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Friendzoned

Written by: Communicator StaffSeptember 11, 2014

Madolyn Murray

Boy likes girl, girl doesn’t reciprocate isn’t anything new. What is new is the “friendzone”, where a guy ends up when the girl they’re interested in doesn’t share the same feelings and wants to be “just friends.” To others, however, the friendzone doesn’t exist and might actually be indicative of a bigger, creepier problem. Here’s how to reframe the friendzone:

  • If you genuinely want to be more than just friends without coming on too strongly, your best bet: be a friend with no strings attached.

Sarah LeBlanc, visiting instructor in IPFW’s Department of Communication, along with Cailynn Smith and Monica Young of student organization Campus Feminists in Solidarity, agree that relationships start best when they come out organically from a friendship, as opposed to being confrontational about it. Smith and Young said the friendzone term gives off implications that reject women’s autonomy, devalue platonic relationships and furthers the stereotype that men and women can’t be friends.  “If you like someone as a person, separate from the fact that you want to have sex with them or whatever, then friendship is valuable. Even if you might also want the other thing, just the friendship should be something,” Young said.

“Historically some of the best relationships have started out by being just friends,” LeBlanc said. She explained further, “Don’t go for what you think you want, but rather, see what happens within your friendship. When you just enter a relationship without that strong foundation of friendship, it is more likely to end in heartache than it is to blossom into something more substantial.”

Smith explained the blossom forth approach as “Let it happen. The second that you let it happen, it will happen, so just stop trying to make it happen!”

  • Being “put in the friendzone” might just be an unhealthy way of handling rejection.

Complaints about being friendzoned tend to assign blame to the rejector, sometimes involving accusations of deception or leading others on. It doesn’t allow room for self-assessment or respect for the rejector’s opinion. “In terms of communication theory, we are attracted to people based on three things: similarity, liking, and proxemics, and if the girl doesn’t perceive anything in common with the guy, rather than going back to high school, we both took the same algebra class or I like him because he has a sweet smile, if he doesn’t see anything more at that stage in her life then, yeah, she could perceived as leading him on, misreading that he wants to be more than friends, LeBlanc said. Jody Ross, associate professor of psychology at IPFW, explained more about hostile reactions to rejection: “One theory is social learning theory which proposes that we learn by observing others. Thus, a person may come from a family, neighborhood, peer group, etc. where violence is modeling and so they react in their relationships the way that they have seen others in their environment (e.g., parents, friends, other role models) react.”

“Taking this theory a step further (social cognitive theory), aggressive folks may have errors in the process of decision making and problem solving. This process involves appraising the situation, generating possible reactions, evaluating the appropriateness of these responses, speculating on the outcome of various responses and, finally, selecting and enacting the response. Aggressive folks may have errors at any step along the way. They may appraise the situation wrong, interpreting the other person’s behavior as more negative or hostile than it really is. They may have a tendency to generate more aggressive responses and evaluate them more favorably. They may underestimate negative consequences of their aggressive responses and they may have more difficulty enacting non-aggressive solutions. There may also be personality factors at play for some, but certainly not all, of these folks…finally there may be an issue with emotion regulation (controlling one’s own emotions) that interferes with decision making.”

“From the feminist perspective, Smith said “It hurts one’s masculinity to be friendzoned, so it’s like a way to avoid the pain of being rejected and put the shame on the woman. You don’t hear people go Oh, I love to go out and get rejected all the time! It’s not something fun to go through.”

Smith and Young also mentioned that while instances exist of women, non-straight people and non-white people evoking the friendzone, the term is mainly used among straight, white men. They explained that the friendzone concept is damaging for men because it furthers the idea of the “right way to be a man” being based in a man’s ability to successfully get the girl and live happily ever after. Rejection is something that everyone deals with.

  • Just because you’re nice to someone doesn’t mean they’re obligated to do anything for you.

Friendzone discussions might derive from a societal misunderstanding of how to handle romantic and sexual relationships. The misunderstanding is that if you do nice things for a woman, like buying pricey things on a date or being generally supportive, the woman is obligated to consider a romantic and/or sexual partner. The problem is when this misunderstanding doesn’t align with reality, some guys can take it the wrong way.

“In terms of a communication phenomenon, it could be a matter of the perception that each individual has of the relationship. The male could perceive this as going further, going from friends to a romantic relationship, whereas the female, or the second partner in the relationship, might perceive it as “just friends”. between the “friendzoned” person and the romantic interest,” LeBlanc said “I think that if the other person is not interested in you romantically and you know that, just accept that that’s what your relationship is” Young said.