The Friend Zone

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The Friend Zone

Postby Carnie » Wed May 01, 2013 12:29 am

This is going to sound like a stupid question, but humour me: Can somebody explain to me what the friend zone is?

I'm not asking this because I have no idea what it means. I'm asking it because I've almost never encountered a straight-up explanation of the term, only allusions to the concept; and what I think it's supposed to mean, based on those allusions, does not make sense to me. So I want to make sure I have it right before going into why it doesn't make sense to me.
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Re: The Friend Zone

Postby mendel » Wed May 01, 2013 6:04 am

I recommend Youtube: The Friend Zone and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer".

Also, what's wrong with the Wikipedia definition?
In popular culture, the "friend zone" refers to a platonic relationship wherein one person wishes to enter into a romantic or sexual relationship, while the other does not. It is generally considered to be an undesirable situation by the lovelorn person. Once the friend zone is established, it is said to be difficult to move beyond that point in a relationship.
What the heck kind of religion do you guys think I follow? (#381)
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Re: The Friend Zone

Postby Globus » Wed May 01, 2013 12:34 pm

The point, in short, is that if you mean to have a romantic relationship with someone, you have to get close to the object of your affections. However, if the other is oblivious, s/he may come to consider you a best friend. People don't think of best friends as a sexual option, just like they don't consider relatives, or other people according to whatever bigotry they have. And then you get trapped: You can't get closer, and if you try to redistance yourself, you will be seen as the best friend who betrayed the other, and are hated forever.

Note (which should be intuitive and a given, but God, is it not): This is the concept of the friend zone, as far as I understand it. I may or may not agree with it, I may or may not have a best friend, I may or may not be familiophobic (but that's a kind of bigotry I can still have without being ridiculed), amicophobic, or whatever. I tried to not give gender-preference to either role, but if I left a hidden "she" in or something, I didn't mean to. Also, what the hell kind of society do we live in that this note is longer than what I had to say?! I mean, come on!
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Re: The Friend Zone

Postby Carnie » Wed May 01, 2013 12:53 pm

I agree with what that video says, but it doesn't address the problem I have with the idea.

We're taking the Wikipedia definition as canonical then? Okay.

First, let me say that I am speaking in the context of actual romantic feelings, the desire to be in an actual romantic relationship with someone, and not just the desire for sex. Because there's a difference.

Let me break this up into two components.

In popular culture, the "friend zone" refers to a platonic relationship wherein one person wishes to enter into a romantic or sexual relationship, while the other does not. It is generally considered to be an undesirable situation by the lovelorn person.

This part is universal to how I've heard the term used. Now this, on its own, would strike me as not being a great problem, because, as I see it, the solution is simple: Tell the other person how you feel.

Once the friend zone is established, it is said to be difficult to move beyond that point in a relationship.

This is the part that I wasn't sure is explicit or not. This, in effect, states that telling the other person how you feel will, inevitably, or at least usually, be unsuccessful.

My problem, in short, is that I question that second statement. And in particular, I wonder how anyone would know, since I feel like the majority of people who complain about being in the friend zone have not actually tried that course of action. I often feel as though the friend zone describes a situation where one person harbors unspoken feelings for the other person, which the other person does not share, and trying unsuccessfully to get the other person to "clue in"; or, to encourage the other person somehow to develop feelings for them, so that the other person will then express those feelings on their own and an explicit confession would not be necessary.

So, some questions for you all:

-Do you believe that it becomes impossible, or at least very unlikely, for person A to have romantic feelings for person B once they already consider person B a friend, and that it would be easier if person B pursued a relationship before person A had classified them as a friend?
-Do you believe it matters which person is the guy and which one is the girl? We all know what the knee-jerk answer to this is, but seriously, do you really believe that's the case? Why?*
-Do you have any empirical evidence for your answer to either question?

*(If anyone has opinions regarding same-sex pairings, feel free to share those as well. Assume though that both parties are homo or bi; if one is hetro, they're obviously unlikely to reciprocate the feelings either way.)

I have little evidence either way. I think I've only asked out one girl who was already a "friend"; she said no, but there were multiple possible reasons for her not being interested beyond "it was inevitable because we were already friends." Also, it was fairly early on - we saw eachother once a week, and this was the fourth such encounter - so I'm not sure it counts in the first place.

