‘I just want to be friends.’ It’s something that most everyone who has liked someone has heard. It’s that dreaded place of confusion, awkwardness, and heartache. It’s that place that has been the topic of hours of discussion and debate among singles. It’s the friendzone! Some say it’s a good thing, some say it’s a bad thing. I’m going to take a few minutes and discuss what I’ve learned about it.
I think it’s necessary at the beginning to define what I’m talking about when I say friendzone. The friendzone can happen to guys or girls and is basically the modern term used to describe unrequited love. I do not mean a platonic relationship between a guy and a girl. Through much experience, I believe that, while uncommon, completely platonic relationships can and do occur when there is some sort of mutually acknowledged condition that makes both individuals unacceptable or undesirable to the other. Something like one or both being married, an extreme age gap, a mutual disinterest in each other, etc. Furthermore, I do not mean situations where one person is turned down by another person, and they leave it at that. That’s just part of the process of finding a match, and it’s perfectly normal and acceptable.
’Friendzone’ is a colloquial term used to describe an intentional action of someone imposed on someone else. It strongly favors the person imposing the condition, and due to this, the imposing person usually works to maintain the connection. This person will often maintain that they truly want the friendship of the other person and actively discourage any attempt from the other to leave the relationship. They want to ‘hold on,’ often at the cost of the other person’s happiness. That’s what I’m calling friendzone.
Is it good or bad?
That seems to be the question, and different people have different answers. There is a growing idea being promoted by various groups (such as here and here) that suggest that the friendzone is a good place for the zoned person to be. Some of these groups base their ideas on the fact that the friendzone can be manipulated by the person to actually turn the attention of the uninterested person. That idea is appealing to people who are in the friendzone because it appeals to the very hope that they have that someday, somehow the object of their affection will notice them. Other groups suggest that it’s good because if nothing else, you have a friend, and you’re providing the other person with a friend. On the flip side, groups that believe the friendzone is a bad place to be usually base it upon the unending anguish and heartbreak that anyone who has been in the friendzone has experienced. While I can understand the arguments from both sides, I tend to fall into the latter group. Here’s why.
After a great deal of study and experience, I believe that persisting in a friendzone relationship is the result of unhealthy motivations on both sides.
Neediness/Obsession/Over Attachment – These are some of the things that come to mind when a person willingly subjects themselves to perpetual rejection from another person, and it’s probably a very possible reason why they’ve been friendzoned in the first place. In order to say, ‘I have feelings for this person, but I’m willing to endure the emotional pain because…,’ a person has reached a point where he/she has lost all self-respect and dignity and is only trying to hold on. I know from personal experience that’s not healthy. It’s a wound that cannot heal. We’ve allowed that special place in our heart to become occupied by someone who doesn’t care for us, and as long as they’re there, we will not only suffer pain but will also prevent someone who really cares about us from entering our heart. We’ve allowed ourselves to become hopelessly attached to someone who will never be ours. I’ll never find anyone like him/her again – That thought has been the demise of far too many friendzoned lovers.
Opportunity/Validation/Popularity – Some people would say that these are not bad motivations for networking and making new friends. And to a point, I would agree. I maintain contact with a lot of people because it presents me with a lot of opportunities in my areas of interest (not just for dating). But I’ve noticed a trend in people who tend to friendzone a lot of interested people, a trend that suggests that they actively collect desirable people to build up their network base due to feelings of insecurity, especially insecurity about romance or commitment. It can happen to anyone, of course, but in my own experience, girls are especially prone to collecting desirable men and keeping them in stasis. I recently heard this confession from a young woman that I’ll quote directly:
’I have crushes on all my guy friends. All of you. Every single one of you. I didn’t say that I would date you ‘cause ya’ll got issues. But I have a crush on you!’
According to a number of testimonials from a few honest, self-aware women, they do this to buff their egos and help convince them that they’re desirable, even if they’re not currently seeking a relationship. I know a few men who do the same thing with women. Even if we’re not interested in a person who has feelings for us, we like to keep them around because they make us feel good about ourselves. Ourselves – I use that term specifically to point out that this sort of relationship is entirely self-serving at the cost of another person’s feelings. Yes, it does wonders for a guy’s ego when he has a girl obsessing over him for all of his friends to see. Yes, it’s great for a girl’s self-confidence when she has a guy who waits on her hand and foot and is there day and night as a shoulder for her to cry on. But are we really considerate to the other person in these sorts of relationships? Do we think about the tears these people shed over us when we’re not with them? Do we think about them crying themselves to sleep because they want to be with us, dreading to fall asleep and dream because they dream about life with us only to awake to the torturous reality? Do we really think about the fact that we’re keeping them from moving on and finding love in another person? No. We’re thinking about how good they are for us. That’s selfish and just plain mean.
This is what I do…
… and many people think I’m cold, insensitive, and mean because of it, I’ll admit that up front. I said at the beginning of the article that I think friendzone relationships are bad, and then I explained why. So when I’m confronted with a potential friendzone relationship, I ask myself a few questions.
What sort of feelings am I dealing with in both myself and the other person? Is it a temporary crush? Is it an obsession? Is it love? If I and/or my friend have feelings that are not temporary, pretending they don’t exist isn’t an option.
Are these feelings something that should be kindled or quenched? This is where clear, honest communication is crucial. I need to find out if there is mutual interest and if there is potential for a relationship to form.
Is maintaining friendship with this person worth the pain it will cause? While I value each individual I know, every friend can be replaced, myself included. I’ve spent far too many of my years being tortured in the friendzone, and I won’t tolerate it any longer. Furthermore, I won’t hold on to a girl and keep her in my friendzone because I know what it’s like. Some people are OK with friendzone relationships. I’m not.
After evaluating a friendzone relationship based upon these criteria, I almost always come to the conclusion that I just need to completely break it off and move on. Friendship isn’t worth it to me. That’s why people think I’m cold. That’s why a number of girls in my past have come running after me screaming, ‘But don’t you understand that I want to be friends with you?’ I’m sorry. Life is too short to willingly be tortured by emotions that will never be requited and dreams that will never come true.
To any of my readers who are on either side of a friendzone relationship – Don’t. Just don’t. Be a better person than that.