I start this with a confession: I used to be one of those young men who believed in this concept and all of its awful, ugly, self-pitying glory. My main reason for writing this is to help other young men (and women, although this is a primarily male issue) of a similar mindset avoid the same fate and grow as mature and intelligent people. As well, I want to touch on some other, more nuanced things about the so-called ‘friendzone’ that many others tend to ignore.
Although I’ll be opinionated, honest and frank as I always am, I will also tend to avoid the wholesale vilification of Nice Guys that other articles seem to joyfully revel in. I’ll call out the shitty behaviour, but keep the dignity of the person in tact. I believe this is important because I don’t think most Nice Guys intend to be the way they are consciously. Most Nice Guys think they are doing the right thing for the right reasons and are genuinely confused and hurt by the results and the viscerally negative reaction they get. Very few of them are consciously manipulating ‘being nice’ to get a woman into bed. They are ‘being nice’ because that is what society has taught them to do if you want to be sexually active in a world where you lack money, social grace and good looks. I’m not saying it’s right. I’m saying these guys have been following a script that has been written out for them since they were little boys and are very understandably hurt and confused and angry when what they’ve been taught their entire lives has suddenly turned out to be one gigantic, steaming pile of bullshit.
2. Defining the Friendzone
So what is this friendzone you speak of?
This question actually has a few different answers, depending on circumstance. In my opinion, there are three main situations that get classified as the ‘friendzone’ in online forums. There may be more, but for the sake of brevity, let’s just focus on these three situations for the time being:
Andy is attracted to Beth. Beth likes Andy, but is not attracted to him and just wants to be friends with Andy. Andy accepts this arrangement (reluctantly), hoping that Beth will come around at a later time and is, therefore, in Beth’s ‘friendzone’.
This is by far the most common type of ‘friendzone’ scenario. Person A has feelings for Person B, and Person B does not reciprocate those feelings. I can’t think of a single person in my entire life who has not had this feeling of unrequited love at some point in their lives. Some more than others, obviously, but everyone has at least had a taste of it.
The problem comes when Person A refuses to confront their feelings and hang on to a friendship in the hopes that Person B will someday change their mind. It is this period of limbo that is labelled the ‘friendzone’, almost always by the rejected.
Why the negative connotation?
Here is how things break down. You have a right to ask anyone you want out (leaving aside the social taboo of asking someone out who is ‘attached’ for a second). That person has the right to either accept or refuse your offer, for any reason (or no reason at all). Whether or not you think it’s right or wrong, fair or unfair, you have to be mature and accept their decision as it stands.
Now you have a few different options on how to move on. You can leave the friendship behind if just friendship isn’t something you want. It is probably a good idea that you be upfront and honest with the person you are attracted to that this is what you are doing; not in a punitive way (oh yeah? YOU won’t date ME?! Well I won’t be friends with YOU!) but to clear the air and provide a sense of closure, and leaving open the possibility of being friends down the road open.
You can ‘take a break’, take some time away to emotionally regroup yourself so you can return to the friendship at a later time with a clearer head.
Or you can remain friends. But you have to be absolutely clear with yourself – if you remain friends with this person, YOU CAN’T RESENT THEM for just wanting to be friends with you, nor dating other people. If this is the option you choose, you have to be happy with that arrangement and ultimately embrace it. Otherwise it’ll be better off for both of you if you just walk away.
When someone complains that they are being friendzoned in this scenario, they are essentially saying they don’t want to deal with reality, make a decision and move forward. So instead they construct this little bed in limbo to lie in and hope everything else around them works out in their favour, ideally that their friend comes around and sees what a great person they are and fall passionately into their arms. And in case they don’t, they are going to complain loud enough so everyone will listen (and feel sorry for them) that they are being friendzoned by cruel fate and connivers that stomps nice souls like them into the ground.
And this is why most people tend to either dismiss or actively dislike people who complain about being friendzoned. This inability to deal with a reality that isn’t the endgame that you wish it to be is seen by the wider population as immature and overly dramatic. It is the romantic equivalent of flopping over in the middle of the playground and yelling at the top of your lungs “NO FAIR” because the other kids are currently using the swings you want to play on. We don’t tolerate that behaviour in children. Most of us find this behaviour in adults REALLY distasteful. In the sage words of Mick Jagger: ‘you can’t always get what you want’. Mature people understand this and while they may be disappointed, they pick themselves up and move on to other opportunities in their life. We all have some unrequited feelings, and while we can all (I hope) sympathize, we are also expected to deal with it like adults.
