My wife asked for a divorce and has moved in with her parents. She says it's because she doesn't love me anymore. She sees me as her best friend and says that's the biggest reason why our sex life became horrible over the past couple years.
How do I get out of the "friend zone" and become someone she wants to be intimate with again?
You have two choices to get out of your wife's "friend zone" and become attractive to her again:
- Use the friendship to rebuild trust and connection.
- Become the Mystery Man in hopes that she will come to you.
There are two very big misconceptions revealed in your question that I want to address before giving you any advice.
The "Friend Zone" Does Not Apply to Marriage
I personally do not buy into the “friend zone”. Especially inside of a marriage.
The “friend zone” is a term that originated as a joke on an episode of Friends in the ‘90s, and has since been popularized by pickup artists, other TV shows and movies, and even some psychologists.
When it comes to building a lifelong marriage, the stronger your friendship with your wife, the better.
Basically, the “friend zone” is a friendship in which one person wants romance, but the other person is satisfied with just friendship.
Many men believe that the “friend zone” is this inescapable prison where you’re doomed to be unattractive to your wife forever because you’re just too stinkin’ nice. I suppose this may be a real obstacle in the dating world... I haven’t been in that world for a long time, so I don’t know and frankly don’t care.
What I do know is that when it comes to building a lifelong marriage, the stronger your friendship with your wife, the better.
So, if there is such a thing as the friend zone, in my opinion it doesn’t cause separations and it is certainly not the reason that your wife moved out to seek divorce. There's something else going on here.
You married this woman! You’ve already proven that she once found you very attractive on an emotional and physical level. Now it’s just a matter of tapping back into that.
A Bad Sex Life is Not Why Your Wife Left
A great sex life would not have kept your wife in the marriage, and a bad sex life is not what made her leave.
Most men put wayyyyy too much emphasis on sex. No surprise since most of us were raised in a hyper-sexualized culture, exposed to an immense amount of sexuality from a very young age.
The attraction she's missing goes far beyond the bedroom.
I 100% agree that a mutually pleasing sex life is one of the hallmarks of a thriving marriage. That’s because sex is the physical representation of how a marriage is meant to work – two people mutually seeking the other’s pleasure.
What I'm saying here is this:
A truly good sex life is a SYMPTOM of a mutually loving marriage;
not the cause of one.
So, while it’s true that you need to rebuild attraction with your wife, the attraction she’s missing goes far beyond the bedroom.
Okay, rant over.
I’m not going to get into a big sex talk here. That’s a conversation for another time.
Before we move on to the advice below, you must understand that while your wife may have cited a bad sex life as the main reason she left, it was actually just a symptom of the REAL reason(s).
2 Ways to Rebuild Your Wife's Attraction From an Existing Friendship
Okay. We know that the "friend zone" doesn't apply to marriage, and we know that a bad sex life isn't the real reason she left.
We can now come back to your original question:
How do you rebuild attraction, become more than her "best friend" and give your wife the best incentive possible to come back home
As we said at the beginning, you have two real options here:
Option 1. Use the friendship to rebuild trust and connection.
Option 2. Become the Mystery Man and let her will come to you.
I recommend you start with option 1, then switch to option 2 if you’re not seeing any progress after a couple weeks.
With either of these choices, your wife still viewing you as her best friend is only a good thing! Your preexisting friendship means you can build on the friendship to regain her trust, OR you can take it away and she will miss it.
Use Friendship to Rebuild Trust & Connection
Instead of going around your friendship, go THROUGH your friendship to rebuild attraction. Use the very same friendship your wife blames for a bad sex life to actually restart a romantic connection.
Because your wife has herself said that she views you as her best friend, this opens up some options that most men can’t get away with. For example:
- What fun things did you and your wife used to do together… Is there any chance she’d do those things with you now? E.g. go to a concert, picnic, to church together, shopping for something you both need.
- When you do nice things for her, do them because you are “her friend” and you’re just trying to help her out.
