Scoring in the Friend Zone

“There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy, and the tired.” -F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

It all started around three years ago when I was at a sporting event with good friends. I didn’t have VIP seats to watch the game, but one person passed me his ticket so I could watch with the group. I ended up sitting next to a really attractive guy and we had great banter throughout the afternoon. I recall not wanting to leave, but had another commitment to attend. I also had a boyfriend. Turns out the guy liked playing word games, as do I, so we traded phone numbers and started playing Words With Friends.

For a few years, we played Words With Friends and rarely talked. When we checked in, we’d occasionally text about exercise or some other benign topic. In that period, I lived a lot of life, replete with ups and downs and a few break ups with my now ex-boyfriend. He also traveled for work and moved a few times.

Two years after originally meeting, he and I decided to meet at a coffee shop and play Scrabble. It was the perfect nerd date! We had a really good time, or so I thought, and connected, laughed, and impressed each other with long words. He left the date and promptly told a close friend that it went well, but thought I wanted to be “friends.”

I had been super excited to meet him one-on-one, two years after originally hanging out at the sporting event. I remember being nervous prior to seeing him, and then being pleasantly surprised at how handsome he was. During our Scrabble date, he impressed me with his humbleness and intelligence. At the end of the date, my nervousness resumed, and I’ve since learned that I totally gave off the friend vibe.

As the original Co-Founder of the Wing Girl Method and as an experienced dater, I have plenty of experience teaching men to avoid the friend zone at all costs. But now I’m realizing that the friend zone can happen inadvertently by women. You see, women don’t want to be seen as desperate, needy, or too pushy, so often back off. Our backing off can be read by men as stand-offish or disinterested. For me, that was not the case at all. Rather, I wanted to be pursued (and I actually liked him), but didn’t know how to channel my energy.


 So, then there’s the topic of the dreadful “Friend Zone.” Often described as a situation in which a friendship exists between two people, one of whom has an unreciprocated romantic or sexual interest in the other. In my years of working with clients, anyone who dates has brought up this topic. For the person who lusts after the other, it’s an awful feeling. I know I’ve had unrequited love before. Or situations in which I’ve wanted a relationship with someone and he hasn’t felt the same. There are so many questions I ask myself in these scenarios, like what am I doing wrong? Why doesn’t he like me in the same way? I’ve definitely beaten myself up over this and have questioned myself and my own judgment.

Unrequited love is a terrible feeling, one that I don’t wish to ever repeat. I have empathy for all the people out there who have heart wrenching crushes on someone without reciprocation.

Despite my empathy, I also know that not every match is going to “work out” or lead to a relationship. In fact, that crazy thing called chemistry matters a lot and it just can’t be ignored. Chemistry is that pheromone, that X-Factor, the feeling of getting someone and being known and seen without over-explaining yourself. Chemistry doesn’t happen all the time or with everyone. So, when it does happen, I think it’s crucial to capitalize on the moment.


  Now, this is where the story gets interesting. He and I reconnected somehow and started texting in a very innocuous way. Our messages became more frequent and a little more personal. And then he revealed that he had developed feelings for me. And I reciprocated the same feelings of wanting to get to know him better.

We finally agreed to have a date. I felt a sense of nervousness and excitement as our date approached. I could not help but wonder if this was really happening. I kept thinking he’d flake.  I’d had a series of disappointing experiences in the last few years which made me skeptical of dating new people, much less a friend. I have never dated a friend for fear that our friendship would suffer, as would our romantic connection. It seemed counter-intuitive to go out with someone whom I knew a little bit. And yet, I’d heard romantic stories of couples who had known each other for years as friends first and finally changed their relationships status when they opened up to the possibility of love.

Our date went great! We felt comfortable with each other and had the same sense of humor, which led to hysterical laughing and learning about the many commonalities we shared. We hung out a few more times and I realized he was out of the friend zone. No longer did I see him as a buddy, but as a potential partner.

I learned that he’s an incredible person and I’m really happy getting to know him.

*** For all the people who feel friend zoned now, my suggestion is to be direct about how you feel. I’d never have gone out with him if he hadn’t spoken up about his feelings for me. And for all of you who are in the vortex of the friend zone and nothing is changing, move on!

If you have specific questions about your particular situation, please write to me or leave a message in comments below.

Stay tuned to learn how I shifted my views from “just friends” to something much more intense.

Visit Coaching By Nina Rubin for more information about me.

 

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6 thoughts on “Scoring in the Friend Zone

  1. A great post, and I wanted to comment on something you touched on. While it’s not an outright rejection of your claim, I think people should be a little more clear about the “friend zone” I think there’s a distinction with a platonic vs. a romantic relationship. What I mean specifically is that people dread being labeled as “just friends”, without seeing the BENIFITS of a friendship. Even in a romantic relationship there’s elements of a friendship; caring, empathy, wanting the other person to do well, a comfortable feeling of sharing your secrets. I believe this is called intimacy. While a friendship lacks the romantic elements, and sex. What really is a romantic relationship but a friendship, with the sexual elements. For example, if you were to survey couples that have been together decades, I’d bet that one of the similarities between all of them is that they have a deep friendship.
    I think people throw away a friendship because it may not yield the romantic desires they have, without recognizing the foundational aspects. Take your own story for example. Had it not been for a deeper friendship, won’t you have given up on each other a long time ago. Rather it’s because you shared something deeper, you let it play out. For me I think that not dating this person earlier had more to do with not being upfront about your feelings. After all how you felt about each other didn’t change, it’s when you were honest about your romantic feelings that you were able to move forward. Having the foundation of a friendship, to me, helped make this more possible.
    Lastly I’d like to be clear that this is just my opinion and observation, which has not been empirically proven. Despite my notions about starting as friends first, this particular theory of mine has not worked out, but I’ll stay my course.

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  2. I really like this. I’m glad things worked out for you, and I think you’re probably right that we give off all kinds of odd signals when we’re feeling out of our depth, which is why clear communication in other ways is so important 🙂

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  3. Thanks for the post Nina – it’s fun to read your thoughts on love and relationships! I agree with the open and clear communication- we tend to struggle when it comes to being vulnerable and putting our feelings out there to someone without knowing how they’ll respond.

    I’d love to add a thought about how sometimes “friendzone” is used by men against women as if women are obligated to have romantic or sexual feelings for them. I get pretty triggered when I hear guys complaining about being “friendzoned” as if they are entitled to a relationship regardless of what the other person wants. It’s a lot like the “nice guys of OK Cupid” who write about how they are “nice guys” and then proceed to be super judgmental or sexist in their conversations with potential dates. Anyway, I appreciate you talking about the other aspects of friendzone- keep up the blogging!

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    • Carley, you raise a perfect point about men sometimes being expectant that women have to “like” them. It’s an unsavory sense of entitlement. I appreciate your perspective.

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      • I think this is also a reason for that tentativeness that you describe in this entry. What struck me most about it is that you were attracted to this guy, but “held back” because you weren’t sure how he felt, as did he, not expressing how he felt about you. I liked your “be direct” message because it illustrates that unfortunately, it seems to me that we can’t go through life trying to protect ourselves from being hurt (I include “embarrassed” in “hurt” – that’s usually the case with me). What I took from this is that I should continue to make friends, but if I’m attracted to a friend who’s single, let her know. If it’s not reciprocal, just back off. I’ll lose the friendship, but honestly, as Rod Stewart put it, “when the one you love’s in love with someone else… it’s torture, I mean it’s a living Hell,” and I guess he would know. 😉 Thanks for the story!

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