*sees Globus' post*

Okay, so your concept of the friend zone matches what I just described, with the possible exception of the difference between "friend" and "best friend" (and another difference which I'll get to in a second). You explicitly don't specify whether you agree with it or not, though. So, if you don't mind my asking, what do you think?

It's interesting that you include in your definition that you need to get close to someone before initiating a romantic relationship, making it a catch-22. Many people, myself included, prefer to be friends first - with pickup artists and the like countering that the solution is to find a way to bang her before she comes to see you as a friend - but I think you're the first person I've seen explicitly say that you need to get close first (again, implying an actual catch-22 situation).

EDIT

Part of why I was confused about the "second part" of the Wikipedia definition was that, one of the few times I'd seen the term explicitly explained, was in an online article about how to "escape" the friend zone, which characterized the friend zone as arising from confessing your feelings being difficult to work up the nerve to do in the first place; as opposed to, difficult (or impossible) to do successfully, because it will usually or inevitably fail even if you do do it, which is the meaning I felt was implied elsewhere, and what I assume the Wikipedia article means by "difficult to move beyond that point in a relationship."

In attempting to find this article again just now, I've found multiple others that share this definition; that the real problem is courage and indecisiveness, and not a presumed inevitable result. So chew on that. In particular, I repeat the question: Of the people who say that telling the other person how you feel won't work, how many have actually tried that, and how many just assume it won't work?

(Note however, that there is very much a difference between making your feelings known tactfully and strategically, and just blurting them out.)
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Re: The Friend Zone

Postby Globus » Wed May 01, 2013 2:03 pm

Carnie wrote:Okay, so your concept of the friend zone matches what I just described, with the possible exception of the difference between "friend" and "best friend" (and another difference which I'll get to in a second). You explicitly don't specify whether you agree with it or not, though. So, if you don't mind my asking, what do you think?

I do not know. I have yet to encounter the problem. (I know, the least interesting answer possible. But it is the truth. EDIT: Well, read the rest of the post. I appear to have a different answer. I still don't have any empirical evidence though.)
Carnie wrote:It's interesting that you include in your definition that you need to get close to someone before initiating a romantic relationship, making it a catch-22. Many people, myself included, prefer to be friends first - with pickup artists and the like countering that the solution is to find a way to bang her before she comes to see you as a friend - but I think you're the first person I've seen explicitly say that you need to get close first (again, implying an actual catch-22 situation).

You see, I find this to be a difference between a romantic and a carnal (is that the right word? It feels like it is) relationship. Mendel's Wikipedia quote allows for romantic or sexual relationship, but I can't imagine how pickup artists and other people who try to have sex before romance manage to get "into the friendzone". So, to discuss the problem, we need to assume friendship (at the very least, familiarity) before romance.

I can't answer your questions in the other part of the post before we define friend. Myself, I believe that if the friendzone exists, it can only apply between what most people now call "best friends", a person with whom you can share things that require great trust, or require great tolerance to your (let's be honest) bullshit, or ask for help in anything in their power and know they will help because of the friendship, and still they will even be happy to help/listen to their best friend. This is the sort of thing which, if not reciprocated, is as great an abuse of familiarity as rape is an abuse of body. I theorise that this sort of person is a stand-in for family, especially one's parents and especially from when one was young enough to be able to tell them anything, and this is the reason why such a person is no longer a romantic option. Well that, and the fear of losing the friendship along with the rejection of the romance.
I have the fortune of knowing such a person. I can't tell if I am friendzoning that person, as the one best friend I have is incompatible with my sexual orientation anyway.

I notice that I could explain friendzone in a way that is consistent and does not introduce too much new variables, yet clearly matches observed events. So I now do believe that friendzones exist, though I cannot comment on how often, or how likely is that to happen. I'm making an edit to my earlier answer.


Also I wanted to commentate on one sentence in your post, about communicating the issue. Communication is vital, and always makes everything better. Unfortunately, someone who wants to minimize the chance of the other saying no (because once you ask and the loved one says no, bringing up any further arguments is stalking) will delay that, even to infinity. Well, ain't nobody got time for that, and you are right, in this case, blaming the Zone is more convinient than blaming oneself.

