Unrequited love is rough. We’ve all been there—you find someone who knocks the wind out of you, someone you think you’d do most anything for. After some time, it becomes painfully evident that she sees you as just a friend. But you remain in her life, hoping she might change her mind down the road. It’s especially difficult to see the girl you fancy “choose” another guy and having to grit your teeth whenever she talks about him. Welcome to the friendzone, you think to yourself. Wow, this place is bleak.
But does the friendzone really exist? Or is it a self-made psychological trap?
Before we determine anything, it’s important to assess the established level of clarity (or lack thereof). If, like Summer from (500) Days of Summer, she was clear from the beginning, then it’s problematic to pretend you’re okay with that, when really, you’re just waiting for her to realize you’re the one she needs. We’re not saying it’s impossible. Anything could happen. It’s just a matter of whether you’re okay with putting that level of emotional investment towards something indefinite.
See, that’s the thing with the friendzone, whether it’s a guy or a girl who’s trapped in it: it romanticizes the concept of martyrdom. Somehow, listening to them complain about the person they’re with (newsflash: even if they were with you, they’d still do that with their friends), helping them out in a pinch, and getting to that comfortable-but-not-romantic phase with them is hurtful, but at the same time, seemingly purposeful. But women don’t work that way.
You could be a nice guy. You could be the nicest guy in the world. If life were fair and transactional, then it would follow that the better we treated someone we liked, the better we would be treated in return. The more we wanted someone, they more they would want us back. Unfortunately, dating is a huge game of chance, with each person having their own set of variables that you have to grapple with. They could see you as a friend for plenty of reasons. They’re not over their ex. They have apprehensions about you. You’re not their type. She could have trust issues.
If you asked us outright—yes or no—then yes, the friendzone does exist. But just because something exists doesn’t mean it’s healthy to trap yourself in it. The “nice guy” narrative often veers into entitled territory—because it’s founded on the belief that your efforts are supposed to get you the girl. You were Mario, jumping and sprinting to get to the castle, only to find out that Princess Peach is with Bowser. Mario and Bowser battle it out, but when does Princess Peach get a say in all of this? Maybe she didn’t ask to be saved. If the girl you like is in a bad relationship, her choices, and the consequences of those choices, rest squarely on her shoulders alone. Blaming her for not choosing you instead doesn’t accomplish much.
The fact of the matter is, it doesn’t matter how many dinners you’ve bought her or how many times you’ve driven to her house to comfort her after a bad day. Sometimes, the girl you want to be with doesn’t want to be with you. She’s not a cold-hearted bitch just because she can’t “see your value.” You’re both still good people.
Finally, the friendzone undermines the value of good ol’ platonic friendship. Since when did we begin to see friendship as some kind of sad consolation prize? In many cases, friendships outlast romantic relationships. You’d still be able to have each other’s backs without the looming threat of a breakup.
It might take some getting used to, but stepping out of the friendzone isn’t actually up to her. It’s up to you. If she hasn’t given you a clear response to the “What are we?” question, ask. You have a right to ask. If you feel you’re being unfairly led on, walk away. If you want to keep her in your life, do so, but without setting up expectations. You have much more control over this situation than you think.