flags. If he uses the word ‘friend’ frequently, he’s likely trying to tell you something in a subtle way.
If he introduces you to other people as his friend it’s a sure sign he has no intentions of being anything more. A man who is interested in a romantic relationship with you won’t introduce you to others as his friend. Instead, he will find a way to make it clear that you’re “off the market.”
There is nothing that screams “friend zone” quite like him telling you what a great friend you are or why he appreciates your friendship.
If he just wants to be your friend, he might try to convince you that nothing else will work between you two. If the topic of something serious comes up, he might start to point out reasons why the two of you would never work out.
Guys who want to be in a relationship with you will mention how great things would be if the two of you were together. They want you to imagine the two of you in a relationship. If he’s doing the opposite of that, it’s a clear sign he just wants to be friends.
If he mentions that he wants to remain friends because he doesn’t want to mess up the friendship, it’s a clear sign he’s not interested in being anything more. Staying friends might feel like the safe option for him, especially if he’s a person who’s scared of commitment.
If a man wants a relationship with you or has strong feelings for you, he’ll be willing to put almost everything else on the line for it.
Sometimes, the timing is just horrible. He may be in between jobs or healing from a heartbreak so he feels like it’s not a good time for him to be in something serious with someone. He’s telling you this to give you a heads-up that the two of you don’t have a future together.
When a guy is romantically interested in you, he’ll want to know what’s going on in your love life. He may ask questions about guys that you’re hanging out with or talking to. These subtle cues are a good indication that he’s interested in something more than a platonic relationship.
On the other hand, when he’s not interested in a real relationship with you, he’ll seem indifferent about you hanging out with or talking to other men. He won’t be jealous, protective, or possessive.
If a man has romantic feelings for you he’s not going to be talking to or going on dates with any other women, let alone mentioning it to you. So, if he’s talking about other women he’s interested in, showing you his matches on dating apps, or commenting on other women in front of you it’s a sign that he’s not interested in anything more than a friendship with you.
If this isn’t something you’re comfortable with you can either let him know how you feel about him and tell him that his remarks upset you or you can choose to distance yourself a little bit from him until you have better control over your feelings for him.
Analyzing someone's body language will give you a good indication of how they feel about you. Things like extended eye contact, a lot of smiling, touching your arm, moving in closer to you, facing you directly when you talk, or mirroring you are all good indications that a guy is interested in you.
On the other hand, if none of these are evident and he seems particularly closed off or uninterested he might be trying to give you subtle hints that he’s not interested.
Everyone knows it’s mostly poor etiquette to speak about an ex with someone you’re currently pursuing or in a romantic relationship with. So, if a guy frequently brings up or reminisces about his ex, he’s either not over her or he’s not into you as anything more than friends.
He’s probably not over his ex "if he talks about her a lot in conversation and her name continuously comes up, along with things they did or shared together" says dating expert and matchmaker, Susan Trombetti.
If you’re looking for a serious or committed relationship, run for the hills when a man tells you he has commitment issues. I speak from experience here. I’ve seen in both personal relationships and relationships of those around me that people often brush this obvious red flag under the carpet.
Don’t. Too often people hold onto the hope of what a relationship could be because of their feelings for someone, despite what they’re being told. Doing so will only lead to worse heartbreak later down the line. Cut your ties sooner rather than later.
Men might not always be completely direct or transparent in telling you they have commitment issues but there are signs you can look out for, including these:
A guy that doesn’t want to be in a relationship with you is not going to be consistent. He’ll respond quickly to your texts for a few days and then the next thing you know there’s radio silence for a few days. This sort of behavior indicates that he’s not emotionally invested in your future together.
According to marriage.com, these are some of the other mixed signals you might come across:
“What we can interpret from mixed signals is that the other person hasn't officially chosen to be consistent or committed to you," says licensed marriage and family therapist, Weena Cullins. “If their behavior negatively affects your mental, emotional, or physical stability, or overall sense of peace and self-worth, then it's time to assess the value of remaining in the situation.2”
Perhaps you met on Tinder, Bumble, or the likes and after chatting for several days you finally went on a date… and then things changed. More often than not, this happens when you start speaking to someone online and then, when you finally meet in person, find that there’s not much chemistry between the two of you or something just doesn’t feel right.
Don’t feel bad about yourself if things change after the first date, it’s normal. However, if the guy is no longer speaking to you as frequently after the first date, he hasn’t made any follow-up plans, or he’s no longer as flirty as he was, it’s a good indication that he’s not interested in pursuing the relationship any further. Don’t overthink it, move on.
When a man is interested in a relationship with you, he’ll want to spend time with you and you alone. He’ll go out of his way to organize one-on-one dates with you and will give you 100% of his attention out of respect for you.
If, however, he’s only interested in having a friendship with you, he will treat you accordingly, as one of his friends. You might find you’re always hanging out in groups, he gives other people most of his attention, he checks his phone regularly or he’s generally just focused on other things.
