How to escape the friend zone, as told by celebs
The friend zone can be a painful place. You are romantically interested in a friend, but the fear of confessing your feelings only to be rejected is real.
If you are one of the lucky few – like Desmond Tan, who has never been relegated to the dreaded friend zone – good for you. For the rest of us, here are some tips from the celebs on how to avoid the zone or, if you are already knee-deep in it, dig your way out.
Tip: Strike while the iron is hot
We’ve all heard the story of Kandie: It was never love at first sight for Kate Pang and Andie Chen. In fact, they were each the opposite of what they looked for in a partner. But the friends got close when they were filming Break Free for five months in Malaysia and when Andie realised he had something for Kate and sensed that she felt the same way, he asked her out on a date.
The point is, as soon as you figure out that you like someone, make your move. Ask him or her out in a way that is more romantic than what you’d typically do with a normal friend. For instance, plan a dinner at a restaurant a few days in advance instead of randomly calling her to hang out for coffee with friends. Shy people prefer to wait for the "go sign" or take things slow even if they feel the attraction is mutual, but this is exactly how they end up in the friend zone.
“Normally people who are very experienced in relationships don’t get friend-zoned because they are very clear with their emotions and they are very mature and sure of what they want,” said the self-proclaimed “dating expert”.
“[Kate and I] didn’t even have to talk much. I don’t think we even had ‘the talk’. I just said do you want to go out and I think she just got the idea and somehow we held hands and kissed and had babies (guffaws)."
Tip: Get him one-on-one
This can be a bit tricky if you don’t mix in the same circles or have mutual friends where there’s a chance of meeting up at parties. So use social media to find out your crush’s interests and hangouts. Then you can pretend to “casually” run into him, said Rebecca Lim.
“I might coincidentally appear in the same place and make him believe it’s fate that brought us together but in fact I am there waiting every single day. Just kidding! I won’t stalk him on social media - I have no time for that - but I would do some ‘research’ to see what his interests are, who are the friends he hangs out with, and how he treats him mum and sister because that is a very good indication of how he would treat you in the future regardless of the honeymoon period. I sound so stalkerish!”
Desmond Tan may be a tad impetuous when it comes to break ups but when it comes to courtship, he believes that persistence and sincerity are key to winning a woman’s heart.
While persistence goes a long way, you shouldn’t come across as too needy. Check in occasionally by sending a text to ask how she’s doing or meeting up for lunch if you work in the same area, so she knows she’s being thought of.
“Just be persistent and consistent in how you feel,” offered Desmond, who has never been friend-zoned. “I believe if you have always been by this person’s side and as long as the emotions and love are genuine, the other party can feel it. And if it is meant to be, it will happen.”
Even if you have been friend-zoned, it doesn’t have to be a permanent sentence – you can still claw your way out of the zone. “If you choose to confess to this person and she doesn’t accept you, you should persevere and keep pursuing her so she can feel your sincerity,” said Desmond. (FYI Desmond: this only works because it’s you.)
Tip: Be shameless
While perseverance is important, it will get you nowhere if the other party doesn’t get the message. Just take it from Kayly Loh, who’s done her fair share of friend-zoning others during her heyday: skip the subtle hints and be shameless and make the first move, whether it is asking your love interest out on a date or stepping up with the flirting – in a non-perverted way, of course.
“Sometimes guys tend to be more passive. They think they got moves but actually they are not showing any. They think they are and the girls will be like ‘are you friend-zoning me?’ but they say ‘no, I am putting in effort’ but they are not,” said Kayly. And the same goes for the ladies, if you like the guy, go for it, because YOLO: “We are at this age and era where women are taught to fight for what we want and go for what we want, so I think it is perfectly fine.”
Tip: Don’t be too available
Like Kayly, Julie Tan has no qualms about making the first move although she did admit that making yourself too available or trying too hard can have the opposite effect. We tend to assume that if we shower our love interest with attention and indulge his every whim and fancy, he’ll realise that he is in love with us, but it rarely works out that way.
“When I was much younger I would try to force it … I would be like ‘I booked this movie, let’s go watch it. Or do you like this? I will buy it for you.’ You try to use money and things to draw him into the relationship … or anytime he snaps his fingers I will be there. As girls we should value ourselves and we should not settle for less,” said Julie.
Tip: Confess your feelings
Sometimes people put you in the friend zone without realising it. If you think you are on the verge of being friend-zoned, then Shane Pow’s advice would be to “react fast and assess the situation” and if all signs point to yes, go for it! Who knows, the girl might have feelings for you too.
With girlfriend Kimberly Wang, Shane just went with his gut feeling. The pair had been friends for a few months before he decided one day that he would tell her how he felt. “If you want to confess your feelings, at your first instinct you should just say it instead of over-thinking it. I didn’t plan it, I needed to know how she felt and it just came out. Sometimes you need to do things on impulse,” said Shane. And if the gamble fails, then cut your losses and move on.
Photo: Kimberly Wang
Tip: Make your intentions clear. Very clear.
So you’ve been friends for a while and are ready to take things to the next level. Your first step out of the friend zone and into the “official dating zone” is to acknowledge the fact that you want to date the person exclusively, or in Alaric Tay’s wise words, ask “Do you want to be my stead?”, but in a less beng way.
Whatever you do, don’t say “let’s date”. “The problem with the word ‘date’ is it’s a bit ambiguous. It’s dating… but you could be in a non-exclusive environment,” explained Alaric. “But the moment you get from friends to dating, it is actually very fast. The moment you get intimate, you’re out of the open dating zone, you are in the official dating zone.”
Tip: Get drunk and drop the bombshell
Alcohol makes people do crazy things but Taiwan host Janet Hsieh has liquid courage to thank for getting her out of the friend zone with long-time friend, now hubby, George Young. The pair had been friends for ten years - she was already attracted to him on their second meeting - before she drunkenly approached him at her 30th birthday party in 2010 and blurted that she wanted to be the “father” of his children. That gave George the courage to tell her he loved her and the rest, as they say, is history.
Granted, this might not work for everyone, but what’s the worst that could happen? You can just laugh it off and say it was the alcohol talking.