Navigating the Friend Zone

Being in a place comparable to a penalty box is not fun. Being in a place said to rival Dante's Ninth Circle of Hell and the Sahara Desert in terms of inhospitability can't be too pleasant either.

But the friendzone exists, and sometimes, whether you want to or not, you may find yourself there.

Avoiding the friendzone is an art that many people have yet to fully master. One thing that is certain is that there is careful treading to be done on both sides whether you are in the friendzone, or the one doing the friendzoning. So how do you carefully tread the line between your feelings and the feelings of your friend/unrequited crush/person-you-want-to-stay-friends-with-that's-crushing-on-you?

It appears that first and foremost, communication is key.

"[S]how them how much they mean to you," says Northwestern freshman Brett Warner. "You never want to look back and wonder 'what if,' and that goes for both sides." 

Making your intentions clear is crucial as a way of preventing misleading, and at times hurtful situations. Leading anyone on is never okay, and neither is jerking someone around and being unclear about your feelings. This is an experience that Warner knows all too well. 

"I was friends with a girl since elementary school," he remembers.  [S]he would reject me any time I asked her on a date saying that she just wasn't ready for a relationship. I told her I would wait and I did." 

Unfortunately, Warner's patience did not yield the results he was hoping for. 

"By senior year this girl I had been pursuing since freshman year, who was my best friend, finally took the courage to tell me that the reason we could never date was because she was not physically attracted to me and never would be.  As senior year drew to a close she realized she was, but by then it was too late."

Warner's story shows the importance of not only communicating to a friend/potential love interest, but also of keeping an open mind and not letting your position in the friendzone govern your life. 

"Don't do what I did and wait for two plus years. If after a while nothing seems to work you can still try but don't shut yourself off to other people. Because then you are just friendzoning someone else," he says.

While looking out for yourself is crucial on either side of the friendzone, the feelings of the other person should also be taken into account to prevent awkward encounters and hurt feelings. Most people discourage being overly aggressive in trying to get a friend/potential love interest to see you as something more when you are in the friendzone. However, it doesn't stop there. If you are knowingly friendzoning someone, you must proceed with caution as well. 

"Don't talk about your relationships in front of them, it hurts their feelings," says Lauren Kravec, another Northwestern freshman who has had her share of experiences on both sides of the friendzone. She believes some of the conflicts that arise from being in the friendzone are due to the feelings of entitlement that one friend may begin to feel when they develop romantic feelings for another friend.  

"I think it's kind of like 'I do all these really nice things for this person,' and 'I can care for her or him...why doesn't this person realize that I can be a good boyfriend or girlfriend," she explains.

But Kravec says that this attitude is not the answer. 

"Don't be selfish," she says "You can't force someone to feel the same way you feel about them...if you don't want a friendship [and] you just want a relationship with the person you like then...I wouldn't even call it the friendzone because you're not a good friend."

In short, the friendzone can be, in a lot of ways the test of a relationship, be it totally platonic, or potentially romantic. Ultimately, the way to ensure that you pass is to keep your feelings in check and as grounded as possible, while also making sure you consider the feelings of the other person involved. While the friendzone may never be the "friendliest" place to be, if you employ the tips above and try to use the best judgement possible, whether you are friendzoning or in the friendzone, your relationship won't have to suffer and you may come out with more than you thought you had!