For the past half-decade or so, I’ve been hearing this term a lot. Two friends going about their own business are living their lives in uncomplicated harmony. Suddenly, one of those friends feels something more, so they gather all their courage to suggest they lose the ‘friends’ title and get romantic instead. But alas, those feelings are one-sided. “We can still stay friends, though,” offers little to no solace. So the unfortunately smitten of the two is left embarrassed and awkward, crying their anguish to the skies with one simple phrase; “I’ve been friendzoned.”
Truly this is a troubling matter that has no doubt plagued many of us in our lives, but what exactly is friendzoning? Well, the answer may not be as simple as you think. What this term suggests is actually damaging and degrading to both people involved, only offering more toxicity between them and it only escalates the drama and heartache that could otherwise be overcome through maturity and understanding.
So, my darlings; allow me to set the record straight.
Friendzoning does exist. However, all too often people use it without warrant to do so. When your friend rebuffs your affections, it’s normal to feel hurt. Opening yourself up romantically to someone takes a lot of courage, so when that interaction is unsuccessful, it can get a little difficult to deal with. Adding the ‘friend’ dynamic makes it much more difficult. It can be confusing to decide where to go from there. So do you fight through the awkwardness and hope that those feelings fade so you may move on without losing your friend, or do you walk away, knowing those feelings may never go away?
Sometimes it’s best to walk away. There’s no saying whether or not your paths will cross again, but in my experience, taking a step back can often times be the best way to clear your thoughts and reset your heart, clearing the way for love in the future with whomever you decide to pursue. This can be a difficult decision, but when executed properly, it can be the least damaging way to handle things. Simply explain how you feel, and take those steps to start moving on with your life.
Let’s say you decide to stick around; I implore you to not start with the friendzone complaints. It comes across as little more than a whine and will only push your friend away by making them feel guilty or uncomfortable. This will further destroy your bond with them and will prolong the awkwardness to the point where the damage may become irreversible. Friends can overcome many things, strengthening their connections through pain and adversity, but that involves the ability to be mature and move on from the discomforts of your pasts together to build upon your friendship, rather than tearing it down with negativity and bitter memories.
Now, addressing the friendzoners of the world; don’t be that person. If someone comes up to you and tells you how they feel, laying all their cards on the table, you are not obligated to return those feelings. Simply let them down with integrity and honesty, but be sure that they know exactly where you stand. Do not hold the possibility over their heads by being wishy-washy and asking them to wait for you. If you need time to think, do so, but you should lay your cards out on the table as they have done with you. Most importantly, do not look at this as an opportunity to gain leverage. This person is just that; a person. Not only that, but a person who may care a great deal for you. Using this to gain things (whether it be materialistic objects or emotional fulfillment) from them is cruel and manipulative, and they don’t deserve that.
There is a right and a wrong way to handle every situation. Keeping an open mind and a mature outlook on situations, even if your judgement is clouded with negative emotions, is a healthy part of growing as a person. People will come and go, and friends often drift apart for reasons that are not always predicted. But with each interaction, you can understand more about the people around you, which can in turn aid your in learning more about yourself. You will grow and become stronger every day, but only if you allow yourself to do so by letting go of the things you can’t control. This is one of the hardest lessons to learn in life.