When it comes to relationships, there is no more dreaded “F” word in the English language than “friend.” As in, “oh he’s just a friend” (and not in a Biz Markie kind of way, either). Whether or not you’ve heard about the Ladder Theory, as I myself hadn’t until about a year ago, you’re probably still familiar with the idea that some people just seem to be branded with a capital “F” that won’t wash off, no matter how hard they try.

For the uninitiated (read: women), the Ladder Theory says that, while men have one hypothetical ladder, with women occupying rungs based on a hierarchy of hotness and how-badly-do-I-want-to-sleep-with-you-ness, women have two ladders. One is for men we’d consider romantically, while the other is for those we only consider friends. And never the two shall meet. So, employing that logic, if you occupy real estate on the latter ladder (sorry, it was too easy), you’ll likely never make it onto our relationship radars. But, I tend to think that logic is flawed, and I’ll give you a bevvy or reasons why.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ve written about this topic before, and I’ve detailed all of the things that can relegate you to a life of Friend-dom: Being unmanly, too man-icured, a deadbeat man, etc. Basically, anything with an obvious “man” pun in it fits the bill. But, just in case this is a late-stage intervention and you’re already deeply entrenched in the Friend Zone, there are some things you can do to disentangle yourself from the vines of a platonic relationship.

I promise, it’s not entirely a lost cause.

First and foremost, let me reiterate the idea that you have to change the way we see you. Even if you’ve already been dubbed a womanizer in our minds, or a slacker, a metrosexual or a wimp, you can still try to distance yourself from those titles, if that’s what you want.

As I keep repeating over and over on this site, I’m the biggest proponent of the philosophy “Don’t listen to anything he says, just pay attention to what he does.” So, you can start showing us that you’re not whatever you’ve been labeled by making your actions contradict all that. Take some initiative in your career, clean up your appearance, whatever. Just take action, and stick with it.

But there are some other ways to flee the Friend Zone, too, and they are the following:

Determine why you’re in it in the first place, if you’re unsure: How do you do this? Easy, find a trusted source (read: a female friend, preferably one that both of you share) and get her to spill. A woman who is even remotely compassionate will help you out, especially if she thinks that, barring this one impediment, you’d be a good match for her friend. She should be able to nudge you in the direction of what the roadblock is without running straight back to her friend to betray your trust. Also, if she gets the feeling that what’s keeping you there is unable to be fixed, she should also give you a heads up, if she’s kind…and especially brave.

What’s unable to be fixed, you ask? Fundamental differences. For some people, it’s religion (but that’s another post entirely, and one that’s forthcoming), for others it’s your career path (i.e. your club promoting ways are too much for her to keep up with, or your job causes you to uproot and move every two years, etc). If the issue is your career, try dropping hints that you don’t intend to keep that pace (or job) for life, and will eventually settle down. This helps reassure her that she won’t have to ride that roller coaster with you.

Still other reasons would be that you used to date someone she’s very close with, therefore rendering you untouchable. Or maybe your marital past or the fact that you have a child (we’re not that young, it’s plausible) is more responsibility or baggage than she’s willing to take on at this point. If so, you can’t blame her for that. People get there when they’re ready. No sooner, I’m afraid.

Or it could be something physical holding her back, like height or weight. *Note: Miss Wingman doesn’t believe that height is really an across the board deal breaker, unless the difference is REALLY egregious. If weight is what keeps you platonic, unless moving you requires a fork lift, emergency personnel and door removal, it shouldn’t be that big a deal. If it is then trust me – you don’t want that woman anyway. Also, I’d reconsider even being friends with someone so superficial, for what it’s worth.

Or maybe there’s a slight chance that you’re just too awesome for her to risk losing: If what you two have is the kind of thing movies are made about, perhaps she’s scared that hooking up will destroy your good thing. Guys have been known to let sex ruin friendships, so it’s also a possibility that she’s terrified of what would happen if things didn’t end up working out (read: you freaked and went all “guy” on her). If that’s her fear, then that’s a valid reason for pause.

Maybe she thinks it’s the other way around, that it’s you who’s put *her* into the Friend Zone, and she doesn’t think she can get out: Are you really shy? Do you tend to not be overt with your flirtation? If you haven’t made it clear that you’re into her “like that” despite spending ample time with her, or if you’ve been known to date a steady stream of 9′s and she’s afraid she’s a few points shy, this could also be what’s stalling your romantic progression. Try to make it clear that you want more, if she’s into you she’ll get on board.

Or if it’s a new person in your life, don’t fret: The best relationships start out as friendships, so if you’ve just come onto her radar and she’s not all over you, be careful not to assume that it’s because she’s not into you. Maybe she just needs a minute to trust and get to know you, it doesn’t mean she won’t try to move things along once she’s comfortable with you (and when she does, you’d do well to reciprocate, and fast). But, if it’s been over six months and still a cold spell, then this description may not necessarily fit the bill.

Whatever the reason that you’ve seemingly planted your flag atop Mt. Friendistan, if you want to change addresses then heed this advice: If you want her, then go out and get her.

I know, this may sound borderline restraining order-worthy, but what I mean is that for some women, especially the mature ones, sometimes the best quality a guy has is how much he loves you. As in, the sexiest thing a man can prove to a woman is that you’ll do what it takes to stay in her life, and that you won’t change your mind when something shinier/better comes along. If you’re really serious about your intentions, she’ll see it and give you a chance, at least most of us would anyway.