Andy is attracted to Beth. Beth is not attracted to Andy, but uses his attraction for her to elicit favours from him, keeping him under the delusion that he will have a shot with her, if he just keeps up his acts of service. This carrot on a stick dynamic is also known as the ‘friendzone’
This is often the scenario espoused by so-called ‘dating gurus’ , ‘red-pillers’ and others to ‘prove’ that (specifically) women are cruel harpies that lay in wait and use their wily feminine charms to prey on poor, hapless ‘beta’ men who are just too damn nice for their own good, suck them dry (metaphorically, not in the fun way) of their emotions and precious, hard-earned resources and discard their husks like a female mantis while she ruts wildly on their piled corpses with a genetically superior male.
Let’s get one thing out of the way. Are there women out there who use men? Yes.
There’s also men who use women. And people who use people. Some people are shitty, manipulative users and feel absolutely no remorse over it. That, my friend, is life.
I’m going to give you my shorthand thoughts about this for now, because I plan to tell you all about my awful marriage to this type of person, the hows and whys I married someone who treated me so poorly, and how you can avoid it in a future post. For now, let me just say the following.
Why, for the love of all that is good and holy, are you attracted to this person? Seriously, I see this all the time online. ‘I’m so good to the object of my affection, and all she wants out of me is to drive her places and pick up lunch tabs and cry on my shoulder when things go bad.” So… why do you want to be with this person who obviously gives less than a shit about your wants and needs? Do you honestly think things are going to get better? Or do you think this is all you deserve? Or do you think ‘you can change her’? These are serious questions you need to ask yourself.
Look, I understand. I alluded to you that I MARRIED a woman like this. Consider yourself lucky she doesn’t date you. Trust me on this.
The Most Holy Vagina
We labour in a world where young men are repeatedly told the message that ‘true gentlemen’ must have, must give, must sacrifice to woo the woman of their dreams. And in return, those same women must play ‘hard to get’ to make absolutely certain those men are worthy of The Most Holy Vagina, the greatest prize only the most noble and virtuous men can partake of. So each roadblock your crush throws in your path, each bar tab, each 3 am cry session, each ‘I like you, I really do, but I’m going through some things right now, so maybe we can just keep things the way they are right now where I can always rely on you for rides and meals and gifts and company that I never seem to reciprocate and get indignant and act jealous when you talk to another girl’ is just a series of quests to be conquered, each one step closer to the Holy Grail Vag.
The more you suffer, the more it shows you really care, if you will.
This is what we are taught. This, however, does not represent any semblance of reality. As we grow older and mature, we realize these stories and lessons we absorb as kids aren’t indicative of how real people feel and interact in real life. Unfortunately, not everyone gets this.
This is why ‘Nice Guys’ continually fall into these codependent relationships. To their way of thinking, this is how relationships are supposed to be. Except, to their dismay, there is no promised sex at the end of their quest. Unwittingly, their quest only ends when either they wise up and get a clue, or the woman who is using him gets bored and stops interacting with him. Unfortunately, the lesson taken isn’t that that the things we are taught about men and women as kids are, by and large, bullshit, but that women aren’t holding up Their Side of the Bargain. The guy has made a huge investment and now society says you’ve got to give up the goods. If you don’t, you’re dishonest, a swindler, a liar. And if you grant access to your Most Holy Vagina to a less worthy rival, one who hasn’t suffered and toiled and quested for it? You have not only reneged on the bargain, you’ve shattered the illusion of How Things Are Supposed to Be, and sullied your virtuous pussy in the process. This is also why you think that the guys this girl is having sex with are such assholes. They aren’t questing. They are Breaking The Rules. They Aren’t Playing Fair.
Listen. I understand that many of us were brought up with these fucked up sense of values. As another blogger I read last summer (who I regretfully can’t remember) summed up nicely, ‘If I was brought up to believe that if I correctly performed a series of steps that society said I have to perform and at the end of it, I’d be rewarded with a girlfriend, I’d be angry too if that girlfriend I was promised never materialized.” But instead of blaming women for this crappy situation, blame the situation itself, grow up and move past it. There’s a lot of sacred cows in our lives that get slaughtered along the way. This is no different.
This will also give you a little insight as to why women get so angry about this. There’s a sense of propriety you are attaching to their sexuality, even if you don’t mean to or don’t realize it.
If there’s a crush in your life that you are bending over backward for, and they don’t seem to be doing anything for you in return, it’s time to let them go and move on. Don’t blame them. Don’t blame yourself. Don’t blame some ‘friendzone’. Just move on. There are people out there who won’t take advantage of you, because believe it or not, most people are decent and honest human beings who won’t knowingly treat someone else like dirt.
