F*** the Friendzone

I think everyone can agree that the entire concept of the “friend-zone” sucks. Hard. Nothing is more painful than the persistent ache of unrequited love, and especially when it’s someone you see often and have a strong connection with. I have been friend-zoned before and it was awkward and uncomfortable and it hurt.

That being said, I’ve also been on the other side as well. I have had someone I developed a good friendship with suddenly change the dynamic without warning. It strained things to the point where we now no longer even talk to each other at all. And it hurt me just as much as it hurt him, because I had just lost one of my close friends.

Friend-zones hurt everyone.

So why does it still exist? Why do we still allow ourselves to fall into these situations where we are forced to either exist in a painful stagnant awkwardness or lose the relationship entirely? In the end, I think it comes down to one crucial aspect of any and all relationships: communication.

Let me give an example. So as I mentioned above, I went through this situation with a guy friend of mine. We got along well from the moment we met and over the next few weeks we became very close friends. Our downfall, however, came in a failure to communicate and understand each other.

From the start I made it clear that I was not looking for a romantic relationship. I was at that point still recovering from the end of my four-year relationship and going through a major life change – moving cities and transferring schools and looking for work. I had just gotten comfortable with myself and with being single, and I had no intention of changing that. Having been ruined by a lack of communication in my previous relationship, I made a point of being very clear about my intentions and expectations.

And he never gave me any reason to think that he didn’t understand this. We chatted about random things, bored each other rambling on about our hobbies, complained about our exes. We talked about all of the things that casual friends do and for those first few weeks everything seemed to be absolutely fine.

Since we lived in separate cities, an hour and a half drive apart, our main form of correspondence since our first meeting had been through texting. We’d been friends for weeks now though and we wanted to be able to hang out, so we made plans to get together and spend a little time in person. He learned that I’d never been to a live basketball game before so we decided to meet up for dinner and go to a game together. It was established that it would be just a friend date, and that there was nothing romantic about the evening.

Which is why I was a bit shocked when, over the dinner before the game, he admitted that he loved me.

Things from there were never the same again. Although I reiterated that I didn’t want to be in a relationship, he was persistent that he had feelings for me that wouldn’t go away. Every time we talked after that was strained. We tried to remain friends but every conversation and meeting was underlined with the tension of his admission and eventually we started making excuses not to talk. After a month or two of the awkward relationship, things fizzled out entirely.

So there are three basic rules for dealing with the friend-zone:

1. Always be upfront. If you want to pursue a romantic relationship with this person, use your words. Tell them so. If you aren’t interested in a relationship, tell them that. No matter the way it turns out, you will always be better off for getting the truth out in the open. At least that way, everyone’s cards are on the table and no one can claim that they didn’t know how you felt.

2. Respect the other’s wishes. It may hurt when they tell you that they aren’t interested in being romantic with you, but that is their choice. Yes, there’s a chance that their feelings may change some time down the road. Maybe they’ll come around and realise you were the right one. But that’s not going to happen if you keep pushing the subject. Continuing to pursue them or trying to convince them otherwise is only going to make your relationship worse and they may begin to resent you. In case you didn’t know, resentment in a relationship is bad.

3. If it hurts, Leave. That might seem harsh, but it’s an honest fact. If you’ve accepted that the other person doesn’t want to be with you and you manage to go back to being just friends, more power to you. That’s impressive. But most people can’t do that. If you find that being just friends with someone you have feelings for is too difficult, it may be time to take a break. You don’t have to stop being friends forever, but odds are you’re not going to get over them by seeing them all the time. Give yourself some time and space. If the feelings go away, then all the better. If they don’t, at least you’re not putting yourself through that torture.

The friend-zone is never a pleasant experience, and it will involve some uncomfortable feelings and pain, but in the end you can survive and come out the other end strong enough and ready for someone who will return your feelings.

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