- You can tell her about the changes you’re making in yourself the same way you’d tell your best friend about the improvements in your life. Share your excitement for the new things you’re doing and trying... Just don’t be unrealistically positive, or make it seem like you expect these changes to change her mind - you're talking to your friend, not your wife!
- ... Similarly, you can ask her about what she's been up to, anything new she's been doing, etc.
- When you talk about the marriage with her, do it in a friendly, almost casual way; you can speak more transparently under the guise of friendship.
- Physically touch her in a casual, friendly way, e.g. a side hug when you see her, pat her on the back when she looks lonely.
- Compliment her just like one of her friends might compliment her… “I really like that sweater, it goes well with your shoes.” “Did you get a new hair cut? Looks great.” You can try being a little flirty, but friendly is fail-proof.
If your wife challenges you on this approach, you can explain it by saying, “I respect that you aren't happy in the marriage and I'm not trying to force you to stay, but I do think our friendship is something special and I’d like to maintain that.”
If you have kids, tell her that you believe maintaining your close friendship will make future co-parenting easier.
Above all, you can feel good about spending friendly TIME with her. Even if you don't do any of the above suggestions, the more positive time you can get with her - time where you are both enjoying yourselves - the better.
Meanwhile, genuinely work on yourself...
This is equally important to the first part. While you work to make the most of your friendship with your wife, put WORK into yourself.
- Build up your life outside the marriage.
- Get in shape.
- Figure out how to get back to that man your wife found attractive once upon a time.
- Think about what new things your wife finds attractive now that she is older and more mature.
- Identify where you’ve failed as a leader and a husband, and work on correcting those areas.
Need a good starting point? Check out 10 Steps to Gain Husbandly Leadership
An added benefit is that by working on yourself WHILE you try to build on your friendship with your wife, you will lay the groundwork to smoothly transition to option 2 down the road, if needed.
Back Off and Become The Mystery Man
If your wife responds negatively to your attempts at building on the friendship, back off, give her space, play hard to get.
I suppose this fits with conventional advice for getting out of the “friend zone” with your wife. Regardless, it is an effective strategy when the open courtship strategy doesn’t work.
Show her you're not going to be the one to chase her...
Pleasantly engage with her, but leave her wanting more.
The Mystery Man is one of the leadership archetypes we talk about in the subscriber bonus guide for the post How to Lead Your Marriage When Your Wife Wants Out. Essentially, it boils down to:
- Back off and give her space
- Work on building a life outside the marriage
- Accept that it was your wife's choice to leave, it will be her choice to stay
- Show your wife you will be happy without her
- Let your wife come to you and casually enjoy any contact she initiates
Show her you’re not going to be the one to chase her; you deserve a wife who loves you for the man YOU want to be.
Let her come to you. When and if she reaches out to you (likely since she still sees you as her best friend), pleasantly engage with her, but also leave her wanting more.
From there, it’s a bit of a waiting game. Just like we talked about in the 3+1 Separation Strategy, you can’t force your wife to choose to come back; all you can do is give her the best possible incentive to do so.
Summing it up:
How do you get your wife back from the friend zone?
- Recognize that the attraction you need to rebuild is not just physical or sexual.
- Start by trying to use the friendship you already have to rebuild a romantic connection.
- If that doesn’t work, take the Mystery Man approach, focus on yourself and let her come to you.
No matter which option you choose, patience is key, as well as a keen focus on what you can control in your life and your marriage.
Ultimately, you cannot FORCE your wife to let herself become re-attracted to you. My guess is that there is some mild identity crisis stuff going on here, and your wife is probably stuck in a sort of “grass is greener” mindset.
Also, it’s worth noting that if there is any sort of infidelity going on – whether emotional or physical – then that must end before your wife can even START to see you as attractive once more.
Best of luck as you work to re-attract your wife to the marriage and break out of her "friend zone".
With much manly love,
I'm Stephen, the guy behind Husband Help Haven. I'm not a marriage counselor or a lawyer, I'm just a guy on the Internet who has talked to a loooooot of men going through separation... Over 2,000 in the past 5 years. My goal is to give men the tools they need to save their marriage from separation. Read more here