Modern dating can feel like a total minefield.
He says he just wants to be friends, so why does he still keep flirting with you?
His words say one thing but his actions seem to tell you another.
If you want to know exactly what’s going on in his head and what you can do next, this article will give you 15 helpful tips for dealing with flirty guys who say they just want to be friends.
What does a guy mean when he says he just wants to be friends?
Once upon a time when a guy said he just wants to be friends, it pretty much meant that.
He was telling you that although he likes you, his feelings are not romantic for you and he doesn’t feel enough attraction for things to progress further.
There are lots of people out there all seeking very different things, and dating life is increasingly untraditional.
You will still meet plenty of people who are looking for exclusive relationships, but you will also find those who prefer non-monogamy, open relationships, friends with benefits, and something more casual.
That’s why it can be confusing what exactly a guy means when he tells you he wants to be “friends”.
Here are some common scenarios people encounter navigating this friendship grey area:
He suddenly just wants to be friends:
The scenario: Things have been heating up between you two. You’ve had some dates or hookups, you’ve been texting a lot and flirting. Then out of nowhere, he lets you know he just wants to be friends.
The brutal truth: He’s either had his fun and now is ready to move on, or he has simply decided that there’s not enough there between you two to progress any further.
He said he wants to be friends but then ignores me:
The scenario: Something was going on between you two, whether you had been dating, hanging out a lot, or been physically intimate together. One of you decides to end things, and you agree to just stay friends. But rather than stick to that, he does a disappearing act.
The brutal truth: Although he said he wants to be friends, in reality, he didn’t actually mean it. He said it because it is often the polite thing people say when they are breaking up or are no longer dating/hooking up anymore. For him “friends” likely means ending things on pleasant terms rather than behaving like actual friends.
When a guy says he wants to be friends but kisses you
The scenario: You’re unsure where you stand really. He doesn’t treat you like a friend, but that’s what he refers to you as. But then to make things even more confusing to you, he kisses you.
The brutal truth: By suggesting that you are just friends before things get intimate, he is pre-warning you to have casual expectations from him. He doesn’t necessarily mean friendship in the traditional sense. He may be happy being friends with benefits as long as you are.
He just wants to be friends after hooking up
The scenario: You share together a night (or several) of passion. Maybe you make out at a party or end up hooking up after hanging out a lot together. But then he tells you that he just wants to be friends.
The brutal truth: For him, it was just a physical thing. He has managed to detach any feelings from a purely sexual encounter. He may like you as a friend, and he may also find you attractive, but he doesn’t want to progress any further and turn it into a relationship.
He leads me on and now wants to be friends
The scenario: You get on well, he is attentive and shows plenty of interest. He may text you every day, act flirty around you and pursue you. At some point, you notice a shift in his behavior and he lets you know that he only wants to be friends.
The brutal truth: Maybe he was interested in you romantically at some point but he has changed his mind or simply lost interest along the way. He may have also been pursuing others as well as you, and there is someone else on the scene. He could have enjoyed the attention and the game, but had no intention of taking things further. Whatever the reason, he is not invested enough.
Why does he flirt with me if he’s not interested?
1) He is interested, just not enough
As convenient as it would be, when it comes to romance things aren’t usually so black and white.
We may think someone is either interested or not, but there are plenty of times when you will find that someone does like you, but sadly not quite enough.
The reasons for this are not necessarily to do with you either. It doesn’t mean there is something you lack which prevents their feelings from being stronger. Often it’s to do with the other person.
He may continue to flirt with you, even after telling you that he just wants to be friends because he is interested in you, he’s just not sure enough of his feelings to want to take it any further.
That’s why you end up in this perplexing situation where he says he wants to be friends but his actions show differently.
2) He doesn’t want a relationship
Bad timing is a frustrating thing that we will all come up against at some point or another in a romantic situation.
All the ingredients seem to be in place, apart from one annoyingly crucial one — he doesn’t want a relationship.
We may think that patience or sheer will can overcome this hurdle, but someone’s readiness to be in a relationship is vital if it’s going to work long term.
If he doesn’t want to be in a relationship, particularly if he thinks you do, then he may say he just wants to be friends but continue to flirt with you anyway.
3) He’s bored
It sounds pretty cruel to think that boredom would be anyone’s reason for playing with someone else’s feelings, but sadly it happens all the time.
