4 Lessons I Learned from the Friend Zone

When you hear the phrase, “I’ve been friend-zoned,” typically it’s a guy saying a girl has told him that she doesn’t want to date—she “just wants to be friends.” Ouch. No guy wants to be told by the girl he likes that she’s not interested in dating him.

However, it can go the other way too. I have been firmly friend-zoned before by guys. And it ain’t fun. It can be downright embarrassing, in fact, to put yourself on the line and then experience rejection.  Now, I’m not saying that guys’ and girls’ experiences being friend-zoned are the same, and I’m not minimizing the very real pain of rejection, but I am a firm believer that beautiful things can come even from hard/painful/awkward situations.

And thus, I present to you (dun-da-DAAA!) 4 Lessons I Learned from the Friend Zone.

  1. If I get “friend-zoned” in a situation, it means I had guts. Yes, my feelings may be hurt, but if I have been decidedly “friend-zoned,” it means I had the courage to show someone that I was interested in them enough for them to notice and make a decision. I didn’t have to wonder if I was clear about my feelings or not.  I showed up in my life and let myself be seen, regardless of outcome. And that is something to be proud of.
  2. Just because someone didn’t want to date me doesn’t mean I’m not worth dating. It is so hard sometimes not to jump to the thought, “What’s wrong with me? Why am I not good enough for him?” But having those feelings come up is an opportunity to deal with my insecurities and false beliefs and resolve them. It’s an opportunity to choose to believe that I am worthy of love and belonging, no matter what anyone else chooses to do or say and to develop emotional strength and resilience.
  3. I can be proactive about keeping cool people in my life. After getting “friend-zoned” by a guy I really admired, and after the requisite pity-party, I put on my big-girl pants and reached out to him and said, “Hey—I understand that you’re not interested in dating, and that’s fine. But I need friends like you in my life. Would you be willing to meet up on a regular basis for lunch and just chat?” This may not be possible in every situation, but if expectations are firmly established and understood by both sides, the friendship doesn’t have to be sacrificed.
  4. Being “friend-zoned” can actually make my relationship with that person better.  Sometimes when that romantic element is taken away, it helps me relax and get to know that person for who they really are because I’m not so worried about how I’m being perceived, and genuine friendship can grow.

Being “friend-zoned” has a negative connotation, and I certainly understand why. But I think there’s a tendency in our generation to have the “relationship binary” mindset when it comes to the opposite gender—it’s either dating or nothing, with no room for friendship in between. But in reality, there’s a whole spectrum of depth when it comes to relationships, and I worry that we lose opportunities to develop rich friendships with high-quality people because we’re so fixated on the romantic aspect. Dating is important in the young adult stage of life. Prophets have said this, and I support them. But this stage of life is also made richer by a variety of associations with people of the opposite gender, and if we cut off all friendships because they don’t have potential to develop into romantic relationships, we can be missing out on opportunities to learn from, appreciate, and serve other people.

That being said, of course, sometimes there’s too much water under the bridge, and you can’t go back to being friends. I’ve experienced that. Sometimes, for whatever reason, being friends with that person really isn’t a good idea. And sometimes, despite all your efforts to be a friend, the other person won’t want to be friends at the level you want, and that’s their choice—you can’t control other people. They have their right to choose. The trick is to rely on the guidance of the Spirit to know when to stay and when to move on.

So if you’ve been friend-zoned, I am truly sorry. It can be pretty rough. But you know what the Savior calls His disciples? His friends. And if I am in the Savior’s friend zone, He can help me take anyone else’s.

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