I think that this post is most relevant for people who are single and looking, struggling with feelings for one of their friends, or evaluating someone
In this post I’d like to discuss something that I’ve been thinking about for a while. That is, simply the friendzone! The friendzone is when you know someone who could feasibly be a romantic partner, but for whatever reason, one of you says “Let’s just be friends!” Apparently, putting someone in the friendzone is universally disliked, however, I gotta say, I LOVE the friendzone! I like putting my friends in the friendzone and I like being put in the friendzone myself, as long as everyone is being sincere. (I really would not be impressed if someone tried to get close to me under the guise of “friendship” then started trying to pressurise me romantically. Seriously.) What I like is to know where I stand with people, and to also let them know where they stand. What I dislike is that uncomfortable uncertainty where you don’t know what they want or what they are trying to suggest, and then you have to clarify: “Do you mean X, Y or Z? I’m confused. Am I to be reading meanings into your actions?” I can’t help feeling that some guys deliberately leave things obscure or unclear because it somehow makes them feel big or desirable or in control to leave someone floundering in confusion, to keep someone dangling. I’m sure that many women must do the same thing too, for pretty similar reasons. For myself, I like to be very clear and direct with guys, so that there is no possibility of confusion whatsoever, and I appreciate it when guys do the same thing with me.
Putting guys in the friendzone:
Over the years, I have “friendzoned” or tried to friendzone so many of my friends! There are a number of reasons for this: I’ve always felt clueless about relationships. It is only now that I have started feeling sufficiently mature and clued-up to genuinely consider a relationship. So before now I simply was not ready to be anything other than friends with any of my male friends.
And then there was also the fact that I liked these “friendzone” guys so much, and I valued our friendships so highly, that I did not want the awkwardness of that romantic uncertainty to destroy or affect the friendships we had. It took me a very long time to realise that this following is what I was doing, but back at a certain point in my life when I had an exorbitant crush on a certain someone, it was unconsciously so that I could offload all that potential romantic awkwardness on only one implausible individual, and in only one unlikely direction, leaving the rest of my interactions with my actual friends clear and free, so that I could chat, and talk and get deep with all my real friends in a completely unromantic way, knowing that all my romantic attention was acutely concentrated somewhere else. But this was completely unconscious. It was only years later that I realised that that was what I had been doing.
And then another big reason is that many of these friends are not Christians. All the same I really like them and I feel as if I strongly connect with them. But with all the best will in the world, I cannot seriously consider them romantically. So friendzoning was always my preferred method of relating with them, but not in that exclusive romantic way, because I did after all like them, and I did not want to lose their friendship altogether. That said, as I’m writing this, I’m wondering whether it is actually extremely inconsiderate and totally unfair to ask someone to be your friend, when you know that they are strongly attracted to you. I always did try to make it clear that there was no possibility of anything romantic happening, because of the faith incompatibility. And yet you know that some people will continue to live in hope.
And then as I write this, another thought occurs to me: the reason I have always been more than happy with friendzoning male friends is because it provides a way for my own emotional needs to be met, even outside of an actual relationship! I think that this is probably the big reason why people generally dislike the friendzone, or disapprove of the idea: I’ve honestly never seen it in this light before: that because your friend is apparently attracted to you, then you have the “power” in the situation, and you can control things so that your needs are met, while their own needs must remain unmet, knowing that they probably like you enough to comply with your wishes. To be fair to myself though, I have never deliberately taken advantage of someone’s attraction to me in this way, and I hope it is fair to say that I never would. I have had a few friends who have been attracted to me, but I honestly thought that the friendzone thing was mutually beneficial. I guess I was thinking about it from my own personal perspective. I crave emotional intimacy so much that I assume everyone else is the same, and everyone equally craves it and would be grateful to interact deeply outside an actual relationship. We might not be able to consider an actual relationship but if we could still spend time talking and sharing deeply, within wise boundaries, then would you not also appreciate that?!
Being put in the friendzone myself:
I’ve never actually been in the situation where I’ve been attracted to someone, and he said “Let’s be friends!” Perhaps this is because it is normally the guy who indicates interest in the girl, so it would be unlikely in the first place for me to have shown him that I like him, although I certainly have done that in the past. And then as I write this, it occurs to me that of course I would be more than happy to be friendzoned, because it would still provide a way for my own emotional needs to be met until someone comes along who does want to be with me romantically!
