A man meets an attractive woman and becomes instinctively drawn to her and engulfed in amorous feelings. He desires to establish a committed romantic relationship with his love interest. Alternatively, he may just want to jump her bones. Either way, it appears the man is in full pursuit mode. In fairy tales, the gent would do all the right things, inciting a reciprocal attraction in the woman and they'd live happily ever after. So why is it the case that so many real life situations go completely to the left, leaving the man in the dreaded "Friend Zone?" And why is it also the case that, according to Feefo from DeadEndHipHop.com "every guy has been friend zoned at least once." Here's a typical experience:
The Friend Zone is the social term used to describe platonic relationships between cross sexual partners where one person, generally the man, has unrequited desires to have a romantic and/or sexual relationship with the other. The relationship usually has many elements of traditional friendships in that the subjects are endearing, supportive, and affable in their dealings. Being "stuck in the Friend Zone" is a common problem griped about by many men in cross sexual friendships. According to my, ahem, friend Atlanta businessman Kareen Harris, there is a correlation between the Friend Zone and the widely held perception that "nice guys finish last."
Yesterday, I used Periscope, a cool new live streaming broadcast service, to discuss my thoughts on the Friend Zone with an engaged group of people from around the world. What follows is a more complete presentation of my thoughts on the Friend Zone including a) its history, b) flaws with common perceptions of it, and c) ethical/personal development issues it raises. In my next blog I'll share practical advice for the great guys seeking liberation from the Friend Zone. It is my hope that these blogs will spark frank, thoughtful, and transformative reflection and discussion on this important social phenomenon so that, ultimately, more love can prosper in the world. This is #TheAshleyWay.
History of the Friend Zone
The term "Friend Zone" first emerged in popular culture in 1994 on an episode of the popular sitcom Friends. In the episode, Ross, one of the male lead characters, was dubbed the "mayor of the friend zone" by his friend Joey because he harbored unrequited (and unexpressed) attraction to Rachel, a close friend.
Since the term's popularization in the 90s, it has had remarkable staying power. I suspect this is because it is such a common occurrence and compelling topic to wax poetic about. Few topics can excite a firestorm of controversy like love mishaps. Popular culture, the media, and everyday people alike all feed the Friend Zone frenzy because it evokes age old concepts of longing, desire, conquest, and romantic hopes with the modern spin of a cool catchphrase that is especially ripe to be cloaked in a rich social media fabric.
What's more, cross sexual friendship between men is a recent social development itself. For most of humanity's existence, men and women related to each other solely for the purpose of procreation and family relations. It has only been recently that non-related men and women kicked it casually or worked together. Studies show that in these newfangled gender relations, it is much more common for a man to believe a female friends wants to be intimate when him than vice versa. Cultural and biological factors contribute to this disparity. Based on our biological functioning, we have eased into a natural operating procedure in which men are the pursuers and women are the selectors. This has been challenged, but not changed with modern advancements. In addition, despite tremendous modern upward mobility, men and women continue to mate with people who are like them in socioeconomic and attractiveness terms. This is called homogamy.
The emergence of these new cross sexual relationships has created the opportunity (challenge) for men and women to explore gender dynamics, base human instincts, attractive couplings, and ethics in this complex social milieu. Essentially, every time we give cross-sexual friendships a go, we are participating in a big social experiment. Unfortunately, far too many girl-guy connections don't mature into either lasting love or friendship, but they get stuck in a pseudo relationship purgatory where neither friendship or romance flourish freely. I posit that Friend Zone-identified relationships have a harmful impact on society because they add unnecessary complexity and strife to already complicated gender relations, diminish the actual value of true friendship, and further enable dangerous belief systems about our free will, ability to attract, and the capacity for platonic friendships to exist between men and women. Men and women will only interact with each other with increasing frequency in years to come, and if we want to create more positive and beneficial relations, we will have to make some significant changes to the way we talk about our relationships, discuss our needs, and assess ourselves.
How is the Friend Zone perceived in society?
The Friend Zone is commonly perceived as a state of being that someone has unbewittingly or unjustifiably found themselves in or been relegated to. In common parlance, people refer to themselves as being "stuck" in the dreaded Friend Zone. Accordingly, society frequently empathizes with the plight of men who have unrequited affection for their female friends as if they are victims of injustice or tragic circumstances. This ultimately leads to the lame "bitchification" of women and celebrated "bitchassness" of many men. But is this good for society?
The Friend Zone is problematic because it misconstrues a number of important foundational concepts of human interaction. First, are we really talking about friendship? Friendships are mutually agreeable closely connected relationships between peers who share interests, honest communication, values, and benefits/burdens of the relationship. They are characterized by a non-romantic intimacy and sense of love. If we really think about it, many relationships commonly described as being in the Friend Zone are not truly friendships because they lack mutuality. This is most evident if a man uses the guise of establishing a friendship with a woman to try to cultivate her attraction. In such cases, there is no real friendship at all because the male is merely playing the friend role.
Second, the concept of the Friend Zone is based on a really twisted view of friendship and sexual entitlement. Friends do not build currency which can be cashed in for enhanced relationship benefits or sexual favors. Friendship investments are do not ripen into sexual returns, they aren't transactional. Instead, true friendship is a lasting platform for human interaction which, while it may have utilitarian features, is most typified by an enduring, unconditional care and concern for the other and a respect for their decisions. Thus, it is a backwards conception of friendship to expect anything more than true friendship in return, no matter how many back rubs and bitching-and-moaning sessions a supposedly Friend Zoned guy shares with a girl pal. Isn't friendship valuable in its own right?
