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Relationship Advice: Escaping the ‘friendzone’

By Mitchell Munyaradzi Gumbo

Life’s greatest pain may be knowing that you want something yet everything around you makes it crystal clear that you can never have that. Unrequited love!

Rachel and Ross and the comedy series Friends popularised the concept of the 'FriendZone'
Rachel and Ross and the comedy series Friends popularised the concept of the ‘FriendZone’

It’s mighty painful to love at all, it’s painful to have to buy presents and miss someone but the greatest pain of all is to love in vain.

A person can’t claim to know true hurt if they haven’t experienced the pain of loving someone whose affections lie elsewhere. Yet for those in the “friendzone” this experience is daily bread.

What is the “friendzone”? The term entered pop culture about 21 years ago during a 1994 episode of the hit USA sitcom “Friends” where Ross was lovesick for Rachel but Rachel saw him as nothing more than a friend.

The “friendzone” thus is a situation where one individual (90% of the times the individual is a guy) in a friendship develops romantic feelings for the other. From henceforth the friend who has developed feelings is called the lover and the object of his affections is called the beloved.

The lover would have gotten to a point of wanting more from the friendship. He wants to be more than friends, yet many a time the beloved is oblivious or unaware of the romantic feelings of the lover thus the term “stuck in the “friendzone’”.

It’s been said that one of life’s hardest things is to metamorphose from being just a friend into more than a friend.

Let’s get one thing straight here, the “friendzone” hurts! Even the Bible seems to have a subtle reference to it , Solomon aptly says on Proverbs 13 v 12 “ Hope deferred makes the heart sick…” The heart is stubborn, it wants what it wants and whenever it doesn’t get it, the pain is almost too hard to bear.

Essentially all relationships are social exchanges, that is just a psycho-sociological term that means that in all relationships, we give something expecting to get something in return. A “friendzone” thus means the lover is giving everything to his friend whom he now sees as girlfriend not girl friend but in return his friend the girl gives him boy friend stuff not boyfriend stuff! In fact the girl has this boy meeting all her boyfriend needs!

He takes her out, runs errands for her. Basically he is at her beck and call. A classic case of not buying cattle just because you get the milk and beef for free.

So in a “friendzone” the guy meets all the needs of the girl however his needs are not met. What is his need? He just wants to be loved but he doesn’t get that because in her mind he is her good friend!

If the “friendzone” is such a bad place then why are many brothers increasingly finding themselves in this precarious and unenviable position? Why does the “friendzone” happen? True story is this, years ago I too was in that unenviable position.

I met a girl in a shop and I managed to get her number and the way I was brought up was that you are friends first with a girl and then later you move in for the kil. What they didn’t tell me was that the friendship period shouldn’t be long lest she starts seeing as such, just a friend! I developed feelings for the girl.

She just had to cough and I would be there for her with pills and fruits and cab money if she needed to go the hospital. In my dumb head I thought it was going to happen like in the movies, that somehow she would see that I am a great guy interested in her and then she would fall for me! She was enjoying the attention without any romantic attachment on her part! I was her friend with benefits LOL!

So to cut the sad and long story short, another guy came along and swept her off her feet. As her “best friend” she told me first that guy X had hit on her and she was now in a relationship. As for me I was her BFF (Best Friend Forever).

A few months ago as I researched on this sad phenomen called the “friendzone” , I had to ask her “Why did you just see me as a friend that time?” Her answer pretty summed up why most guys are in this enviable position , she said “You didn’t make your intentions clear “. There you have it, the reason why you sir may be nothing more than her friend yet you so love her is because you haven’t made your intentions clear.

At the back of her mind, either you have a girlfriend already or you are not interested in her thus don’t blame her when she calls you to tell you she now has a boyfriend! She isn’t a prophetess to guess your intentions neither is she dumb enough to reject the nice things you do for her just because you aren’t her boyfriend!

The first step thus to escaping the firendzone is to make her know that you want more than friendship! Vasikana vapera here vekutamba navo zvekuti akuda kutamba newe!

The second way to escape the “friendzone” is to become less interested in her. Human beings are strange creatures, the attention we want is that which is taken off the table. Peradventure that is why we love those who take us for granted!

Take a step back from your friend.  Waller and Hill in 1951 put forward a principle they called “The least interested principle” . In it they posited that those who are willing to walk away often have the power to control the course of relationships. You know why she takes you as a friend or older brother while you love her?

It’s because she knows you are not going anywhere! Indeed you are her best friend forever! Start spending time away from your friend, get a life outside her! If there is any hope between you then absence should make her heart grow fonder for you.

See dear “friendzone”d reader, the easiest way to lose value is to be common. People long and lust after things of value! Your butt is always around her crying out to go with her to girls night out! You have become her girl friend!

No wonder why she doesn’t love you, she isn’t a lesbian!

On top of being scarce, I exhort you to go out there and make new friends. In addition to valuing rare things, people also value stuff they think they can lose. You will notice that the girl who doesn’t see you as anything more than a friend will become eager for your attention when she realizes that it’s not for her alone!

Jesus Christ said many awesome things among them “Your heart is where your treasure is” (Matthew 6 v21). Its hard to love someone whom you don’t invest your treasure in! If you want to make the great leap forward from being boy friend into her boyfriend then IT’S TIME SHE STARTS INVESTING IN YOU TOO!

Chances are you fell in love with her when she was just supposed to be your friend because you were investing in her. If she wants to see you, at times she has to invest her time and energy by actually coming to see you not you just going wherever she is!

The more she will invest in your friendship the more she will value it enough to take it to the next level!

The final way of this piece and most obvious is this, tell her that you have fallen in love with her. Confess your feelings for her, tell her you no longer see her as just a friend. You now want more! Wanting more is ever devilish or demonic. Chances are she may be feeling you too but the way she has been socialized as well as our conservative Bantu culture makes it taboo for her to approach you first.

Man up, find a nice quiet setting and look her in the eye and tell her you love her! Calling her or texting or doing so while drink smacks of cowardice and lack of seriousness! Yes she may reject you but that is not the end of the world! It’s better to move on than spend your whole life being just her friend while you love her! GO GET THE GIRL!

Mitchell Munyaradzi Gumbo is a male Social Psychology student with an interest in Human Behavior and Interpersonal Relationships.