EDIT: Just wanted to point out that I've written my post BEFORE reading Carnie's edit to his. What he writes about, and the last part of my post is about, is something I don't consider to be friendzone - though it is indeed the leading cause of friendzone spottings. Apparently, while debating that the friendzone is an illusion, he managed to convince me that it actually exists. Funny thing, dat.
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Re: The Friend Zone

Postby Shadowknight12 » Wed May 01, 2013 2:19 pm

There is no such thing as the friend zone. Not as a concept; that much is obvious (it exists in common parlance and has a definition, therefore it exists as a concept). I meant that there is no such thing as the friend zone in actual real life.

The friend zone, regardless of the intricacies of its definition, is a cop-out. It's an excuse. It's a way of shifting the blame for a rejection onto the rejecting party, instead of onto the rejected person. The person rejected blames the rejecter (as exemplified by the way the phrase is used: "he/she put me in the friend zone/friend-zoned me"), and because it is almost always described as a bad thing to avoid or as a problem to solve, it perpetuates the culture that rejection is not something to be accepted and moved on from, it's a problem to solve or an obstacle to overcome. I could go on for paragraphs and paragraphs on why this is bad (and especially when you get me going on feminism and the problems men have when women reject them), but let's keep this simple and just assume that such attitudes are bad and that accepting rejection and moving on is a good thing.

There are, basically, five types of rejection:

1) I reject you and let's be enemies.
2) I reject you and let's be strangers.
3) I reject you and let's be acquaintances.
4) I reject you and let's be friends.
5) I temporarily reject you, but I hope/wish/intend to revoke it in the future.

There is absolutely no need to single out #4 and call it a different name, except by the people who wish to perpetuate the idea that rejection is a problem to solve or an obstacle to overcome. And the reason #4 is singled out is because #5 carries the implication/expectation that the rejection might be undone, so it's not a problem to solve; and of the remaining four, #4 is the one that leaves the rejectee with the best chances to emotionally manipulate the rejecter into removing or withdrawing the rejection. #1 is out of the question, while #2 and #3 require a lot of extra work when it comes to emotional manipulation, so the people who insist that the friend zone is a problem to solve are using the closeness of friendship as a way to subvert their alleged friend's desires and manipulate them into a relationship.

The friend zone, as such, does not exist. It's just one of the many types of rejection. The problem lies in the people who think that it's okay to manipulate others into a relationship despite initial rejection.
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Re: The Friend Zone

Postby Carnie » Wed May 01, 2013 2:35 pm

Globus wrote:You see, I find this to be a difference between a romantic and a carnal (is that the right word? It feels like it is) relationship. Mendel's Wikipedia quote allows for romantic or sexual relationship, but I can't imagine how pickup artists and other people who try to have sex before romance manage to get "into the friendzone". So, to discuss the problem, we need to assume friendship (at the very least, familiarity) before romance.

Pickup artists - or rather, pickup artists' target audience - get into it either because they wait too long make a move, or actively attempt to use friendship as a path to sex. I am under the impression that this is very much A Thing.

I can't answer your questions in the other part of the post before we define friend. Myself, I believe that if the friendzone exists, it can only apply between what most people now call "best friends", a person with whom you can share things that require great trust, or require great tolerance to your (let's be honest) bullshit, or ask for help in anything in their power and know they will help because of the friendship, and still they will even be happy to help/listen to their best friend. This is the sort of thing which, if not reciprocated, is as great an abuse of familiarity as rape is an abuse of body. I theorise that this sort of person is a stand-in for family, especially one's parents and especially from when one was young enough to be able to tell them anything, and this is the reason why such a person is no longer a romantic option. Well that, and the fear of losing the friendship along with the rejection of the romance.
I have the fortune of knowing such a person. I can't tell if I am friendzoning that person, as the one best friend I have is incompatible with my sexual orientation anyway.

I'm pretty sure that this is not what most people mean by the friend zone; and, if this is in fact the only form of the friend zone that can actually exist, I for one would be ecstatic. What I am somewhat afraid of, and what I'm pretty sure most people mean by the friend zone, is the concept applied to friends in a more moderate sense. More than just acquaintances, she would answer yes if asked if she considers you a friend, but no extra intensifiers needed. If the friend zone cannot or does not occur for this type of friendship, again that would be awesome, and I think it would satisfy a great many people (though not all) who complain about or fear the concept.

One reason I'm so sure this is not what most people consider the friend zone to mean, is that people speak as though the friend zone is easy to get into. They say things like "be careful not to end up in the friend zone" or "how do you keep from getting put in the friend zone?" The type of friendship you describe is not easy to create, yes?

