Monday, 27 May 2013

The "friend zone"

We've all heard that story[1]: a guy meets a woman, they get along, he wants to be more than friends and he asks her out. To his surprise, she says no and he wonders, after being so amazing to her, what he did to be put in her "friend zone", a place where he cannot advance beyond being a friend of hers other than a "good friend", a "great friend" or perhaps, depending on how wonderful a friend he is to her, even "best friend"...but all hope is lost...why bother being friends?

Many men fear the strange yet fearsome friend zone, believing that if one woman puts him there, then word will spread throughout all womankind that this man is an inhabitant of the friend zone and should be avoided at all costs — at least for relationships, anyway. Except...

It's nonsense: the aforementioned hypothetical man never did anything to be put in the woman's "friend zone" because the friend zone does not exist. Why, you ask, do I believe this?

Well, it's because I think that a woman not being attracted to a particular man is no different from a man not being attracted to a particular woman; when a man doesn't have any attraction to a woman, do we usually say that he "friend zoned" her? Almost never, because we know that a man might have several reasons for having no romantic interest in a woman. If a woman simply does not have any romantic feelings for a man then in most circumstances there is little that the man can do about it; he might not meet her physical tastes, his personality might not be one that she would consider relationship material or she thinks they have too different/too similar interests. There wasn't some evil place the woman put him in to taunt him and no woman ever woke up one day thinking, "Hmm...I'm going to add him to my friend zone!".

The friend zone mentality assumes that men must treat every woman as a potential relationship, regardless of her opinions, feelings or even suitability for a relationship; thus, it considers male-female friendships to be wrong and that any man who is "just friends" with a woman is a failure with women. It propagates the myth that a man must make a move on a woman upon or soon after meeting her, otherwise he will become one of her friends and there will be no chance of a relationship; it also dismisses the possibility that a man and a woman can develop a relationship with each other after being friends for months or even years.

Often when a woman says that she doesn't want to advance to a relationship she says it's because she values the friendship; on some occasions, she says this to preserve the man's feelings, but on others she says it because she honestly believes that the friendship is valuable and does not want to ruin it! This is still not placing a man in any sort of friend zone and it isn't usually a vindictive act; either someone is into you or they're not (although, as I said above, sometimes the feelings can change, which is further evidence that there's not some anti-relationship zone you can be placed in to on a whim with no hope of redemption).

I'm still unsure about the origins and intentions of the friend zone. Is it designed to shame women for picking and choosing men when men already do that to women, or is it to instill fear into men that if they don't act in a certain way they will forever be condemned to only being friends with women? Perhaps it's both.

Regardless, I don't think that men should worry about the mythical yet menacing friend zone. There are billions of people in the world and thousands in our neighbourhoods: all because one woman doesn't want a relationship with a particular man doesn't mean that every other woman will share her opinion; women's tastes in men are as diverse as men's tastes in women. I am optimistic; there is someone for everyone.

Even if the friend zone did exist, there is nothing wrong with being someone's friend rather than a potential relationship partner. Besides, a good friend can help you find someone with whom you have a mutual romantic interest!

What is your opinion of the friend zone?

[1] This post covers the heterosexual man perspective, as the term "friend zone" is usually applied to them more than any other group. I have yet to hear it used in the context of gays and lesbians.


  1. Ah, yes, the friend zone. I remember before I became more aware, I always felt I was put there. I'm not really sure, I might be with you: you either like someone or you don't. I guess it's just too complicated to say the least.

    1. If someone isn't into you it's best to move on; there will always be someone else who is interested and wants to love and accept you for who you are.

    2. Yep, I feel that way with friends too. I was into one of my friends and I told him I had a crush on him and well, he knows my orientation and rejected me. The friendship has been a little awkward. I was a little upset he didn't invite me to his birthday party this year; I hadn't seen him since mine last year and when I went to his last year, it was the first time in 2 years (since telling him) that I saw him. He's seeing someone now. Maybe I shouldn't have told him. I was in a bad point in my life. Bad thyroid, before diagnosed as bipolar... mess.

    3. You shouldn't blame yourself for someone's negative reaction towards you. If someone rejects you, even as a friend, you're probably better off keeping away from them!

    4. True. I think I'm going to uninvite him from my family and friend picnic on my birthday that mom and dad are throwing for me.

  2. The friend zone. :)

    Some men do treat all women like potential mates. These men always get "friend zoned" because that is NOT relationship material. Women are not interchangeable. Women do not want to date men who are only interested in them as much as the next girl or any girl who will "take a bite."

    Women seriously like when a man chooses her and all others "won't do."

    This is akin to "nice guy syndrome." :D

    1. Ah yes, "nice guys". I am still in the process of writing a post on that topic. :) A man will be disappointed a lot if he treats every woman as a potential mate.

  3. I think that we don't consider men to have a "friend zone" because men are, generally, more willing to be physical/intimate with women that they don't want to be in a relationship with then women are, thereby blurring the line of the zone in a way that women often don't.

    HUGE overgeneralization, obviously :)

    1. There is that, but I thought it was more to do with women getting criticized for doing what men have done for years!

      Don't worry, I knew you didn't mean all men! :) (Or all women, for that matter!)

  4. Ooh, I've been doing this kind of thing in Political Analysis! :D

    If the friend zone does not exist, as the thesis of this post resembles, then my opinion may only include the empty set.
    I have a null opinion, see: I cannot have a full opinion besides the empty set on the friend zone, if this friend zone does not in fact exist.

    What is the empty set? There is no relationship between the dependent and independent variable, I've been told.
    What is the independent variable? The hypothetical male trying to score with the ladies.
    What is the dependent variable? The hypothetical female, driving away the creep who asks her out.
    Does that mean anything?
    Probably not. Why does it hurt?
    When the hypothetical people of this discussion are replaced in the mind by names and faces, it smarts. Really smarts.

    /full scientific opinion

    1. I have to admit, I'm not so sure I understand. :( Would you mind clarifying, please? (I am deeply sorry if I am sounding really stupid for not understanding!) If, however, this would interfere with your preparations for China then don't worry.

      That being said, all perspectives/opinions are welcome. :) It's neat that you've studied this topic in some way in your work.

  5. I'm so glad you addressed this. I'm so sick of men having the monopoly on the stupid "friend zone." By all definitions, I have been friend zoned many many times. If someone isn't attracted to you, they're not attracted to you. And no amount of being nice, doing favors, listening to problems, loving their family, etc is going to change that. And that goes for both sexes.

    1. Exactly! Few people if anyone would use "friend zone" in regards to some men not being interested in you when you were interested in them. Those men weren't attracted to you and there was little that you could have done; it's the same when it's the other way around. You weren't thrown into some silly zone.