Every man has faced the choice of moving from an intimate relationship to the “friend zone.” Here’s what one man decided to do about it.
This is my first shot at writing about relationships. However, recent events, coupled with my love for The Good Men Project, have spurred me to try.
This article is about an evolution (or devolution, if you wanna be a negative Ned about it) many relationships go through: the conversion of a serious, intimate, and/or romantic relationship into a platonic friendship. Let’s call them “post-relationship friendships” for clarity’s sake.
We’ve all had girls in our life with whom we desired to share (or continue sharing) more than a friendship. And often, they put us on the receiving end of those searing words: “I think we should just be friends.”
What she means is, “I like you, I even care for you, just not enough to remain intimate with you.” Which, itself, is devastating.
But what it feels like she means is, “You are worthless, and laughably incapable of satisfying my emotional and sexual needs. Our relationship is closer to ‘eunuch/princess’ than ‘boyfriend/girlfriend.’”
Indeed, the “regression” of what seemed like a promising intimate relationship into a platonic friendship is too much for most men to bear. Our instinctive impulse is to opt for the nuclear response, severing all social ties.
I’m indignant to acknowledge my expertise here. Those crushing words have been spoken to me more times than I wish to count. And hearing them never gets easier; the stabbing pain of inadequacy they impart only worsens each time.
Those words were spoken to me last night by a voice I had, over the past five months, otherwise grown to relish. A voice belonging to a kind, intelligent, and alluring girl named Molly (obviously not her real name).
The vexing angst I’m experiencing as a result is my fault, I realize this. I’m not a hopeless romantic; I’m a hopeful romantic. That is to say, I don’t expect to attain some lifelong Disneyesque romance with every pretty girl I meet; but it’s easy for me, when in a relationship, to romanticize and idealize it, and especially my hopes for its future. It’s easy for me to become attached to a person in any context, but especially an intimate one.
Truth be told, it seems impossible not to submit to these follies. I always do. It’s a curse.
The unique feelings Molly and I shared for each other were, from the moment we met, as palpable and insatiable as they were intriguing and exciting, and we didn’t hide them from one another. Despite this, she made it clear early on she wasn’t looking for a boyfriend or a serious relationship for a few reasons, which she explained with no lack of articulation. I fully understood.
However, it was literally the night after she first expressed her desire to avoid entering a serious relationship that she began, rather forwardly, acting like my girlfriend. So I began acting like her boyfriend. And she made me happy. So very happy. Happier than a dung beetle performing scat porn. Effortlessly happy.
(Oh, I should’ve mentioned earlier, I can only talk about about serious stuff for so long before I make some absurd and poorly-timed attempt at vulgar humor. It’s a curse.)
You get the drift. We went out at least two or three times a week, talked on the phone or FaceTime when she or I was out of town, and had a lot of awesome sex (and some not-so-awesome). We acted out the typical boyfriend/girlfriend dynamic, but we never agreed on those cliche, infantile titles.
Her actions in this regard drew me away from her words. I allowed myself to conclude it was inevitable that, in time, she would change her mind about a more serious relationship, despite what she explicitly told me when it began.
I set myself up to be hurt, as I’m so apt to do.
In the end, she was convinced our relationship was careening toward a sharp fork in the road; it either had to become serious, or it had to end. Since she didn’t want a serious relationship, she chose the former.
That’s the gist of what she conveyed to me, at least.
But I’m grounded enough to understand her feelings for me simply faded with time, while mine for her grew more defined. Divergent endearment can never align, two hearts cannot entwine unless both feel inclined. Accepting this is not supine, I should opine; on the contrary, it’s totally fine. The heart that won’t, to acceptance, consign designs itself malign.
… Sorry. Poetic Tourette’s is real.
Regardless, my point is, these things happen. They happen to all humans; sometimes we incorporate compulsive break-up poetry in the middle of our articles, and sometimes we experience the debilitating sting of rejection. I’m not special. And I’m fortunate to live in a time and place where emotional pain is the worst I face (goddammit).
We may hook back up again someday, she even alluded to that, but there’s no way I’m anchoring to such an expectation. That would be the worst way to treat myself. Instead, I’m going out with someone new tonight. I’m focusing forward, because to dwell in the past would constitute self-torture (much like reading my work, you masochist).
Ok, so I told you all that poop to preface the following pee:
The initial feelings toward pursuing a platonic friendship once the intimate or romantic relationship has ended are confusing and antagonizing for any man, especially when it wasn’t his choice to end it.
