Sometimes it pays to be in the friend zone: Getting to know her before asking her out could make you seem more attractive, suggests research from the University of Texas at Austin.
In the study, judges rated couples who started dating soon after they met as pretty comparable in attractiveness. But pairs who were friends before they became lovers received more dissimilar scores in the looks department.
In other words, a couple of average-looking people might start dating right away after meeting at a party. But a regular Joe and a total bombshell may need a few months of friendship before they decide to give romance a shot.
Playing the long game allows for other factors, like your killer charm and stellar personality, to shine through and alter someone’s initial superficial judgment of you, says study co-author Dr Lucy Hunt. The more you get to know her, the more she’ll like you—until you actually do become more attractive in her eyes, Hunt says.
The fastest route to the friend zone is putting yourself in her orbit, says couples therapist Melissa Schneider, LMSW. Kayaking with your buddies this weekend? Save a spot in the boat for her.
In the meantime, keep playing the field – you don’t want to tie yourself down waiting on a relationship that may never develop. And according to the study, if it’s been more than 17 months and the mutual attraction hasn’t quite kicked in, it might be time to move on.
A version of this article originally appeared on menshealth.com