A More Neutral Look at the 'Friendzone'


The friendzone is today almost certainly the most exhaustively discussed of the relationship woes. On the Internet, it is like a loose beast and even for the most intelligent men (and women) it is a difficult concept to shake loose. Most articles on the so-called friendzone, however, are decidedly negative, simplistic and antagonistic, so I want to write a fairly neutral, explanatory article about it, from the point of view of a young male.

A More Neutral Look at the 'Friendzone'

Most men have been in the 'friendzone' which can be simply defined as having feelings for a female friend, who doesn't feel the same way. Many like to say that this was caused by the male not making his intentions clear from the beginning, lacking confidence, being a 'Nice Guy' or a combination of these things along with other supposed factors. Of course, in my mind the story is not this simple at all.

Let's imagine that we lived in a hypothetical world where males never befriended females. Basically, females stayed in all female groups, males associated with males and the two groups only intermingled at designated social gatherings and events. I personally don't advocate this type of world, however, I'm using it for the sake of explanation. In this world, any relationship between a male and female is certainly sexual. Men approach women they are interested in and this approach is interpreted as having a definite sexual motivation and the women can choose to reciprocate or reject that man. Simple.

Now, let's look at the real world, or at least our modern approach to dealing with the two genders. Men work with women, they have women in their classes at university, their social circle likely comprises of a fairly equal distribution of the two genders. The typical male that does not sift through bars and clubs or do 'cold-approaching' will typically expect to meet love-interests in this social group, wherein each relationship has some form of context. In this case, expressing interest in a girl has real social consequences and for men that are not extremely confident, extremely popular or extremely socially skilled, things can get awkward and complicated very fast.

Men today are also pressured heavily to perceive women as ordinary people, no different than other men. Men are shamed for having interest in their female friends and for the most part their feelings go suppressed. I agree that men should have some restraint, but this isn't really the point I'm getting at here. Men are trained against their biological urges to treat women as ordinary people and completely ignore any underlying attraction or interest they may have in them.

So, how does this relate to the friendzone? As was stated earlier, there are usually social consequences for expressing interest in a woman, even if people say there isn't. Even if there wasn't, typically one will have some kind of useful relationship with that woman. This could be a professional relationship, an academic partnership or just an ordinary friendship that does add value to the guy's life. Trying to initiate a sexual relationship in any case, carries a definite risk which guys are understandably concerned about.

The most logical route (and this is what goes through the heads of most guys) then is to simply befriend these females and test out whether a sexual relationship is possible. Because many guys feel shamed by our society enough to not obviously flirt, they are usually much more subtle about showing their interest. A hazy friendship is formed with the guy's real intentions bobbing around in his mind, occasionally coming to the surface but quickly being forced back into the depths. The friendship slowly progresses. This is where a major disconnect happens. For some guys, this phase is completely mentally indistuinguishable from an actual sexual relationship, only short of physical intimacy, which actually isn't much of a deal-breaker. There is emotional intimacy, vulnerability and presumably some level of physical attraction (we're assuming the guy and girl are both at least average looking). The guy and girl may talk every day, meet each other regularly and sometimes even have physical contact of some kind.

The bubble bursts at approximately this point. The guy 'goes for it' and for whatever reason, the girl just 'doesn't feel it.' In his mind, the guy is honestly in the ficticious world I described before. He thinks that he had a deep emotional connection with this person (which for all he knows, she reciprocated), there was physical attraction, they got along great, spent time together and everything was excellent. He can remember doing nothing wrong. He was kind, respectful, but he also showed attractive traits like determination, intelligence, etc. It makes no sense. And the rejection by the girl seems logically absurd and it pretty much short-circuits his brain.

Rejections like these are powerful and actually quite common (I've experienced it first-hand). Their confidence-shattering power is mainly because of the sheer time investment involved. You may date a girl for a total of a few hours before being rejected, but these friendships often involve months of effort and an immense emotional investment. The brain naturally panicks when it realizes that all of that went precisely nowhere. This is why men relate so strongly to this idea, because the few times it happened to them were probably the worst times emotionally in their entire life, and the emotions attached to that are almost infuriating.

Basically, the story here is that men that complain of getting 'friendzoned' are usually not bad people. They probably aren't even unattractive. Their intention usually wasn't to deceive the woman or - as way too many people have quoted: "Put kindness coins into her until sex comes out." They're trying their best to maintain their social lives, live up to the expectations society has of them in their dealings with women while also trying to satisfy their biological and emotional needs. That isn't easy for either gender, but navigating the waters of 'platonic relationships' (which are themselves not easy for a lot of men to grasp) can become incredibly frustrating. Guys pretty naturally assume that most interactions they have with women will have a sexual basis (refer to the hypothetical world I described earlier) and them committing time to a girl and having her reciprocate that is (to them) a form of flirting or expression of interest, and when that assumption proves to be false, they become frustrated, confused and frantically search for an explanation. Only a minority of guys are deceptive and terrible enough to use friendship as an underhanded tactic to acquire a sexual partner.

So, this is my interpretation of the friendzone. Let me know what you think as I admit this is mostly based on my experiences. In general, I think that as a society we need to have slightly more empathy for people in situations like this. It isn't easy and the large number of Internet 'bashing' articles is probably only making otherwise normal guys insecure. Hopefully this was a slightly more neutral article that avoided pushing too many buttons (which is probably what other articles try to do to start epic flaming comment wars).

Thanks for reading :)

A More Neutral Look at the 'Friendzone'
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