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Why Men Keep Putting You in the “Girlfriend-Zone”


So, not too long ago I read a tumblr post entitled, “Why Do Men Keep Putting Me in the Girlfriend-Zone?” To summarize the author’s supposedly satirical article, she complains about how her male friends, after a certain amount of time in their friendship, end up professing feelings for her. Oh God! How could this possibly be?! Why on Earth would a guy – after getting to know a woman really well through friendship – end up liking her? This is, of course, opposed to going through the more traditional and fraudulent industry of dating where people spend months omitting crucial personal details (I’m moving to another country in three months), hiding idiosyncrasies (I’m addicted to really weird porn) and outright lying (I was born a man), all in the hopes of causing someone to feel so invested in the relationship that they’ll overlook all this and decide to carrying on dating.


How in the hell does a guy become attracted to the real version of girl who he’s seen without makeup on, and who he knows the real sex history and dating life of? How could he think the fact that they like the same things, have a ton in common and really truly enjoy being around each other all the time means they might be a good couple? Where does he get off taking mental notes as she describes what she really wants from a relationship and in a partner and deciding he can give that to her or will, at least, break his back trying? Why does he think that just because they have been open with each other about almost every aspect of each other’s lives that some form of intimacy has developed between them? How dare he hear her goals and aspirations and think they are compatible with his own! What gives a guy the right to see her with her walls down in an unguarded state and decide he likes this part of her best of all? What makes him think he should say how he feels after seeing the girl he cares about date an endless stream of losers all the while bitching about how there are no good men out there while crying on that good man’s shoulder? Why would he think that using actions instead of pickup lines, and deeds instead of game to show her what kind of guy he is would make her like him? Seriously! Where does he get the balls?!

Perhaps it’s because we’ve all been misled by the huge inaccuracies in Hollywood rom-coms that women supposedly love. The unrealistic plotline of every other one of which is (spoiler alert) the girl eventually falls for her best friend. Never mind the fact that getting to know a girl through friendship is about the most surefire way to ensure she’ll never give you a chance. On the other hand, the other half of rom-coms have the storyline of the asshole with the heart of gold who the girl starts out hating, but eventually falls in love with. Never mind that girls actually start out loving the asshole only to find out he has no heart at all. I’m not sure why so many women seen to model their love lives on the latter and not the former, but they do. Regardless, the reality is that Hollywood has nothing to do with any of this. The simple fact is people have about as much control over who they fall in love with as MTV has over Kanye West at an award show.

I have plenty of female friends who I have no romantic interest in. I have also, in the past, fallen in love with a few only to be rejected on the basis of “[my] friendship meaning too much to [them].” It played out much like the author of this ridiculous article said and confessing my feelings hurt the friendship, at least for a time. But here’s the thing, and this is where the author of the article has it completely wrong about most men, I didn’t start off putting them in the “girlfriend-zone;” getting to know everything about them put them there.

I’ve literally experienced not being particularly physically attracted to a girl while getting to know her only to end up thinking she’s the sexiest person on Earth because her personality changed my perception of her. Sorry if that sucks for you, ladies, but being in love with someone who you get along with incredibly well while listening to her complain about wanting someone who will treat her right sucks a lot more. You ladies lose a friend because you won’t give him a chance, but guys lose a friend and get their hearts broken. Yeah, it’s true, most guys don’t stick around after the rejection. A guy’s feelings don’t go away just because the girl said no, and, quite frankly, hanging out with the girl who just rejected him isn’t healthy. The guy won’t be able to move on if he’s around her all the time (but the girl sure will), and the girl will un-maliciously but unmercifully enjoy all the benefits of having a “friend” who will do anything for her.

I still think getting to know someone through friendship is a better way to find love than going to a bar or a book club, or dating online, except for the fact women won’t let it be. The author said men are biologically wired to fuck up friendships in this way going back to our hunter gather days. Well, I would suggest science start looking into what undiagnosed condition women have that allows them to be so completely compatible with a guy but not “see [them] in that way.”

Sidebar: The solution to this, men, is to unabashedly flirt and hit on every woman you meet, even if it’s playful and you’re not interested. This will keep you out of the friend-zone and put you into the much better question-mark-zone.

Brian M. Williams
Brian is the author of the recently published travel memoir "Stranger in a Stranger Land: My Six Years in Korea." (Click this profile for more information.) He's also a law school grad with Southern charm and Virginia roots. He recently returned to America after nearly seven years traveling and working abroad. He loves dive bars, international travel and foreign accents. He's particularly good at small talk and was the first person to notice there's no "I" in "team."

5 thoughts on “Why Men Keep Putting You in the “Girlfriend-Zone”

  1. I was reading this thinking “who read my thoughts and put them on paper?!” As a girl, I can assure you there are those of us who have had this exact conversation about guys. The “I don’t want to ruin our friendship” line is used by both sexes, but, as the Greeks say: love is not the child of logic.

