There's Only One Way Out of the Friend Zone

Jessica Wildfire

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Photo by Katy Allison

Just in case you’re wondering, the friend zone doesn’t exist. It never did. And yet, the idea still prowls around out there.

You can thank prime-time television for that. Look at the most popular shows and movies. A nerd lands a beautiful airhead, just by being there. He’s so in love with the airhead, he passes up all kinds of opportunities with other cute girls he has more in common with.

We love the story, because it’s so unexpected.

It doesn’t matter how much you love someone.

Look, beautiful airheads do not fall in love with nerds just because they hang around long enough.

The friend zone is a Pandora’s box of false hope. It leads to toxic fantasies like the idea that you can love someone into submission. In reality, it doesn’t matter how hard you love — if they don’t love you back.

Leonard shouldn’t wind up with Penny. But Amy should definitely wind up with Sheldon. Nerd + nerder = bliss. And if you pay attention to a show like Big Bang, they’re the real love story.

Lots of guys (and girls) still think they’ve been unfairly assigned to friend duty when they could be so much more… If they’d only see, right? But that’s not really what happens. If you don’t believe me, then please (by all means) keep chasing your Penny…

How “the friend zone” actually works.

So a guy meets a girl. Instead of asking her out, he hides his motives and tries to ingratiate himself. He acts like a friend.

So she treats him like one.

The friend zone isn’t full of nice guys who are just misunderstood. It’s a self-imposed penalty box for anyone who doesn’t know how to pursue a healthy relationship with another sex or gender.

The guy doesn’t want to remain just a friend. But he doesn’t know what to do next. And then he gets sulky about it — because he thinks being around and available should be enough. Even so, he won’t say anything to her because he’s still hoping she’ll sleep with him. Like maybe if he helps her put together one more piece of furniture.

Or if he comforts her during one more breakup…

Guys put themselves in the friend zone.

The guy keeps pining after romance, performing acts of service you might expect from a friend — helping her move, hanging out with her, maybe even unclogging her sink, or plunging her toilet.

Meanwhile, she has no idea what’s going on.

A semi-mature adult lives in a world where she assumes everyone is capable of asking for what they want.

Anyone who subscribes to the friend zone blames the woman for putting the guy there. But she doesn’t put him anywhere.

He puts himself in the friend zone… by actively pursuing her friendship, when that’s not what he really wants.

A relationship takes a pinch of backbone.

Anyone who finds themselves in the friend zone needs to acknowledge how they got there… by their own doing.

You put yourself in the friend zone because you’re terrified of rejection. You pose as a friend, and passively wait for something to happen. But rejection is a natural part of the dating cycle.
If you want a yes, you have to risk a no.

Stop blaming the girl. Also, try this:

  1. Acknowledge your feelings.
  2. Stop pretending to be a friend.
  3. If you want something more, say so.
  4. Respect her answer.
  5. Respect yourself.
  6. Either be a friend, or don’t.

You can’t guilt someone into a date, at least not a good one. You don’t have to keep hanging out with a girl you have a crush on if she doesn’t like you back, just to prove you’re not a jerk.

You’re allowed to bail on a crush.

Look, it’s painful to spend time with someone who turns you on just by blinking, when they don’t see you the same way. Most people can’t — and shouldn’t — spend their free time in the company of someone they want but can’t have. That’s textbook self-torture.

But it’s not her fault. Don’t blame her. This is your jam, and you’re the one who needs to let go and move on.

If she changes her mind, she’ll let you know.

The worst thing you can do…

is hide your feelings from someone. Maybe you’re scared. You say you don’t want to ruin the friendship. But consider this:

You don’t have a friendship.
What you have is the pretense of one. You’re being dishonest, or maybe she is, or you both are. You’re performing one set of behaviors and expecting something else from it.

The only way to have a real friendship with someone, regardless of gender, is to be honest with them.

Yeah, some girls manipulate men.

It’s not that hard to see what’s going on. One of my college friends even bragged about “buttering up” guys before asking them for a favor. If she needed help moving, or just fixing a floor lamp, she would go to dinner with a friend a couple of times.

She would wait a day. And then she would call them up and ask for the favor. After, she would ghost them.

You know what happened to this girl?

