It’s considered to be one of the biggest perils of modern heterosexual dating: You, a man, ending up in the “friendzone.” As most of us know, the friendzone is a place that romantic intentions go to die: It’s an elephant graveyard where men who aren’t quite good enough to make the cut as boyfriends are politely relegated to rot in the terrain of friendship, while the object of your affection is off cavorting with other, better candidates.
At least, that’s the depressing, traditional conception, and many guys will tell you it’s a state that needs to be avoided at all costs: "Friendzoned” men are weak; lesser; beta. In reality, though, being told by a woman toward whom you had some romantic affection that she doesn’t see you in that way and would prefer to be friends — either explicitly or implicitly — is a blessing in disguise.
Here are six reasons why:
1. Friendship Is Precious And Nothing To Be Scoffed At
This isn't the most exciting truth, but it is deeply important. Being told by any human being that they would like to be your friend should set your heart aglow rather than trigger complaints about a wounded ego and sense of rejection. Simply put, friendship is precious: It’s one of life’s great joys from the moment we are born until we die. Friendship is arguably even more precious than romantic love, because it is lasting, non-exclusive and rarely risks becoming overly intense, yet it’s intimate enough to soothe your deepest existential angst.
The problem with conceptualizing the friendzone as a second-rate place to end up is that it reframes friendship as a consolation prize rather than an inherent good. By complaining about being in the friendzone, you are selling yourself and the object of your affection short: You are suggesting that having no relationship at all with her is better than existing within the “purgatory” of friendship, and that is, quite simply, ungrateful nonsense.
Let’s be clear: If you were seriously hung up on this girl and the idea of being friends is too much to handle while you are grieving, that’s OK. You are, of course, not obliged to take up anyone’s offer of friendship. But to act as though friendship itself is a lesser category of relationship than that of boyfriend-girlfriend is misguided and short-sighted, and it therefore behooves you to reconceptualize the friendzone in a more positive light.
2. The Friendzone Hones Your Communication Skills
Often, the “friendzoning” process goes like this: A heterosexual man decides he has a massive crush on someone he knows through work or his friendship group, or otherwise met in neutral, platonic circumstances — they took the same class at university or were in a yoga lesson together, that sort of thing. They strike up a relationship in which she takes him to be a cool person with whom she enjoys spending time, and he develops a furious crush on her, which he never explicitly tells her about. He lets his feelings simmer and swell, but never uses actual words to suggest that he is keen to move things into a romantic sphere.
Eventually, she makes a comment about him “such a good buddy” or starts dating another guy or in some other way makes it clear that she sees him solely as a friend. At this point, he’s furious. How could this b*tch have led him on like that? It was so obvious he wanted to be with her! Anyone with mind-reading skills and advanced powers of assumption could have seen it!
No. Stop. This is not how adult relationships work. If you meet a woman on Tinder or at a speed-dating event, you have firmer grounds to believe it was always obvious that you had romantic intentions, but to assume the same in other circumstances is way off base. If you want a woman to be your girlfriend, you cannot expect her to deduce that through some process of mind-reading and code-deciphering: You need to express your feelings in words, like a mature grown-up. Ending up in the friendzone is a sign you haven’t been clear about your intentions, and that you need to work on your communication skills.
3. The Friendzone Helps You Lose Your Sense Of Entitlement
Another important lesson to learn from the process of being friendzoned is that women don’t owe you their romantic affection, nor do they owe you sex. There is no rule of the universe which states that, as long as you have found a single woman who is friendly towards you and in whom you are interested, she must return your affections and eventually progress things to a romantic level.
Of course, movies, books and songs have been indoctrinating all of us with the opposite message for decades. The classic film trope is that the beautiful but misguided woman will date asshole guys until she eventually sees that a nice guy was under her very nose all along, and then they will kiss passionately, get married and make a clan of babies. No wonder, then, that it feels jarring when real-life women don’t operate that way and are simply more interested in having you as a friend than as a boyfriend.
These are the basic facts, though: Movies aren’t real life, and no woman owes you her romantic interest. The idea that a woman can “lead you on” by being kind to you or enjoying your company betrays a damaging level of entitlement towards them, and the mere fact that a single woman is hanging out with you isn’t some signed and sealed agreement that you are going to be lovers at some point. The very concept of the friendzone as a negative place encapsulates this entitlement, and that’s another reason it’s advantageous to reframe the friendzone as a positive — even fortunate — place to be.
4. The Friendzone Helps You Build Stronger Relationships With Women
Learning to see women as fully fledged human being with their own desires, values and goals as opposed to romantic prospects walking around waiting to be “won” by a man is a plus for everyone. For women, it’s great because it means their full humanity is being acknowledged, and for you it’s great because you can start to view women as multitude-containing beings rather than two-dimensional girlfriends to be acquired, and that’s ultimately much more fulfilling.
Look, we’re not trying to be insulting: We know you don’t view women as flat, two-dimensional objects; it’s just that so much of society, represented through the media, does. Women are constantly reduced to boring beings valuable only insofar as they are beautiful or could make diligent wives and mothers. And, for straight men, being platonic friends with women is one of the best ways of overcoming this stereotypical view of women and gaining a more complex, interesting perspective of women in general.
It’s not an accident that the most vigilantly misogynistic men tend not to have many female friends: When the only women in your life are moms, providers of sex or coworkers you bump into in the kitchen at work, you aren’t seeing the full spectrum of female behavior or accessing their inner worlds. The friendzone is an excellent locale for getting to know women on a deep — and deeply fulfilling — level.
5. The Friendzone Ensures You Don’t End Up In Relationships For The Wrong Reasons
Say things went the way you ostensibly wanted them to: You pined for a certain woman, explained that you saw her as more than “just” a friend and that she’d led you to believe she felt the same way, and even though she has expressed no genuine romantic interest in you, she agrees to be with you because that's how you want things to be.
Does that sound good, being with someone who doesn’t actually desire you back? No, it doesn't — it sounds like a relationship that's doomed to fail. Relationships are enriching and valuable because they are unions in which two people freely agree to like each other and spend time together. They are rewarding because another person sees you for who you are, warts and all, and decides that you’re cool enough to hang with anyway. Why on earth would you want someone to hang around pretending they felt that way about you, when they didn’t? The friendzone is a blessing in that it ensures that, so long as you're in it, you at least aren't in a hellish relationship out of a woman's sense of obligation or guilt.
6. The Friendzone Helps You Deal With Rejection
Okay. Let’s say you’ve read and deeply internalized all of the above points. You can see that friendship isn’t a consolation prize and being friendzoned can be valuable in a multitude of ways: It can clarify the need for clear communication, for example, and deepen your impression of women. However, you may still be feeling a niggling sense that being friendzoned still isn’t exactly what you wanted. You met a woman who you wanted to become your girlfriend and she’s made it clear that she won’t, and you're finding it difficult to conceptualize that as anything but rejection.
Well, in the kindest possible way, so what? Even if you have been rejected, that’s okay and even valuable, too. Rejection is an inevitable facet of life, and we will all face it many times throughout our lives, from the workplace to the romantic realm. None of us particularly love it, but almost all of us could be better at facing and dealing with it. If nothing else, being friendzoned — if you cannot view it positively for any other reason — is at least useful practice for experiencing and then dealing with romantic rejection.
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However you want to conceptualize the friendzone, it’s likely nowhere near as bad as you thought it was, and it can certainly teach you valuable, life-affirming lessons about relationships, resilience, love, and even yourself. So, the next time a woman makes it clear that she sees you solely as a friend, try to view it as the poorly-wrapped but precious gift it is.