Grappling with the friend zone in modern relationships

By MATTHEW RITCHIE | February 15, 2018

The friend zone. The proverbial Sunken Place in which people hate to be caught. For some, it could be the worst possible thing that could ever happen.

I see countless examples of people lamenting being put in the friend zone every day. As I scroll through my timeline on Twitter, I lose count of the number of tweets in my feed with women putting guys in the friend zone. These tweets are subsequently blasted by dudes responding with stuff like, “RIP to homie over here” or “SMH, he ain’t never escaping the friend zone.” 

In the millennial world of relationships and human interaction, the only perceived parallels to the friend zone are death row or purgatory. It’s as if the idea of a strictly platonic relationship between two people where romantic love is unrequited is impossible to keep up. 

In the modern world, many people view this type of relationship as the end of the road. This close-minded view that many hold regarding platonic relationships creates a problematic atmosphere where people are unable to interact without trying to constantly hook up with each other. 

Now, that’s not to say I don’t understand the pain of the friend zone. Trust me, I understand it. The earlier years were rough, man. My adolescence was mired with instances of painful, unrequited love. It probably wasn’t helped by the fact that I was an emotional, immature teenager who believed that romance was the most important thing in the world.

And apparently, all of the girls that I attempted to court were only interested in being friends with me. As a hormonal child, you have to understand my pain and frustration. My thought process was, “How could I only be friends with someone that I find so amazing?” 

My stubborn self would run into the same mistake every time: I would only look romantically at the people whose personalities I was attracted to. Whether it was Julia in the seventh grade, Sarah in the eighth grade or Kathleen in the 11th grade, I would get upset that they didn’t reciprocate my romantic feelings, and I would lose any sort of meaningful relationship with them.

That’s the problem with viewing the friend zone as the end all and be all of relationships. You start to look down on the idea of having friendships with someone of the opposite sex (assuming that’s who you’re attracted to). It creates a negative connotation about the concept of platonic love and friendship. More often than not, though, these types of relationships are stronger in the long run. 

When you’re young, romantic relationships can be fleeting and fragile. You’re not always going to remember little Susie from 10th grade who you dated for two months; or little Jimmy who you dated for three weeks but stopped texting because he bored you so soon after you thought he was “special.” However, it is much more likely that you will remember and cherish the memory of your close friend who you loved and cared about platonically.

People look down on platonic relationships. But relationships can be much more meaningful without the distractions of sexual desire and its potential to cloud our judgement. Friendship can be a beautiful thing: It’s a relationship that comes without the awkward interactions and the complications that come with catching feelings. Without the burden of romantic feelings, friendship gives you a person that you can just have a conversation with, someone you can have a legitimate connection with. With friendship, there isn’t a possibility of losing the relationship because of miscommunication and unrequited feelings. 

It feels like the millennial consensus is that a relationship like this can’t truly exist. But it should. The importance of having a stable friendship outweighs the missed opportunity for a hook-up.

Realistically, the friend zone isn’t a punishment or a death sentence. It can actually lead to a meaningful, platonic relationship that can be strong and mutually beneficial for both people involved. It’s time for our generation to stop looking at the friend zone as the worst thing in the world, and for us to start looking at it as an opportunity for a strong and meaningful friendship. Give friends a chance, but not that trash show from the ‘90s.

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