How to Get Out of Your Wife’s “Friend Zone” (after she’s moved out)

by Stephen Waldo

How to Get Out of Your Wife's Friend Zone

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?


Dear JWD,

You have two choices to get out of your wife’s “friend zone” and become attractive to her again:

  1. Use the friendship to rebuild trust and connection.
  2. 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.

Misconception #1. 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.

Misconception #2.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).

From “She wants out” to “We’re working on it” in 7 steps


A simple 15-minute read could transform how you think about saving your marriage... This free guide shows you the exact steps your wife must go through before she starts working on the relationship with you.

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.

Option 1. 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.

Conversation Tip:

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 Separation-Proof Mindset, Today

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.

Option 2. 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 Peace & Control. 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”.

From “She wants out” to “We’re working on it” in 7 steps


A simple 15-minute read could transform how you think about saving your marriage... This free guide shows you the exact steps your wife must go through before she starts working on the relationship with you.

Stephen Waldo

Hi! My name is Stephen. I’m the guy behind Husband Help Haven. My mission here is to help as many men as possible become the best husbands they can be, and save as many marriages as possible along the way. Even though I’m not a marriage counselor, I want to encourage men everywhere to become better husbands, fathers and leaders. Full author bio


  • Hi Stephen
    My wife moved out 5 months ago, saying she wasn’t happy with how I had treated her over time, citing behaviours I had, such as not devoting enough energy to her, the kids, and the way I raise my voice.
    She said she wanted “space” but that this was just a circuit breaker and it wasn’t leading to divorce. However this has turned into a 5 month period where she’s been living away. She initiated marriage counselling (we have gone 6 times so far, haven’t really got very far) and there has been some conversation about her returning home, but only after she sees “changes” in me.
    (Of course, infuriatingly, see seems oblivious to her own contribution to the failure, even when I’ve raised it, and just gets defensive. But that, I’ve learned, is a road to nowhere, so avoiding that for the time being).
    For the first few months I made all the mistakes that you mention on this website: arguing, convincing, getting desperate, emotional, talking to her family, etc. Literally all of them and it backfired badly. In turn she continued to say she wasn’t happy with how I was treating her, and this was further evidence that I couldn’t listen to her and hear her.
    So, the last little period has been about unwinding those mistakes. I’ve been working on myself and controlling myself, working on myself, making changes that are necessary, and in the meantime tried to let it go. It has resulted in better outcomes. She is interested in catching up maybe once or twice a week, over dinner or coffee. I’m accepting those times and putting no pressure on her to return, but I can feel the wheel turning.
    My question is what to do when/if she comes back, and asks to sleep in a separate room for an extended period. That has been raised once or twice as something she is considering. How do I approach this? I can see the obvious benefit of having her back in the house, but the risk (as I see it) is that it kind of implicitly accepts that sleeping in separate rooms is OK, and sets some kind of precedent/loses a bit of self-respect. Perhaps I’m over-thinking it too much.
    If she does come back, she will no doubt be cold at the beginning (like she is now) and I will just have to, as you can, ignore it and “keep doing what you’re doing”.
    Would appreciate your opinion.

  • This text is perfect, Stephen. Add Chapman’s 5 Love Languages to improve quickly. Understand her motives to understand her moves. Become a true man, and that includes absolutely not bothering her. Restoring trust, respect, faith for months. You’re the prize if you stick to your self-improvements. “We will hold that one man and one man only is truly wealthy–he who learns to want nothing in every circumstance.” ~Musonius Rufus

  • Okay my situation is that she just wants to be best friends forever. We still live together sleep in the same bed but every now and then she tells me that I have to go back sleeping on the floor. And she tells me every now and then she don’t know if she wants to stay or leave because I pushed her so far to the point that she’s giving me the cold shoulder but we still do everything together like going out to places in eating and shopping for clothes picking her up from work and dropping her off. I just don’t know what to do anymore

  • Michael

    My wife and I have been married going on 19 years, For the last year and a half I have taken a setback, but Im rebounding rather nicely. My wife has made the haste decision to move out and had already got her a place before she moved out. My son went into bootcamp but couldnt make it and quit. Ever since yhe phone call he made to her a couple weeks ago she has become a different person. I mean degrading humiliating and snapping at me for no apparent reasons even now when I ask what were her plans today and how is your day she just snaps back at me and lets me know everything bad she sees no good in me it seems, if she does then she doesnt mention it and I cant tell you the last time she did. I have one more week at home before Im gone for three months and have done everything in my power to spend some time with her but keep getting excuses that she has to clean up her new place or is tired, what am I missing here.

    • A

      Sounds like it’s time to back off and stop trying to pursue her. If you keep doing the same thing you’re going to keep getting the same results. Back off, stop pursuing her, stop trying to initiate conversations, maybe you can still do the odd kind gesture for her, but mostly just work on yourself and keep yourself from spiraling into desperation. Clearly she’s going through something that you’re not seeing, so until whatever it is comes to the surface, space may be the best thing you can give her.

