Signs he just wants to be friends

Does he want to be just friends? Or does he want something more? You might think you need a Ph.D. to even begin to decipher whether a guy is into you or not, and, well, you wouldn't be wrong. Gian Gonzaga, a doctor of philosophy, has pored over this very subject. Gonzaga — who is also the senior director of research and development at eHarmony Labs, an organization that studies human relationships and is funded by the popular dating site — revealed to Self that heterosexual men often default to thinking women are into them — even when they really aren't.

The expert was also able to decrypt some of the things men do when they desire something more than friendship. From how long he takes to text you back to the amount of detail he pays in your conversation to even his body language, guys tend to have certain tells, according to Gonzaga. But, often times, it's a whole lot easier to spot these more overt romantic signals than it is to notice the subtle signs he displays when he only wants to be your friend. If you're having trouble figuring out what he wants, you'll want to keep reading.

You always hang out in groups

If you and your guy friend only hang out in groups, there's a good chance you're in the friend zone, according to Clinton Power — a clinical relationship counselor, couples therapist, and founder of Clinton Power and Associates in Sydney, Australia. This is especially true if he has turned solo invites into group outings. "If someone is into you, they'll be receptive to your offer of dinner, dancing, or even taking a walk alone," Power explained on his website. "If they don't want to turn you down outright (in other words, they still want to spend time with you as a friend), they'll probably suggest group dates and parties — settings where there's not much chance of being alone together."

Claudia Cox, relationship expert and founder of Text Weapon, agrees. "When guys are into a girl, they want her all to themselves," she told The List. "If he is constantly making group plans, then he probably enjoys hanging out with you, but doesn't see you as girlfriend material."

He looks at your... feet?

You may be able to tell if a guy is into you by simply watching his eyes. A 2017 study conducted by researchers at Wellesley College and the University of Kansas tracked the eye movements of over a hundred heterosexual undergrads as they looked over photos of men and women. At the same time, researchers asked the participants if they were interested in either friending or dating the person in the picture. 

When the male and female participants had a date in mind, they frequently looked at the head or chest of the individual in the photo. However, when the men and women desired friendship, they frequently looked at the legs or feet of the individual.

"This new study shows that what people look for in a prospective relationship partner depends on their relational goals. The same person who makes a highly desirable friend may not make a good mate," Angela Bahns, the study's co-author and an assistant professor of psychology, explained. It sounds strange, but, if a guy is fixated on your feet, he probably has friendship in mind.

He doesn't return physical contact

Choosing to put yourself out there and make the first move can be intimidating. You might find that your advance is accepted or, conversely, you might find yourself getting rejected. If the latter happens, there's a good chance you and your friend won't be transitioning into dating territory anytime soon.

"If you reach for their hand and they draw back, if they pull away from an innocent hug together, or you can't get any good physical contact started, the relationship is not going anywhere," clinical relationship counselor and couples therapist Clinton Power wrote on his website. "Sustained eye contact, reciprocal flirting, a certain vibe between you are all signs the relationship is progressing out of the friend zone," but, if there's "no encouragement whatsoever" from the other party, Power reveals that this is a sign that he just wants to be buddies and nothing more.

You've already hooked up

A guy who doesn't return physical contact is probably just looking for friendship, but there are certainly exceptions to this rule. "Girls get friend zoned too. Only difference is the guy will still sleep with you," one woman tweeted, garnering over 40,000 retweets and over 190,000 likes.

"Men are more likely to initiate sex in romantic relationships, so it's no surprise that they would want to initiate sex first in a friendship as well," Gian Gonzaga, senior director of research and development at eHarmony Labs, told Self. But why? "Men can compartmentalize and can see sex as more of an act of desire without emotion," Simone Bose, a counsellor, told Refinery29. She continued, saying that some men who sleep with their female friends do so "without attachment, as they can enjoy the sex act without always getting emotionally attached."

Obviously, this can be incredibly confusing if you're looking for a sign that he wants more than a friendship. In this situation, it's important to look to the behaviors he exhibits outside of the bedroom.

