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The Friend Zone: An Analysis

July 2, 2012

The Friend Zone.

It’s a well-documented and oft experienced phenomenon. Heck, there’s even a Wikipedia entry for it. Recently, in my circle of friends, the topic has come up often enough for me to gather a number of thoughts on it. If you choose to read this, bear in mind the usual disclaimers: this is just my opinion, take it with a grain of salt, there is an underlying theme of Faith, in no way is this supposed to be representative of all experiences, yadda yadda yadda, etc. I’m going to explore the subject by breaking it up into a few categorical sub-topics.

What is the Friend Zone?

Now, this is in my own words. I find that more girls than guys tend to have “friend zones”, but that’s not to say it’s exclusive to one gender or another. For the ease of argument, I’m going to use the FZ as examples of girls and how they organize their male friends. The FZ is a categorical label given by a girl to a guy that signifies a platonic relationship; aka friendship. Where this differs from your run-of-the-mill “friendship” tag is that the guys in a girl’s FZ are generally regarded as “undatable” in their eyes. I’ll go a little deeper into that thought in the next section, but the gist of it is this: guys in the FZ have been placed there because a girl sees no potential for romantic interest; they’d rather be “just friends”. Historically (at least on an anecdotal level), it’s difficult for one to “leave” the FZ after being placed in it. Not to say it hasn’t been done before, but it’s just more complicated to maneuver out of – if that is one’s goal.

Why does it exist?

There are numerous reasons the FZ exists.

  • For some girls, it’s a simple matter of attraction – they don’t find a particular guy attractive (in any sense, not necessarily just physical) and thus they don’t take a romantic interest in him.
  • For other girls, it’s a matter of safety. It’s a way for them to invite male companionship into their lives without having to worry about the hang-ups that may spout from a lack of relational definition.
  • Sometimes it serves as a default label. If a girl and a guy don’t hit it off on a romantic level early on, then the girl moves on and the guy is automatically placed in the FZ.
  • Or, it could be a combination of the above reasons along with countless variations.

All in all, it gives a certain degree of order to a woman’s web of relationships. By creating a FZ bucket, a yuj can easily decide who she wants in her life and in what capacity. I can’t hate on that as a general concept.

Thoughts on the Friend Zone

I’m going to provide some thoughts in the same order that was used above.

  • Attraction. Not much you can do about that. If a girl is into you, great, if not, oh well – on to the next one. Sure, feelings can change, but overall I’d say this is a valid justification for the FZ. But what makes this complicated is that often girls and guys see each other differently. Many guys view a girl (that they get along with) as always having potential to be good match, so the idea is never fully “off the table”. On the other hand, there are girls where once a judgment is made; it’s hard to change their mind. You’re a friend now, and always a friend.
  • Safety. This is when I point a finger at both sides of the divide. Guys, a girl should be able to trust you enough and keep you close (within reason), without having to worry about you getting all emotional and reckless with your feelings. Sure, a guy may fall for a girl. But he should also have the emotional fortitude to understand that it doesn’t always work both ways, and in the event she isn’t into you, take a step back, regroup, and allow time and Godly Love to restore the friendship (if that’s what you want). Be Loving towards the women in our lives, without expecting something in return and handle everything as rational, Faithful adults.

    On the other hand, girls, just realize that not all dudes are adept at separating and managing platonic/emotional and romantic/physical bonds. There are many instances where you have to realize, you can’t be emotionally close to a guy and not expect him to develop feelings. Use some discernment and understand that just because you’ve placed an individual in the FZ, doesn’t mean he wants to be or should be there. On an over-simplified level, you’re treating him like a gay best friend, disregarding his propensity to be attracted to you as a woman. In a sense, it’s emasculating and inconsiderate.

    Summary: Guys, man the eff up and don’t give into a selfish model of love. Girls, be mindful and realize some guys thrive in the friend zone while others are brutally hurt by it.

  • The default label. In some sense, there’s nothing wrong with it. But I challenge both sexes to evaluate what it means to be a friend. In my opinion, I hope that if I am to get married, it would be to one of my closest friends. Because in the end, friendship & companionship is one of the foundational pillars to any long lasting relationship – romantic or otherwise. Let’s not easily throw around the term “friend” and let’s take time to define who we really want as friends in our lives. Bottom line: keep good people close to you and keep an open mind, especially in the context of how God moves your heart regarding those in your lives.

My Experiences in the Friend Zone & Thoughts Going Forward

I’ve been in the Friend Zone many times, and for various reasons (perhaps all of them). Twice, I’ve “worked my way out” of the FZ, or as some call it, “climbed the ladder”. So by my own account, I can tell you it’s possible, though I don’t necessarily deem them “success” stories. At the end of the day, I’ve realized that some folks simply do work better as friends. And in the relatively short span of my sub-30 year life, I’ve come to really appreciate the friends that God has blessed me with. I’m also very happy to say that even after things didn’t work out in my past romantic relationships, we eventually renewed our friendships. But it did take forgiveness, maturation, and considerable amounts of patience to allow God to restore the brokenness we created in one another.

Going forward, I can only hope that I have the privilege to marry a close friend. It means we’ve established so much already, and I know that when the passion and heat fades away with time, I’m left with an incredible companion that understands me on a level deeper than romance. That being said, I don’t take the term ‘friend’ lightly. I intentionally keep a small circle of people close to me that I consider as genuine. I’m sure everyone has different comfort levels, and interacts on various points of the social spectrum, but I think the underlying key to healthy relationships – acquaintance, friend, or romantic, is to Love with God’s heart. It puts everything into perspective. The Friend Zone becomes arbitrary, and it’s about relating to people as individuals. We’re going to love, hurt, laugh, and cry, that’s inevitable. But through God’s Love, it can all be glorious.

Guys, if you’re in the FZ, don’t fret. If you value the girl, care for them regardless and let God dictate how you need to interact with her on a healthy level. And yes, that means you may need to back up and NOT be so close with her.

Girls, think twice about your FZ. Deliberately examine who in there truly is your friend, and take a closer look at how you relate to them. Some guys just need more space, even if they are unwilling to admit it. Lastly, leave some opening for God to work, regardless of how you’ve labeled someone – He works in mysterious ways.

Ultimately, both sides need to understand that we often think, feel, and operate differently. Friendship is a blessing and it’s something we shouldn’t take for granted. Be patient with one another and be discerning.

“Love one another. As I have loved you…

It’s a simple motto for a seemingly complex situation.

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