Anyone who has been single for any period of time is familiar with the dreaded Friend Zone. Either you’re the one who is crushing on someone who has friend zoned you, or you’re the one having to break the news to a crusher that you just want to be friends. Either way, it’s often awkward and painful.

But it doesn’t always have to be permanent.

I recently had a single friend ask me to write a blog post about breaking out of the Friend Zone, since I married from my friend group when I was in my mid-30s. Of course this is not the only, or even the best, way to meet your mate. I don’t think there is a “best” way. God will write your story gloriously, even if you meet your mate in the most unlikely scenario. But breaking out of the Friend Zone seems a lot more likely for most people than the “we met when our paddle boats ran into each other” scenario, so here goes…

Nagib and I were friends for about three years before he asked me out. We were both part of a young adults events committee at our church and had some overlap in campus ministry at Georgia Tech. After the weekly large group gathering on campus, we would stand out in the parking lot and hash out theology and talk ministry shop-talk – you know, our common interests. We shared the same circle of friends at church, and he came with other guys to help me move, picked up the remaining tab at my birthday party one year, and generally showed himself to be a gentleman.

For like a year before he asked me out, I had a crush on him. But I had clearly been Friend Zoned.

I told several people that I wanted him to ask me out, hoping that word would get back to him. But when he still hadn’t asked me out after an entire school year (this is when I was working in campus ministry and measured time in school years), I finally decided to succumb to a friend’s urging and get on E-Harmony. I was in my early 30s and ready to get the ball rolling, if you know what I mean.

{Now if you ask him, he says he thought he’d put his foot in his mouth way too many times for someone like me to ever be interested in him. So he had, admittedly, Friend Zoned me.}

To cut a very long story short, I managed to let it slip to him that I was going on a date with a guy from E-Harmony. {Hint, hint… I’m available…} He left the conversation feeling “itchy” and realized that he had a crush on me. Then his dad got cancer. Three months later, when his dad went into remission, he asked me out.

After we had been dating for about six weeks, he asked me to be his girlfriend and referenced a Matthew Sweet song (with which I was completely unfamiliar) called “Girlfriend.”

’Cause you need to
be back in the arms of a good friend

’Cause honey, believe me,
I’d sure like to call you my girlfriend

For me personally, I hadn’t dated much, and it takes me a long time to bond with someone new. So the thought of dating someone I didn’t know at all was really overwhelming. In dating a friend, there were so many helpful perks: I already knew him, we had a lot of the same friends, and I even already knew one of his siblings. When temptation came to distrust him (as probably comes in every dating relationship – it’s scary to move towards a lifelong commitment to someone!), I could see the respect and love that others whom I trusted had for him and be reassured that I was not foolish to trust him too.

It can be really scary to brave the awkwardness of initiating a move from the friend zone to the dating zone. I get it. It’s a big risk. If it doesn’t work, we’re afraid we’ll have lost a friend and/or made things awkward in the friend group. Communities of singles can be really tenuous, because any relationship status change will mean a shift in friendships, whether same sex or opposite sex. But friendship is really another post for another day. The point is, we’re adults. We can deal with conflict in the community if need be.

But if it does work… Glory!!! ALLLLLL the feels.

I like the way L.M. Montgomery writes about romance blooming unexpectedly out of friendship:

Perhaps, after all, romance did not come into one’s life with pomp and blare… perhaps it crept to one’s side like an old friend through quiet ways; perhaps it revealed itself in seeming prose, until some sudden shaft of illumination flung athwart its pages betrayed the rhythm and the music; perhaps… perhaps… love unfolded naturally out of a beautiful friendship, as a golden-hearted rose slipping from its green sheath.
~ Anne of Avonlea, the very last page

My own story is that the risk is worth taking. I liked being single, but I like being married to my husband a lot more. I’m forever grateful that he took the risk and asked me out!