The Friend Zone Isn't Real
By Thao Nguyen
Fair warning, this article may ruffle some feathers. But it has to be said, and I’m saying this to both guys and gals. The friend zone does not exist. It is not real. It is a coping mechanism created to make people feel better about being rejected. It is a guilt mechanism to make one person feel bad for not reciprocating the feelings of another.
Let me spell it out for you.
If you like someone, they don’t owe you anything.
If you’re nice to someone with an ulterior motive, you’re not a “nice” person.
If you’re angry that they don’t reciprocate your feelings, you have selfish intentions.
If you’re bitter that they only want to be friends, you don’t deserve to be their friend.
You’re Not Entitled to Anything
Unrequited love is tough. I know that just as well as anyone else. We like someone a lot, and we start believing that fate will bring us together with this person just because we like them so much. We might even fall into the trap of believing that because we like them so much, they’ll just HAVE to (eventually) like us too. But here’s the reality. Liking someone does not entitle you to anything. Your feelings are not grounds for reciprocation or action solely because they exist. Yes, this person should appreciate that you like them, and even be flattered, but that’s it. They do not owe you anything else. If you think that the object of your affection is obligated to go out with you or have sex with you just because you have feelings for them, you’ve got a very warped sense of privilege. ( I say this with love.) Remember that our feelings are out of our hands, and while love certainly isn’t just a feeling, you can’t expect someone to feel the way you do just because your own feelings and desires are so strong.
Nice People Finish Last?
Full disclosure here, I have certainly been nice to people before with ulterior motives. At times, it was something as simple as needing to return something I’d already worn to a store, other times, it was because I needed a ride to the airport during rush hour on the day before Thanksgiving. When I’ve done this, I always felt dirty and manipulative. I knew that it wasn’t right to be nice to someone just because I wanted something in return. It goes against human decency. We all know in our hearts that humans aren’t a means to an end. And this is especially true when it comes to emotions and love. When we’re nice to people in the hopes that we’ll gain something that benefits us, it really invalidates the “niceness” of the action. On top of that, if you’re only nice to someone up until you make a move and are rejected, you probably aren’t as nice as you claim to be. Be altruistic. Be kind to everyone in your life; eventually someone will appreciate that and who you are as a person and like you for you. Not just because you do nice things for them.
Don’t Be a Jerk or a Victim
Before the creation of the friend zone, when a person’s feelings weren’t returned, they moved on or continued to be friends with their unrequited love. I’m sure there was some complaining and dejectedness, but there was no villainizing of the other person. The rejected person didn’t see themselves as a victim who was mercilessly pushed aside and spend days, weeks, and months griping about the rejecter. People understood that a person isn’t mean or bad just because they didn’t feel the same way. Likewise, they understood that rejection doesn’t’ mean there’s something wrong with themselves either. But in modern times, there was a shift from that. Instead of cutting their losses, people created this fake thing called the friend zone in order to do one of two things: make the other person feel guilty for their lack of infatuation or to feel better about not being liked. The first reason is completely selfish and probably explains why your feelings aren’t returned. No one should go out of their way to make another person feel bad. That’s just wrong and gross. Don’t do this. The second reason is much more forgivable. It’s scary liking someone and being vulnerable enough to admit it, so trying to protect ourselves after rejection is oftentimes the easiest response. Here’s the thing though. If someone doesn’t like you, it just means they don’t feel the connection or chemistry. It doesn’t mean that there is something wrong or unlikable about you. There’s no need to use the friend zone as a defense mechanism because you are not being attacked.
There’s No Such Thing as Just a Friend
I know that being rejected is hard, and that anger, bitterness, or disbelief are natural reactions. I’ve been there. After expressing my feelings, I felt foolish and embarrassed and hundreds of other emotions. But there’s only one thing I didn’t feel. I didn’t feel like I had lost anybody. Being “just friends” with someone you like isn’t a loss. It’s an opportunity to spend quality time and companionship with someone you care about, albeit under different circumstances than you would like. You get to know them, spend time with them, and learn to love them in a different way, if you can commit to the friendship. Try to remember that friendship isn’t a defeat; it’s a beautiful and wonderful thing. If you truly care for someone as a person, you will be happy and value being “just” their friend. Because it's not "just" something. It's a huge, wonderful, and beautiful thing that we should all cherish more.