Given that I subscribe full-heartedly to the general philosophy of The Good Men Project—even before I was lucky enough to discover it—I’ve put a lot of thought into what it means to be a “good man”, and a lot of effort into being what I understand as “good” (as opposed to merely acting that way). I’m still, objectively, a pretty fucked up dude. But at least I try. Nevertheless, this continued pursuit of mine leads me to the following conclusion:
A good man accepts an offer of a “post-relationship friendship”, and pursues said friendship with sincerity.
I have maintained solid friendships with plenty of girls with whom I was once intimate and/or “official”. Not for a second have I regretted doing so. I derive an immense amount of value and joy from these friendships.
While I can’t read the future, I’m sure the same will happen with Molly… I hope the same will happen with Molly. I want it to, despite how challenging and emotional it will be.
Because, like those who came before her, my feelings of affection for her are genuine. Accordingly, the only prospect worse than having the subject of that affection remain in my life as a frequent reminder of what was (and what, perhaps, could’ve been), is the prospect of her not being in my life at all. To feel any different would indicate my sentiments toward her were shallow and insincere all along.
That’s not how I felt last night, I should admit. I felt frustrated and desolate. I hated her.
Negative emotions are a natural response to rejection, of course, and I hustled my way through them. I’m only human. If there is a god, it knows I’m incapable of harboring a single molecule of genuine hate toward her.
A post relationship friendship shouldn’t be accepted and pursued for the mere sake of being a “good man”. On the contrary, the primary reason should be out of good ol’ self-interest. These friendships, when sincere, wrought positive and rewarding benefits (as with any friendship). While we label these relationships as “friendships”, they are, like any friendship, a form of relationship—one that possesses minor differences to normal friendships.
Who better to give you future relationship advice than someone who knows you on such a deep level? Just because the relationship ended, doesn’t mean it never happened. I’m not saying you should call her up sobbing the day after she ends it expecting her to regale you with what went wrong, but after some time, once you’re over her and pursuing your next heartbreak, her input will be invaluable. Discussing the past relationship you shared will prove fun and revealing, albeit maybe a little awkward at first.
This is not to mention that exes make great wing-women. If she’s sincere about being friends, she shouldn’t have any qualms with helping you get laid (this works both ways, mind you). No chick at a bar gives a fuck what your bro thinks of you, but they’re far more trusting of their female peers.
Also, let’s be real, chances are you two will wind up bumpin’ uglies again someday; but if you decide to be a dickhole about her breaking up with you, those chances dwindle real quick. And “ex sex”, as the kids these days call it, is literally fucking awesome… or awesome fucking, I should say. It’s often way better than during the relationship itself; inhibitions tend to go out the window when both parties trust one another, but neither cares much what the other thinks of them. I know it sounds paradoxical, but one gives the best fucks when one gives no fucks at all.
Ok, maybe not the best, but still really good.
But let’s ignore the litany of benefits these “downgraded” relationships provide. Let’s extrapolate the veritable irony in the decision to reject an offer of a “post-relationship friendship”.
So you like her enough to want her as your girlfriend and lover, but somehow not enough to be your friend? You like her enough to yearn for her presence, but only if she assimilates and reciprocates your desires? How does that work?
So, because you have stronger feelings for her than she has for you, logic dictates you erase her from your life? Because her true feelings led her to the logical action of rejecting your proposition or ending your current relationship, you now regard her—the same girl you supposedly loved a moment ago—as a cunt and a slut?
That doesn’t make any sense.
Also—and this is important—fuck you, you narcissistic fuckass. You respond in this abhorrent manner, and yet you have the gall to assert you were rejected because you’re such a “nice guy”? You have the entitled ignorance to conclude that “bitches and whores” like her are too stupid to appreciate “nice guys” like you? Yeah bro, you’re so nice.
Get the fuck over yourself. You are not special, except in terms of your distinctive hypocritical douchebaggery (harsh, maybe, but since plenty of young men follow the Elliot Rodgers/Gamergate school of thought nowadays, I think it needs to be said).
If you don’t feel strong enough about her to keep her in your life after the relationship ends, it’s clear you never felt that strong about her in the first place.
If you love her, you want her to do what she feels is best for herself, even if you’re convinced she’s wrong about what that is. If you love her, you want her to be happy. If you love her, you feel blessed she’s willing to pursue a post-relationship friendship. You feel blessed that she’s willing to remain in your life.
If you can’t handle her pursuing happiness, even when that involves being with another man, you don’t love her. You probably feel intense lust for her. You might even like her a lot. But you don’t love her. The more likely scenario, however, is you’re just envious, resentful, and self-centered. Real talk.
Photo: Flickr/Jean-François Gornet