Physical touch and intimacy are notably very important factors in any romantic relationship. When there’s a lot of chemistry between people, the early days of dating are usually marked with added physical touch, sexual tension, and intimacy.
While not everyone will have sex early on in a relationship, there are other signs of physical touch and intimacy to look out for that’ll indicate how a guy feels about you, for example: him holding your hand, him hugging you for longer than usual, cuddling, or him putting his hand on your leg or arm.
If there are absolutely no signs of touch or intimacy, if it’s not for religious reasons, it may be because he only sees you as a friend.
When a man has decided that he does not want a relationship, he’ll make sure that you also have no hope for one with him. One way that he will do this is by sticking to platonic activities, such as brunch and daytime outings.
Other boundaries may include not drinking around you or making sure that you are not over at his house at night time. He’ll avoid anything with you that could be considered more than platonic.
Sometimes, men will seal the deal by saying that you’re like a sister to them. It’s their way of saying that they love you as a friend and nothing more. If he is talking to another woman, he’ll also let her know that he views you as family.
If he never makes any advances or you feel like you’re always the one initiating anything and everything, take it as a sign that he just wants to be friends. A man that’s serious about having a relationship with you will make it known through his actions. He will ask you out, organize date nights, initiate physical touch, text or call you often, and make you feel special.
In short, if a guy likes you more than a friend, he will make sure you know it.
Sure, we all get busy from time to time and sometimes texting takes a backseat. However, if he’s taking days to reply, hardly texts you first, or doesn’t return your calls, his mind is probably preoccupied and it’s a good sign you’re not a priority to him. Trust me, if he’s crazy about you, he will find time to text you and call you during his day.
He might enjoy your company but if he’s only asking you to hang out when he’s with other people it’s because he sees you as a friend. He might also sense your feelings towards him and want to avoid any awkwardness that could arise if the two of you hung out one-on-one.
On the contrary, a man who likes you as more than a friend will find any excuse to get alone time with you.
People will always find time for things that are important to them. Most people have busy lives - work, school, children, hobbies, and sports, however, when something is a priority to you, you’ll find time for it, even if it means cutting down on other activities.
So, if he’s always too busy to hang out or cancels plans at the last minute because of “how busy he is,” you are probably not a priority to him. See this as a warning sign.
We often ignore our gut feelings when we’re hoping for a different outcome than what we can sense deep within. Sometimes, we’ll even try and override this feeling by putting in added effort to try and change a situation around. This is hardly ever a good idea. If your gut feeling is telling you something, it’s worth exploring what the message could mean.
Unfortunately, as difficult as it might be to hear, if a guy tells you he just wants to be friends it’s in your best interest to listen to what he’s saying. Trying to force a relationship to work will only cause added frustration, sadness, and resentment down the line.
If he’s saying he wants to be just friends there’s a reason for this and only he can work through that. He needs to be in a place where he’s prepared to take down walls, make sacrifices, and be vulnerable with you if a healthy, happy, romantic love is ever to manifest. Unfortunately, this is not something you can force.
Over and above, you can do the following:
Remember, it takes two to tango. Wait for someone who will meet you halfway, someone who can see to your wants and needs and vice versa.
In my opinion, moving on from a situation like this would be in your own interest and the best option for your mental and emotional health.
This is entirely up to you. If you feel comfortable continuing the relationship as is, then have fun and enjoy it for what it is. On the contrary, if you feel like you’re on an emotional rollercoaster, ending the relationship or friendship might be in your best interest.
Again, this depends entirely on the situation… Being friends with an ex can work if the breakup was mutual, if you both have set firm boundaries, if there’s no longer any romantic interest on either side, and if you can both easily transition from seeing each other as lovers to friends.
On the contrary, being friends after a breakup will not work if one, or both, of you, are still hung up on the other or can’t see things the same way.
This can be a really confusing, tough situation to try and navigate and you might have some hurt feelings. An emotionally mature man should never lead a woman to this point. Instead, he should be upfront about his intentions before hooking up in order for things to be emotionally consensual.
That being said, if you find yourself in this situation, I recommend doing the following:
Ask him why he wants to remain friends.
Don’t agree to be friends if that’s not what you truly want.
Tell him how you feel.
Set firm boundaries with yourself so you can avoid situations like that in the future.
Sometimes, you have to accept that your crush just wants to be friends. And, unfortunately, as difficult as this is, there's nothing you can do to make him feel otherwise. He needs to come to that kind of decision himself. While this can be a really difficult pill to swallow, getting to the point of acceptance is necessary for your own emotional and mental well-being.
If acceptance for you means cutting ties and moving on, I highly recommend doing that. There are many men out there, ones who will want and accept you exactly as you are.
Also, you should keep in mind that most of the time when he says he just wants to be friends, it has very little to do with who you are and a lot to do with the space he’s in.