The “Friendzone” Doesn’t Exist

It’s a harmful mindset we need to change


I don’t believe in the friend zone.

I used to. In high school, I watched my male friends complain about getting rejected by their crushes and then stuck in the friendzone. They made it sound like a literal cage — as if they’d been lured there and locked in. There was no escaping the friendzone for them. It was a lifelong prison sentence.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize is that the friendzone doesn’t exist. It’s not a cage or a trap that anyone has set — it’s just a mindset. More than that, it’s a harmful mindset that can hurt people on both sides of the equation.

If you’ve got feelings, then confess

I’ve noticed a common thread with people who claim they’ve been friendzoned. They complain that they aren’t seen as a viable romantic option — yet they’ve never admitted their feelings.

You can’t get upset that someone doesn’t see you as an option when you’ve never presented yourself as one.

Don’t get me wrong — the fear of rejection can be stifling. It’s more than fear. It’s heart-pounding, stomach-dropping terror. As much as you may want to speak up, nobody likes to be rejected, especially when that rejection could also mean losing a friendship too.

However, the solution isn’t to sit on the sidelines and wait for the other person to make a move. It’s better to rip the band-aid off than letting the wound fester and ooze. Even if you think you’ve made your feelings obvious, you should still say something.

Your confession will force the other person to look at you as a romantic option. Maybe they also have been sitting on the sidelines, waiting for a sign that their feelings are returned.

In some cases, your crush might already know how you feel and use your feelings to string you along as a backup option. When you admit your feelings, the other person will have to be honest.

And, even if they do give you the classic, “I only view you as a friend,” you haven’t lost entirely. Rather than spending weeks or months hung up on the possibility that someone likes you back, you can start moving on. You’ve got your answer, and you don’t need to wonder anymore.

Being someone’s friend shouldn’t be a consolation prize

During my sophomore year of high school, a male friend confessed that he had a crush on me. Although I cherished his friendship, I just didn’t return his feelings.

After telling him that, I asked if he still wanted to be friends. He said yes, and our relationship slowly transitioned back to normal. However, months later, he admitted that I’d “stuck him in the friendzone.”

It was meant to be a joke, but it didn’t make me laugh. His comment made me feel like my friendship was a consolation prize. He couldn’t have me as a girlfriend so he was settling for the next best thing.

More than that, it made me feel guilty — as if I somehow hypnotized him and was keeping him trapped under my spell.

At the time, I didn’t realize it, but I hadn’t “stuck” this guy anywhere. I didn’t lead him on or prevent him from moving on. I wasn’t the one holding the key to his friendzone cage — he was.

Being someone’s friend shouldn’t feel like a settlement, and if it does, maybe the friendship doesn’t have a strong foundation to begin with. Instead of trying to pick up the scraps of something that was never there, it might be time to move on.

It’s okay not to be friends

After getting rejected, the first instinct is to preserve the friendship. However, it can be difficult to move on from someone if you’re constantly around them.

Unrequited love can feel like a cage, and sometimes, setting yourself free means walking away. Not necessarily forever, but until you can be sure those feelings are good and buried. While leaving someone behind can be painful at first, it might be necessary to heal.

I’ve never been stuck in the friendzone. It’s not because I’ve never been rejected by someone I’m crushing on — trust me, I’ve been there. It’s because the friendzone doesn’t exist.

If you’ve already confessed your love and been rebuffed, you have to make a choice: either decide the friendship is worth salvaging (despite how you feel) or realize that you need space to move on. There isn’t a right answer, and what you choose may depend on the circumstances.

At the end of the day, the only person responsible for how you feel is you. If the friendzone is a cage, you’re both the prisoner and the warden.

When I’m not writing, you can usually find me hanging out with my cats.

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