I must admit that writing this post has taken me in a very different direction to the one I had in mind when I first thought of writing it. I had intended to write a post proclaiming the virtues of the friendzone, talking about how it could be a great springboard for the two year thing, and how you could possibly develop real relationships and marriages from that. But as I’ve actually been writing, I think I’ve realised that what I always considered useful and mutually beneficial and totally pure might have been all but a one-sided relationship but without the hugs etc. My goodness, what a dreadful realisation. And then to be perfectly candid I’ve always known that I could not realistically continue maintaining these friendships with these guys at these same levels after they, or I, actually got married. That if anything, should have driven home the point that these friendships were not quite as innocent as they appeared.
Thinking about this helps me to understand a few things, I believe, that have previously left me feeling puzzled. Firstly, I have to remind myself that men and women genuinely are different! I’ve always wondered, if we can’t actually be in a relationship outright, then why can we not be friends?! Meaning the kind of friendship that would serve my emotional needs, naturally! Sometimes I feel strongly tempted to communicate to certain guys that while yes, I am looking for “the one”, I would love to have their friendship and I would be content with their friendship! And I would sincerely be content. I hope I can respect people’s boundaries as I expect them to respect my own*. And yet I guess I can appreciate that for many guys, investing that kind of emotional intimacy outside of an actual relationship just does not make sense, and it is not something that they would need to do in the same way I would. Perhaps this is why there is rarely any deep friendship on offer from these men outside of a relationship, even when I sense that we are emotionally on the same wavelength.
Finally I am thinking with a certain poignant nostalgia of a certain one of my past “friendzone” friends. To be candid, I could definitely sense certain vibes from him. We never did have “that” conversation, (possibly because I would have run a mile!) However, he did everything but spell it out. To be honest, I really liked him as a friend, I deeply valued his friendship, and I was gloriously content with the interaction between us. I thought we were both happy with relating “in the friendzone”, knowing that we could not take our friendship further. And then the point came where he essentially broke off the friendship, for no apparent reason. I was so upset, and disappointed. Up till today I sometimes look back sadly on that lost friendship and ask myself what happened. Why could things not remain the way they were? But now I guess I am starting to understand. In that case I would thank him for being my friend as long as he was, and I am so sorry for being clueless or naively self-centred.
How am I going to get to know you?!
Well I had always assumed (or hoped) that friendzoning or rather developing deep emotional intimacy would be a big component of getting to know someone whom I could eventually go on to marry. And perhaps it still will be. The difference there I guess is that we would both acknowledge the real possibility of a relationship further on. I have to think about this more in terms of the two year thing to try to think how it might possibly work.
This following is not desperately relevant to this post, but it has occurred to me now as I have been writing: if a guy I did not know but I would like to know were to ask me out for coffee, what would I do?! For instance, let’s imagine that I met him on a once-off basis, not in a fixed, shared context like attending the same church. The difficulty even with Christians is that I don’t know what their expectations are. That is why I have to define exactly what is, or is not happening. Is it a romantic thing? If so, would he expect us to immediately start relating as if we were in a relationship? If so, what is his expectation of how people relate in a relationship?!** What I would love to tell all these guys in these situations is this: “I’d love to get to know you, however I’m not yet sure whether I want to be a in a relationship with you yet, precisely because I don’t know you!” Perhaps what I would do then is to go out with him “for coffee” once or twice, stumble through the awkwardness of trying to discern what exactly it is that he is asking, and then if this particular interaction looks as if it might be going somewhere, ask him to invite me into his specific context, like his church, and then proceed to do the two year thing so that we could really get to know one another without the pressures and temptations of one-on-one meetings.
*One big headache I have with male friends though is that they never actually do define the boundaries as I do, they are never totally explicit as I am, as I wish they would be. Which is why the embarrassing and awkward task of doing this always falls to me! Or perhaps they think that they are being perfectly clear! Or perhaps to them it makes sense to allow the ambiguity until they have actually decided what they want. However for me I need to know what exactly it is that you are asking so that I know what exactly it is that I am agreeing to!
**I don’t want to go around stumbling from relationship to relationship, leaving a little part of my heart behind in each situation. Rather, I would prefer to preserve my whole heart, romantically speaking, for my husband. Because of this, I don’t want to engage in actions that would correspond to giving my heart away: things like kissing, even things like the seriously deep hugs I’m crazy about, even holding hands. For me all these seemingly small actions are imbued with such meaning that I’d rather save them up to inflict their full collective force on Mr Huggie-Wuggie himself!
A friend loves at all times…
Photo of Teddy Bears by Hans on Pixabay