Recently, I saw a random Facebook post about the friend zone.
It was a meme posted on a friend’s page that made the assumption that women keep a whole list of men in their friend zone for future use as sexual or romantic partners. Like we have first round draft picks and then a whole other section we’ve benched for later use.
When I saw this, I immediately thought, this is how men work—it’s not how women do (on average). So, let’s talk about what the friend zone is and what it isn’t for women. And in this case I’m speaking for myself and the women that I know, and I don’t expect this to apply to all women everywhere for ever and ever, amen.
How the friend zone works.
We may place the following people into the friend zone:
1. Someone we like but aren’t attracted to.
2. Someone we like, find attractive, but don’t have chemistry with.
3. Anyone we like who is married (may include any of the above).
4. Anyone we like when we are the ones who are married (may include any of the above).
What the friend zone means.
We want to be friends.
We think this person is great, we just don’t see this person as a potential partner.
What the friend zone doesn’t mean.
We aren’t waiting around for this person to be free or to have a weak moment in order to sleep with them. That’s how a man’s friend zone works (watch When Harry Met Sally if there are any doubts about this).
This is not a waiting list of potential hook-ups or even relationships. This is the friend zone. If we have placed someone in the friend zone category, that’s the category they will stay in (a few exceptions exist to this rule, I know, but generally this is how the friend zone works; otherwise, they weren’t ever actually in the friend zone).
How to get out of the friend zone.
Refer back to what the friend zone doesn’t mean. This isn’t a fluid category most of the time. If we say someone has been friend-zoned, we mean that.
Otherwise, we would say something else entirely.
In my experience, women can be friends with men without expecting anything romantic (or sexual) from it—and in my experience, the reverse is rarely true, which is often exhausting for women. It’s not that it’s not flattering in a way, but for those of us who are direct and straightforward about our relationships, it can be taxing to feel like the people in them have expectations of us that we’ve been clear we’re not going to meet. It can be tiring trying to navigate a relationship where we can’t be completely natural in case we give the wrong impression (i.e., flirty me is just me and doesn’t necessarily mean anything).
One random meme prompted this thought process, but it’s also something I’ve been thinking about as I’ve navigated my new life in the dating world after a divorce. It’s also a topic that often comes up with friends and has for as long as I can remember.
I used to be the girl who prided herself on her male friendships, but I will say that most of those disappeared when I got engaged. I don’t find that to be a coincidence.
It’s what makes female friendships, for me, so valued: I can be completely myself without feeling like my friends are expecting some kind of quid pro quo or weak moment to result from it (as far as I’m aware). This is not to say that I don’t have male friends; I have a lot of them, and I am happy they are in my life. I just feel like many men misunderstand the friend zone, and clarification is needed.
To recap: The friend zone is not fluid. If you find yourself in the friend zone, it just means that we like you but don’t see a potential relationship (that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you; we think you’re great). The friend zone is not a waiting list for sex. We have not benched you for a future relationship. We just want to be your friend without anything else clouding our interactions. If we say you’re in the friend zone, please believe us.
I defer to When Harry Met Sally on the friend zone—it defines this idea better than I ever could. If we ever find ourselves questioning this, we should immediately re-watch it until we’ve learned our lesson. And if we haven’t watched it yet, please drop everything and do so now.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Editor: Erin Lawson