dating, friendship, relationships

The friend zone doesn’t exist.

mlady sketch

Screen capture from the M’lady sketch on Inside Amy Schumer.

I’ve been hearing about “the friend zone” for years and I’m sick of it. “The friend zone” doesn’t exist. It’s fake. It’s a concept that doesn’t correspond to a real phenomenon. “The friend zone” was invented by men who are selfish and cowardly and do not understand women or their own behavior. They are unaware of their mistakes. They cling to wrong ideas like “the friend zone” because it’s easy, requires no reflection, and allows them to avoid taking responsibility for their own bad behavior.

“The friend zone” is supposed to be this (awful, terrible) place where a woman sticks a man who would presumably much rather be in “the dating zone” or “the sex zone.” Often times, the man thinks he has “earned” dating and/or sex by being nice. When his niceness is reciprocated with niceness instead of dating/sex, he proclaims he’s been “friend zoned.” He feels as if he’s been slighted or screwed over and not given what he deserves. Sometimes he uses the fact that he’s been “friend zoned” as evidence for other totally off-base ideas, such as “nice guys finish last,” or “women love to date jerks.”

If you’re a dude, “the friend zone” is probably so ingrained in your mind as a real thing that you might have no clue what I’m talking about or where I’m going with this. I’ll break it down.

If you act like a friendly friend seeking friendship, don’t be surprised or upset when friendship is what you get. Friends are nice to each other. They listen to each other vent. They hang out. They help each other move (my googling shows this is the quintessential “friend zone” example). Being nice is how friendship works. If you do all of the things people do when they’re trying to cultivate a friendship and then receive friendship in return, know that it is the direct result of what you did. Friendship is what you sought out and created–not an example of “nice guys” losing, or you being mistreated, taken advantage of, or shorted of something you deserve.

Two things must be in place for a man to believe he has been “friend zoned.” 1) He must be a coward. 2) He must have a (sexist) sense of entitlement.

If the “friend zoned” man weren’t a coward, he never would’ve become “friend zoned.” He would’ve seen the woman he wanted to date and asked her on a date rather than pretended he wanted to be her friend. If/when she said “no,” he would’ve moved on. He wouldn’t have invested time, energy, and money with secret hopes of romantic or sexual pay-off because he would’ve already been clear on the fact that she wasn’t interested in that way.

If the “friend zoned” man weren’t sexist and entitled, he never would’ve considered himself “friend zoned” because he wouldn’t have viewed friendship with a woman he thinks is cool as a bad thing. He would’ve acted genuinely, not with the secret motive of having his hidden desires met later on.

“Nice guys” who get “friend zoned” think they’re being nice by doing what appear to be kind deeds. Intention matters, however. Kindness that comes with strings attached or out of a secret motivation is unkind. It’s manipulative and deceitful and, when the goal is sex, pretty douche baggy. It’s sexist, too. It is a man treating his desire as real and important and the woman’s desire as irrelevant (at best), or something less authentic than his own that he believes can be controlled by him (at worst).

Men who cry “friend zone” often blame women not liking “nice guys” as the cause. Wrong. If you’re continually hanging around and being nice to a woman and she doesn’t make a move, she probably doesn’t have any attraction for you and wouldn’t have even if you’d been less “nice.” In the rare case that you did once have a chance with this woman and your actions somehow blew it, it wasn’t the “niceness.” It was that she realized you were a coward who couldn’t ask her on a date and wasn’t interested in you as a result. Or, she was a coward too, and by the time you made your intentions clear it was too late and she had moved on.

Some dudes like to act as if they’ve been led on and taken advantage of when “friend zoned.” Nope. Sure, there are women out there who take advantage of men, but “the friend zone” phenomenon isn’t an example of that. Don’t say a woman led you on because she trusted your actions as being honest and didn’t actively block you from being nice to her. The “friend zoned” guy is the one with the ulterior, deceitful motive. The responsibility does not lie with the woman to go out of her way to analyze his behavior, read his mind, and then stop him from being (fake) nice. Even if a woman did do this, a “nice guy” would probably (secretly) call the woman a “bitch” for hurting his ego. Remember, the whole reason he acts like a nice friend is because he isn’t willing to put himself out there and risk directly hearing that she isn’t interested.