"He treats you like one of the guys"

If you're getting mixed signals — as mentioned above — you'll want to pay attention to how he treats you in relation to his bros. If "he greets you, interacts with you, and says goodbye to you pretty much the same way he does his guy friends," you're likely just one of his pals, Rob Mack, life and celebrity love coach featured on E!'s Famously Single, explained to The List.

Kevin Darné, author of the book My Cat Won't Bark! (A Relationship Epiphany) and former dating advice columnist for Examiner.com, agrees. When speaking to The List, the expert said you're just friends if "he treats you like one of the guys." He further explained, saying, "If he openly belches, farts, curses excessively around you, gives you high-fives, and whenever he invites you some place he calls it 'hanging out,' you're friends." Basically, if he's not making any special attempts to make you feel any different than one of the dudes, Darné says he's just not that into you.

He's always "busy"

It's hard to find anyone who doesn't lead a legitimately busy life these days, but, at the same time, how many of us haven't used "busy" as a catch-all excuse to get out of something we didn't want to do? Mhmm. If the guy you're interested is always busy, this is a good sign that he's not open to being in a relationship with you.

"When a guy just wants to be friends, he is always too busy to hang out. His schedule is perpetually full and he is conveniently indisposed whenever your schedule is open," Stacey Herrera, intimacy expert and founder of The Sensuality Project, revealed in an interview with The List. She continued, saying, "You might notice that he's rarely too busy to text, but is never free to talk." Have you realized that he seems to be capable of scheduling time for other things and other people, but not you? If that's the case, Herrera confirmed, "You've been friend-zoned."

He goes on and on about his ex

If you're interested in one of your friends, be wary if he brings up his ex nonstop. "Anyone who frequently rehashes what went wrong in their last relationship probably hasn't gotten over it," relationship book author Kevin Darné told The List. "Most likely they are one phone call away from getting back with their ex if she were to call him." On the other hand, if a guy is into you, Darné said, "He will usually avoid talking in detail about other women he's been with."

Although it's never really a great sign when a guy obsessively mentions his former flame, relationship therapist Jamie Turndorf recommends talking out the situation if it's bothering you. "The effective way of handling this is to ask him if he knows how he feels when he brings up the subject of his ex," she told Psychology Today. "Does he feel hurt? Does he feel angry?" We're not going to tell you to run if he remains fixated on his past relationship, but, well, that's certainly a viable option.

He brings up or checks out other women

"People don't talk to potential partners about other people they're interested in dating — they're not even thinking about others, they're focused on their love interest," clinical relationship counselor and couples therapist Clinton Power advised on his website. This is a frustrating truth if you're looking for more than a friendship.

Even if he doesn't openly discuss other women with you, you should pay attention to those eyes of his. Claudia Cox, relationship expert and founder of Text Weapon, told The List to take notice if he "blatantly checks out other women when he's with you." This is perhaps one of the easiest signs to spot, but one of the most difficult situations to be in when you want to take your friendship to the next level. Cox agrees that it can be "hard to stomach," but she said "if you find he has a [wandering] eye and is having a hard time concentrating on your conversation (even though you are looking and acting the part)" then you should take this as "a huge sign he's not interested in you" and move on.

He thanks you for compliments, but doesn't return them

If you're looking to flee the friend zone, you can test the waters by complimenting the friend in question. "Complimenting someone on looks, personality, car, or any other ego point, will usually draw a positive response if the person is attracted to you," Clinton Power — clinical relationship counselor and couples therapist — shared in an article on his website. If he's into you, you should expect to receive some compliments too. But, if he's not interested in you as more than a friend, Power said you might just receive "a stilted 'thanks' and an averted gaze." 

When speaking with The List, former dating advice columnist and relationship book author Kevin Darné concurred that compliments, whether returned or initiated, are an indication that a person is into you. He added, "[But] if a man doesn't even seem to notice you are a woman, he's not attracted to you nor romantically interested in you."