I'd also like to say that while I would find it completely understandable if people in the type of friendship you describe found it difficult or impossible to move to being "more than friends" for similar reasons as for actual family, I do not believe it necessarily needs to be that way. I believe that developing a romantic relationship from that type of friendship is possible; if, perhaps, unlikely.

Also I wanted to commentate on one sentence in your post, about communicating the issue. Communication is vital, and always makes everything better. Unfortunately, someone who wants to minimize the chance of the other saying no (because once you ask and the loved one says no, bringing up any further arguments is stalking) will delay that, even to infinity. Well, ain't nobody got time for that, and you are right, in this case, blaming the Zone is more convinient than blaming oneself.

This. This, times a thousand.
I reiterate that when I say you should tell the other person how you feel, I don't necessarily mean you should just walk up to them and say "I'm in love with you, how do you feel?" You should be tactful, it's a good idea to probe the other person's feelings step by step, et cetera. Maybe it's even okay to proceed quote-unquote "slowly" before making the final confession or move. What's important is that you must keep proactively moving forward (or, if you're convinced you've hit a dead end, consciously decide to stop and leave it). You can't just keep jogging in place.

EDIT: Just wanted to point out that I've written my post BEFORE reading Carnie's edit to his. What he writes about, and the last part of my post is about, is something I don't consider to be friendzone - though it is indeed the leading cause of friendzone spottings. Apparently, while debating that the friendzone is an illusion, he managed to convince me that it actually exists. Funny thing, dat.

I differentiate between not being proactive enough or confident enough to confess your feelings, versus believing that doing so has little or zero chance of success. Which of those are you saying is "not the friend zone, but a lot of people think it is?" I'm unclear.
Last edited by Carnie on Wed May 01, 2013 4:26 pm, edited 6 times in total.
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Re: The Friend Zone

Postby Globus » Wed May 01, 2013 2:47 pm

Carnie wrote:You can't just keep jogging in place.

Let's make it "You can't just keep jogging in place, and expect the scenery to change". It's the best simile I can make, anyway.

Carnie wrote:I differentiate between not being proactive enough or confident enough to confess your feelings, versus believing that doing so has little or zero chance of success. Which of those are you saying is "not the friend zone, but a lot of people think it is?" I'm unclear.

I don't. I agree with you about tact, but if you believe that confessing your feelings will have little to zero chance in the foreseeable future, the best course of action is to confess and break up together. You may even be wrong!
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Re: The Friend Zone

Postby Carnie » Wed May 01, 2013 3:00 pm

@ Shadowknight12:

In the interest of lending context to what you said, I'm curious, are you a man or a woman?

Getting back to my questions from above;
-Do you believe that it becomes impossible, or at least very unlikely, for person A to have romantic feelings for person B once they already consider person B a friend, and that it would be easier if person B pursued a relationship before person A had classified them as a friend?
-Do you believe it matters which person is the guy and which one is the girl? We all know what the knee-jerk answer to this is, but seriously, do you really believe that's the case? Why?*
-Do you have any empirical evidence for your answer to either question?

Am I to take it, then, that your answer to both of the first two questions is no? Do you have empirical evidence?

@ Globus:

You wrote:What he writes about, and the last part of my post is about, is something I don't consider to be friendzone - though it is indeed the leading cause of friendzone spottings.

I was asking which of those two alternatives you are referring to here. Or is it both?

if you believe that confessing your feelings will have little to zero chance in the foreseeable future, the best course of action is to confess and break up together. You may even be wrong!

Well, you may legitimately not want to risk losing the friendship, and consider the friendship to be worth the discomfort of the unrequited feelings. Especially if it's the kind of "deep friendship" you describe above, in which case the friendship likely means a great deal to you. To each his own on this; it depends on the combination of how much you value the friendship, the chances of a rejection, and the chances that a rejection will in fact harm the friendship. And I might point out that an increase in the first parameter somewhat implies a decrease in the third; via implying that the friendship is strong, the other person also values it greatly, and it can survive this type of thing.

But yes, you may well be wrong! Even if it's true that the attempt is likely to fail, I feel strongly that it's by no means a certainty.
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Re: The Friend Zone

Postby Shadowknight12 » Wed May 01, 2013 8:28 pm

Carnie wrote:@ Shadowknight12:

In the interest of lending context to what you said, I'm curious, are you a man or a woman?


