A Lesson in Power: The Friend Zone
When we talk about relationships, we often talk about who has power and when they have that power--yeah we use other words, but power still seems to be the name of the game. In the context of this conversation, power is about who has the upper hand to move interactions in the direction in which they want them to go. When we think about the transactional nature of relationships, that is when we really start to think about who has the upper hand and how we can take the upper hand from that person so that we are the ones in power. It's almost purely transactional with moves and counter moves. It's not so much a power exchange, which I think could be a great thing within relationships and relational interactions, but it's more in the context of having and keeping the upper hand to have dominion over the relationship. So in a sense, some are seeking to be G God while their partner would remain a peasant sent do their bidding.
We cannot talk about how power plays out in a relationship without also talking about the power hierarchies of daily lives. Within the context of the United States, and to be frank, around the world, men tend to have power over women. Those with money have power, over those who don’t. Racial hierarchy has whiteness at the top while Black people are at the bottom, followed by Asians and Latinx. The indigenous others, are just that, “other.” These things are important to note in a racist, heterosexist, patriarchal, White supremacist capitalistic society. Knowing the power hierarchies is very important within the context of a relationship, because those who hold power outside the context of a romantic relationship, or a could be romantic situation, especially intersectional [i.e. White, Rich, Cis/Het Men] still tends a hold that same power within the relationship.
When people are in uneven situations, power dynamics tend to be at play. The boss tells the worker what to do, and the worker, whether or not they agree, complies with the order with which they have been given because they are obliged by their position. The child heeds the parent, because the child is obliged. Throughout our schooling in this country, we continually learn about power dynamics and how they should play out in various situations. We learn both implicitly and explicitly. It should be no wonder that it would show up within the context of the relationships we try to cultivate with others. When people are taught they are owed respect, reverence, attention, time, sex, etc., they will undoubtedly find ways to claim their “right” even if it means coercing another party into giving them the things that society has said they are owed.
In being with someone, going on a first date (especially in the case of heterosexual dating) there is still the ideal that if a man buys a woman a meal, then sex is now owed. A man who pays attention to a woman, gives her compliments, and who otherwise wants to get to know this person, is somehow owed her time. But see how that plays into power dynamics in general? Men have been taught that women are there to cater to them with time, attention, and sex. They are taught that if they are "nice guys" then they should automatically reap the benefits of being such and be able to have any woman they so please.
This is not exclusive to heterosexual relationships, but I know people can see and understand those dynamics because we see it in movies, tv shows, and you can even read it in books. The fact is that there is an entitlement that some folk feel to another person that has lent itself to the invention of the friend zone. Because what is the friend zone other than a statement of saying that the person you are after is not interested in being with you in the same way that you are in being with them? The friend zone has further connotations of being the space someone waits in until the desired other finally “comes to their senses” and takes the “nice” person who has been their “friend,” hoping to have a chance to get what they have wanted all along--sex and/or a relationship.
But here is the problem, especially for you who lament how you have been “put in the friend zone,” you aren’t that nice or that great. You are not the catch you thought you were, especially not to the person who has zoned your ass. They don’t want to be with you. I have no idea why you would wait in the wings hoping that you can find them in a vulnerable enough position to make your move. Yeah...shit sounds creepy when you say it aloud. You are waiting for broken hearts, broken relationships, drunken nights, etc. so you can make your move. So you can try to hop your ass out of the friend zone. Do you know what that makes you? An opportunist at best, and a wait-em-out rapist at worst. I have been taught there is a lid for every pot. Do yourself a favor, evaluate what you want out of life and relationships, and go find the pot that actually wants to be with you. Not the one who zoned you because they aren’t interested, and not someone who would only pick you in their moments of despair. Because that makes you the last resort, not the first or second choice.
For those who are friendzoning people left, right and center, keep on doing what you do. You do not owe anyone your time, love, or energy, no matter how “nice” they are to you. This is your space to claim your power. Eat meals with no sex. Go on sexless vacations. Ignore fuckfolks on the sidewalk. Do you and live your life to the fullest.
Reclaiming Your Power in 4 steps:
Evaluate for yourself what type of partner and relationship you want
Vet the folk who come your way to learn if they may have the qualities you seek
Communicate with the person after the initial phases of your vetting process., letting them know if you would like to move forward with them into a romantic situation or if you would like to remain friends (i.e. friendzone them)
Keep it moving until you are where you want to be
What to do if you have been Friend-Zoned?:
Experience the emotions that come to you (it can be painful to learn that you aren’t wanted in the same way, I get that)
Evaluate for yourself if you really want to be this person's friend or if you are secretly hoping they will choose you
If you want to be their friend: take some time to heal for yourself before moving into a friendship. Setting boundaries and parameters to help. IF you are secretly hoping for your shot: note that you seem like a slightly thirsty creep, and decline friendship temporarily. There are some thangs that need to be handled on your own first before you would be able to enter a genuine friendship with this person.
Seek support from friends who would be honest with you and check you NOT the ones who would support creepy lie in wait tendencies. If you don’t have those, it may be time to seek some professional help so you can expand your circle and stay away from the creep-zone.