The Friend Zone. What exactly is it? Can one party truly be oblivious to it, or is it just “all in the mind” of the other? What steps can be taken to avoid being “friend zoned” in the first place? Why is there a problem being “friend zoned”, anyway?
Today, I’m going to dissect this phenomena and attempt to air it out for discussion.
What exactly IS the friend zone?
We’ve all heard the stories; a guy finds a girl he likes and attempts to woo her with numerous favors, dinners, help with home repairs, unconditional emotional support and so on. (Of course, if she is a true friend, she’ll provide the same.)
After weeks, months, maybe even years of this, he finally gets up the courage to ask her out.
At this point, the girl usually says “But you’re like a brother to me” or “No, I don’t want to ruin our friendship”. There is a chance that this guy and girl will remain “just friends”, or even become lovers eventually, but more often than not the guy will sever ties out of hurt and frustration…and the girl will be left wondering why one of her seemingly best friends is gone and/or had to ruin their relationship by thinking about sex.
Or so the story goes for many young men. Of course, there are many men who are perfectly capable of being friends with women without expecting anything more. And women can certainly be “friend zoned” too, though it happens less often. Strangely, I don’t hear about this happening in the gay/lesbian/trans community…though this could be due to me not reading the right forums or knowing any single/non-committed homosexual or trans people. If it does happen, please let me know. Education is a good thing, and always welcomed here!
Same situation, Two views
One thing that shows up often on various relationship sites is the idea that women purposefully friend zone their male friends. While a few men tend to spin this as yet another way that “all women are consciously evil and manipulative”, the majority seem to believe that women may not fully realize the harm they are causing by perpetuating these friendships. In essence, we can break the relationship down like this;
Guy: This woman is attractive, nice, and pretty friendly. She always complains about her boyfriend to me, lets me buy her gifts, talks to me all the time, and asks me for favors…which I do gladly. It seems like she really likes me! So why won’t she date me, or at least have sex with me? Crap, I’ve been Friend Zoned!
Girl: This man I know is so nice! He helps me whenever I need it, always provides a listening ear, and insists on treating me to dinner. He’s always kind to me, and laughs at all my jokes. I really like him, he’s a fantastic friend. But now he’s acting weird…he even asked me out last week! I already have a boyfriend though, and even if I didn’t, I wouldn’t want to add sex or intimacy to our relationship. It would be so uncomfortable!
Two very different views, right?
The woman truly does like this man, but only as a friend. She doesn’t see his gift-giving or favors as anything special. After all, she treats him to dinner sometimes, helped him study for his college exams, watched his dog when he went on vacation…things she does for ALL her friends, regardless of what sex they are. She talks to all her friends about her boyfriend too, since it helps blow off steam when they fight. In other words, she doesn’t treat the man any different than her female friends.
On the other hand, the man feels that by being an overly nice guy that it will automatically earn him love/sex from the woman. He’s treating the relationship like a vending machine…if he puts in the proper amount of money, he is owed a soda. This may work for machines, but it usually doesn’t work for humans. Unfortunately for the man, being told that “acting like *this* will get you laid” is a horrible piece of advice. It doesn’t take individual preferences into account, and so can’t be expected to work the way he wants…at least with every woman. Again, preferences.
The important thing to remember is that neither of these people are really at fault. Relationships are difficult to navigate sometimes, even if they are “just” friendships. While the above scenario is incredibly generalized, it echoes what some guys (and girls) go through. That someone has experienced this does NOT make them less of a person, nor does it reflect badly on the being of their affections. It is a simple miscommunication…with the unfortunate addition of strong emotions that make it seem worse than it should.
So how do I avoid it?
The biggest question in many guy’s minds is just this: How do I *not* get Friend Zoned in the first place. While I have no magic words or special gestures that can prevent this from ever happening, I have some suggestions that should help.
1. If you find someone attractive and pleasant to be around, chances are you’ll start to develop feelings for them. Some are able to just naturally stay platonic…their friend happens to be of the opposite sex, and that’s cool. There may be some slight sexual tension every once in a while, but it’s easy to laugh off. If you are a romantic or highly sexual, be aware that you are this way. If you notice deeper feelings when your guy friend has his shirt off at the beach, or your girl friend sits close to you on the couch, be conscious of those feelings and how you allow them to affect you.
2. If you use a dating site, and blatantly specify that you are looking for a serious relationship, do NOT go after members who seem wishy-washy or say they are only looking for friends. I don’t need a crystal ball to see that these are two completely separate starting points, with little chance of meeting in the middle.
Should you go out with someone who’s profile said they wanted a long-term relationship but you find out over dinner that they think you’ll “make a good friend”, don’t make further plans with them…unless you ALSO just want to be friends. Finish the meal, stay polite and don’t get too upset, but also don’t waste time trying to convince her/him that they should like you MORE than as a friend.
3. Remember that people of either sex are individuals, and they are more than just their genitals. If you are a man, you have a penis and that is good. If you are female, you have a vagina and that is good.* But surely you would prefer to be appreciated for your personality, achievements and intelligence instead of just your sexual abilities, right?
Good. Now remember that the woman/man you are lusting after wants the SAME THING. If you are starting a friendship with them only because you may one day get into their pants and/or date them…you’re doing it wrong. Actions like this will only lead to hurt, confusion, jealousy, frustration, etc. You owe it to yourself to NOT go through that.
4. Are you friends with someone who seems to think it’s fine to have you pet-sit, change their tires, cook them lunch, pay for the movies and popcorn, drive them to the comic store, sit with them at the dentist, and not do a damn thing in return? Well, either you made friends with Sheldon from Big Bang Theory…or you know a Leech. These are similar to Fair-Weather Friends, except they are fantastic at sticking around for long periods of time. You are always there for them, but they never return the favor. Do yourself one and have an honest discussion with them about how one-sided your “friendship” is.
If they refuse to alter their behavior, may I suggest either a) getting new friends or b) mailing the “friend” an invoice at the end of each week for Services Rendered.
5. Be 100% honest with your feelings and motivations. Think about what you really want from this relationship. Are you fine with being friends, or would that hurt you? Are you willing to spend time, money and emotion on someone who will *only* give you the same in return? If you never have sex with this person, will you consider your relationship a waste? Look inside to see what it is YOU need and want. Don’t do anything rash until you have it figured out.
Is it possible your feelings will change over time?
Is it conceivable that your emotional maturity will alter?
Is our species complicated when it comes to these things, and honestly should have come with some easy to understand manual or how-to guide?
But guess what? We didn’t. Each and every one of us is improvising as we go along and can take advice as much as we see fit…but eventually the real decisions are all solo. My advice to you, dear reader? Stay smart, stay safe, and stay sane when it comes to relationships.
Thanks for reading, and as always feel free to leave comments so long as they are not corrosive or hurtful.
*Intersexed or trans is different, but still good. 🙂