That reminds me, check out the related M’lady sketch on Inside Amy Schumer. It is so spot on and funny. At one point Amy says something along the lines of, “I don’t want to lead him on, but I don’t want to hurt his feelings.” Her friend replies, “Oh, you can’t win.” It’s true. When a “nice guy” pops up with ulterior motives, he’s set up a situation in which he can damn the woman no matter what she does.

The bottom line is that “the friend zone” is just another phrase that means friendship, except it’s being said by guys who are too afraid to go for the women they want and are resentful and blame said women when their manipulative, “nice” half-efforts don’t result in their sexual and/or romantic day dreams coming true. In reality, these “friend zoned” guys should be grateful that women whose company they enjoy are willing to put up with their cowardly, manipulative, sexist ways. Friendship is a pretty cool thing to have with someone when you respect them and view them as a cool human being, but some guys are too busy being strategically “nice” to notice that.

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19 thoughts on “The friend zone doesn’t exist.

  1. JT says:

    For someone who thought the friendzone is fake, you tried to refute it in a way that very much accepts its existence. You act like there is 1 paradigm for relationship pathway. Like you only get into the friendzone through cowardice. These things are not black and white. People grow on others, without their being conscious initial attraction. They might want more information before they make a move. Feelings change, is necessarily this anyone’s fault? Can you blame the person who now wants more, for thinking that maybe the other person might do too.

    Friend zone is a neutral classification to describe a relationship dynamic, where 1 part of the friendship wants more. It does not mean that person is calling off the friendship when they’re declined. Or that they are even unhappy at friendship alone, it may just be a preference for more. Maybe they just want them in their life someway, even if its not as fully as desired? Maybe they can guess from the off that there is no reciprocation, so why try?

    I have read many things where people complain about creepiness or whathaveyou of “the guy put himself out there” too, so I guess they cant win either.

    I have many friendships with members the opposite sex, in just 2 occasions I have wanted more, in 2 occasions I have known someone to want more from me. None of those friendships remain today, none of which is entirely my fault, 2 of which is entirely on her because I sure as hell tried to make it still work as friends.

    • Jessica Thompson says:

      I understand that friendships sometimes transform into romantic relationships, or one person develops feelings and the other does not. I just think that is different than what people mean when they use the word “friend zone.” In the cases you describe, there is already a true friendship that both people value. I’m talking about when guys never want a friendship at all, but act very nice in hopes of being rewarded with either dating or sex. That’s different, and from what I’ve seen, that is when a guy usually uses the word “friend zone.”

  2. blogster says:

    Sigh.

    Guessing by your writing style, your arguments etc. you would be a young woman, possibly taking feminist studies at college. And I can guarantee I am older and more experienced in the world.

    Men have been taught for years to listen to what women claim they want in a man and have misguidedly suffered the consequences as a result. Men then eventually realise through observation that the girl doesn’t get attracted to the nice guy behaviour. Rather they see women swooning and taking up with the edgy, rebellious, arrogant and overconfident.

    With the internet men from all over the world, who have no real life connection with each other, are all seeing the same thing and sharing their experiences and finding, surprise surprise, a fairly consistent trend. No, its not every woman, but they see enough women’s behaviour to (sadly) realise that what they were taught women want (and what comes out of women’s mouths).

    I have seen and experienced this time and time again. So have my friends, acquaintances and hundreds of thousands of men across the web. Yet writers like you continue to attempt to deny the common experience of unrelated men. Men who when changing their behaviour from ‘nice’, to confident, rebellious, edgy and challenging, all of a sudden finding women interested and intrigued with them. Funny that.

