Paging Dr. NerdLove Episode #07: Escape The Friend Zone

The Friend Zone is the bane of every nerd’s dating life, the Phantom Zone to their romantic General Zod. This week, Dr. NerdLove and his guest Cat from the League of Extremely Ordinary Gentlemen are here to be your guide to every aspect of the Friend Zone; what it is, how to avoid it in the first place and, critically, how to escape from it if you’ve found yourself stuck there.

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  • trooper6

    1) There is nothing wrong with being someone's friend. Seeing the "friend zone" as some sort of purgatory devalues friendship. I would neither want to date nor be friends with someone who sees friendship as suffering or punishment or something that must be overcome. I blame When Harry Met Sally for so many problems with male/female relations, including this one.

    2) When you like someone and they don't like you back? Rather than try to figure out how to get them to like you, it is best that you just go listen to some Bonnie Raitt. I'll quote the relevant lyrics to "I can't make you love me":

    I can't make you love me, if you don't/
    You can't make your heart feel something it won't/
    Here in the dark in these final hours/
    I will lay down my heart, and I'll feel the power
    But you won't, oh you won't
    Cuz I can't make you love me if you don't

    Now, internalize that and move on.

    3) Pining after people who don't love you back is self-indulgent. It is very Romantic in that Sorrows of Young Werther sort of way…but wanting to emulated the masochistic suffering of a fictuional dude who ends shooting himself in the head because he can't just move on from a bad idea not-relationship is not a way to live one's life. Suffering isn't actually noble when that suffering is avoidable.

    Do not romanticize your suffering. Get a happier life. Don't be too cowardly to risk attaining happiness.

    4) Be careful of the "just kissing the girl"–don't force a kiss on someone who doesn't want it. Look for the vibe. Make eye contact and lean in…see how he/she responds…if they pull away? Don't go in for the kiss.

    5) As for the emotional proxy boyfriend…I have some mixed feelings on this one. I think dudes have to take some responsibility for their behavior. For example. Say she wants to watch romantic comedies. That is not automatic proxy boyfriend behavior on her part. She may enjoy watching romantic comedies and would do so with any number of platonic friends. Now the question becomes…do you want to watch romantic comedies? If you don't like romantic comedies but go anyway, or you really just want to date her, so you'll sit through romantic comedies…you are not being honest with her and you are indulging in masochism on your part. Watch the romantic comedies if you like romantic comedies.

    But most importantly, in someways it doesn't matter if she is making the request as a pal or as a secret proxy boyfriend thing. You need to be aware of your boundaries. If she wants you to do things that you'd only do for a girlfriend, say no. It takes two to tango. There is nothing inherently proxy boyfriend about romantic comedies. However, if you'd only watch romantic comedies with your girlfriend then don't do it with your non-romantic friend that's a girl. If you'd only cuddle with your girlfriend, then don't do it with your non-romantic friend that's a girl.

    • Dunbar

      To points (1)-(3): JESUS CHRIST ON THE CROSS YES. As much as I dig all of the deconstructing of the Friend Zone concept/narrative the Doc has done, I frankly don't think he goes far enough. The Friend Zone is something we nerds absorb through media: primarily movies, TV, music and nowadays, internet apocrypha and its *bullshit*. In fact, it's less than bullshit–it's a fairy tale, and this isn't even getting into the horrid places people like PUAs take once they've got guys buying into the Friend Zone hook, line and sinker. I have run out of tolerance and patience for people who take this idea seriously on it's face, unless they are good friends of mine in which case they get the special privilege of me trying to help them understand why they are wrong so long as I don't think they're a lost cause.

  • Robert

    At 11:41, Dr. Nerdlove describes the platonic substitute boyfriend thing as a relationship that is emotionally intimate without the physical intimacy, and at 12:15 he says it's like having a girlfriend with no sex whatsoever. Had I not listened to what came next about the platonic substitute boyfriend thing involving taking advantage of (or being taken advantage of by) another person, I would've said that that kind of relationship was at least pretty damn good.

    Is it bad that an emotionally intimate yet not physically intimate relationship (or a girlfriend without sex relationship) actually sounds like the kind of relationship I would want, if any at all? This is an honest question.

    (Note: When I first attempted to post this comment, my internet connection went crazy so I don't know if it went through. If it did, feel free to delete this one.)

    • Trooper6

      It isn't necessarily bad at all. While there are some people who have a fear of sex, which I don't think is good because I think a person should act out of positive reasons than negative ones, there are lots of people who would just rather not have sex. There is a growing community of various asexual folks…including folks who are sexual but not aromantic. Like most things, I just think it is important to be up front with potential partners about what you are looking for.

