There’s a fine line in the space between “boy” and “friend.” And in that little space, there can be a whole lot of drama, mixed signals, and hurt feelings. You love your best boy friend, but you’ve never quite thought of him in that way. You stop and think: wait a minute, could he ever be my boyfriend?
Think about it: he’s there to pick you up and drive you home when you’ve had one too many drinks at the bar and he always just happens to be that big, strong shoulder to cry on when your date stands you up. He’s the Anthony Michael Hall to your Molly Ringwald in Sixteen Candles, the Harry to your Sally, and the Chandler to your Monica.
No, he’s not your boyfriend. He’s your best friend who just happens to be a boy, but you’re starting to have second thoughts. So before you have that semi-awkward DTR talk or confusing DFMO, check our all-inclusive guide to see whether your “guy friend” is boyfriend material, whether you should DTR or stay as friends, what you risk, and why a friends-turned-lovers relationship can sometimes be stronger than the typical campus romance.
We’ve consulted the experts: Michael Lindstrom from the dating expert duo Ask Dan and Mike from askdanandmike.com and our own Real Live College Guy Sean McFarland, and we’ve asked collegiettes across the country about their experiences to know the signs that say he might just be that into you – and whether you should close the gap from “boy friend” to “boyfriend.”
What are the signs that he’s into you?
Here are five clues that he’s hinting for a more serious relationship with you.
Your friends ask if you two are a couple
If there’s chemistry a-brewing between you two (and we’re not just talking about as study buddies in your chem 101 class), your circle of friends will be the first to see it.
When you meet up at parties, your best friend is harping about how cute the two of you would look as a couple, and his friends are teasing him about how into each other you both seem to be.
Jennifer*, a senior from Boston University, says that she started seeing her platonic guy friend Branden* as less of a best friend and more of a boyfriend when her friends asked her about their relationship. “I didn’t see anything to it,” she said. “But they all kept pressing me, ‘Why are you hiding it from us? It’s obvious you’re hooking up.’ And it’s the truth – we weren’t! But when they mentioned it, I started looking at [him] differently.”
Your friends – both his and yours – can oftentimes see the spark before you do!
His body language changes
Another sign? He starts getting handsy with you… in a sense. What used to be high fives and quick “bro-esque” hugs turn gradually into intimate touches and tighter embraces.
“His body language will speak for itself,” Lindstrom says. “Guys are more purposeful. More gentlemanly.” Does he hold doors open for you? Does he touch the small of your back or brush fingers on your forearm? Do you catch him unexpectedly looking at you at odd moments? Does he linger a little bit longer in his hugs with you than he might have used to? If so, he may be into you.
He tries sneaky tactics to gauge your interest
One thing you won’t get is a dramatic proposal of his undying love for you. (As much as we would love a cute guy holding a boombox up to our window a la John Cusack, am I right, ladies?) Instead, he’ll try his biggest trick on you: sneaky tactics to gauge your availability, and your potential interest in him.
“When a guy is asking you a lot of personal questions like, ‘What did you do this weekend?’ and ‘Who were you with?’ he’s trying to get a feel for you,” Lindstrom says. He’s probing about what the girl is doing and who might they be doing it with.”
If you reveal that you don’t have a date for formal, he’ll be the first to volunteer his Friday night to escort you. Lindstrom says planning in advance with you for occasions like Valentine’s Day, spring break, or wedding dates in his family are not always, but can be seen as him trying to sneakily get a commitment out of you.
“He wants to protect his ego,” Lindstrom says. “So instead of making it obvious, he’ll try to inch his way into a relationship with you. If you start to see an escalation, that’s a sign that he’s looking for something more with you.”
He starts acting like your boyfriend
What our experts say to look for are small gestures that have big implications.
Former HC Real Live College Guy Sean McFarland says that he will try “to hang out [with you] in a one-on-one setting.”
“Since you’ve been friends for a while, a lot of flirting can be mistaken for just normal day-to-day behavior,” Sean says. “The most obvious thing a guy would do is to make a romantic gesture. Up until that point, the lady in question may have no idea how the guy feels. So the guy has to go above and beyond what is normal. This could be through flowers on Valentine’s Day, offering to pay for dinner or something. Basically, anything above what friends would normally do.”
Making the decision: Start a relationship? Or stay as friends?
So you’ve determined that he’s secretly into you. The only question left to answer is – how do you feel about him? Should you try to make a relationship work? Or stick to being “just friends?”
He may be totally gaga over you… but the only problem is you’re not so into him. What do you do in this situation?
Real Live College Guy Sean likens being friend-zoned as “a treatment worse than torture.” He says that oftentimes, “guys just ‘sit and wait’ and naively think ‘she’ll come around.’”
Is it possible to stay friends – even after shooting him down? Our experts say yes, but not without an initial drawback. Lindstrom says that it’s best to give him the space he needs (for a short period of time).
“The feeling of unreturned affection is such a hopeless feeling,” Sean says. “If the guy wants the friendship to continue, he needs to take some time to be away from the female friend until he’s over his feelings.”
“It theoretically can ruin your friendship, but only if you let it,” Sean agrees. “If she doesn’t feel the same way, she needs to sit him down, acknowledge how he feels, and simply say that she doesn’t feel the same way.”
“Telling him to take as much time as he needs is really the only way of saving the friendship,” he says.
After “the talk,” expect him to pull back from hanging out with you for a while. He might not return your calls so quickly and he might respond in cold, one-word answers to your texts. That’s perfectly natural. (After all, if the roles were reversed, wouldn’t you be hurt too?) Let him get over that sting and with time, you can start to hang out again and come to a place where you both can be best friends again.
On the other hand, friends can make the best boyfriends. Our own Real Live College Guy Sean, who had a relationship with a former friend, is a big believer in the “friends-first” mentality.
“Personally, I think relationships can be much stronger in the long run if you’re friends first,” he says. “Finally seeing that your friend feels the same way you do is such an amazing high.”
If your heartstrings are being tugged by him, how do you make the smooth transition from being just friends to being Facebook official?
When he asks you about your plans (which, as we’ve mentioned, is one of his not-so-subtle moves to feel out your feelings), take it as your cue to make the steps that will take your relationship to the next level. Whether he asks you to be the date to his cousin’s wedding over break or even just his Friday night plans – go along with it!
“What’s great about dating a friend is that you already know each other!” Jennifer points out. “So there’s none of that awkward ‘getting to know you’ stage.” Since you know you have some similar interests, why not build off of your shared interests for date ideas? That could be anything from hiking in the mountains together (if you’re the outdoorsy types) to cuddling up to a show you both love to chat about. Similarly, you know each other’s dating history. Jennifer, who started dating Branden a few months after he went through an agonizing break-up, says that she helped him get over his ex by particularly not having their dates at the ex-couple’s campus hangout spots and avoiding things Branden would have done with his ex.
In the end, both guys and girls agree: the most important thing is to be upfront and honest. Talking it out, according to Lindstrom, is “awkward but necessary.”
“Girls, seriously, your friend could be the best boyfriend you’ve ever had,” Jennifer says, who met her friend-turned-boyfriend in their sophomore year. “But you’ll never know until you look at him in a different way.”
Don’t believe her? After dating for almost two years, Jennifer and her friend-turned-boyfriend have set a wedding date.
*Names have been changed.