    And this blog is yet another case. Women (feminists) in particular, are angry that the ‘cat is out of the bag’ regarding women’s true attraction triggers. Rather than acknowledge truth, you seek to transfer responsibility and rationalise this by claiming men are acting ‘entitled’ and that by being nice they are being fake. Rather it is women who act fake in the first place, claiming they want ‘nice’ guys.

    Unfortunately, you are neither at the age, maturity or self awareness and reflection to see this and would rather not.

        • Jessica Thompson says:

          “…I can guarantee I am older and more experienced in the world.” and “Unfortunately, you are neither at the age, maturity or self awareness and reflection to see this and would rather not.”

          You mention age and experience twice so yes, I am addressing your comment. Your argument rests on this assumption so it makes sense to find out how true it is (or isn’t). So, how old are you?

          • ethan says:

            amen, sista!

            His reply to your question seems tantamount to, “I didn’t say that.” Which is hilariously ironic on an internet forum. “Yes…you…did…scroll up a few pixels…”

            I would hate to have an untaped conversation with that dude in-person. So willing to put words in other people’s mouths while denying the very words coming out of his…! Gaaa…Yet another crazy-maker. That should be an acronym or something. YACraMa. Meh, nevermind.

            Anyway, thanks for the excellent post. Lots of nice concepts laid out in a very accessible manner (so much so it seems that even the defensive MRA-type dolts have grasped enough to know they should write in a whine or two). I’ve been in the “coward/confused” section in the past, but feel very fortunate to have been spared the pathological male entitlement that would have given me impetus to ruin what turned out to be really good friendships. Which left us with…ALL the other normal relationship BS to deal with. Which, when I think of it, is more than enough BS already without adding entitlement into the mix.

          • Jessica Thompson says:

            Thank you! I’ve also been in the coward/confused section before. I’m trying to think of a good way to write about that as well.

  3. I’ve always thought the “friend zone” exists. Well, as much as a made-up concept to make dudes feel better about being wusses can exist.

    In reality I think it is just… friendship. It’s just that sometimes guys aren’t satisfied with that.

    I also always believed that the friend zone has clearly marked exits that you can choose to take if you’re brave enough. One to Relationship Avenue and one a little further south to Bang Village.

    Those exits aren’t always open, but there is only one way to find out.

    • ethan says:

      haha, that said, I like “bangville: population? us” better.

      that said #2, i tend to think that the “friend zone” concept assumes bad faith in the supposed-friend, which is the major problem i have with it. why would someone try to befriend and sleep with someone who they are incapable of trusting? that’s an example of how messed up misogyny manifests in the minds of men (pardon the alliteration). reminds me of that elliot dude…”i hate you, why won’t you sleep with me? i hate you!” whaaa?????

      and if she really isn’t worth trusting (yes, those people exist in all walks of life), then at some point it reflects on the dude’s poor choice of character in the first place. basically, lots of layers of internalized oppression going on, and then a lot of psychological projection which doesn’t help things in the relationship department,as the original author pointed out already.

  4. Snarl says:

    Once I develop a romantic interest in a woman I ask her out. Who are these men who “pretend to befriend” without disclosing their true intentions? What’s the point?
    After early high school, any man should have the balls to ask any woman out and roll with whatever the answer is. Some say yes, some no, some want to be friends. Some lead to long, serious relationships; others, one-night stands or a single date, and everything in between.
    People and relationships are complicated. Romance can be followed by friendship and vice versa. Friends may have sex sometimes and not others.
    Sexual attraction can come and go on both sides.
    Before people can be honest with others they must be honest with themselves. Many lie to themselves and/or do not know what they want. If I lie to myself or do not know myself, I will not be true to others.
    Who do we spend the most time with?
    Ourselves. That is the most important relationship we have.
    Let us love ourselves and be honest with ourselves. Then we can truly love others and honor them with our honesty.