She ran out of friends. Because she didn’t just treat guys this way, she did the same thing to girls. And we all eventually got sick of it. We found other, better friends. So can you.

Some girls don’t have their shit together.

Here’s a pretty typical scenario: A meek guy meets a hot girl who likes to party. She loves attention.

She’ll let you feel her up on the dance floor…

But not the bedroom.

She doesn’t know what she wants yet. She’s trying to figure that out. Surprise — there’s a lot of guys like this, too.

It doesn’t make her evil, just immature.

Just because she looks great in boots, knows how to dance, and can flirt really well — that doesn’t mean she’s winning at life. Same goes for a lot of guys. Let them have each other.

There’s nothing wrong with this. You just need to know how to spot it, and understand that’s not what you want. Plenty of people want to drink, dance, and grope away their 20s.

If this isn’t what you’re after, then there’s no sense pretending, or even hanging around for a haute mess to grow up.

Go live your life.

Romance can blossom from a friendship.

Anyone who talks about the friend zone doesn’t understand adult relationships. Mature guys and girls hang out all the time. They do it in groups, or just the two of them.

Sometimes, two friends can fall in love.

A guy and a girl can date. They can break up and become friends for a while. They can start dating again. It happens all the time. Sure, it can get weird sometimes. But life is that — it’s WEIRD.
If you don’t feel weird as hell once a week, you’re not living.

A guy and a girl can also just be friends forever. They might just stay that way. Same goes for anyone who feels attracted to someone else. They might even date and then break up, and get married to someone else.

Sometimes, you break up with someone and you never want to see them again. Other times, you hang out.

You become lifelong friends.

Friendship can blossom from romance.

Some people might think it’s weird for a guy who had his tongue inside my mouth ten years ago to meet my daughter every Christmas. They might think it’s weird for him to be in a Facebook group with my partner. They might think it’s weird for me to think of him as a cousin.

Some people might think it’s weird for an ex-girlfriend or boyfriend to match-make you with your future spouse.

But you know, it’s really not.

Some of the coolest people I know started out as somewhat random hookups. Yes, I still find them attractive.

You want a real test of friendship? Look past someone’s extremely pleasing exterior to the person inside. If you want them in your life, then get your hormones under control.

Also, show some awareness about how your partner might feel about all this. Include them in the friendship.

And be honest with everyone, including yourself.

Girls are more direct than you think.

The friend zone assumes women are dumb and blind. These days, a girl shows a guy she likes him pretty quick. Eye contact. Body language. And so on. Confused? Head over to a bookstore.

There’s lot of guides out there on how to read body language in general. It’s not black magic. Humans have bodies. We use them to communicate, and especially to season our words.

If a girl isn’t sure where a relationship is headed, she’ll ask. She’ll say it just like that. “Where is this going?”

A confident girl will even ask a guy on a date

She’ll offer her phone number. She’ll initiate physical touch.

You can do the same thing. You don’t have to get down on one knee or stand outside her window with a boombox.

Just can just say, “Do you want to go on a date?” You can just reach for her hand on a walk. You can start to lean into a kiss. Nobody’s going to slap you with a #MeToo for trying to hold a girl’s hand. And if she doesn’t want to hold your hand, it probably means she’s not up for sex.

Life isn’t a romantic comedy.

Most healthy relationships would make terrible movies. Think about it. A guy asks a girl out. So they go out. They have a good time. They have sex. They keep doing that.

Sometimes they have arguments, but they work on their communication skills and learn how to forgive each other.

Eventually they move in. Maybe they get married and have a kid.

The end.

Would you watch that? Here’s the thing — that’s what you want in your real life. The friend zone works great as a plot device in movies. Sure, it’s probably happened a few times. But it’s not normal.

Because it shouldn’t be…

The friend zone is a lie.

It’s the most dangerous kind — the kind that keeps you from exploring all the different kinds of relationships you can have.

Believe this:

There’s someone out there for you.
Maybe it’s not the one you’re chasing right now.
A friend can turn into a lover.
A lover can turn into a friend.
They can also turn into a ghost.

Don’t waste your life wondering which is which. Find out. The best thing you can do for yourself is figure out how each person you know actually fits into your life, and who doesn’t belong.

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