Far too much ink has been spilled about the friend zone — a magic place where the unlucky get stuck on their quest to pantyville. No need for advice there. What could be potentially more helpful is to describe how to reverse this conundrum. Say you have been dating a guy – let’s call him Jimmy – and you realize as his feelings grow yours seem to be…cooling. How does one evict someone from the bedroom, without a scene, a cross word, a fit, all the while keeping them around as a friend? This is an advanced maneuver, and much like in AP chem, if done incorrectly this experiment can cause a devastating stink. That said, it can be done. In stages. With caution.
Jimmy is evidently having feelings. He is expressing them in the sorts of ways that modern young (or not) men do — texts, flowers, professions of devotion, an introduction to his world and updating of statuses on various media platforms. All well and good, except perhaps that for you it has fizzled. You are taking your time replying, developing pollen allergies and avoiding your locals at all costs so as not to have do any ‘xplaining to your crew. This is a moment that the brave among us shine. They roll up their sleeves and bite the “it’s not you” bullet. If the receiver is a reasonable sort they may even stick around to be pals. Or they won’t.
This plan is for the brave — a precautionary tactic should on the off chance the receiver be unreasonable…a potentially enormously unpleasant turn of events. On account of tackling matters early in the game, stage one is quite simple. It consists solely of discovering Jimmy is not inspiring fluttering in your stomach, and making a decision that he must be transitioned. Ahhh…don’t you feel better?
Replacing any couple-like activity with traveling in a group. If you aren’t serious about wanting to keep Jimmy around as a friend there are several quicker and more tidy methods of dispatch, in varying degrees of difficulty. It is the refriending that complicates matters. To do this all activities that you had previously done solo should now be fortified by a group of friends (either mutual or just your friends will do — do not attempt this with just his friends as he will see that as you simply being a generous and lovely girlfriend and fall deeper into it). Everything from a walk in the park to movies on the couch should include at least two other people (NOT A COUPLE — whole ‘nother kettle of fish). Spend no time together alone and slowly the dynamic will shift. On these outings he will try and make physical contact. Resist. This may result in you looking silly — you may have to develop elaborate hand gestures while speaking to keep from having your hands grabbed, you may have to stumble sideways to avoid an arm wrapping around your shoulders. Looking ridiculous is worth it. Most people are smart enough to pick up on the physical cues – Jimmy will realize you are giving him the slip. Most of us also appreciate not having to talk about uncomfortable things. This will give him a chance to act as if the shift is mutual. But suppose Jimmy is not one of these smart ones. Perhaps he just gets the impression you are nervous…shy…religious. On to Stage Three.
This is the make-it-or-break-it stage. Since the “group hang/no physical contact” didn’t work, you must now become unavailable in person. You are suddenly very, very busy. This may be annoying to you for a while as it will disrupt your routine. You can not say you are very,very busy and then show up at the bar you always hang out at. Jimmy may not be there but in the great joke that is life his friends always will be. You will either make yourself busy, or at the least make yourself scarce. During this time you may continue to communicate with good ol’ Jim. The objective is to remain friends, and therefore you will continue to speak/write/text as often as any friends would. This communication must now shift too though. You will not respond, under any circumstances to any messages that include the phrase “I was just thinking about you”, as this is men’s secret ego stimulating line. Any message he uses this phrase in will be ignored or at the very least responded to with a message that is based around the phrase “yo dude what’s the haps?”. You will then break down the girl/boy dynamics by talking about sexless subjects only. No confiding in him about your hopes and dreams, no talking about relationship likes and dislikes. You talk about mutual friends, hilarious youtube videos or the funny thing you overheard on the subway. Sexless talk is difficult — we all are ingrained with the urge to use some sexuality/intimacy to relate — so sometimes you may even get a third party to edit your messages for you to ensure they are completely devoid of flirting. There may come a point in this process where Jimmy forces the issue. Something along the lines of “I miss you, I wish I could kiss you, I need to see you.” Steel yourself my pal — it is time for Stage Four.
Damn Jimmy. He won’t get the hint. This is the moment you consider how much you want to remain friends with such a concrete brained sort, who even the deepest innuendo makes no impact on. No matter, you are convinced he’ll be a fantastic friend once he quits mooning around like a Bright Eyes fan. Here is where you need to gather your nerve. You will commence using the gossip mill in your favour. You will need the assistance of either another suitor or a male friend willing to play the role. Come out of your exile. Go back to your favourite haunts with said accomplice in tow, and allow all to see you flirt your face off. Don’t be gross about it — pda is tacky to the max — but make it irrefutably clear that you are crushing. He will hear the news if you play it right. This is where Jim will make his choice. All the evidence will be unavoidable and he will make one of three moves:
Move A: He will confront you. in this case you will respond by simply acknowledging that you are dating others, that you assumed he was doing the same as you two were never exclusive, and that you see him more as a friend. It is important in this case to make it clear how much you like being his friend, and how much you want that to continue. If he is able to feel the same, you are golden.
Move B: He will disappear. No more texts, no emails, and he will avoid your territory. This could last a week, a month, a year or forever. If he does come back it will be his own choice to be your friend. Wounds licked, he’ll get it, and he will remember how much fun you had when you were just palling around.
Move C: He’ll act like nothing ever happened and move straight into the friend zone. He may act a little awkward for a while, but he’ll finally get it. And like you he will want to keep a friend rather than suffer more embarrassment acting like a school girl.
In any case, whichever move Jimmy selects, you will have transitioned. Mazel tov. Next time, assess the man before kissing him — it will save everyone a lot of maneuvering. Jesus H. don’t you have enough friends by now?