Just a week ago a lady friend came confessing to me that she had trouble handling a situation. There was this guy she had been good friends with. As it often happens, ‘good friends’ grew into something a little more than just that. She remained oblivious to the entanglement and only ‘realized’ how far it had gone when the man asked her into a relationship.
“I totally didn’t see that coming,” she told me. Apparently, not even when brief and very formal encouragements from the Word morphed into “I’m just checking how you doing.” The nightly calls didn’t feel a little inappropriate. Gradually ‘just friends’ became a little less defined, and when the guy sought to replace the ‘situantionship’ tag with ‘relationship’ it hit her she “had never thought of him like that.”
Well, she may never have thought of him like that; but she all along had entertained him like that. Selfishly she had been enjoying an exclusive attention she wasn’t willing to reciprocate. The guy had asked her to go pray about his proposal, but here we were praying for his heart that would soon be crashed.
She didn’t know how to break the news to him. She feared the awkwardness that would follow. I had to help her see that prolonging the wait would only hurt the guy worse. She had to tell him the truth however uncomfortable that felt. Mr. Expectant would be hurt no doubt, but telling him was more selfless, loving and caring than keeping him waiting.
My lady friend was definitely at fault for the messy way things turned out. She understood that and even repented. But the man was not sans blame. He was at fault just as much, or maybe even worse.
The fear to be friend-zoned
Generally men have grown fearful of being friend-zoned. Experience has shown that the closer friends a man becomes with a lady the harder it will be to ask her out. In response many have asked too prematurely, and others too late. Both instances have usually been dominated with awkwardness, sometimes to the extreme that the friendship is fractured beyond repair.
But how sad that something as wonderful as friendship can be feared by men and misused by women as a protective guard! I know some who are masterful at friend-zoning. The men never see what hits them because it comes faster than a Mayweather jab. They lose before the fight even starts.
The conundrum for men is whether they should take precious time to know the ladies they are interested in well, even though that risks settling for less than they set out for. If they overlook the time needed to know the lady well before committing to a relationship, chances are they both might commit to something so serious with a partner they barely know. That can be disastrous. Such impatience has resulted in worse heartbreaks than being friend-zoned.
Is it possible however to pursue friendship and eventually win the girl’s heart while avoiding awkwardness? Is it possible for a man to enjoy the friend zone without feeling insecure his efforts might fall short of his ultimate goal; the relationship? I think it is.
Clarity is key
Men only need be clear about their intentions. Often people think the perfect time to do that is later when signals have been dished and favors extended. But we know where that approach often leads. I think the perfect time is earlier on. A man’s long term intentions shouldn’t wait to be communicated when the lady is perceived to feel the same towards him. They should be communicated the moment he is drawn to the lady.
I know that may feel a little too soon, but it will only be too soon if poorly done. A man can both be clear about his intentions for a relationship and enjoy friendship for however long it lasts. He can express his feelings without making the lady feel compelled to respond to them that very moment.
I’ve seen it with a few of my friends. The line went something like “Hey, I would be happy to pursue something more than friendship with you. But I want you to know that I value that we be friends first and know each other well. I’ll be glad if someday you get to share the same feeling, but if you never do, or should someone else appeal more to you, I want you to know that how we relate as friends will not change in any way.”
What that does is it takes the pressure off the girl. She is not left feeling like she has to make a decision there and then. The guy is not asking a yes-no question that must be answered by some deadline. He is simply stating an interest that she’s free to respond to however she pleases. Saying ‘No’ will not be a choice between missing feelings towards the guy and the friendship between them.
She is not hurried. She may choose to courteously turn him down that very moment or a little after he’s expressed his interest if she thinks she’ll never be drawn to him romantically. That would be kind to do of course. But she may also choose to say “Well, we could continue as friends and maybe if later I get to feel the same I will surely let you know.”
I believe if after some considerable time the lady still never gets to grow any feelings, if she is godly she’ll be kind enough to let the guy know so he doesn’t ‘waste’ his time hoping. I prefer to use the word waste with quotation marks because no genuine friendship can ever be a waste. And any respectful attempt at winning a lady’s heart, even if unsuccessful, is very much a growing experience to be termed a waste.
The approach also ensures there won’t be any awkwardness between the two. The lady will not treat suspiciously the guy’s advances because his interest is plainly known. Any exclusive treatment comes not just from a friend (which would be worrying), but from a friend who is clear about his intentions. She is free to turn down whichever she feels she’s not yet ready for, and whichever she welcomes she understands the consequences associated.
I believe when that is the position a man selflessly puts a lady in, she will respect such a man; even if she never gets to be emotionally drawn to him. She will appreciate the security in such a friendship. She’ll never feel played. But when a man slyly hides cards behind his back like most men usually do, the friendship will never be genuine. He is dishonest. Whenever a friendship is that vaguely defined, if a relationship results out of it, that relationship just might be an unstable one.
The lady may only commit to a relationship for fear of hurting the man or losing the friendship. That is manipulation, and nothing bodes worse for a relationship. I believe men should not fear the friend zone, neither obsess with jumping out of it. They should gladly step in one. It’s an important first step before a relationship. But they should do so with the honesty and humility that free a lady rather than deceptively confine her in some corner.