Are you in, “The Friendship Zone”?? My friend Sue in NYC has been spending time with someone she really likes, but doesn’t want to ask him if he’s romantically interested in her because she isn’t ready to receive the information if he isn’t. She’s hoping if they spend enough time together, he’ll see how incredible she is (she is), and fall in love with her. Last week I got an email from a man who has a history of being the guy friend. For the third or fourth time in the last year, he’s become close to a woman he finds attractive, but somehow lands himself in the “friend” zone instead of the end zone. He told me he thinks women feel safe with him because he does his best to be a “stand-up guy,” but they shouldn’t because apparently he’s horny as hell. Totally joking, but not really. The thing is, he doesn’t want to be friends. He doesn’t want to hang out and be a placeholder until some other guy comes along that his “lady-friend” wants to date. He wants to be that guy. To compound his frustration, these women are happy to have him buy dinner when they go out on a Friday or Saturday night, or help them move heavy furniture, but that’s as far as it goes. They flirt and text frequently, sometimes late at night, but there’s not a lot of reciprocity even as far as the friendship goes. It doesn’t sound like they’d help him paint his living room if he asked. The day he wrote, he was set off by the fact that his latest woman friend said, “Thanks, buddy!” and punched him lightly in the arm when he bought her a movie ticket. He felt it added insult to injury. Also worth noting, he’s not rolling in dough right now.
I’m going to say a lot of things that may be painful to read if you are in the friend zone. First of all, if you’ve been hanging out with someone for awhile and you’re not sure how they feel, they probably aren’t, either, or it’s a straight-up “no.” If someone is interested, it’s not going to be a mystery and if someone isn’t sure, you really want to move on. I recognize sometimes people play games, or they don’t really know what they want, or they’re coming off another relationship. Other times a person is simply looking for friendship and truly doesn’t realize you may feel differently or struggles with how to let you know it’s a no. It’s never fun to be in that position, either. My guess is the, “Thanks, buddy!” was an attempt to set clear boundaries, but then, buy your own movie ticket! As painful as it can be, sometimes the kindest thing you can do is look someone in the eye and say, “I think you’re great and I’d love to be your friend, but I’m not feeling the romantic thing. Are you cool with that?” It’s clear to most people when someone is interested. If you know someone likes you, but you don’t like them “that way”, then accepting gifts in the form of dinners, favors, or using them as a “crutch” until you find someone you’d like to date is not the most energetically “clean” way to be moving through life. People aren’t crutches, and no one deserves to be used.
Of course we have to address self-esteem here. If this is a pattern, something is up. Buying dinners and movie tickets for people when you can’t afford to do that, or giving tons of your time and energy to a person who doesn’t feel about you the way you’d like them to isn’t a great way to go, either, especially if you’re trying to change their mind. It’s a form of manipulation. You’re the architect of your own suffering when you willingly participate in an interaction like that. Trying to “sell” someone on how great you are is damaging to your heart and your own well-being. I don’t mean that just in terms of buying things for people, but also simply spending time with someone without any indication from them that they’re interested in a relationship, and trying to show them how amazing you are. You are truly better off alone, taking the time to do some healing. If you’re loving yourself, you’ll never be selling yourself. You are unique and precious, and you have something to offer that no one else can. You don’t need or want to be selling that. Just be that. Believe me, I know it’s hard, but try to trust and be patient. When it’s right, it won’t be a struggle.
Sending you love and a hug,