Are you trying to control the “friend zone”? Is that why you’re stuck there? James Rigdon asks you to think about it.
There was a girl – that’s a pretty common beginning to most stories – and I was crazy about her. I mean, totally-in-love-in-the-eighth-grade-sense, nuts about this girl. And she knew it – I didn’t make it any kind of secret. But, in the typical manner, she didn’t come right out (to me, anyway – I heard enough from her friends) and say that she didn’t want to date me. I stuck it out, figured that I’d get somewhere with her, eventually, if she saw what a good guy I was and all that usual crap.
And we became friends. She’d call me if she wanted to talk or needed a ride, or was just too bored, and I’d talk, or hang out, or we’d go somewhere. We dated other people, but, every now and again, I’d make another attempt. This pattern went on through most of high school – I’d make a try, she’d back away, we’d become friends once more, eventually, and act like it never happened. I felt like she was using me – I kept trying, and she’d take what she could get, but, when I tried to make it past the “friend zone,” she disappeared. It was like being stuck in an infinite loop.
It took me about three years to really see what the problem was.
There’s been a lot of talk about the “friend zone” and what it involves, the differing agendas we all have toward it, and what should and should not be expected of it. Semantics and terminology get crossed over between the genders, so I’m going to attempt a bit of clarification – bear with me.
Ask most single guys if he’d sleep with his female friends, and I’ll bet he’d say yes to at least 75% of them.
Now ask most single women about her guy friends, and watch that number plummet.
Because, and this might be a shocker –
Men and women view friendship differently.
(Al Pacino said it best, in Scent of a Woman- “Are you listenin’ to me, son? I’m givin’ ya pearls here.”)
Now let’s look at the main complaint you’ve probably heard from men and women have about being in the ever-storied “friend zone” – they go at it from exactly opposite directions and come to the same conclusion.
Men in the friend zone most often complain that they do all these things for women to show they care, in the hope that the women will understand and eventually come to reciprocate. And the normal response from women is that most men are just doing these things in the hope of getting somewhere, and that’s not what friendship is about.
To try to define this:
Friend (as most often reflected in the female mind): a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of family or sexual relations.
Friend (male mind’s typical view, corresponding to friends of the female nature) – a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of family or sexual relations… so far.
See the difference there?
It’s not that these men have an agenda with all their female friends, it’s just that they do like to keep the options open, especially if both find themselves single. The problem emerges when the friendship is started as something of a placeholder between first meeting and a relationship. And this is a problem with responsibility on both sides.
Ladies: Most of the time, you know when a guy friend has a thing for you. Come on, it’s not that hard to tell, and a guy who’s willing to put himself in that position isn’t really keeping it a secret, is he? So, knowing that much, you’re faced with a pretty tough decision if it’s not reciprocal – completely cut him off, or throw him an emotional life jacket with excuses like, “I’m not looking for a relationship” or “Let’s just be friends” or something similar which doesn’t fully shut him down and gives you an escape route. 9 for 10, which road will you take?
Exactly. And that’s how you get these guys in the friend zone, who constantly try and do and think, either consciously or sub, thinking there’s a chance and feeling wronged if there isn’t. This rarely ends well.
Guys: You know when a woman isn’t into you, you can tell, because, let’s face it, something inside you knows when you hear those classic-if-overused lines, it’s their way of trying to “let you down easy.” Whether it’s because they don’t want to hurt you outright or they just don’t have the guts to make the hard reject, the result is the same. So your choice is the same – walk away and sever the connection, or try and hang on with the friend routine, thinking, if you keep this up, they’ll eventually realize that you are the guy they’ve always wanted, and they’ll fall for you.
And this nearly always fails.
When I say nearly always, I’m talking 99.999999314159% of the time – that kind of nearly always.
From one who’s been in the friend zone way too many times to enjoy, it’s rare that you’ll ever have the shot at changing that, and, what’s more, if you ever do have or try to take that shot, it’s strong odds on the whole thing blowing up, losing both friend and chance. Or, worse, you could be permanently stuck on the dating bench, waiting your turn to get into the game.
Stop the agenda.
When you stop pursuing, you can take a step back and see – is this person really interested in being a friend, or are they just using you because you’ve made it clear they can? Are you able to be a friend without expecting more to come from it, or are you just holding on to keep trying for something else?
That girl from high school? Yeah, I finally figured it out, and I quit trying to change it, and actually became her friend. I’ve got good memories from the last couple of years we knew one another. I can’t say I ever really gave up hope that something might come of it, but it was no longer my overall focus – she could tell, and we were able to open up to one another without that miscommunication that kept us at a distance. I wasn’t constantly feeling rejected or used, and she didn’t have to keep her guard up. Nothing ever happened between us, and nothing was ever going to, but at least I got a good friendship out of it.
And that’s better than nothing.
Photo: Bjørn Bulthui/Flickr
Find more from James Rigdon on The Good Men Project.