Why do Nice Guys (and Girls) get Friend-Zoned?
This post is for everyone out there with a great personality who feels they’ve been friend-zoned unfairly, because I’m going to explain the most common (yet counter-intuitive) process by which this kind of friend-zoning takes place. That way you can make sure you won’t be the next nice guy or girl in line.
Let’s begin with this question: How close have you become to this person who’s friend-zoned you?
- Have you become their best friend?
- Have you become a PAWN-B (Personal Assistant With Non-sexual Benefits) providing free shopping, laundry service, and pet care?
- Have you become their shoulder to lean on? And cry on?
- Have you become their therapist, who advises them on all their relationships, including family, school, work, and even love interests?
Are You a Surrogate Soul Mate?
If you’re Mr. or Mrs. Nice-But-Stuck-In-The-Friend-Zone, it’s likely you responded with a resounding “yes” to one or more of the above questions.
And if you did, it is likely you have become a surrogate soul mate who is meeting emotional needs of someone of the opposite sex you really shouldn’t be meeting as “just a friend.”
Instead you are meeting needs that, in the absence of a significant other (which we have already established you are not), only family members, mentors and same-gender friends should be taking care of.
In fact, we highly recommend wise individuals first establish healthy, whole relationships with one or more members of the same gender before dating. Avoiding this surrogate soul mate scenario is just one of the reasons for this recommendation.
Now, in a day when sex, gender, and identity are believed by many to be fluid and interchangeable, you could think gender shouldn’t matter. Guys and girls should be able to grow as close as any other friends.
Yet here you are, someone who’s tried to be the best of friends to someone of the opposite sex, and because you’re so nice they’ve grown to enjoy your company, appreciate your character, and perhaps depend on your relationship. Maybe even a lot.
Cool! You’ve been a good friend and they like you as a good friend! Mission accomplished!
But now you want something more.
And they do not.
And you can’t figure out why.
And you feel kind of used.
And you feel kind of used, because you kind of were. Not necessarily on purpose, mind you, but at least inadvertently. Regardless, it hurts just the same.
It may not be as egregious to use someone for emotional intimacy as it is to use them for sexual intimacy, but the same principle is violated (and I encourage you to commit this principle to memory).
The Relational Congruence Principle
Relationships are healthiest when the following realities are congruent:
- Your level of intimacy should be congruent with…
- Your relationship expectations which should be congruent with…
- Your mutual commitment.
Obviously in your situation, your personal expectations for this relationship are higher than those of the person who has friend-zoned you. There’s no crime in that.
But the question is how did your expectations get so high?
Of course I don’t know for sure, but it’s common for someone in your position to have desired more from the relationship than friendship from the start. (We talk about that in this post.)
But skipping that probability, is it accurate to say that your closeness to this person has caused you to raise your expectations beyond what your commitment level would warrant? In other words…
Have you been treating this person like a significant other, before you’ve established any kind of girlfriend/boyfriend commitment?
Am I on the mark?
If so, there’s your answer. That’s why nice guys (and girls) can so easily find themselves in the friend zone. They allow the level of relational intimacy in their relationship to exceed the level of their mutual commitment. In other words, your intimacy and commitment are incongruent.
Some do this without realizing it. Others actually work hard to build up the level of relational intimacy hoping to win the commitment of the other in the end.
However, giving of yourself emotionally in the hopes of winning an exclusive relationship commitment is no wiser than giving of yourself sexually in the hopes of winning an exclusive relationship commitment. Either way, you enable the other person to enjoy benefits they shouldn’t be able to enjoy without any strings attached.
You give and they take. Again, maybe not because they’re jerks, but just because you’re willing to give.
If that’s you, then what do you do now? Break up with the person you were never in a serious relationship with? Keep trying to be their friend, but pull back a little?
That’s just what we’ll discuss in our final post in this Date Night Advice (DNA) series: The Friend Zone Files.
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!