To My Brothers (and Sisters) in the Friendzone

I’m about to tell you something that’s worth every penny you pay for it: the friendzone is exactly where you want to be.

(Side note: the heavy research behind these posts will have to move to a back-burner because of upcoming school projects. Degrees don’t earn themselves, otherwise I’d be in the library hunting for commentaries and/or reading The Second Sex instead of hunting for literary criticism on The Christmas Carol. Hence why this post is a rabbit trail.)

If you don’t know what “the friendzone” is–well, you probably do, just not by that name. “The Friendzone” is not a literal place but a state of being. The Friendzone is the state of the girl (or boy) you love…not loving you back.

Both men and women have experienced the Friendzone, but (at least in my experience) men tend to be more vocal about it. In context, a boy whose female friend has said no to his third request for a date will usually turn to his friends, sigh, and say something to the effect of,

“Man, I got Friendzoned,” (the verbified version of “Friendzone”). “This is so dumb. Nice guys always finish last.”

I’m sympathetic, I really am. I’ve been in the Friendzone. Several times. It’s annoying. In my mind, I was so perfect for the person I liked, but he kept going after all my friends.  My pride was hurt.

But there are underlying problems with bemoaning the Friendzone. Serious problems. There’s an equally serious problem festering at the root of the idea that “nice guys finish last” because “girls only go for jerks.”

Problem One: The Idea that You’re Entitled to be Loved by the Object of Your Affection

Yes, I understand. Unrequited love is tough. Very tough. But a person is a person, not a thing. A person is made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). A person is made with a specific purpose in mind (Philippians 2:13, Psalm 138:8), a purpose that may or may not include you. People are not potential possessions.

By believing that somehow a person owes you love, you are ignoring their personhood. You may think you know what’s good for him or her (you) but might very well be wrong. If you’re a friend, keep being a friend. Respect the person’s free will and desires. After all, that’s what friends do.

Problem Two: The Idea that You Deserve a Reward for Being a Decent Person

I know that many of us grew up being handed trophies just for participating. Arguably, that worked in elementary school. But, at least from what I’ve seen, that doesn’t work in relationships. Any kind of relationship. Just because you are a nice person, or even just because you went out of your way to be nice to the person you like, doesn’t mean the girl (guy) owes you a date. Or anything else.

Of course you should be nice. Sometimes guys and girls both put up a front of jerkiness or flirtatiousness because they want to atrract someone, anyone. Still others alter their personalities to adapt to specific people they like, hoping the masks will be good enough. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, EVER put on a front for the sake of being “attractive.” Please, please be who you are; please strive to be kind.

But don’t strive to be kind in the hopes of getting a date. Remember, we are to be kind for kindness’s sake. We are made in the image of God and God is love, therefore we as His children are to love even our enemies, to “do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back” (Luke 6:35). If we are to love our enemies without expecting any favors in return, then how much more should we love our friends and consider their wishes more important than our own (Philippians 2:3)?

It’s unwise to expect a cookie for being a nice person.

And even if you could, people aren’t cookies.

Problem Three: What’s so Bad about Being Someone’s Friend?

Full disclaimer: I’m 23 and only newly married. I don’t have a very deep well of wisdom to draw from just yet. Like I said, you’re getting what you paid for. But I will say I have had a few relationships, and I took careful notes as they faded away. And a lot of what I’m about to say has been passed down to me from my parents and grandparents and many other wise and experienced people in my life who know what’s up.

Healthy relationships are founded on healthy friendships.

My husband was in the Friendzone. I put him there. I did not want a relationship. With anyone. Ever. As far as I was concerned, Sam was in the Friendzone for good.

He knew that. And he was okay with that. We kept being friends. Then things happened. Then we got married.

We’re still friends. Married, but friends first.

Love is so much more than romance. Yes, romance is beautiful and fun, but it’s the friendship that fuels the flame.

The trouble with wanting the grand, breathtaking romance is that the romance comes with absurd expectations. You’ll be tempted to hold your significant other to a fanciful and impossible high standard. And you’ll be disappointed every time they tumble from the pedestal constructed from rom coms and Disney movies. Again, people are people. People are sinners. People make mistakes. People aren’t perfect, and the last thing any of us wants is a relationship where we’re expected to be perfect.

But friendship sees the imperfections and loves wholeheartedly anyway.

I don’t have a verse that will say all that for me. The Bible is not a book of dating advice. There aren’t many romance pointers outside of The Song of Solomon.

But take Christ’s relationship with His disciples. Jesus called them His friends (John 15:15). In fact, there are several places in Scripture where God calls His people His friends. He also compares His relationship with His people as that between a bridegroom and a bride (Isaiah 62:5). Friendship and love are not mutually exclusive ideas. We need to erase from our minds that being someone’s friend is somehow a demotion. God doesn’t seem to think so.

If you are in the Friendzone, you’re sitting on prime real estate. If nothing else, you have a wonderful person as a friend, and that is something to be thankful for. And please, oh please, keep being nice. Keep being kind.