  • Patrick

    I am new here as well and been trying to read and apply everything I learn here. I am going through a situation with my wife where she no longer loves me and it is my fault. Now she is seeing someone, which hurts me, and is barely giving me any chance to prove I can be the man she wanted me to be for the last 6 years. There are times when I do not know what to do, my emotions get the best of me to the point I do some stupid stuff. I really need help :/

    • Look mate, we are all going through really bad times. But we have to rise above the crap our wife’s are throwing at us. They, we’ll mine is not very nice. She really tucked me in the head too

  • I am new to the Haven and have been meticulously reading every possible bit over the last two weeks or so. This is good stuff, but I’m really having a hard time applying it when we still live together (financial and for kids,all my wife’s ideas). I bought the Manly Guide to Separation and that alone has gave me so much knowledge and strength… I’m just having a hard time applying anything when we still cohabitate.

    Anyone have any help or guidance on separation while still primarily living together?

    Thank you in advance to anyone who responds.

  • Wife says she don’t love me, has filed for divorce but still wants to be friends even after divorce. I’ve messed up by texting her a lot to try to win her back, she told she likes to talk by texting but the constant brow beating has to stop. The divorce she will not stop and says if it’s meant to be we will get back together after the divorce is final. We’ve been married 17 yrs

  • Randall

    Good evening. I read your post in detail. You have oversimplified and trivialized the relationship between some men and women. To just “not accept” the possibility? That sounds great for your analysis. To say that there are your two ways back. No, you have to understand. Some women. My woman. Just isn’t driven by sex at all. Zero. Zilch. This was always a onerous chore. As soon as she decided I was a lifer in this relationship, she changed things. I spoke up. Helpfully. Angrily. Repetitively. Nicely. Rudely. Every conceivable way I could think of. It’s been 13 years of a 23 year marriage. Don’t take this crock as useful advice. The real secret? You can only control yourself. Sure, try: but realize that unless you’re willing to change. No. One. Else. Will.

    • A

      Greetings Randall, I’m sorry that you feel this post trivializes the relationship between some men and women. That wasn’t my intention. I do fully agree with your conclusion here – you can only control yourself. That is the very first step in the 3+1 Separation Strategy I’ve created as the starting point for all men facing separation who come to this site. The whole point of focusing on what you can control is that it frees you to truly make changes in yourself because it brings you closer to the man you want to be, not the man that’s going to magically get your wife back.

      All marriages are different. All separations are different. They may share similar themes or patterns, but the nitty gritty is unique. Please understand that this post was written to one man’s situation – his wife quoting a bad sex life as evidence for needing divorce. The goal here is to help him with HIS separation, in a way that is perhaps beneficial to other men in similar situations. I’m sorry you don’t feel like it was helpful to you. Hopefully something else on the site will be. Perhaps this: The Let Her Go Mindset.

  • I have taken to heart what you said to control what I can. I have given my wife space and concentrate on myself and kids.I feel so much better. My wife is dating a guy right now since march. About a couple weeks into the seperation.I saw her depressd and asked what was going. She confessed she is talking and seeing a guy after we seperated. Our situation is we live together still in fact we still sleep in the same bed. I told her if she does not feel comfortable sleeping in our bed she can go the couch. She stayed and most nights we have talked through what we resent and had good in our marraige. So much reflection happened. Now I’m way happier with no tension when coming home. What a great feeling!! She has also changed for the better but she is still seeing him but is now stressing. She finally admitted she is liking what she is seeing and feeling. I said great!!! Because I feel great and like what I feel about her and me. We have had quite a few romps together now but she is now getting stressed over what she is feeling and now talks about leaving the guy. I tell her it is her decision. She must decide. A couple nights ago she broke down and told me why I have not asked her back. This was after we had made love and before she left for the gym. I told her it was her decision and that I felt that i had tried before to change and it did not stick. Now it is her choice to be with or without me. She told me she likes how we are now. She is now stuck between me and him. I have told her that I am not out to compete with the guy she is dating. I do not want her back that way. The only thing I have done was to change my self and become happier with who I am. Now it’s just being there for her and patience. We have become real good friends something we did not have before and she has confessed that i have been the only man in her life that she ever really trusts. I never knew that. She does have trust issues but never with me I realized. I used the mystery man mostly to get me through all of this.

  • Jonathan

    I need help in how to approach my wife! I need coaching but don’t know if I can afford it. I don’t want my marriage to end. Please help. Thank you.

  • AndrewC

    As always very helpful!

    My wife has not left but feel we only talk like friends and find this frustrating at times. It reinforces the need for men to focus on themselves and their lives to allow the special lady in their life see where he’s gone and still deeply wants her back in his life and allow attraction to grow again.

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