How to Avoid the Friend Zone
Everyone knows what the friend zone is, but no one seems to understand how they wind up there. And yet so many do!
Could you imagine if Newark, NJ was like that? Millions of people just waking up to find themselves in the city of Newark. Perhaps they wanted to get to Manhattan. Or at least Brooklyn, but end up in Newark.
Of course that doesn’t just happen.
The same is true of the friend zone. It may seem mysterious to those who feel like they wake up to find themselves in that place, but it’s really not a mystery. No one may intentionally set out to arrive in the friend zone, but there are common, predictable ways many people do anyway.
It has been the purpose of our current Date Night Advice (DNA) series, The Friend Zone Files, to explain how you wind up in the friend zone. But the point of this post is to explain how to avoid it altogether. Or, if it’s too late and you’re already there, how to get out of the friend zone.
Either way, you will need both of the following:
- Clear communication (we’ll talk about that in this post)
- Healthy boundaries (we’ll talk about that in the next post)
Do You Read Me?
If you play back the tapes on any relationship ending with one person sitting in the corner with the Friend Zone cap on, you’ll discover a communication deficit.
I’m not saying the participants in said relationship never talked. They may have talked quite a bit, including countless conversations lasting far into the night. After night. After night. However, more than likely there was little discussion of the relationship itself, particularly these three significant aspects.
- Level of intimacy
- Expectations for the relationship
- Commitment to the relationship
Of course, the above topics can be awkward to discuss and require a high degree of vulnerability. And because of this, the popular unspoken belief is that it’s less risky to keep things vague and just see what happens.
But after months of pretending not to care about where a relationship is and where it’s going, can we really be surprised when we find ourselves in the friend zone? Or find out our love interest is already married? Or realize we have to friend-zone someone? Or realize we have to issue a restraining order?
This is why in most cases, the better risk is found in communicating too much than too little.
So communicate early and communicate often. And not just with the person you’re interested in, but with a couple persons who are interested in the success of your relationships. In other words, first seek the wise counsel of folks who know and love you well and know and love God well before trying to define your relationship with your crush. Or redefine it.
Three Common Pre-Friend-Zone Situations
For a starting point for you and your good friends, consider the following scenarios and my suggestions for dealing with them. Keep in mind, THESE ARE JUST SUGGESTIONS! Don’t try quoting any of these scripts verbatim.
Situation 1: You have established a text conversation with this person that takes far more time and emotional energy than anyone else you text.
Suggested conversation-starter: “It’s been fun texting you the last couple weeks, but my thumbs are tired. Let me know if you’re ready to move this relationship to the next level: the “actually talking” level. [smiley face emoji]”
Situation 2: You’ve been having fun flirting and getting to know someone in group settings for months.
Suggested conversation-starter: “I don’t know what months of flirting with the same person means to you, but I was thinking it might mean we should either try going out on a first date or we should both move on and find new flirting partners.”
Situation 3: You’ve been hanging out multiple times each week, just the two of you, for a month or more.
Suggested conversation-starter: “I’ve enjoyed hanging out and getting to know you and was wondering if you have been feeling the same way, and where you saw this relationship heading?”
All You Have to Lose is the Friend Zone
Are those scripts bold?
A little. But they’re not some kind of ultimatum nor a pathetic plea for love.
Might they cause some degree of awkwardness?
Yes, but if the other person is as interested in moving the relationship forward as you are it will be a tingly, nervous, fun kind of awkwardness.
And if your worst nightmares come true and it turns out the other person is not that into you? That’s where healthy boundaries come into play. We’ll get to that next week.
However, for now consider this: you may learn the truth you don’t want to learn, but it’s the truth you need to learn if you don’t want to wind up in the friend zone a month (or worse, a year) from now.
More significantly, what I’m suggesting may not be the safe thing to do, but if it’s the truth expressed in love, it’s the right thing to do.
Understand, I’m not asking you to reveal all your deepest, darkest, most desperate desires for love. You might want to marry this person, but right now you aren’t even dating, so one step at a time, my good friend. One foot in front of the other.
I’m merely encouraging you to be honest about your feelings in a reserved, but upfront sort of way, because truth is the lifeblood of healthy relationships.
And again, I’m not suggesting you read one of these scripts word-for-word. I’m not even asking you make up your own scripts. Or even write any script at all. But let this post give you a starting point of discussion first with those good friends I mentioned earlier, and then go from there!
Come back next week when we’ll talk about how those healthy boundaries will come into play after you get your answer.
DNA: It’s What’s For Dating
It’s NOT for couples, but for any wise individual who thinks they might want to get married sometime before they die. And would like to learn how to better build healthy relationships in the meantime.
Check out all three study guides in our store. You can walk through them on your own, but it’s more fun with friends (that and it kinda makes sense to grow in relational success in actual relationships with others), so consider putting together an FMU LoveEd small group study.
Even better? And ask a rock star married couple you respect to lead it!