TRACEY COX reveals the secret signs that your male friend is in love with you, just wants to jump into bed, or sees you purely as a pal (and how to make your move)

Most of us think true love or great sex happens with a chance meeting of strangers. Wrong.

Recent research shows most relationships are born out of strong friendships. ‘We were friends first’, is the single most common response people now give when asked how their relationship started.

Most people prefer it that way. Studies show it’s considered far more appealing than locking eyes across a bar or swiping on dating apps.

It’s a scenario being played out in the new Netflix hit series One Day, based on the bestseller of the same name, where a supposedly platonic pair spend years locked in a will they, won’t they relationship.  

Find you’re looking at your best friend differently? You might not be alone, but you are still putting the friendship at risk if you decide to take things further.

One Day's Emma and Dexter are locked in a will they, won't they relationship that spans two decades

One Day’s Emma and Dexter are locked in a will they, won’t they relationship that spans two decades

Make no mistake: the minute you put your feelings out there, you cross the line. There’s no going back.

If they don’t feel the same, there will be an incredibly awkward transition period where you both try to reconcile what just happened. Or it becomes way too cringey and the friendship withers and dies.

Is there a way to make a move and retain your dignity? Here’s my take on some classic situations.


If you’re nodding your head to pretty much all the statements below, your answer is crystal clear. Do not proceed pass go!

• He’s super friendly to your boyfriends and makes a real effort to get to know them. There’s not an ounce of jealousy.

• He never invades your personal space and stands at a respectful distance.

• He introduces you to others very clearly as his friend.

• You’ve known him for years and he’s never once given a sign he’d like more. Even shy people give something away.

• He never flirts with you – and doesn’t flirt back if you attempt to.

• He looks uncomfortable when you compliment him. If he was keen, he’d be lapping them up and returning the favour.

• He asks your advice about girls he wants to ask out.

• He confides how much he likes/loves his girlfriend or reveals a major crush on someone else.

• You only ever hang out in groups. If he was interested in more, he’d make sure you were alone now and then.

• He’s interested in your attractive friends or eyes up your sister.

• He treats you like one of the guys. If he treats you the same as his male friends, he doesn’t see you as a potential partner.

• He never texts first. The initial text is always sent by you.

• He makes no effort with his appearance around you. The guy who’s proud of his six-pack but doesn’t try to flaunt it around you is not interested in getting naked.


“There’s never been anything other than friendship between me and my best male friend but he’s very flirtatious. He makes lots of comments about how sexy I look, and I see him checking me out when he thinks I’m not looking. Do you think he’s sexually attracted to me?”

Quite probably, yes! Saying you look great is one thing, saying you look sexy quite another. It’s one step further than most friends will go, if they do have you firmly in that basket. Doing an appreciative body scan when they think you aren’t watching is another definite giveaway.

Friends who’d like to become friends-with-benefits will find any excuse to touch you. It might be playful, but they never miss the opportunity. Also watch for prolonged eye contact and face searching: their eyes will roam your face if you’re in close contact to see if you’re also having lusty thoughts.

If the sexual chemistry between you is sizzling, other friends might pick up on it and make ‘get a room’ comments (totally different from them saying they have a crush on you, by the way).


Look closer for the signals his body is subconsciously sending.

Take a good look when he next flirts with you. If he’s sexually attracted, his pupils will be large and dilated when he’s close to your face; his lips will look red and swollen. He might spread his legs while sitting opposite you (hopefully dressed!), to give what’s called a ‘crotch display’. He’s subconsciously letting you have a good luck at what’s on offer.

Watch for the ‘flirting triangle’: Eye movement studies show we look at different parts of other people’s faces depending on the situation and level of attractiveness. When looking at strangers, we make a small triangle by moving our eyes from eye to eye, dipping them as they move across the bridge of the nose. The more attracted we are to someone, the bigger the triangle becomes, dropping below the mouth to include the breasts and even lower to include the genitals. Eye to eye contact becomes fast, furious, and constant, seconded by long periods spent staring at the mouth. (No prizes for guessing why.)


Think before you pounce. Motive is everything here. When friends become lovers, it’s often because one of you is wanting a relationship rather than just sex. Be clear on what you want before taking it any further. Don’t sleep with them if you know they’re secretly in love with you and there is no chance you’ll ever feel the same.

Change what you do together. If you normally walk around the park or work out together, go for a drink. Organise something that requires a group of you to stay overnight and make sure you or he don’t share a room (unless it’s together!). Dress differently. Ditch the jeans and sweatshirt for a sexy dress. Old school advice but there’s a reason they always include that scene where the woman emerges in the slinky dress in rom-coms. It makes him look at you differently.

The British sex and relationship expert (pictured) said: 'Most of us think true love or great sex happens with a chance meeting of strangers. Wrong.'

The British sex and relationship expert (pictured) said: ‘Most of us think true love or great sex happens with a chance meeting of strangers. Wrong.’

Grab him and kiss him. Like properly kiss him: hard and sexily. If he responds, that’s all you need to do, he’ll take the lead from there. If he’s not a close friend and you aren’t too concerned about the effect on the friendship, let nature take its course. But if you are great mates, it’s wise to let them know exactly what’s on offer before you get naked. A simple, ‘I’ve wanted to be friends-with-benefits’ for ages. What do you think? Shall we friends who have sex now and then?’. If they’re likely to misinterpret your advance as a declaration of love, this will let them know exactly what you’re up for. If you want more, say, ‘Just so you know, it’s not just your body I’m interested in’.


‘I’ve been in love with my best friend for about a year. I think it’s reciprocal but neither of us are making a move. Is there a way of doing it and not looking like an idiot if I’m wrong?

