Had a few convos with people at work and elsewhere about the Friend Zone and with V-Day approaching, it’s a difficult topic to avoid.
After exhaustive study – mostly through memes, Tumblr, and my own relationship history – here’s my take on it.
If you, like me, have a NEXUS pass to several different friend zones with several different female friends at once….well, I can’t believe that I’m the one saying this, but guys, you need to man the hell up and accept your lot in life. At least for now.
Let’s assume the steps* into the Friend Zone went like this:
1. Meet girl.
2. Neither one of you can connect as anything more than friends for a variety of reasons (e.g. in separate relationships at the time, different places, times of life, etc..), at least in the beginning.
3. For one reason or another, you develop feelings for said girl.
4. Said girl and yourself end up being single at the same time.
5. You ask out said girl, and she declines, citing “friendship” as the reason.
6. You now feel like your heart’s been ripped out through your ass.
(* variations on the above may apply)
First, what were your intentions? Did you just want to have sex with her, or did you want a meaningful relationship? If it was just sex, then you have no business being here. Frankly, you’re full of crap if you say that was your intent, because if you really were the kind of guy to only chase after sex, you’d never complain about the friend zone, because those guys a) tend to get laid because a higher sex drive leads those men to take the successful risks with women that most “nice” guys don’t, and b) they’re the types who don’t develop feelings, or have some other major malfunctions, otherwise they’d be in successful relationships (or, frankly, not complaining at all).
Clearing that up, we move on to the second part: were you a good friend? Did you listen to her? Let her cry on your shoulder? Go out of your way to help her with something? Help her with her friend/boyfriend issues? Do nice things for her? Guess what, Einstein? Those actions are all to your credit! They reflect well on your character. Keep doing that: it makes you attractive to the opposite sex, and, frankly, a better human being. Right now, there is a girl who’s being cheated on by her guy, mistreated, ignored, neglected who wants those precise qualities. The guy who ends up winning her for life will have exactly what you’ve got.
Oh, but you say, “Well, I did all those things, and she still went with this other guy, so it was for nothing.” No! Wrong answer! As every athlete knows, it is possible to play 100% and still lose. Losing is supposed to taste like a shit taco, but the fact that she kept you as a friend even after she ended up with someone new is precisely because of those skills. Who wouldn’t want to be friends with someone like you? Can you really blame her?
And as for the one who won her heart, well, remember something: it’s her choice to make. We may use sports and game metaphors to describe how love works, but never has the “object” of your affection been an actual trophy: she’s a human being with her own rights to choose. Maybe she’s not feeling it with you right now. Maybe she won’t ever. Then again, maybe she will someday. There are many stories of wives whose histories with their husbands began when they were just the buddies they never looked at in that way, who they never imagined they’d end up with, until one day, something happened to change their minds. Regardless of future changes, she’s made her choice now, and if you truly care about her, you have to accept that.
Guys, the reason you’re upset is simple: you had a crush. Maybe you were even in love at a distance. It happens quite easily with men – women take a while longer to develop those feelings – and it’s a great and terrible experience to have all at once. But as men, most of us just aren’t cut out to process those feelings. It’s not manly. We’re afraid of the vulnerability involved in showing it. We’re terrified of looking weak. Or, most often the case, we have guy friends who are quick to call us “pussies” for expressing those feelings. Hell, we’re afraid of guys we don’t even know somehow judging us to be less than men!
Then again, is it manly to call a girl a “bitch” or “stuck up” because she didn’t choose you? Is that the only way you can express your disappointment, even heartbreak, by taking it out on the very person you were so in love with?
As a guy, I’ve had those feelings too. Post-marriage life hasn’t been easy, especially because I married the first girl I dated. I have no skills. I’m not the sex-chaser. I prefer my partner to be my friend first. I’ve had many crushes that didn’t go anywhere. But from what I’ve seen of this Friend Zone meme, the whole thing says more about the guys than the girls they failed to persuade.
Actually, the “Friend Zone” meme phenomenon is good in one way: its presence shows that heartbroken guys in the Friend Zone are venting their bad feelings into Tumblr and out of their own systems. It shows other guys going through this that they’re not alone, and that can only be helpful to the process.
The trick is not to start feeding off the very shit you’re trying to purge, thinking that it’s guidance. I’ve also done this: that’s how I know you do it, too.
So vent your feelings, experience the heartbreak, accept that you’re allowed to feel this way as a man, because men are still human, and human beings feel love and rejection and all the feelings in between. Seriously, guys, I’m telling you, FEEL ALL THE THINGS! Then drop it, when you’re ready, and move on.
First, do you know the difference between love and infatuation? Figure it out, because if getting laid’s your biggest motivator, you need to find out why that is. Is it because you’ve actually got an itch you need to scratch, or is it because all your guy friends will think you’re somehow less of a man if you don’t chase skirts? Odds are, if you’re bitching about the Friend Zone, you want more than just sex. Clarify your intentions. Stop trying to be something you’re not.
Second, you crushed on one girl, you can crush on another. Keep an open mind and an open eye to the people who come into your life. The same combination of serendipity and choice that brought your Friend Crush into your life will also bring you someone new. And when that someone new comes along, do exactly what you did before, with two differences: don’t get attached to an outcome, and improve on your performance from last time.
Now, guys, I’m not suggesting you martyr yourselves. The listening, the supporting, the going out of your way to help her, those aren’t wimpy “nice guy” problems, they’re “good guy” talents, and you want those. Where it becomes wimpy is when you derive your only sense of validation from pleasing someone else. No one respects a sycophant in any context. I’m not saying don’t hope for love, but don’t derive your primary happiness from one source. Live your fucking lives, guys.
Set life goals that you yourself want to achieve, embark on an epic quest to achieve them, and you’ll attract a variety of people who are either on the same mission or want to follow you on yours. One of those people will be the one you end up with. Again, look at the origin stories of most married couples: you’ll find they all were walking the same paths when they met, not knowing the other existed until the time was right.
Third, embrace a quality that’s becoming increasingly rare in the North American male: nobility. Like how we romanticize the knights of old to have been, actually be an honourable guy. Do good, even if you never get credit, even if nobody ever sees you do it. Especially if nobody sees you do it. Be willing to offer goodness, service, kindness, support, and encouragement to all those in your life, expecting nothing in return.
And I mean it: expect nothing. Be desireless and excellent. Get your emotional needs met by your own friendships (platonic or otherwise), your family, your good works – be it in your career, your church, whatever – and keep giving as you’ve been giving. If you’re authentically good and desireless at the same time, it’s impossible not to get goodness coming back to you somehow. Faith manages.
And when you develop genuine affection for another woman in your life, show her you’re interested. Demonstrate your authentic nobility and class, and then give her room to decide. If she wants to pursue a relationship with you, then you win. If she doesn’t, walk it off and move onto the next one, dealing with your feelings in a way that doesn’t involve disrespecting her for her choice. Historical knights worth their salt didn’t deride the courtly ladies who declined their favours, but many did write some damn fine poetry about unrequited love.
Deal with your loss with class. Demonstrating that quality, I don’t think you’ll lose too many more contests after that.
Lastly: be grateful for your Friend Crush. Whoever she is, she’s probably an amazing, beautiful, funny, insightful, and supportive young lady with a great laugh, brilliant personality, and a bright future, and it more than likely makes you happy to have her in your life. That in itself is a blessing: appreciate her. If nothing else, take what one Friend Zone meme says and turn it on its head: use her as a model for what to look for in your next partner.
And be ready to be a friend again when she needs it, because if she’s worth keeping in your life, she’ll do the same for you. That’s a different kind of true love.