I believe the way we discuss the Friend Zone enables a degradation of the concept of friendship and enhances dangerous belief systems which may encourage men to feel entitled to women's bodies, i.e., to act or think "Rapey." This Bloomingdales ad in which a guy plots to spike his female friend's holiday beverage typifies this boneheaded perspective at work.
Such boneheaded conceptions pervert social discussions about gender dynamics and make it difficult for people to actually seriously consider whether men and women can be platonic friends. Of course men and women can be friends. We share interests, can develop concern for each other, and are increasingly desirous of our respective world views. As long as we are straightforward, take time to learn each others needs, and agree to be thoughtful and respectful of our differences (as well as exercise self control), we can be great friends.
Ethics and the Friend Zone
Two serious ethical breaches are frequently at work in Friend Zone situations: deception and manipulation. Where a man fails to convey his true feelings to a love interest and uses the facade of friendship to grow close to her, he is lying by omission and improperly leveraging the friendship building tools to create the impression he is an altruistically great guy. Moreover, if a man has expressed his romantic or sexual desires, is rebuffed, and then begrudgingly agrees to remain in the woman's life an an "Orbiter" friend, i.e., one who will wait around for her to eventually grow attracted to him or leave her current mate, the lying and underhanded tactics are even more alarming. These friendly fraudsters may even overtly plot to win a woman's love despite her clear expressions or signs that she isn't feeling you for anything more than friendship no matter how many times you Netflix and chill with her.
The penalty for these ethical breaches can be stiff. Most often you can never get off the friend bench. Women are highly sentient beings. You guys are not fooling us with the friend act. We can sniff it out easily, and will view you as either amusing, spineless, or a total fraud based on the level of the offense. You will not be respected, but you may be kept around for solely opportunistic reasons. A woman may even tease you with the promise or potential intimacy, gaming you to be that ever more awesome and supportive guy pal all the while knowing in the back of her mind that you are never going to get any cut up. In this sense, the Friend Zone is not an undeserved status for great guys doing all the right things, but instead it is a karmic perpetual penalty box for sorta-shady guys? It's not the case then, that nice guys finish last.
Metaphysics, Personal Ascension and Friend Zone
I firmly believe that we shape our own realities with our thoughts and actions. Perception is reality. Intention is life. Language can control our destiny. Given that, it perplexes me that so many men believe they will be able to get the girl of the dreams (or even the girl they want for that night), if they do not make their desires known. Why would you deny yourself what you believe you are entitled to? Why not just tell the girl that the only relationship you desire is romantic in nature and you will not settle for anything else. Why not mean it, i.e., end the friendship if you truly want more? Why play games with friendship and have the window of opportunity close on your love? Why tempt Karma to smack you when you can have Destiny on your side through manifestation practices? Don't turn "Rapey" (see below) when you have the power to live the life of your dreams if you get real.
In addition to the fact that contemporary discussion lends itself to "Rapey" talk (this Super Mario Bros. meme is sickening), the thing which bothers me the most about how some men look at Friend Zone status is that they fail to realize any of their own power or agency in the situation. No one can place you in a relationship status you do not willing submit to. As a result, guys you aren't "stuck" in the Friend Zone. You likely put or keep yourself there, and you can escape at any time by simply choosing an alternative course. I am certain that if the men who spent time griping on the internet about being Friend Zoned or Incels (involuntary celibates) would actually devote that energy to becoming better versions of themselves, growing in confidence, and understanding women better, then they would find more women interested in them. There is no greater turn off than a man who does not know his own power.
The first step in claiming the life of your dreams is to know yourself. Far too many men spend time obsessing over women who are clearly not suitable matches for them because they have neglected their own personal development and are not honest with themselves about the women they can readily attract or have the highest degree of compatibility with. It's time we stop with the silly, self-indulgent delusions and infantile archetypes about modern gender relations- they type which come from sitcoms- and begin the real work of creating dynamic, new frameworks for lasting romantic love and platonic friendship to grow.
In my next post, I will provide a solution to the problem of the Friend Zone. I'd love it if you leave a comment or tweet me with the hashtag #The AshleyWay sharing one thing which will always land a guy in the dreaded Friend Zone. Thanks for reading, and please share!
Fall Down The Rabbit Hole
Watch my Periscope.
Read this book.
Repeat these Affirmations for Men in the Friend Zone:
- I am worthy of love from a mate I desire.
- I attract desirable women with ease.
- I am grateful for my ability to connect with diverse groups of people.
- I do not wait around for anything, love included, to fall into my lap.
- I make things happen.
- I am surrounded by love.
- People are naturally drawn to me because I am a great person and charismatic.
- I deserve love and abundance.
- I exude confidence in all my dealings.
- Challenges bring out my best, and others trust me to creatively problem solve.
- I show courage and conviction each day.
- My appearance conveys my pride in myself and my commitment to looking my best each day.
- I affirmatively assess myself, seeking opportunities to enhance areas of developing greatness.
- I am a great listener.
- Women are eager to spend time with me.
- I radiate sexual confidence and please my sexual partners.
- I am especially skilled at selecting suitable mates.
- My masculine strengths are obvious.
- I am one of the most attractive people in my social group.
- The value I offer to a woman is undeniable.
- I am a woman magnet.
- Life is good.
- I am a god in my own mind.
- I have a well rounded knowledge of myself.
- I do not worry about relationships.
Digest this to understand why the popular view of gender relations and sexual interactions sucks.
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