Knowing you’re in the friend zone can be a harsh reality. However, escaping the friend zone can be an impossible endeavor. Pulling that task off with your best friend may give you a fighting chance, if you’re lucky.

My fiancé and I, Brittney, had a good thing going several years ago. We were best friends and didn’t even know it. Her bosses were my landlords. They had a neat graphic design firm just a mile down the street from their house where I was renting a room. She’d come over to the house occasionally for dinner or to drop things off. It was the quintessential casual acquaintance relationship.

This girl was a total nerd. After living in Los Angeles for twelve years as a single guy, I knew there weren’t enough of this rare breed around town. I had to move in for a closer look.

We used to get coffee at this unpretentious joint in the quiet suburb of Culver City, the Heart of Screenland (they filmed a portion of Casablanca there). She always wanted to sit outside, especially when it was chilly so she had a reason to wear her comfy pink scarf while we talked. It wasn’t until we started talking about family where the connection really began.

I found myself hanging on her every word. She had a way of elaborating on a topic; her eyes would dart open and lips pucker slightly when a new bolt of thought struck her brain. It was the cutest thing ever. Then I had my own misguided thoughts about Brittney…

…She wasn’t my type. After all, I love girls who treat me poorly and think they’re God’s gift to men. Yup, that really gets my mojo going. So this girl is cool. Maybe I’ll just complicate things unnecessarily or screw everything up and just sleep with her…

After I did the latter, we didn’t really talk for an entire summer. I was back to chasing after the worst possible type of woman for me. Then, at my birthday party that August, I tried to go home with her. Fortunately, she shut me down, drove my drunk a** home and said “bye for now.”

I woke up the next day realizing something was slipping away. How careless I had been in risking a friendship with a woman I…cared about? Sure, I had a female best friend when I was younger, but this one contained so many comprehensive layers I was scared to peel even one of them back. I knew I wanted to maintain our friendship, so I called her to meet me at our spot.

It was drizzling that day. There was absolutely no reason to sit outside, since the tables didn’t have umbrellas, but she was all about it. Hey, if I got a little wet, that was a mild payback for how childish I had been with her the previous summer; avoiding her texts, never being available, etc. She was very forgiving and I was extremely grateful for the second chance.

I had never been so happy to be back in the friend zone on a mutual basis. But, of course, things would be too easy if they stayed that way. It's not where they were left to remain.

My screenwriting career was frigid, at best. The industry was eating me alive. I made the radical decision to start my own business and began selling skin care products from the Dead Sea. It was a decision my inner circle of friends didn’t understand and ultimately punished me for, because I wasn’t playing by their rules anymore.

I ultimately needed to build a sales team to make this new business work. My company advised me to throw special parties at my house where people could fully experience their products. Well, if this wasn’t a sure-fire way to lose friends, I don’t know what else would do it. I was all in…

It was six o'clock, the time my first party was set to begin. I had everything set up, but no one had showed. Finally, Brittney shows with five of her friends. I was more than impressed. We all went through the product line for about an hour and they all loved it. Some even bought some product. When it came time to ask if anybody would join my team, though, I got crickets. After all, these were a bunch of graphic designers, not salespeople.

…What was I thinking? This business will never work. I should just leave LA and head back to Jersey…

And then she raised her hand, “I’ll join you. Sounds fun!” Brittney and I worked that skin care business hard for two years straight together. That expression “partner in crime” took on a new meaning for me. I trusted her implicitly and I didn’t want to go through that hell with anyone else.

Since then, we’ve run a social media agency with three employees that earned us an amazing income and lifestyle. Ever since our first venture together, I’ve never been a bigger proponent of “friends first.” Having that means nothing else matters.

If you’ve been fortunate enough to find that in your life, don’t be dumb and let it go like me. Escaping the friend zone isn’t for the faint of heart, but the journey out of it will be well worth it when you're ready.

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Posted by Ryan Patrick

RYAN PATRICK Dating and Relationship Coach Ryan is a “tough love” dating consultant in the Los Angeles area helping men and women abandon poor dating habits to discover their ideal mate. His writings have been featured on Thought Catalog, The Urban Dater and Elite Daily. Recently, Ryan has shifted his focus to developing his dating blog, Daterboy, where he’s able to globally shift the narrative on modern dating unapologetically.