Being in the Friend Zone Takes Two

Dan Bolton

When it comes to women, single men are very preoccupied with not being put in the friend zone. I often get the question "Do you think that means I've been put in the friend zone?" or the exasperated statement "I think she has me in the friend zone." The implication is that this is a completely passive experience and that even if the man is in the friend zone that he has to stay there and tolerate it.

Like I've indicated in the title, being in the friend zone takes two. You absolutely do not have to stick around in a situation that does not feel good to you. If you've made your intentions clear and she makes it clear that she sees you as just a friend, there is no obligation to stay in that relationship. In fact, by staying around after it's clear she only sees you as a friend, you are solidifying the friendship status of your relationship. What I find is that often times the man has not made his intentions clear or communicated his feelings at all, continuing the illusion of just being the friend while looking for covert signals from the woman that she wants more (read more on Clear Intentions).

If you are not communicating your intentions or are holding yourself back from making the move you want to make out of fear of rejection you are maintaining the friend zone safe space; the relationship persists in this safe, friendly holding pattern. The friend zone space may feel safe for her, but if you're in this friend zone and you were to be honest with yourself it is probably serving as a safe place for you as well to avoid the anxiety and tension that comes from the idea of revealing the secret you've been keeping from her. In this scenario you are flying this plane and are more responsible than her for the fact that you're in the friend zone.

The situation can be complicated by time. If you've had a long standing friendship with the woman it does make it harder to break out of the friend zone because the relationship has a long standing precedent as a friendship. The expectations as friends have been set and are deeply rooted in this scenario. Often men secretly have held a crush over the duration of such a friendship, at first avoiding making their intentions clear out of anxiety or fear of rejection. The longer this goes on it creates a new anxiety about how disclosing your feelings will effect or even ruin the friendship. Well, if you're feelings are that strong is that a discomfort you want to live with long-term? She is not going to make the move for you if she hasn't yet. If the relationship has been established in that comfort zone for some time the disclosure will disrupt the friendship. But it is that disruption that may make room for the type of relationship you do want to have. It may not, but it is the best chance for it to develop. It is the only way she will miss you and rethink what her relationship and attachment to you has meant to her. But, you have to be prepared that the friendship may not continue after that point. There is no such thing as a no risk situation in this circumstance. Often the hesitation involves the avoidance of the pain and grief that would come from the loss of the friendship or loss of the potential relationship as it has existed in your mind.

If you have been so bold as to make your intentions clear, and she's said there is something between you two but has been making continual excuses for things not to develop for a long time now, she could be leading you on or manipulating you for the good feelings or whatever else you are giving her. Sure, this is wrong, but if you're angry at her your anger may be directed at the wrong person. If she keeps leading you on, then turning you down why are you still there? Your inaction allows her to keep taking advantage of your kindness- so if you continue to put up with this or you've said nothing within this limbo period she's not really taking advantage of you so much as you're allowing yourself to be taken advantage of. I point this out because this is where I hear a lot of anger from men towards women that leads men to getting a bad rap. Why add anger or hostility to an already toxic situation? If you're dating a woman who has a flare for drama, has emotional problems, or especially Borderline Personality your anger is exactly the type of behavior she will take advantage of to play the victim role and make you out to be the bad guy, avoiding all responsibility for her manipulative behavior. My advice is to walk away and avoid a potentially ugly scene for yourself. Move on cleanly and gracefully. It's the best thing you can do for yourself.

There are not a whole lot of things I can imagine to be more emotionally painful than men keeping the depth and complexity of their emotional lives hidden. This is one major reason I started a men's group this past year... So that men don't need to feel alone in their pain or struggle to figure out these social dynamics by themselves. This first series of groups I have going is for men like you who have felt reluctant to be more assertive about going after the things you want out of life.

If you're a nice guy who is tired of being left in the dust, not getting the girl, or feel like you keep getting the short end of the stick in relationships, I am running an in-person and online group called Self Respect for Nice Guys. I'm here to coach you how to use your authentic personality to your advantage to get you where you want to be in life, and the type of attraction you want and find a happy, healthy relationship or turn the tide in one that is not making you happy. No more getting walked all over by women, no more seeing only other guys get the girl. It's your turn now... It's time to make it happen! This is for motivated men who are willing to take the next step, but need some direction. If you want to sign up for this group, do so here: This is more than the regular email list. This group is for men who are ready to be active in the next step in their personal transformation. 

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Original Illustration by Zoe Langosy -