Should we avoid the dreaded “Friend Zone” at all costs?
“There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy, and the tired.” -F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
It all started around three years ago when I was at a sporting event with good friends. I didn’t have VIP seats to watch the game, but one person passed me his ticket so I could watch with the group. I ended up sitting next to a really attractive guy and we had great banter throughout the afternoon. I recall not wanting to leave, but had another commitment to attend. I also had a boyfriend. Turns out the guy liked playing word games, as do I, so we traded phone numbers and started playing Words With Friends.
For a few years, we played Words With Friends and rarely talked. When we checked in, we’d occasionally text about exercise or some other benign topic. In that period, I lived a lot of life, replete with ups and downs and a few break ups with my now ex-boyfriend. He also traveled for work and moved a few times.
Two years after originally meeting, he and I decided to meet at a coffee shop and play Scrabble. It was the perfect nerd date! We had a really good time, or so I thought, and connected, laughed, and impressed each other with long words. He left the date and promptly told a close friend that it went well, but thought I wanted to be “friends.”
I had been super excited to meet him one-on-one, two years after originally hanging out at the sporting event. I remember being nervous prior to seeing him, and then being pleasantly surprised at how handsome he was. During our Scrabble date, he impressed me with his humbleness and intelligence. At the end of the date, my nervousness resumed, and I’ve since learned that I totally gave off the friend vibe.
As the original Co-Founder of the Wing Girl Method and as an experienced dater, I have plenty of experience teaching men to avoid the friend zone at all costs. But now I’m realizing that the friend zone can happen inadvertently by women. You see, women don’t want to be seen as desperate, needy, or too pushy, so often back off. Our backing off can be read by men as stand-offish or disinterested. For me, that was not the case at all. Rather, I wanted to be pursued (and I actually liked him), but didn’t know how to channel my energy
So, then there’s the topic of the dreadful “Friend Zone.” Often described as a situation in which a friendship exists between two people, one of whom has an unreciprocated romantic or sexual interest in the other. In my years of working with clients, anyone who dates has brought up this topic. For the person who lusts after the other, it’s an awful feeling. I know I’ve had unrequited love before. Or situations in which I’ve wanted a relationship with someone and he hasn’t felt the same. There are so many questions I ask myself in these scenarios, like what am I doing wrong? Why doesn’t he like me in the same way? I’ve definitely beaten myself up over this and have questioned myself and my own judgment.Unrequited love is a terrible feeling, one that I don’t wish to ever repeat. I have empathy for all the people out there who have heart-wrenching crushes on someone without reciprocation.
Despite my empathy, I also know that not every match is going to “work out” or lead to a relationship. In fact, that crazy thing called chemistry matters a lot and it just can’t be ignored. Chemistry is that pheromone, that X-Factor, the feeling of getting someone and being known and seen without over-explaining yourself. Chemistry doesn’t happen all the time or with everyone. So, when it does happen, I think it’s crucial to capitalize on the moment.
Now, this is where the story gets interesting. He and I reconnected somehow and started texting in a very innocuous way. Our messages became more frequent and a little more personal. And then he revealed that he had developed feelings for me. And I reciprocated the same feelings of wanting to get to know him better.We finally agreed to have a date. I felt a sense of nervousness and excitement as our date approached. I could not help but wonder if this was really happening. I kept thinking he’d flake. I’d had a series of disappointing experiences in the last few years which made me skeptical of dating new people, much less a friend. I have never dated a friend for fear that our friendship would suffer, as would our romantic connection. It seemed counter-intuitive to go out with someone whom I knew a little bit. And yet, I’d heard romantic stories of couples who had known each other for years as friends first and finally changed their relationships status when they opened up to the possibility of love.
Our date went great! We felt comfortable with each other and had the same sense of humor, which led to hysterical laughing and learning about the many commonalities we shared. We hung out a few more times and I realized he was out of the friend zone. No longer did I see him as a buddy, but as a potential partner.
I learned that he’s an incredible person and I’m really happy getting to know him.
*** For all the people who feel friend zoned now, my suggestion is to be direct about how you feel. I’d never have gone out with him if he hadn’t spoken up about his feelings for me. And for all of you who are in the vortex of the friend zone and nothing is changing, move on!
This originally appeared on afterdefeat
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Photo: Jonathan Potter