Acceptable “Friend Zone”-ing

Acceptable “Friend Zone”-ing

Sometimes I get interesting questions from my clients. I think you’d find them interesting too, so here we go!


Hey Jon,

Do you think men and women can just be friends? One of my girl friends says no. I know one guy who’s really into me. I’m not interested in him like that, but I think he’d be a good friend. There’s a lot of things I think I could learn from him. Can we make this work?

Being friends– just like being a “nice guy”– isn’t supposed to be a bad thing. It’s just that when there’s the expectation of something more, being just a friend or just a nice guy seems lackluster.

So to get right to your point: no, I don’t think you can make this work. Well, let me clarify that I have no doubt you want to make it work, and you’d try to make the friendship work.

But if he’s already made the decision to eye you as something more, it’s really hard to turn back. For a lot of folks, staying just friends after the fact becomes a one-sided affair (i.e. not worth your time).

The key to any kind of relationship– romantic or platonic– is the action (or mutual inaction) from both sides.

Now, for your friend to say male/female friendships don’t work– I have no doubt they don’t work for her. These sort of friendships can totally work, given the right context:

  • The Start
  • The Intent
  • The Reality

They’re actually more integrated together instead of being separate entities, but it basically boils down to this:

Are both sides interesting in being real friends? Cool. Friendship can happen.

Is one side only interested in being a “friend” because s/he hopes to be something more someday? Probably not going to be a long-lasting friendship.

Do both sides keep hanging out because y’all two fun and cool people? Cool. Friendship can still be happenin’.

Is one side only continuing to hang out because s/he hopes to be something more someday? Probably not going to be a long-lasting friendship.

Do both sides feel like this is a real friendship, and you two hang like you do with your other friends? Cool. This friendship will be happenin’ for a long time.

Does one side feel like this isn’t a real friendship (due to the wrong intentions and expectations)? Probably not going to be a long-lasting friendship.

I don’t say any of that to lecture, but only in retrospect of my own successful and failed friendships. I think a lot of my past dating problems stemmed from ill-focused pursuit. In other words, pursuing friendships with people who wanted something else and trying to make something else out of people looking for friendship.

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