Why it’s totally OK if you’re stuck in the friend zone

It’s a place we’ve all been at one point or another in our lives. Some of us (*cough ME *cough) have been there so long, we might as well take up a sublet and get a parking permit. If you’re one of the lucky few who don’t know what it is, the “friend zone” is a kind of relationship purgatory where one party is in deep like/love with the other party, but the other is only putting off friendly vibes. Basically, it’s the saddest party on the block. Or at least it feels like it at the time.

Let me preface this by saying that I am ALL about being somebody’s BFF. I place a lot of value on friendships and am always up for the opportunity to add another pal to my posse. But when you start to develop feelings for that other person, and don’t have those feelings reciprocated, it can definitely be a blow to the heart. In fact, it sucks. Because no matter what you say or do, this other person will only ever see you as their friend.

The friend zone is a place I know all too well. I’m the Norm of the friend zone, the Mayor of the friend zone, that “one pesky zit on your face that will never leave” of the friend zone. Most of my relationships have started and ended the same way: I meet a great guy, stomach is filled with butterflies pterodactyls, sparks are a flyin’ (at least in my mind), texts are exchanged, amazing dates are had and I begin to think, “Damnit. I really like Bob/Joe/Jim/Moe.”

And then it happens. The dreaded “I think you’re a really cool girl, but…,” “You’re really great, but…,” “You’re so sweet and I loved hanging out with you, but….” It all starts with a “but” and ends with “…I just don’t like you like that.” Ugh. Friend-zoned.

I’m not sure why I’ve had the pleasure of frequenting this place so often. I mean, on the one hand, I’m flattered that guys think so highly of my mad friendship skills, but on the other hand, sometimes a girl just wants to be looked at as more than that. Be it the optimistic romantic in me, I like to think that this will happen. And I know it will. One day. And it will for you too. But that doesn’t mean that in the moment, it doesn’t suck like a vacuum.

While being given the “friend card” isn’t exactly the most ideal of situations, it’s also not the end of the world. Take it from me, your [self-proclaimed] friend-zoned love guru, it can actually present itself as a somewhat positive thing, albeit a somewhat positive thing dressed in some pretty impressive camouflage. But a positive thing nonetheless.

Here are just some things to remember in order to help you get off of that dating bench and back into the game.

1. It’s not you; it’s them.
Yes, it’s the cliché to beat all clichés—but it’s a cliché for a reason. The toughest thing you will face when put into the friend zone is the lingering question: Why not me? You will more often than not spend an embarrassing amount of time wracking your brain wondering what you did, what you didn’t do. At what point did I go from this person’s potential partner to just their buddy? HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?! The truth is, you may never know. As much as you would like to change how someone feels about you, you can’t. The only thing you can change is how you feel about yourself. If the other person in question doesn’t look at you the way you look at a burrito, than it’s time to walk away and find someone who does—because burritos are delicious.

2. Take this opportunity to actually be just friends.
Just because the opportunity for any kind of romantic relationship is out the car window, that doesn’t mean you can’t get a pretty amazing friend out of the deal. After all, you liked this person for a reason, and them you. You began as friends and if you’re lucky, you can still retain that after all of the awkward dust settles. Some of my most meaningful friendships stemmed from the dreaded (but really not-so dreaded) friend zone.

3. Recognize how much of a kick-ass friend you really are.

When the other person tells you how “great” and “cool” and “awesome” you are, listen to them! In the moment, of course these compliments of true authenticity go in one ear and out the next. And understandably so; you just had your heart broken. All you can think of are the things that you aren’t. But when the dust settles a bit, realize what this person is saying is true. You are funny and caring and smart and funny and witty and one heck of a great person! Never, ever forget that!

4. Get back out there
It’s natural and completely normal to be sad, to wallow a bit, drown your sorrows in a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and an endless loop of Nicholas Sparks movies. Let it out, have a good cry. But then put your grown-up pants on and get back out there! This particular relationship may not have worked out, but that just means there’s an even better one out there waiting for you! Don’t lose hope. Focus on having the best life possible, spend some quality you-doing-you time, and just at the exact moment when you’re not looking for it, it’ll happen. Another cliché, but it really works. Or so I’m told; I’m still busy not looking for love in order to prove this point.

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