  2. First off, the article you linked was satire. It is a parody of a stereotypical “Friendzone” rant. It isn’t written in a serious brush, but it does present the opposite side of the coin. Frankly, it’s an issue that arises out of confusion.

    Women are far more intimate with their female friends than men are with their male friends. Women hug each other a lot, while guys rarely do anything beyond a hand-clap-shake-fist-bump. Women talk about personal things with their friends, and their conversations tend to be emotionally oriented. Men tend to get together to *do* things rather than talk, and when they do talk, it’s rarely about anything personal.

    When a man and a woman become friends, the woman will generally interact with the man like she would with any of her female friends, and this can cause confusion for the man. Here is this woman who hugs him, talks with him about personal things, and generally makes their relationship feel much closer than he is accustomed to in any of his other friendships. This makes him feel she likes him as more than a friend, and it can be emotionally jarring to find out this isn’t the case. The man can feel like he was “led on” by the woman, but in reality she was just treating him as she would any of her other friends.

    Everybody has romantic preferences. There are specific things individual people find attractive. You and I have them too. There are women you know who you would not want to date, who you wouldn’t even “give a chance” in a romantic relationship. We simply don’t feel that way about them, and there are people who feel the same way about you and me. This is completely normal and reasonable. Watching women date “losers” and lamenting about not being able to find a “good man” doesn’t mean she should want to date you. There’s far more to romantic preferences than “niceness.” Being nice doesn’t earn “romance points,” it’s part of being a friend.

    Friendship -can- develop into romance, but it isn’t a natural or inevitable progression. Frequently what makes us comfortable with a friend is knowing the relationship is relatively stable and unchanging; we don’t look for it to develop into anything more. Getting “put in the Girlfriend zone” can be done at any speed; it doesn’t have to be all at once. If one person does develop deeper feelings, it isn’t in any way the fault of the other person if they do not share them. They aren’t violating any agreement or contract. They aren’t defying the (nonexistent) romance formula. When you decide “I want to romantically pursue this person,” you have no right to be angry when it falls flat because you allowed your side of the relationship to develop out of proportion to the other person’s feelings without approaching them and testing the waters first.

  3. Great comments, Nathan, about the only thing I take issue with is whether the original article is successful satire. I can see where the writer was intending for it to be a humorous representation of the girl’s take on it. However, the framing of her point too accurately represented many girls’ take on the situation. I only see the last paragraph as being successful satire (see my second paragraph to see proper satire).
    Regardless, you do a great job explaining how a man could mistake a girl’s behavior in a friendship as something more. There is no doubt that men and women treat and interact with their friends in very different ways, and I can easily see where emotional miscommunications could arise from that. However, your explanation falls short in one regard: it doesn’t account for the fact men don’t fall for all their female friends or believe all their female friends are in love with them.
    Speaking from my personal experience, falling for a friend isn’t about her being nice to me as much as it’s about getting to know her in that real way friends do and liking what I see. By a ratio of something like 30-1, getting to know a girl as a friend has ended any chance of a potential relationship because I came to see we were incompatible, regardless of how nicely she treated me.
    But I completely agree with you that no one in a friendship has the right to be angry if their feelings aren’t returned. But I can’t blame a rejected person if they feel hurt and need some time and space to put themselves back together. It’s a big blow and it’s insensitive of the rejector, as a friend, to not get that. And as far as testing the waters goes, is there ever a time when the mutual friends in this type of scenario don’t all see what’s going on (assuming they don’t explicitly know)? There always seems to be a level of willful ignorance going on on the part of the person who has a friend that’s in love with them. They go out of their way to not see it.

  4. My main point in writing this article is that getting to know someone through friendship is a good way to evaluate someone as a potential partner and that anytime anyone, guy or girl, has a friend express feelings for them, they shouldn’t dismiss it out of hand even if they hadn’t previously thought of them that way. A friend knows you well, and if they know you and like you, that’s something that shouldn’t be under valued.
    And lastly, women, stop using these canned lines like “I value your friendship too much” because what a guy hears is you like him, but you’re scared, so he’ll try harder. Be specific and direct and don’t mince words. If there’s a reason you don’t “see him like that” tell him. He’ll be able to move on more quickly if he understands why the woman he loves doesn’t have the same feelings. Also male-female friendships have an expiration date on them be it your next serious relationship or, at the least, marriage. Think about it, has your mom or dad ever had a friend of the opposite sex over regularly to hang out? No. So these things are going to end, so if there’s a chance you might like a friend that likes you, give it a chance. The bigger the risk the bigger the reward. And you’re not risking a life-long friendship like many of you seem to be thinking.

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