New Relationship Problem: The Rom-Com Zone Emily Gordon

Just two frenemies who like each other. What?!

Have you ever had one of those guy friends that you nurse a long, simmering, blinding crush on for months at a time? A guy friend you exchange long meaningful glances with, after you both reach for the exact same flavor of froyo? A guy you tell all your secrets to, and laugh and cry with? A guy whose dates you hate on principle?

Welcome to the next level of the hated “friendzone” — the RomComZone.

The RomComZone happens when you get stuck in an eternal “will they or won’t they?” situation with a guy in your life. On TV shows or in movies, these friendships are adorable and fraught with sexy tension and hilarious misunderstandings, only to explode in a passionate embrace at the end of the movie. And happily ever after and so on. In real life, secretly pining for a friend is like being in a constant fight or flight mode with your heart, only to end in possibly losing your friend AND a potential romantic partner.

So why do we do it? Why do we fall in love with friends and constantly avoid opportunities to tell them how we feel? Why are we so comfortable in that nether region of flirtation and platonic friendship? As a girl who’s been in the RomComZone more times than I like to count, only to watch the guy I love ride off into the sunset with some random girl he met at work, feeling like every Taylor Swift song, I can think of a few reasons why I continually put myself in the RomComZone. (Note: these realizations were not easy to come by for me, and often didn’t even change my behavior.)

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Blame Movies, TV, Music

It sounds silly, but romantic comedies are, for a lot of us, a blueprint to how relationships are supposed to work. That’s why we’re all so well-informed about the courting part of relationships, but not so much about how to actually exist in a long term relationship day after day after day. A movie about that would be fairly boring. In romcoms, any guy you are annoyed by is somehow also supposed to be the guy you fall in love with. In sitcoms, the height of romance is Ross and Rachel on Friends, constantly getting jealous of each other’s dates and not admitting how they feel. I grew up believing that real love was supposed to involve two breakups over weird misunderstandings and at least one instance of running to the airport, flowers in hand. It affected what I sought after in relationships.

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Blame our Love of Drama

Here’s a thing we don’t like to admit to ourselves: most of us need a healthy dose of drama in our lives. I don’t mean the kind that lands you on daytime court shows, but I mean that little bit of excitement from novel social interactions that keeps us on our toes, and makes us feel important. It colors our daily interactions with a swath of mystery. The everyday ins and outs of romantic relationships, once you settle into them, are lovely and fulfilling, but they are missing the charge of early courtship, where everything feels limitless and sexy. Being in the RomComZone keeps that feeling going for a long time. Perhaps too long.

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Blame a Fear of Rejection

This is a pretty obvious one. Nothing risked, nothing gained. If you don’t tell a guy you’re crushing on that you’re crushing on him, then you get to live forever in an odd sort of twilight, constantly wondering if he’s into you, and how your eventual love story will play out. The relationship is always a potential relationship, which can sometimes be better than an actual disappointing relationship, or rejection from a relationship.

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Blame the Other Person

Raise your hand if this has happened to you: a guy friend will flirt with you when he’s single and lonely, but once you’re around other girls, he acts like he barely knows you. Yup, it’s happened to me too. Why do we put up with these guys? Are we hoping that someday they’ll realize the one they love is RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEM? (See all movies, TV and music.) Sometimes guys want to keep us in the RomComZone as their emergency girl, and it’s up to us to recognize it and always react to their advances knowing that we are not the romantic priority in their lives.

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  1. Thank you for that article! You listed all those points I’ve been trying to deny were true… damn you Hollywood, why do I like your movies and TV shows so much?!

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