Man. Feminist ally, though, so I make no excuses for my gender.

Carnie wrote:Getting back to my questions from above;
-Do you believe that it becomes impossible, or at least very unlikely, for person A to have romantic feelings for person B once they already consider person B a friend, and that it would be easier if person B pursued a relationship before person A had classified them as a friend?
-Do you believe it matters which person is the guy and which one is the girl? We all know what the knee-jerk answer to this is, but seriously, do you really believe that's the case? Why?*
-Do you have any empirical evidence for your answer to either question?

Am I to take it, then, that your answer to both of the first two questions is no? Do you have empirical evidence?


The first question is, I'm sorry to say this so bluntly, incredibly poorly phrased. In reality, it's two questions rolled into one, each of which have different answers, so it becomes impossible to answer a simple "yes" or "no". I will attempt to unpack the question into its constituents.

Do you believe it becomes impossible/unlikely for person A to have romantic feelings for person B once they already consider person B a friend?

Depends on the person. I have empirical evidence of a case where two people of compatible orientation never developed anything sexual or romantic (due to the Westermarck Effect), and cases where a person, having changed over the years, developed attraction for a friend when they discovered that their tastes had changed. Usually, the reason no sexual attraction develops between friends is either because of the Westermarck Effect or because the person does not currently find their friend sexually or romantically attractive. The latter can change. The former... not so much. Haven't seen a single case.

Would it be easier if person B pursued a relationship before person A had classified them as a friend?

I am assuming that this relationship you are suggesting is between Persons A and B.

Personally, according to the empirical evidence I have witnessed, friendship is irrelevant. If Person A is not attracted to Person B, whether they are friends or not will have no effect on their sexual chemistry or romantic feelings. And if Person A suddenly discovers that they find Person B attractive (perhaps because Person B underwent a massive make-over, lost weight, got new clothes, a windfall of money, a change in attitude, etc), then the friendship is not really going to get in the way of the attraction.

That's pretty much why I say that the friend zone, as a concept, is irrelevant and only serves to shift blame. If Person A is not attracted to you, they are not attracted to you, period. It's not their fault. Hell, it might not even be YOUR fault either, some of the time (in the case of incompatible orientation, for example).

My criticism of the term stems, mainly, on the fact that the term is often associated with "tips" and "tricks" to emotionally manipulate others, and with the supremely unhealthy fixation over someone. If they have rejected you, forget them and move on. Remaining fixated on them and trying to manipulate them into a relationship is unhealthy, creepy and profoundly disgusting.

Do you believe it matters which person is the guy and which one is the girl?

Theoretically, no. Anyone can be rejected, this is fact.

However, when we take social context into consideration, I would say that this phenomenon is most relevant for men rejected by women because of the inherent misogyny that is still clinging to society. There is still a narrative in the media (and social expectations) that every man "deserves" a woman as a "prize" (see: every narrative with a male hero that "gets the girl" as a reward at the end), that women's bodies are public property (as per the different types of verbal and physical harassment women have to endure on a daily basis), that women are objects instead of subjects (as per the constant objectification of women in the media and the obsession on how women look like instead of what they actually do), that the only lifestyles aimed exclusively at women are those related to the family sphere and romance (see: the romance genre, toys for girls, TV channels; anything that is geared towards women almost always plays into one or both of the two patriarchal archetypes for women: the nurturer and the temptress).

All this misogynistic social narrative leads men to assume, subconsciously, that they deserve a woman, and that the lives, desires and ideals of women are secondary to his own (because he's been trained to see women as useful to him, instead of as people that have their own lives). This leads to men usually not taking rejection very well, because a woman rejecting a man goes against everything society has been teaching him from birth. Hence why the unhealthy obsession with "righting a wrong" when a woman rejects a man and why the friend zone is seen as a problem to fix or an obstacle to avoid. Men are trained to assume that whatever they want, they can get it if they try hard enough, or have the right savoir faire; and that "whatever they want" often includes women.

Obviously, this is not true of every man, but this is definitely true of the men who speak of the friend zone as something to avoid/fix. As for the empirical evidence for all this, just spend a few days reading relationship advice threads, and seeing what people are actually saying. Now granted, I've cobbled all this together after years of listening to people whining about relationships (both online and IRL), so it's probably not something you can check in a couple of days, but a good in-depth search should yield plenty of posts and testimonials that reveal the way a lot of men see women.
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