    • Paul Rivers

      "the platonic substitute boyfriend thing as a relationship that is emotionally intimate without the physical intimacy… I would've said that that kind of relationship was at least pretty damn good."

      That would definitely make you a rarity. There's nothing "wrong" with that, but the majority of people (both men *and* women) wouldn't define doing everything involved in dating with no sex whatsoever as "pretty damn good" – not by any means.

  • Shaj

    When I get the "just friends" speech and say "no thanks", I usually get called an asshole (not just by the person wanting to be friends). I dunno if I should just lie and say I want to be friends and then pretend like they don't exist.

    • Mel

      I think it depends on how you express your feelings. It may be that your "No thanks" (however exactly you phrase it) is coming off as "you have no value to me if you won't sleep with me". If what you mean is "it would be uncomfortable for me to hang out with you when I have romantic feelings I know you don't share", and you say something specifically along those lines, I'd assume you'd get fewer hostile responses. (If you are already saying it like that, and people are calling you an asshole, then they're the assholes and you need to hang out with new people.)

      • Shaj

        It's usually more along the lines of "Too bad we want different things and can't come to an understanding. Since my time is scarce, I have to spend it on women who are interested in me over the ones who definitely aren't."

        Also, it's easier to just ditch the people who think I'm an asshole when they aren't related to me (one is my sister, who I simply no longer speak to about these things).

        • Trooper6

          If multiple people, including my sister, think I'm being an asshole, I usually take that as a moment of self-reflexion. I ask them to tell me why and then I listen without defensiveness and with open ears. Then I spend some time deciding if I think the critique is fair, or parts are, or nothing is. If I decide the critique is off base, I try to figure out why that person is thinking that. Maybe they have some issue…maybe I'm not communicating clearly.

          Wanting to be just friends doesn't make a person an asshole…but there are assholish behaviors that some people try to cover over with a "let's be friends" speech.

    • Hmmm…

      Sadly, Shaj, it's impossible to please all of the people all of the time – there are just some girls out there will consider you an asshole no matter WHAT you do. So when a guy is in a situation where there's simply no good solution, you might as well do what's best for you – even if it means being a "jerk" in some people's opinions. Besides, the people who matter won't care, and the people who care won't matter.

  • LeeEsq

    Listening to this gave me a little relief. At least I know that I've never done anything that would put in me in the friend zone and I'm always clear with my intentions. Nobody every said lets just be friends to me.

  • wuzzman

    Female friends.

    If your heterosexual male and your batting average can be 1:999, but there has to be a 1. By the law of averages, someone has to bite the bullet, otherwise, unless your completely uninterested in sex, than you A. suck or B. you suck. Its male ego, no more to be disregarded than female concern for creepy stalkers. Guys want to be considered attractive enough to "fuck" too and if 100% of your female experience is with woman who don't consider you attractive… well…. take a guess what that does?

  • JMO

    What I’m hearing here is that anything that can legitimately be called “friend zone” or “just friends” — as opposed to friends-without-qualifier — only allows for two options:

    1. Walk away. Be as decent and polite as possible, but Just Walk Away. ESPECIALLY if you’re the one who wants more-than-friends.

    2. Enjoy (?) being trapped in a black hole of Codependent Suck.

    Option Two is unstable over time, even if someone “wants” to be in it, and suboptimal regardless.

    Did I miss anything?

    This is, by the way, entirely consistent with my own experience(s).

  • Hmmm….

    Cat seems to be arguing that if a guy *allows* a girl to emotionally exploit and manipulate him into a "Platonic Substitute Boyfriend" situation, it's his own fault. This sounds suspiciously like victim-blaming to me. 🙁

  • Token_Liberal

    Who is this guest, and why did you put her on this podcast? What qualifications does she have to be on a relationship advice show other than having had some relationships in her lifetime?

    Please, never invite this guest on again. She was extremely irritating. The host was trying to give advice on escaping the friend zone, and she kept interrupting him to bring up tangents, unrelated topics, and personal opinions and stories. Perhaps most annoying, she didn't seem to understand that not everyone has had the same dating experiences that she has. While listening, I found myself shouting out loud, "Dammit! Shut up and let the Doc speak!"

    I understand that you want to get a woman's opinion on a podcast topic like this, but please, try to find someone more qualified! Or at the very least someone who doesn't interrupt or go off-topic!