Have you ever had a guy pop back into your DM’s months after you last spoke? You thought he had ghosted you, only to reappear again. That’s boredom in action.
During a particularly dry spell in dating, many men will trawl through contacts that they can entertain themselves with by indulging in a bit of “harmless” flirting.
The problem is that it is often short-lived attention that is withdrawn again when they find something else better to do. And it’s not always so “harmless” to the unwilling victim they are playing this game with.
4) He likes the attention or he’s an insecure person
Most of us enjoy attention. We find it flattering and an ego boost. Enjoying attention is one thing, needing attention is one step further.
Generally speaking, the lower someone’s self-esteem, the more they feel the need for the validation of others in order to feel good about themselves.
The image that an insecure person would be shy and appear to lack confidence can be misguided. In reality, people with an inferiority complex can find themselves constantly striving for superiority.
This is particularly the case with narcissistic personalities, who are happy to exploit others to fulfill their constant need for admiration and attention.
Because deep down he doesn’t have a good image of himself, he craves and searches for things to boost his self-esteem.
5) He’s selfish
There are many surface excuses for why a guy would flirt with you even though he doesn’t want more.
It makes him feel good to flirt and he is either lacking in self-awareness or simply doesn’t care enough to think about the unfair or misleading consequences of his actions.
He is getting something out of his flirty behavior and he isn’t looking much further than fulfilling his own desires. It’s one of the signs he is just using you.
6) He’s a naturally flirty person
There are some people I know who could flirt with a broom.
They use this flirtatious and charming energy with almost everyone they meet. It’s not that you are reading into things when he isn’t flirting. He is. But he does it with everyone.
The problem is that it is the most natural thing in the world for him, and he can’t really help himself.
Some people use a flirty personality as a way to connect and break the ice with new people. They see it as a fun way of interacting and not a serious signal that they are interested in developing a relationship.
7) He’s looking for different things to you
As I mentioned earlier, everyone is romantically looking for different things.
It can be particularly tricky when you have sexual chemistry with another person, and you get on well — but you want different things.
One of you may want a relationship, the other is at a stage in life where they’re only interested in pursuing casual encounters.
If he knows that you want different things he may think it’s easier to stay friends, and that’s why he has told you that is all he wants.
But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t attraction between you both which spills over into some flirty behavior towards one another.
He friendzoned me but still flirts, what should I do?
1) Ask yourself, are you reading too much into his behavior?
Perhaps you’ve been tossing this one around and around in your mind for days: “Is he flirting or just friends?”
I’m not suggesting that you are imagining his flirty ways around you, but it is worth considering whether you are reading too much into things.
Sometimes when we have a crush on someone, we see things we want to see. We can end up overanalyzing their behavior and interpret everything they say and do in a way that suits us.
The confirmation bias essentially means that we go looking for what we want to find.
In the process, we can end up overcomplicating things in our mind that are more simple.
It’s worth considering whether his flirty behavior towards you is unique or whether he acts this way with other friends too.
Is it consistently flirty, or is it only on the odd occasion, such as when he’s had a drink? Is he overly flirty in an obvious way, or are there times when you are not particularly sure whether he is flirting with you?
Of course, regardless of whether he intends to be flirty, if that’s how you interpret his behavior and it’s causing confusion for you then you still need to act. But having an honest look at how he behaves and how you interpret it is very useful.
2) If you know you want more than friendship, wait and see what happens.
Here’s the thing, none of us are perfect. There’s the ideal advice we can give as an impartial third party looking in on any situation, but it’s also not the advice that most of us follow. Why? Because we’re human.
Our heads might tell us one thing, but our hearts don’t want to listen.
In an ideal world, you would kick him to the curb, move on with your head held high, and find someone else.
But the real truth is that we’re not always ready to do that. And maybe that’s ok. Nobody knows your situation other than you two.
Whilst I’d never recommend grasping onto false hope, if you believe there is something there between you two, then you might decide to be patient for a while and see what happens.
There’s always an exception to the rule. Even if for 99% of guys in this situation you are unlikely to get anything out of him in the long term, there are always those rare cases where it does work out.
These are those urban legend-type stories we all hear of where a guy did have genuine feelings but was scared, or where feelings grew and developed over time.
