My son loves all things football — watching football, playing “real” football, and playing “fake” football on his Xbox! We were joking around about something the other night and he mentioned being put in the “friend zone.” At first I thought I misunderstood him, that he was talking football…again…and that he had said something about the “end zone.” The context of that didn’t work with our conversation. I asked him to repeat what he said, and this time I clearly heard the word “friend zone.” When I asked him to define this, he said, “It’s when you like a girl, and she just wants to be friends…you get put in the friend zone!” My husband and I started laughing hysterically. I think we could both relate to being put in the friend zone at various points in our lives.
Fast forward to a conversation I had just yesterday with one of my dearest friends. She has been dating a guy for the past five months, and called with the realization that she is really interested in…yes, you got it…“just being friends.” She wants to put him in the “friend zone!” She was nervous about how to tell him. After all, she does care for him and doesn’t want to hurt his feelings, but she knows that they don’t have a future together.
What should she do? I said, “You telling him the truth, and not leading him on or continuing your relationship, is a gift to him.” He may not see it now, but it is. He wants to meet his soulmate. He wants to settle down. He wants to meet someone who loves him unconditionally in return. My friend knows none of these things are possible with her. The gift she is giving him is the honesty that he belongs in the friend zone with her, which allows him the opportunity to look for his soulmate.
Sure, this kind of honesty may hurt his feelings in the short-term, and he may not be interested in being friends, but that’s no reason to continue a relationship. Whenever I talk with someone who is upset about a break-up, I always say, “Better to find out now that someone really isn’t that into you rather than 16 years and two kids later.” Isn’t that the truth?
When is it time to call it quits? When is it time to realize that your feelings aren’t as strong as they should be? When is it time to cut your losses and move on? Some people say they know in a matter of one or two dates if there is potential, and if there isn’t, there are no third dates. Others, like my friend, find out after several months of dating that there are underlying issues that are deal breakers.
My friend made a really good point that I think all of us should pay more attention to. She said, “I started thinking about how he might be able to change (the thing that bothered me), and I realized how wrong that is!” Absolutely! It’s not about changing who someone is; it’s about embracing every piece of them. We have all seen too many divorces where one spouse says, “I honestly thought I could change him (or her) and I couldn’t.” Not only “you couldn’t,” but also “you shouldn’t!” Those things that you would like to change, which are seemingly small, inconsequential or annoyingly cute while dating, seemingly turn into deal breakers years later!
I think alarm bells should clang loudly whenever you start to hear your inner-voice talking about what you might be able to change in someone you are dating. So many problems start from that foundation of, “After we are married, I am sure he or she won’t…(fill in the blank)…anymore.” Nice intentions, bad idea. The reality is that that too many marriages fail from this kind of thinking. He or she doesn’t change — doesn’t want to change — and suddenly all sorts of issues arise. One thing leads to another and 16 years and two kids later, nothing has changed but the fact that he or she still isn’t that into you. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be put in the friend zone earlier rather than finding out later. I do consider that a gift.
What about you? Have you been put into the friend zone? Did it ultimately end up being a gift?
Author Monique A. Honaman wrote “The High Road Has Less Traffic: honest advice on the path through love and divorce” in response to a need for a book that provided honest, real, and raw advice about how to survive and thrive through one of life’s toughest journeys.