I hope I haven’t come off as patronizing. That’s the last thing I want, but sometimes tone is hard to communicate through a keyboard and a screen. I want to look you in the eyes and tell you it will all turn out alright.  I, too, know what it’s like to hurt and wait and wonder. I know what it’s like to desire someone and to be disappointed. But please believe me when I say “He makes all things beautiful in His time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

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10 comments

  1. alicianewk10 · November 12, 2015

    Yes. Just, yes.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Christy D. · November 12, 2015

    From someone who married a man who stayed in the friend-zone for 8 months…yes!
    Also, being in the friend-zone could inspire you to be a better person. Really. I mean don’t try to be kind to win the other person, but Sidney Carton went on to do a “far better” thing than he had ever done before. In large part because of loving and being friend-zoned.
    Being inspired to greatness is not bad. Just don’t let it depend on making the other love you back.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Teacherlovesbooks · November 12, 2015

    From the perspective of a happily married woman of 30 years, I highly recommend marriage to someone you consider a friend first and foremost. It doesn’t get any better than marriage to your best friend. And, personally, I can’t imagine anything worse than marriage to someone who is not a friend.You are right when you guide our thoughts to a scriptural view of friendship as well as a scriptural view of love. I Corinthians 13 applies to marital love as well as family love (parents and children; siblings; etc) and friendship.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. oneforjesus · December 30, 2015

    Thanks for this article and for contributing to a conversation that, I think, is important. Too many marriages in our time founder on the rocks of false expectations when they start from a place of starry-eyed romance rather than solid (“boring”) fundamentals. That said, I am now a 40-something male with 10+ years of wedded bliss under my belt, but as someone who spent all of my teens, all of my 20s, and a goodly chunk of my 30s on the business end of the friendzone, my perspective on it is somewhat different from yours. Very strongly implied in your post is the notion that close opposite-sex friendship is a leading cause of love, romance, and marriage. That may have been true in your case, but it certainly was not in mine.

    Over those decades of singleness, nearly all of my closest friends have been women, yet my lamentations about being “just friends” (which is what we called the “friendzone” back in my day) were not so much about me, my needs, my desires, or my frustrations. They were about my friends’ poor judgment. I cannot second your advice that “the friendzone is where you want to be”, because in my experience, that is an enabler role.

    As an example,one particular friend had a long history with the wrong guys. She had always said she couldn’t get involved with a guy like me because she needed someone who would “get her heart racing”, but ultimately, she said, “I figured it out: that ‘heart racing’ is a danger response. It is adrenaline. It is fight or flight. That’s why those guys were exciting: because they were unsafe.” She only figured this out after I got married and was no longer there for her real emotional needs of companionship and stability. For year after year after year after year, as I was quietly taking it on the chin, living through my grinding loneliness (for example, see http://www.oneforjesus.net/surviving-years-alone-with-god-and-into-the-woods/), showing up with a smile and always being there, it turns out I was not helping anyone.

    So, if your advice is to women— that if they are finally tired of “excitement” and are ready for real happiness, they should take another look at the guys in their “friendzone”— then I whole-heartedly agree. But if your advice is to guys, that despite their misgivings, they should hang in there because she is bound to come around eventually, then I would urge caution. If you find yourself describing your situation as “the friendzone”, consider that you may actually be recognizing a real unhealthy pattern, and (in some cases at least), it’s possible that sticking it out will only make it worse.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anonymous2 · February 27, 2016

      Re: Your last paragraph.

      Yes, it’s fine for a guy to stay in the friendzone, but he needs to make sure he’s actively pursuing other options. If a guy is obsessed and being a stalker, he needs to get some distance for a while.

      I worry about one part of your advice because it sounds like something right out of the MRA movement. Sometimes a guy goes into the “friendzone” because he really does not have anything to offer this woman or any woman — and he needs to improve himself. There’s a guy at my church who has “anger issues” (aka he’s emotionally abusive), and he belongs in the friendzone forever. He is not marriage material for anyone. He needs five years of therapy, and even that may not be enough.

      Liked by 1 person

      • E.A. Stephens · February 27, 2016

        Yes, very, very true. I’ve known boys like that–i know exactly what you’re talking about. Discernment is necessary for everyone involved.

        Like

  5. Rachel Potter · February 9, 2016

    I’ve missed your posts! Are they coming back soon? 🙂

    Like

  6. Anonymous2 · February 27, 2016

    I “friend-zoned” a guy many years ago due to two major obstacles. We went our separate ways, and got in touch every couple of years. Just one platonic dinner conversation changed everything. Both objections had disappeared over the course of time, and we never knew.

    “I’ve been crazy about you for years, and I love you,” he said.
    “I love you, too.”

    I never thought I would ever be loved and accepted and cared for this much.

    I don’t want to give people false hope: We already had “chemistry” but there were deal-killers. If one (or both) of you makes a major life change, it might be time to take a second look.

    Liked by 1 person

    • E.A. Stephens · February 27, 2016

      Thanks for your feedback. More people need to hear stories like yours.

      Like

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