DISCLAIMER: While I'm serious about the substance of this piece, I have used some very mildly colorful language and attitude mainly for the purpose of satire. Please, don't be offended. If you are easily offended, how in God's name do you survive participating in this site? If you want to know what my main point is, just read the Title, or just scroll down to the Bottom Line section.
So, you think you're in the dreaded "friend zone" (also spelled "friendzone" sometimes). Well, let ol' uncle -REDACTED- [Just call me Redact, or NineBreaker, or Max, or Job... etc.] help you get out of it. First, and foremost, know this: it's you're fault. Yes, it is your fault for being in the friend zone. I know love hurts and sometimes we all feel conflicted, but I'm not going to sugarcoat this.
Anonymity... is like a warm blanket.
-- Max, from the movie Mission: Impossible
First, in order to be able to exit this limbo, we must understand what the friend zone is, and how you got there.
This is the Friend Zone
There is a third dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension where you are as close as a very good friend and as trusted as a significant other. It is the middle ground between true romance and close friendship, between dating and only hanging out, and it lies between the pit of man's false hopes and the summit of his desire. This is the dimension of denial. It is an area which we call the Friend Zone.
-- Adapted from the Opening of Season 1 of the Twilight Zone
DUN DUN DUN!!!!
To put it very simply, being in the friend zone is not necessarily like having a crush. While there are similarities, there is a much different, much more sinister dynamic. One is said to be in the friend zone when this individual has strong romantic feelings towards someone else, and gets very close to them without these feelings being reciprocated. The object of this individual's love and/or lust only sees him [I'm using this pronoun because I'm a guy, but you can easily switch it up] as a very good and loyal friend. The friendzoned individual does not express their true feelings overtly but somehow expects that their potential significant other will start to develop romantic feelings towards him. The friendzoned behaves like a best friend and is treated as a very good friend, and somehow expects for something to change. This can go on indefinitely and it can be very painful.
But why, Whatever-your-name-is? Why would anyone subject themselves to this?
Well, I'm glad to asked. Unfortunately, I don't really know, at least not for sure, but I can only speculate.
1. Anxiety and Fear: Rejection hurts!
This may be the most common cause for an individual to avoid doing or saying something. It could be due to fear of rejection, which can bring up a lot of anxiety. It's a subconscious probability estimation that one may make. Think of it this way: For most of us, we can seek to have only a single friend, a few friends, many friends, or literally countless friends of varying degrees of friendship. However, for most of us, we only seek one significant other. Statistically, you're more likely to be someone's friend than their significant other if you control for all factors. Even in the case of polyamorous relationships, can you be in love with more than a few people at a time? I don't think so, but I also have never been in such a relationship, so just keep that in mind.
2. Ulterior Motives: A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing
The ultimate friendzone-themed movie in my opinion is Something About Mary. I vaguely remember it from years ago. If you are in the friend zone and wondered how I personally view people in the friend zone, just watch that movie. I'm not going to spoil the movie because I have a strict no-spoiler philosophy even towards flicks I don't like. Bottom line, there's a bunch of people who are in the friendzone and they were all pathetic and had ulterior motives, often resorting to excessive lying and deception to maintain their status in the friendzone.
I would not at all be surprised if some people (mostly among us guys) infiltrate the friendzone, but actively use it as nothing more than a means to get into someone's (usually a woman's) pants, and only that. It's ridiculous and disgusting. I don't know if this type of friendzoned makes up a big percentage or not.
3. Other Reasons: Why? Because... "F!@# you!" That's why.
May be I'm wrong. May be you know better than I do. It's possible some egghead somewhere published a horrifyingly long or ridiculously over-technical wall of text talking about this. [Fellow eggheads, I know you may be offended by being called eggheads, but I am also a bit of an egghead myself, so I can use this word freely. I'm also a gearhead, but that's for another story]. What is your opinion on this? What other motivations could there be? Enlighten me fellow G@Gers!
But woe is me, that-who-has-refused-to-share-his-identity! How do I get out of the limbo of the friendzone?!
Ah, yes! That is the main reason why you've endured reading this for so long. It is elementary my dear reader: GROW A [proverbial] F!@#ING PAIR! That is, if you're in the first category. If you're in the second category, you're probably a f!@#ing sociopath and wouldn't really care if I told you to cut it out. You're probably already plotting your exit strategy after using someone else for nothing more than sexual pleasure. I'd tell you that you should be ashamed of yourself, but again, this may fall on deaf ears (or in this case blind eyes).
Yes. Grow a pair of testicles, ovaries, brain hemispheres... Just man or woman up and do the right thing. Don't be a coward. Nobody likes a coward.
Here's some advice to help you navigate what your options are and what the possible outcomes could be. Again, if you are in the second category of freindzoned, this doesn't apply to you. You're evil, and it's not OK.
You could express your true feelings
Assuming that your love interest is currently single. Just tell them outright how you feel about them. Be honest, be sincere, and be gentle (i.e. don't be like how I am while writing this). You may end up challenging their perception about you. I'm not saying you shouldn't be afraid of the consequences of putting your heart on your sleeve like that. It's OK to feel a bit anxious, but if you want to get somewhere you have to be brave by facing your fears. The most important thing you can do is sincerely convey that you accept their decision no matter what it is. If they accept your proposition, then you have won. If they reject you as a romantic partner, you may feel sad or disappointed, but you will feel better getting rid of that burden of not knowing where you can go. The outcome of your rejection is to either maintain some level of friendship or just decide to stay away and move on. Keeping your distance does not have to be permanent if that's not what you want. You may just need some time away to deal with your emotions, and that's OK. This person who you bared your soul to should understand your emotional needs. Otherwise, you don't need someone like that as either a friend or a significant other.
Basically, the best thing to do is to tailor your response accordingly.
You could just walk away... forever, like a ghost whose absence is never missed
Poetic, eh? I don't think I'm corny. At least I try not to be. MOVING ON!
You could just slowly drift away into acquaintance-hood, never having to deal with the pain of a potential rejection or the sweet and savory taste of acceptance. This is similar to the MGTOW approach. [I don't agree with my brothers in the MGTOW movement, but I do understand and respect their views]
This approach is possibly OK. No one really gets hurt; no love lost, but no love gained.
This is the coward's way out. Remember the first statement? Yes. Grow a pair. Even if you just got sick of the situation, just be upfront about it, and move the f!@# on. Or you can pussyfoot your way out of it. Don't be a coward.
In the end, why subject yourself to a hidden emotional pain because of how you feel in your heart and not try to deal with it head-on?
If you don't want to be in the friendzone, just be forthcoming with your feelings no matter what the consequences are. If you can't deal with some of these potential consequences, just stay away.
Speaking of "staying away":