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Let’s be honest, you’ve probably heard of “the friend zone” before. If you haven’t, here’s the rundown. Friends meet, get to know each other, one ends up liking the other and the feeling is not mutual.
Although the idea seems straightforward, the term is often misunderstood by guys who think that the friend zone is a punishment for being “nice.” The valid friend zone is something different: a result of unfortunate compatibility. Here, I will explain both concepts, how each one happens and what to do when you step into the actual “friend zone.”
Here’s how the first kind happens: A guy meets a girl and sees her often, whether at school or by the water fountain at the zoo, and catches some feelings. Meanwhile, she views him as just someone she enjoys talking with. Time goes by and they get closer. One day, as they’re watching “The Titanic“ over a box of hot wings, he decides to make a move, but she doesn’t feel the same way. He gets angry and declares the friendship a waste of time and rants about “nice guys finishing last.”
This is what I call the illegitimate friend zone. A guy expecting a relationship just because he treated a girl like a human being is shortsighted at best and downright ridiculous at worst. This all goes along with guys complaining about “girls only dating jerks and friend-zoning the nice guy.”
The second kind of friend zone is a bit different. Here’s how it happens.
A guy meets a girl (and it could be the other way around, but let’s stay consistent) and catches some feelings. He starts to view her as a potential girlfriend. Time goes by, and they get closer. They’re laughing. They’re taking funny pictures and totally Instagramming them. But in this scenario, the guy genuinely enjoys the friendship and doesn’t view it as a mere stepping stone to a relationship. Rather, the friendship is a sincere feature of how this pair interacts. Nevertheless, the guy makes an unsuccessful move and gets landed in the friend zone.
The problem with the friend zone is not in its mere existence — being attracted to a friend is natural. The problem is that people freak out and don’t know what to do in the friend zone. If you’re the person with the crush, don’t ignore the feelings, and don’t do anything rash. Talk it over, tell them how you feel and move forward from there. A real friend won’t drop you for it.
If you’re the friend who is on the other side of that mess, keep calm. Don’t run away and hurt them just because it’s awkward to deal with. If you feel like giving them a chance, go for it. Don’t be afraid of ruining the friendship. If you’re not into it, let them down easy. Don’t lead them on, and give them some space. A good friendship doesn’t have to go bad because of a friend zone situation.
But there is an upside. The friend zone forces you to realize that there is more to a relationship than just being decent — it takes compatibility. You know, it’s that mythical thing they talk about on eHarmony commercials. Some people are right for each other; some aren’t. You just have to find what works for you.
Is the friend zone a topic of frustration? Yes. Does it have to be? No. If we understood 1) what a friend actually is, and 2) the concept of compatibility, the term “friend zone” would not bring up such misguided complaints.
If you’ve been through the real friend zone, I know that feeling, bro and/or bro-ette. You won’t always have compatibility with a friend, so pick yourself up and find someone with whom you do. If you’re friend-zoning someone, handle it honestly and carefully, and we can all navigate relationships with one less awkward situation. Happy friending, everyone.
Contact CU Independent staff writer Ellis Arnold at Ellis.firstname.lastname@example.org.