He suggests changes to your appearance

If your guy friend starts giving you opinions on how you could change up your look or style, this is a pretty clear indication that he's not into you in a romantic sense. "Generally speaking," relationship book author Kevin Darné told The List, "if a man finds you attractive he is usually resistant to ideas when it comes to his [potential] girlfriend making any physical changes." However, there is one exception to this rule. Darné revealed that a guy might feel compelled to speak up "if he feels she dresses too sexy and he doesn't want other men openly lusting after her." In that case, you have an entirely different problem on your hands.

Chances are, if your guy friend is truly interested in pursuing something more than a friendship, he's more likely to dole out compliments about your appearance, as Darné highlighted above, rather than critique the things he thinks you could do differently.

He doesn't get dressed up to see you

How much effort a man puts into his appearance can speak volumes. Relationship expert and Text Weapon creator Claudia Cox said this is something to be aware of. If "he doesn't pay attention to his grooming style" before you hang out, this could be an indication that your relationship is merely destined for eternal friendship.

"Men today spend a lot of money on male beauty products and clothes. They want to look and feel sexy, especially around women they are attracted to," the expert explained. However, it seems guys don't care as much about their appearance when around women they view as friends. "If he's always showing up without a shower or in sweat pants, then he probably just thinks of you as one of the bros."

While we'd really prefer it if all guys, regardless of their intentions, would shower prior to hanging out with us, this is indeed an easily discernible clue you can use to figure out if he's into you. Just follow your nose.

He maintains boundaries

When a guy keeps his distance, relationship expert Claudia Cox explained to The List, he may want to just be friends. "When you're attracted to someone, you want to be as close to them as possible," she expressed. 

However, a man who's not interested is not only going to maintain boundaries when it comes to physical touch. Allen Wagner, a Los Angeles-based marriage and family therapist specializing in couples and relationships, revealed to The List that these boundaries will come in various forms. Men who are looking for friendship will confine meet-ups to "daytime coffees or activities" and avoid "late night outings that involve looking sexy or provide the opportunity for sexual tension." They may even avoid drinking alcohol with you.

In this unique dynamic, Wagner revealed that the person who just wants to be friends often verbalizes "the platonic nature of the relationship, maybe referring to the person as a brother or sister." The friend may also bring up "the importance of the friendship" or talk about "how the other is not their type." Basically, a guy who doesn't want to advance past friendship is going to spell it out for you.

He requests or offers dating advice

"Anytime a guy asks you hypothetical dating questions regarding women responding to men, he sees you as a friend," relationship author Kevin Darné pointed out when chatting with The List. "This is especially true if he wants you to help him decide on where he should take another woman or what gift he should buy her."

The reverse is also true. If your friend gives you dating advice, Darné said he most likely views you as a little sister of sorts as opposed to a potential girlfriend. This is especially the case, the expert explained, "if he offers to set you up with someone else he knows."

So, no, this is not some unusual way of flirting — and the reasoning behind this is pretty clear. Darné explained, "Generally speaking, if a man is into you he will usually avoid asking you questions which put the image of another man in your mind." Makes sense.

He starts dating someone else

Raise your hand if you've ever waited around for your friendship with a guy to advance to something more — only to later discover he'd started dating someone else. Sigh. And how many of us then kept on waiting despite receiving the biggest red flag in the history of ever? By the way, thanks rom-coms for making us think this was somehow a good idea.

Regardless of what you may be thinking at the time, when your romantic interest starts seeing someone else, it's apparent that he really, truly is only looking for a friendship with you. "Seeing him or her out with someone they're dating might feel like a kick in the teeth, but after that initial blow, it will get easier," relationship expert Clinton Power assured readers on his website. He added, "Instead of waiting or forcing things to change, the high road is to be a good friend. To do that, you will need to deal with your own feelings of rejection, sadness, and loss without involving the other person." But, if this is too painful, Power recommends parting ways "peaceably" and ending the friendship.