​What just happened? You’re in the beginning stages of leaving the friend zone, but you’re not completely out because you’re worried about ending the friendship, or God forbid, it actually working out. (The third option — becoming “friends with benefits” — is even more confusing.)

Where do you go from here? There are several ways to play this out in a way that should not affect the friendship. As long as both parties are adults and communicate properly, the friendship or potential relationship should only get stronger.

Here are 4 important steps you need to keep in mind when you’re transitioning out of the “friend zone.”

1. Be honest about what you’re looking for

Are you both looking to settle down, or is one only looking to have some fun? Be on the same page, so that there is no resentment if it ends. There’s no point in trying if you’re not trying for the same thing.

2. Open yourself up

This means you have to show vulnerability, and allow yourself to talk about your feelings, wants and needs with this person or with any relationship you are seeking.

3. Establish some intimacy

Get dressed up and go on a real date. Be romantic and do the little things you weren’t used to doing before; holding hands, sharing food, gazing into each other’s eyes, etc.

4. Give each other permission to be physical

This one is important. A lot of times, you have to build physical chemistry with each other. And after having friendship boundaries for so long, one of you (or both), may need permission for physical activity with the other. I do recommend waiting to have s3x. Don’t complicate things too soon.

When all else fails, talk, talk and talk some more.

Honesty and understanding of one another are key. Don’t be afraid to share your feelings, even if they are about getting back into the friend zone once you’ve explored a more romantic relationship. There is nothing wrong with appreciating a person’s friendship so much that you don’t want to ruin it.

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