Yes – but first, let’s make sure you’re reading the situation correctly. People aren’t very good at hiding their feelings. When we’ve fallen for someone, we flirt, smile broadly, touch, look, compliment. Their body will point towards you, they’ll find it hard to stop looking at you and have to wrench their gaze away. (One exception: if he’s shy, he’ll avert his eyes for fear of you guessing his true feelings.)

If it’s obvious, chances are someone else has noticed. Do other people ask if you’re dating or see a connection? Not your friends (they’re biased and you’ve probably told them you want more) but his friends, casual acquaintances (parents – yours, theirs or of other friends – are particular astute about things like this). It’s a green light if your friends tell you he talks about you all the time. Another key sign: you spend a lot of time together – especially if it’s just the two of you and you’ve both intentionally orchestrated it that way.


Look beyond the obvious…

He doesn’t like talking about your boyfriends or doesn’t think they are good enough for you. If he looks unhappy or annoyed when you turn up with a new love interest, pay attention. If he constantly undermines a love interest, pointing out their bad points, could be he wants you for himself.

He’ll act nervous about you. He’ll stumble over his words, blush if he does something silly, run his hands through his hair, rip the serviette into shreds. Even confident people get twitchy if they’re out of their comfort zone.

He’ll tease you. Playful teasing is a very male way of showing interest: it’s how men show affection to each other.

He goes out of his way to help you. You need help moving house, fixing something, your phone’s not working properly? If he jumps to attention every time, he’s letting you know you can count on him: he wants you to feel special.

He remembers details about you. He’ll recall something you said six months ago that you’ve long forgotten. He notices if you change your appearance, your new phone case. He’s paying attention because he’s into you.

He performs ‘ownership’ gestures – like lending you his coat or sweater. Few guys would be happy to return from the bar to find their girlfriend’s dress covered by another guy’s jacket. It’s a protective, sexy gesture that says ‘what’s mine is yours’; something that’s been close to his skin is now close to yours. It smelled of him to begin with; it’ll smell of you when you return it.

Tracey said: 'Find you’re looking at your best friend differently? You might not be alone, but you are still putting the friendship at risk if you decide to take things further' (stock photo)

Tracey said: ‘Find you’re looking at your best friend differently? You might not be alone, but you are still putting the friendship at risk if you decide to take things further’ (stock photo)


You’ve got a lot to lose here. Which is why you need to ditch those romantic daydreams for a minute and…

Think logically. You know each other well, so should have a good idea of what they’re about. Ask yourself: Are they likely to reciprocate my feelings (have you seen real signs of attraction or is it wishful thinking?). Do other people (you think have good judgement) agree there’s a chance they’ll feel the same way? Are you both single? Are you both looking for the same kind of relationship? Do you have a lot in common and want the same things from life? Finally, and most crucially: how will I feel if they don’t feel the same way? Hurt, embarrassed, humiliated – it’s not pleasant being rejected. Even if they’re happy to continue the friendship, you might find it excruciatingly awkward. Are you willing to risk the friendship to let them know how you really feel?

That’s a yes to all those questions? The next thing to do is…

Step up the flirting. This one only works if you already kiss each other goodbye, albeit on the cheeks. The next time you say goodbye, hold his hand and pull him close, then give his hand a squeeze as you’re kissing him. Plant a kiss, dead centre, on the lips, making it last between two and three seconds. Pull back slightly, keeping your face close to theirs, then kiss them again very quickly (but hard). Pull back, look them straight in the eye, squeeze their hand, and let go.

If they’re interested, it’ll give them a green light. If they’re not, it’ll seem like an overly affectionate goodbye.

It’s OK if they look a bit stunned: they’re digesting the subliminal (or not, depending on how into it you were) message you’ve just sent. Check out their pupil size (the bigger, the better). Do they look flushed and red and put a hand to their mouth or bite their lips? (All are good signs.)

If they quickly meet your eyes, they’re checking they’ve read the situation correctly. You’ve created a moment when anything seems possible. Sit back and see what happens next.

Throw it out there – subtly. ‘My Mum asked me if we were dating last night. I told her no, but I wonder what made her say that?’. Smile cheekily and look directly into their eyes. If it’s never occurred to them or the idea doesn’t appeal, they’ll immediately come back with, ‘God, I have no idea. That’s just weird!’. If they are, they’ll smile back and say, ‘I don’t know. What do you think?’.

Another great way to put your feelings out there without risking too much: Say, ‘Do you know, I used to have a big crush on you’. If they’re not interested, it sounds like something you did feel, not how you feel now. But if they are, it gives them a green light to admit they did too – and still do.

Once you’ve planted the seed, back off and give them time to think about it. You’ve flashed the green light; let’s see if they move forward.

Ask a mutual good friend you trust to make discreet enquiries. ‘Danni is so pretty, don’t you think? I’ve often thought you two would make such a great couple. Have you ever thought about her that way?’. Sometimes, love remains unrequited because it simply hasn’t occurred to the other person to view them differently.

What absolutely DOESN’T work is mutual friends constantly gossiping about how great you’d be together and trying to force things. He’s not going to become your boyfriend just because everyone else thinks he should. If anything, it’ll make him back off, not move forward.

Tried a few of these tricks and still nothing?

Know when to give up. I had a friend (years ago), who used to turn me into a quivering heap just looking at him. We were great mates, so I knew he was a self-confessed commitment phobe. ‘But that wouldn’t apply to me, though, would it?’, I’d kid myself. He constantly flirted with me and the idea of a relationship and played emotional yo-yo for months.

He never stopped, come to think of it. The difference was, I didn’t notice anymore because I put him firmly in the ‘friend’ basket and left him there.

Listen to Tracey’s podcast. SexTok with Tracey and Kelsey, at where you can also submit a question to be answered.

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