As someone who believes that friendships between people of the preferred sex are possible and have the potential of being functional and authentic, I still recognize the validity of the term 'friend zone.' I understand that the term refers to a wide range of scenarios- some involving a glimmer of hope of romance and some boasting a pure case of unrequited attraction.
Confusion is frustrating. Clarity makes things a lot easier to process, but often times, clarity requires a confession. Not a lot of people are willing to confess their feelings; its a threat to the friendship. Maybe admitting these longing feelings will open up a world of suppressed romance between the two of you, or maybe it will make the friendship a bit too awkward to sustain.
So if you are confused, please refer to this explanation of the most common reason you're in the friend zone. And maybe, just maybe, you will find an escape route from the slew of strong and frustrating feelings you are all too familiar with.
And that reason is.....
No Mutual Sexual Attraction
Hey, I know it hurts to consider or admit, but maybe this person just isn't sexually attracted to you. Maybe you two share other kinds of attractions, and that's what made you such great friends. Emotional and mention attraction and a compatible or complementary sense of humor or lifestyle may link you two together, but if mutual sexual attraction isn't there, neither is the potential for a successful relationship.
A successful romantic relationship needs sexual attraction. That physical attraction opens up a world of intimacy only shared between lovers- it separates romance from friendship. Of course, a successful relationship involves friendship, but a successful friendship does not need physical intimacy.
So, how do you tell?
Honestly, ask a mutual friend to help you out. If you're that stuck on this person, chances are that your analysis of their body language and subtle responses to you will be slightly skewed.
If that isn't an option, make sure you don't give yourself the benefit of the doubt when observing their behavior. I will use 2 gross categories of describing friendly contact- we have our cuddlers and our non-cuddlers.
If your friend is a cuddler, they will usually be hugging you or maintaining some form of physical contact- like piggy back rides or other relatively cute things. You might be their giant teddy bear, but that doesn't mean they are physically attracted to you. They might just be physically comfortable around you. With cuddlers, its hard to tell, so I honestly advise that you ask a friend or ask them. Maybe the question could be "Do you think I am sexually attractive?" in the form of asking for reassurance in regards to the general dating idea. Not if that particular person finds you sexually attractive, but if they think you are generally sexually attractive. Listen carefully to their answer. If it's along the lines of "I'm sure you'll find a girl/boy/man/woman who is totally into you that way", chances are, they are not one of them. If their answer is more like "Don't worry, you're pretty sexy," (in a non-sarcastic tone), then maybe you can ask them to be honest and tell you whether they are or aren't attracted to you that way. Make sure you don't become too serious, just ask out of curiosity, no pressure.
If your friend is a non-cuddler, then most likely the limits of physical contact between you fall in line with quick hugs and maybe elbow jabs. If you try to hug them for longer than 1.5 seconds, they will usually feel like a board or pat you on the back in a somewhat patronizing manner. Accidentally touch their hand, and they will quickly increase the distance between you. It sucks to hear this, but maybe your non-cuddler friend is grossed out by any sexual thoughts of you and them. Mention yourself naked jokingly, and they might press their mouth into a hard line and nod silently. Just let this one go. Any romantic advances will likely result in an awkward for you- relieving for them hiatus in your friendship that will begin to pick up again when they deny your attraction for them ever existed.
If the sexual attraction is there, and you two are great friends, then most likely, the more time you spend together, the more the attraction will grow. This means longer hugs goodbye, longer eye contact, more playfulness, increased physical contact, etc. Don't confuse this with physical comfort as in the case of the serial cuddler. If the contact is sexual in nature, both of you will feel the tension. It won't feel like a 5 year old affectionately clinging onto their sibling for fun and safety. It's confusing, so ask! With strong feelings comes a stronger potential of muddying observations and seeing what really is.
Unrequited love needs clarity for closure. Ask or be brutally honest. Maybe ask someone close to you to watch you two together and offer a 2nd opinion.
Also, is it torturing you to keep falling for someone who doesn't want you? Don't worry, you can still be friends. Just let go of the idea and the hopes. Maybe take a break, meet someone else. You might want to be their everything, and it sucks if they don't want you to. Let go of the desire, don't take it so seriously. True friendship is rare, remember that. You're probably in love because the two of you get along really well, you two share something special, but that something special just doesn't involve the mutual need to rip your clothes off each other. That's okay, the world is big and you will find someone who does.
Have faith and take it easy.