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Friends or Lovers? The Brother Phenomenon

by Curt Degenhart

What happens when you want to ask a friend out on a date, but you're scared you'll hear, "No, thanks"? What can you do when potential mates think of you less like a lover and more like a brother? This time out, we address the issue of what happens when you're perceived to be more fit for friendship than dating.

It all started with a letter from a Tools reader named Max, who wrote:

What can you do when women--all women--seem to think of you as nothing more than a friend? I mean, being friends is good, but I'd like to get into a relationship at *some* point in my life...

First of all, Max, don't be too hard on yourself. Being 'just friends' is an all too common problem these days when, more than ever, fewer people actually go out on dates, opting instead simply to 'hang out,' pick up a coffee, or take in a movie, all the while acting as if there's no date happening. The line between dating and just hanging around is blurry--and that's where your dilemma starts.

When You Become Like a Brother To Her

Have you ever noticed that friends often don't arouse strong romantic feelings in some of us? They may seem perfect in all sorts of ways: funny, great to be around, smart, trustworthy, similar, and familiar. But no matter how hard we try, they just don't arouse strong romantic feeling in us? This is what I'd like to call the Brother Phenomenon, as when women say to you, "Oh. I could never go out with you--you're like a brother to me." And you know what happens when you go out with your brother. Taboo city. Maybe this is why women can't seem to get past the friendship phase with you.

I think this phenomenon occurs because people linger too long in the getting-to-know- you phase, without getting clear right away about whether their time together are 'real dates' or 'just hanging out.' Haven't you ever felt the initial rush of interest for a new friend, but then suppressed those feelings because you thought that she didn't act interested? But it could be that she felt passion for you, way back when you first started hanging out. You just couldn't see it. Time passed, and now you're like a brother to her. She's known you so long--as nothing more than a friend--and you're no longer romantically exciting. Get the picture?

Get Out of the Rut--Fast

So what can you do to stop becoming a brother and start being a lover? Don't dawdle too long at the friendship stage. If your friend has any romantic feelings for you at all, you'll have to take advantage of the window of opportunity. Ask early, or be prepared to miss the chance.

Picking the right time is essential: somewhere after the "getting to know you" stage but before she starts telling you about all the men she's really interested in. When she starts confiding, "I had an awful date last night," be ready to step in right away, and tell her how you feel about her.

Making the switch from friends to lovers isn't easy. You might not be up to the challenge since it is risky. What if you lose the relationship entirely? That might happen. But if yours is a good friendship, it will survive. And don't the potential gains outweigh the risks? Just do it. Otherwise, you'll always be stuck as a brother, wishing the man she dates were you.

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