At the end of the day, it’s your heart to risk and nobody else’s. That means if in your heart of hearts you have hope that this could progress from friendship and flirting into something more, then you may decide to bide your time and give him a chance.
3) Let him know how you feel
At some stage, you’re probably going to need to have a chat with him about it all.
Don’t worry though, this doesn’t need to be a big deal. You can casually communicate and still keep things light if you are nervous about raising the subject with him.
For example, you could say to him ‘Why are you such a flirt?’ or ‘Stop being so flirty, you really need to cut that out if we’re just friends’.
If you are unclear where you stand with him, then ask. I know it feels like a really vulnerable thing to do, but it is the only way you will truly know.
By directly asking him whether you are friends or something more, at least you will have your answer rather than trying to guess. No matter what, at least then you get to move forward after learning the truth.
4) Decide what friendship looks like to you
Last year I found myself briefly dating a guy who “just wanted to be friends” and I found this concept totally confusing.
Once you have sex with someone, in my book they are not your friend. Even if they aren’t your boyfriend, they are at the very least your lover. That’s because, for me, friendship does not involve physical intimacy. That is a clear line that I draw.
For him, “friendship” obviously meant something different. He was happy to flirt, be intimate, hang out and call that friendship. I was not.
Friends with benefits is a concept that we’re all familiar with and many of us have been in.
But you need to be honest about what works for you.
What are your rules of friendship? You might want to write them out so you can see them in black and white.
If friendship to you does not involve flirting, then you cannot allow it.
5) Don’t make excuses for him
When we like someone or have a crush, we can find ourselves making excuses for them that justify their behavior.
It’s not that we’re even necessarily doing it for their benefit, often we do it for our own. The truth can make us uncomfortable or sad, so we prefer to dilute it with excuses.
As tempting as it might be, don’t go looking for explanations that put a more positive slant on what he is doing.
Usually, the simplest explanation is the correct one.
In this circumstance, the simplest explanation for him flirting, even though he says he only wants to be friends, is that he is not interested (for whatever reason) in being more than that.
6) Know that what he’s doing is unfair
Whether his flirting is intentional or unconscious, it’s still unfair on you if it is misleading you.
If his consistent flirty behavior is confusing you, upsetting you, or giving you false hope — then it’s not good for you.
Even if you think he is not “wrong” in his behavior towards you, that doesn’t mean you are “wrong” either for the way you react to his flirting.
Regardless of his reasons, if it’s not ok for you, then it’s not ok.
If he does want to have a friendship with you or be in your life, then he must also respect your feelings.
7) Create clear boundaries for yourself
Boundaries are ours and ours alone to both create and uphold.
They are the invisible protective bubble we create that surrounds us by deciding what is acceptable and what is unacceptable.
That means you need to work out what’s right for you. This doesn’t need to even involve him, as it’s an exercise you do with yourself to help you get clear in your own mind.
That way in the future you will have defined where the line is and know when he crosses it.
It will also help you to stay strong in upholding your boundaries around what friendship looks like for you.
8) Put a stop to it
If we always waited for someone to treat us how we think we deserve, sadly we would often be waiting a long time.
I mentioned earlier a situation when I found myself with a crush on a guy who “just wanted to be friends” but continued to flirt and want to be intimate.
Despite how much I wished things would be different, ultimately I reached the point where I had to be honest that I wasn’t going to get what I wanted from the situation.
After talking to him about it and explaining that I had a crush on him and couldn’t continue the way things were, I told him I wanted space in the hope that we could one day have an actual friendship — which for me meant minus the flirting and minus the physical intimacy.
If you know you aren’t going to get what you want from the situation, then I would encourage you to shut it down.
Let him know what you need, and be prepared to walk away if you’re not getting it.
To conclude: Can you be friends and flirt?
When it comes to friendships, just like with relationships, there aren’t any hard rules. It’s about what works for the people involved.
There are people who are perfectly fine with flirty friendships, and are happy enough with friends with benefits.
The key is being honest with yourself about whether it genuinely works for you. Flirting between friends, when both parties find it fun and don’t read much into it can be totally harmless.
The problem arises when you’re not on the same page. If one of you has a crush that isn’t reciprocated or wants more from the situation, it’s likely to end badly.
Flirting between friends can be misleading and send mixed signals.