    • Jessica Thompson says:

      “Let us love ourselves and be honest with ourselves. Then we can truly love others and honor them with our honesty.”

      Amen.

  5. EM says:

    Very interesting post! I have often thought of the “friend zone” concept but I have never seen anyone write about it.

    When I was a bit younger I had a male friend who I considered one of my best friends. He was a very good listener, extremely attentive, and kind, so I disclosed personal information to him that I probably wouldn’t have told other people. He knew I was interested in someone else. Eventually he began to say things to me that were out of line (ie: asking me about sex and masturbation, etc). Then his behavior started to get creepy. He would act possessive and grill me on comments I’d made about other guys (he got upset that I said one of our mutual friends was a good artist). Then we had a big falling-out because he claimed I was “giving him nothing in return” for his friendship to me. I felt completely betrayed, as if our friendship had been a scam. I was quite young when this happened and probably pretty naive. But yeah, that hurt.

    On the other hand, I have “friend zoned” guys. I had a close male friend with whom I shared a lot of common interests. I developed a crush on him that lasted for years. Was I straight-forward about it? Nope. I just hoped that one day he’d see how great I was and fall in love with me. I thought I deserved it, for sure. So, like the friend I felt so betrayed by, I also had ulterior motives with this other person. So I understand both sides of it…and it sucks no matter which side you’re on.

    Thanks for bringing this topic to light. It seems to be something everyone experiences at one time or another.

  6. Canadian Friend says:

    When a man who likes a woman and finds her attractive does nice things for her hoping you will become his girlfriend, that is called courtship.

    There is nothing wrong with that.

    If the woman is not attracted to the guy she finds his behavior creepy ( and some women may write an article claiming those men are cowards )

    If the guy looks like Brad Pitt or has Christian Grey’s money the exact same behavior as the creepy/coward/”friend”suddenly becomes ” Sooo romantic!!!”

    Amusing.

    • Jessica Thompson says:

      “When a man who likes a woman and finds her attractive does nice things for her hoping you will become his girlfriend, that is called courtship. There is nothing wrong with that.”

      No, there’s nothing wrong with that generally. The key difference between courtship and cowardice that I’m talking about here is whether or not that courtship is explicit. If the man is asking the woman on dates and saying things that make it clear he likes the woman romantically, both parties know it’s courtship. If the man is acting like they are just friends, but then secretly hoping for more or secretly becoming angry he isn’t getting more, that’s cowardice.

      • Canadian Friend says:

        But if the woman is secretly hoping it will become romantic and she is hoping he will make a move, yet she does nothing herself to give him a sign, why is the blame all on the man?

        He took her out and paid for a nice dinner, isn’t it obvious he is interested?
        Why can’t she give him a sign?

        Should the man do everything and the woman remain passive?

        Are women limited creatures that can not do anything by themselves and the man has to do everything?

        Some say women want to be unaccountable…

        well…

        I’ll be 56 next week and I do not think I ever met a woman who does not blame everything on men.

        so yes, women want to be unaccountable.

        Which makes them immature and somewhat irrational.

        Which makes men justified to see women as weak creatures that are not really adults.

        • Jessica Thompson says:

          “But if the woman is secretly hoping it will become romantic and she is hoping he will make a move, yet she does nothing herself to give him a sign, why is the blame all on the man?”

          I wouldn’t blame it all on the man. If two people like each other and neither of them does anything about it then they’re both losing out on an opportunity because of their own fear. In this post, I’m talking about when a man is too afraid to ask a woman out explicitly so he treats her like a friend, but then is upset that they are friends and nothing more because he wanted more all along.

          “He took her out and paid for a nice dinner, isn’t it obvious he is interested?
          Why can’t she give him a sign?”

          If a guy asks a woman out for dinner and then pays for it, most people would interpret that as a date. In this post, I’m talking about guys who are too afraid to ask women on dates and instead see them in more casual settings, but are frustrated that it doesn’t lead to anything romantic.

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