Andy is attracted to Beth. Andy, for one or a number of reasons, does not tell Beth that he is attracted to her, but tries to let her know in an extremely passive and roundabout way through gifts and acts of service, hoping that she’ll take the hint and initiate the romance. This state of tension is also known as the ‘friendzone’
This is the situation that seems to elicit the most raw anger in people. It differs slightly from scenario 1 in that in this scenario Andy doesn’t tell Beth how he feels, most likely because he doesn’t have the courage. Being a socially introverted man myself, I can understand and sympathize with Andy.
I think this bears some mentioning, because I think that many women don’t really understand what it’s like for most men who have to initiate romantic interest. For some men it’s easy. For other men, it’s near impossible. For most of us, it’s somewhere in between. It takes a lot to put yourself out there, to lay open an intimate part of yourself and your feelings for another person to either accept or reject. It is doubly hard for boys in middle and high school, who often lack the social wherewithal to know who may be more receptive to his advances. As well for teenage boys, there is a significant social risk in asking out the wrong girl that may have future social repercussions. I think most of us men have had a (or multiple) humiliatingly embarrassing experience(s) asking someone out. Most of us recover, mature, and move on.
To those of you who say ‘for God’s sake, just ask her!’, just bear all of this in mind. I’m not saying you have to say yes to someone just because it was hard for him to ask, just bear in mind that it isn’t easy for most people to ask someone out. That is all.
But having said that, this passive method of hoping that your crush notices you and will respond emotionally and/or sexually with your gifts and acts of service really is dishonest. I mean really dishonest. After all, it isn’t her fault you have trouble being direct with her. If you give someone something, or you do something for someone, unless you have a very specific quid pro quo understanding with that person, you cannot expect anything in return. You can hope it will yield results, but you can’t complain that it doesn’t (and probably won’t).
It’s like this: You start buying a dozen donuts every Friday for the people you work with. Everyone appreciates it, and pats you on the back for being a good guy. Every week you buy a dozen donuts until one week, you get unceremoniously angry with everyone you work with because you’ve been buying all the donuts they’ve been eating and would it kill them to buy the donuts for once? You accuse them all of taking advantage of your nice gestures without doing anything in return. After all, why else do they think you were buying donuts? It’s simply understood when someone takes up the notion of buying donuts for the workplace, other people should follow suit.
Except, no one ever asked you to buy donuts. You bought donuts of your own volition and shared them with everyone of your own volition. If you feel aggrieved and taken advantage of, you have two options: ask people to start chipping in, or stop buying. What people generally don’t do is whine loudly that the thing they did that no one asked them to do isn’t generating the results they want. Such people are usually regarded as assholes.
I have some personal experience with this. My mom is probably one of the most passive-aggressive people I know. She very rarely ever asks anyone for anything because she thinks asking for something, even the most mundane favours, is a rude imposition on someone else. But yet, she thinks it’s perfectly reasonable that everyone around her should just psychically know what it is that she wants and offer it for her without her having to enact the labour to ask. When she doesn’t get something she wants, she huffs and puffs and sighs and rubs her temples dramatically and makes people feel bad for not considering her wants and feelings. This puts a tremendous strain on those around her who are in a constant state of trying to guess what it is that she does want. In essence, this is what you are doing with your crush. You are forcing an obligation on them that they didn’t ask for or initiate.
This isn’t how emotionally healthy people interact. Doing nice things for your crush is just that – doing nice things. There’s no rule, unwritten or written, that says she has to do anything else other than perhaps thanking you for your niceness. Placing a higher, unspoken expectation is playing this passive game that my mom used to play with me that is unwelcome and stressful for everyone involved, including you. Doing nice things for an unspoken ulterior motive usually makes others perceive you as an asshole.
3. Leaving the Friendzone
There’s one common thread between these three scenarios. You.
The Friendzone is your construct and yours alone. Realizing this is your first step to leaving it. No one can ‘put’ you in a Friendzone, because it’s something you created to explain why your crush doesn’t return your feelings. The good news is that once you realize this, you can dismantle it and leave.
The Friendzone you’ve built is unnecessarily confrontational and pins all the blame for your romantic failure on the crush who doesn’t feel the same about you as you do about them. This sucks for them because it’s unfair of you to take what very well may be (and usually are) legitimate reasons for not wanting to date you and painting it as some sort of personal sleight, which is often what romantic rejection often feels like, but realistically almost never is.
But it sucks for you more. You are doing yourself the biggest disservice by subscribing to this belief. Stay with me on this. If you walk through life convincing yourself that your romantic failures are entirely the fault of your unrequited crushes, you are never going to grow, you are never going to mature, and you willl never find lasting love and happiness because you are going to continue to make the same mistakes over and over again. And ultimately, you are putting yourself into a position of utter powerlessness. You are waiting for the people you are interested in to change to suit what you believe should be how things really are. If you believe that, you will be waiting for a very, very long time and guess what? Even if you do find someone who will date you, you still probably won’t be happy.