rebelling against low expectations

What to Say to the Guy You’re Friend-Zoning

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“Oh, one other thing!” I momentarily paused my pacing and tried to find the words to say. “You still think of me platonically, right?”

The silence stretched way too long.

“Uh oh.” I slid to the hard, cold floor. Peter and I were friends. Good friends. We encouraged and challenged each other, prayed for each other, and gave each other relationship advice about other people.

“Well . . .” As Peter confessed his feelings, mine grew tangled. I was flattered, surprised, empathetic, and confused.

What on earth was I supposed to say?

I didn’t want to hurt him, but I also wasn’t interested. I didn’t want to lose this wonderful friendship, but now things were awkward.

I know many of you relate. It’s tough and complicated. So today, I want to share four principles to keep in mind when responding to these situations.

1. Recognize His Courage.

Later, after the awkward summer of unrequited feelings, Peter admitted to me that the rejection was “soul-crushing.” Baring your heart to someone requires incredible vulnerability. With so much to lose, it takes a ton of courage to confess your affection to someone.

When you’re on the receiving side, it can be tempting to brush him off—you want the conversation to end as soon as possible (and perhaps you’re a little afraid as well, facing such a delicate situation).

But in our hearts and in our words, let’s recognize and honor the courage of our friend.

2. Be Honest.

“If you want to stay friends with him, you have to be 100% clear that nothing is ever going to happen. You have to give him the ability to move on,” my guy friends advised.

It would have been easier to hedge my words, but without honesty, walls form in friendships:

  • If we act like there is a chance when there isn’t, we are playing with our friend’s heart, causing more pain in the long run.
  • If we tell them that we don’t like them for a reason that isn’t true, we are leaving them vulnerable to all sorts of lies about themselves or their value.

Most of the time, we say these things trying to spare their feelings, but it does the very opposite. “Letting him down easy” includes honesty. Honesty is kind. Honesty honors God and the person who bears His image.

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy” (Proverb 27:6).

3. Be Intentional About Who You Confide In.

If you want to continue to be friends with the guy you friend-zoned, it is vital that both of you are intentional about who you tell. If you share with the wrong person (or simply too many people) . . .

  • Continual questions can cause awkwardness to persist beyond its natural fade.
  • Private feelings may end up being shared with someone who wasn’t meant to hear them.
  • Too many cooks in the kitchen can confuse and paralyze our decision-making or distract us from listening to God’s voice.

We need the support and advice of trusted, mature believers around us, but as you share, make sure the “who” and “how” are thoughtful, prayerful decisions.

We need the support and advice of trusted, mature believers around us, but as you share, make sure the “who” and “how” are thoughtful, prayerful decisions. Share on X

“Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered” (Proverb 11:13).

4. Know That This Might Be More Than One Conversation.

In the heat of the moment, especially when you aren’t expecting a confession of love, it can be hard to determine the right next steps.

  • We may say we need a break from the friendship when we don’t.
  • We may say that nothing needs to change in our friendship without realizing it already has.
  • We may be too specific or too vague about boundaries without actually knowing what we need.

Taking time to process things can help you care well for each other. It may even be helpful to plan a specific time to finish the conversation and talk about how to move forward. That way, it’s not an endless “Is this okay? Are we okay?”, but it’s also not over and done before you’ve had a chance to think about the best way forward and receive advice.

As Peter and I blundered through follow-up conversations and awkward honesty, God slowly began to restore our friendship. It was never the same—but as we focused on each other’s well-being throughout the friendzone process (and it was a process), our friendship strengthened and grew.

If you are in the process of friend-zoning someone, have hope. Every friendship is different because every person is different. Some friendships will grow distant. Some will grow healthier. Some might even turn into more than a friendship after all (a few years later, Peter and I got married).

But there is hope. So today, I want to challenge you to pray for your friend. Pray for their good, growth, and relationship with God.


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About the author

Sara Willoughby

is the 20-year-old author of He's Making Diamonds: A Teen's Thoughts on Faith Through Chronic Illness. She loves to read, write, and have adventures, be it off to Narnia one more time, wading through mud chasing the family dog, or playing a new board game with her two younger siblings. Sara is also a Lymie, TCK, and Bright Lights leader. You can find her at sgwilloughby.com

19 comments

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  • As a guy that has gotten friend-zoned, I just want to say this advice is really good. Thanks for having the courage to write about this experience Sara!

    • Thanks Sara this was really helpful. I’ve been wondering how to deal with a situation like this in a godly way! This post came out just at the right time when I needed it— God is good!

      • Same! I’ve been struggling so much and praying about how to or if I should friend zone one of my guy friends, and then I saw this and now I have my answer.
        Thank you Sara!!!

        • Vivi, that is so tough! I love how you are bringing it to God in prayer. Beyond my general advice, God knows exactly the situation and the hearts of all those involved.

  • Thank you Sara, for sharing what I should do *fp* I’m in this situation right now and it is very difficult to navigate. You’ve helped me know what the right path is *when* he confesses his feeling for me (He hasn’t said it out right but I know he likes me) and how I should handle friend-zoning him.

  • What a great article! I’ve had to do this myself a few times, and it’s so hard knowing that there’s nothing you can do to avoid hurting them deeply–especially when they really are genuinely good guys, but you know they’re not the right fit for you. But full honesty and full kindness are so key, and I’m still good friends with both the guys I’ve let down! I’ve actually gotten closer than ever to the second.

    And ahhhh congratulations to you and Peter! That’s so precious.

    • So glad to hear that your friendships have endured the difficulty of friendzoning! Do you have any tips to add to what I shared? I’d love to hear what has helped your friendships stay strong.
      (And aww thanks for the congratulations!)

  • Thanks so much for this Sara! This is great advice to both the person friend-zoning, and the one being friend-zoned…advice I wish I had had a bit earlier, but will take to heart both because of my experiences and this article. ☺

  • Having to navigate this situation right now this article is so helpful!! I am having to explore what a good healthy friendship with a guy looks like as the only guys I have ever been close to are my brothers. And avoid confusing his genuine kind acts of friendship with acts of love.

    • YESSS relatable. It can be so confusing and every guy is different so it can be hard to interpret the subtleties of what is friendship and what is more. I wonder . . . maybe your brothers could be a helpful resource. They might be able to give you a guy’s perspective on the specifics of your friendship situation.

      • They have helped me a little but they are all younger than me and love to tease me, so I get a lot of he likes you and then 5 min. later he doesn’t like you. I have talked to my dad, (I am so lucky to have an open honest relationship with him where I can talk to him about stuff like this.) and he has helped me understand where this guy may be coming from.

  • I have to say it is the same for both sides. It has been a difficult walk with my best friend. Will and I never could get to be on the same page. It was an endless cycle of are we good. We both got friendzoned by the other at different points. We never had that honest conversation and eventually it became unhealthy because of it. I honestly regret that we never had that conversation but he wasn’t interested in it so I dropped it.

  • Thank you for the amazing article, Sara! It was very timely, and I could have definitely used this information sooner! So glad I have it for if anything like that happens again. Thanks again and congrats to you and Peter!

rebelling against low expectations

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