Call me a hopeless romantic, but I think in matters of love, it’s never too late and nothing is written in stone. Well, almost nothing. You should do your damndest to change your situation if you believe in it enough. You just have to ask yourself one question before deciding whether or not take the leap: Is she worth it? Only you can answer that.THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID

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The holidays are a time for reflecting. But what if, while looking back, there’s a figure in your rear view mirror that your current passenger isn’t too thrilled to hear about? When it comes to exes, there’s a fine line to put us at ease about how you regard her; Too fondly may mean you two still talk often (or hang out – which doesn’t sit well with most women). But, if you never mention your past, you may have us wondering if your love ended with a restraining order, or if she’s currently at the bottom of a river somewhere? No one’s so detached that you move on and nary breathe a word, after all.

Whatever your status with your former flame, there are a few things that your current (or potential) love interest will be none too pleased to learn about the One That Came Before. Just like most men don’t want to hear that our ex is the heir to a (fill in the blank) fortune with McConaughey’s good looks, Gosling’s sensitivity and the anatomical endowments of Wahlberg in “Boogie Nights,” there are certain things we hate to hear, too. So if your ex fits the following bill, perhaps it’s best to play your cards close to your chest:

A Model of Any Kind: Whether her bod graced the pages of an LL Bean catalog or, God help us all, a Victoria’s Secret glossy, why not do us a favor and keep that your little secret, too? Normally I’d tell you to always be up front, never lie by omission, but in this case that news may just mess with her head more than any normal woman can handle. No matter how confident a female is, we almost always compare ourselves to our peers. And, if you inform her that her peers now include genetically gifted chicks who don lingerie for a living, her head may just explode. Seriously, how would you feel if we told you we used to sleep with a Ryan Reynolds look-alike (or worse, the real thing)? Mum’s the word, boys.

A Do-Gooder: Does your ex volunteer for the Peace Corps? Is she healing the world one under-developed country at a time in Doctors Without Borders? Does she rescue orphans from war-torn regions? Yeah, this is a little too Angelina Jolie for your average woman to handle. It’s one thing to volunteer her time on a relatively local level – many of us do that, and enjoy it immensely – but if she’s off globetrotting or started her own Nonprofit, those are some big shoes to fill. We should all do good just for the sake of doing good, but that bar is set pretty high, don’t ya think?

She Lived With You (or worse, you two were engaged): No one takes a relationship to that level unless you’re really serious with that person. People break up and move on every day, but there’s something about the permanence this once showed that makes it hard for the one who’s with you now to ever feel like she’ll be as much of a presence in your life. Sad but true, and tricky to work around.

A Semi-Pro, Pro or Otherwise-Gifted Athlete: Two words, David Beckham. OK fine, maybe that’s not a fair comparison…But seriously, girls who have skills on the field or on the court are a tough act to follow – even if her name isn’t Hope Solo or Maria Sharapova. And being a female who’s good at something sports-related is about as good as it gets (unless she’s built like a Williams sister or is gender ambiguous, a la Beijing Olympics – not hot).

Granted, we know we shouldn’t worry about making such comparisons, but would you like it if she told you Once upon a time she dated Derek Jeter or Mark Sanchez? Or C.J. Wilson, or Cam Newton (I could go on and on here boys…) Right, didn’t think so.

Bi-Sexual or just Bi-Curious: We’re aware of your fantasy to see us with another girl, but if your ex actually WAS with another girl, that’s not just dipping our big toe in to test the same-sex waters, that’s diving head first into the deep end of the pool. I’m all for people being with whomever makes them happy, male or female, but that little tidbit may just make her feel like she’d never be seen as adventurous enough to entertain you in bed.

An Identical Twin: You boys and your fantasies again… We know, twins are twice the fun. So, even if you only dated one half of that novelty pair, at some point you still swam in the Doublemint Commercial pond, and probably liked it. Nothing we can do about this one, but still not terribly reassuring.

An Adrenaline-Junkie: Was she A) a pilot, B) a race car driver, C) an extreme sports enthusiast (read: she loved skydiving, motorcycle riding or snowboarding half-pipes) or D) a crack shot with a firearm? If so, we will immediately begin to wonder why you are now dating a regulation female like us. Even if your ex’s adventurous ways were too much for you to handle, it’ll still be hard to hear that you once shared a bed with a badass.

A Singer or Actress: This one is less “actress,” since the definition of that word is shamefully loose these days, and more “someone in the public eye.” If your ex had Adele’s pipes or used-to-be-on-that-television-show-about-that-guy, those types of run-ins are hard to avoid. Even if you swear that you’ve learned to resist her siren song, your current beau might not believe you. And she might have to stop watching TV or listening to the radio, too. Would you like it if our ex was a triple threat, of the Timberlake variety? No one would, hell I’ve known straight males who crush hard on that guy. But you get the idea.

Granted, in a perfect world your relationship record would be expunged, and we would all forget that anyone came before us. Women – and men, for that matter – prefer to feel like they were the first pioneers to, er…explore your land. But that’s not realistic.

Don’t ever lie about your past, lest you seem like you’re making a bigger deal out of something that wasn’t. Just realize that, once you’ve told us your ex fits into one of these categories, it might take us a minute to process the news. Then, it’s out there and you should answer any questions she has about it, but don’t dwell on it – move on as quickly as possible.

Making the one you’re with feel like she’s the only one that matters is important, but it’s also a two-way street. If you reassure her and she’s still stuck on it, or can’t shake her insecurities, then you’re dealing with a much larger problem. The confident woman will always prevail…just as long as your ex’s name isn’t Giselle.THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID


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