DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’ve been reading/listening to your blog and podcast for a while now and know that you get a lot of questions about the friend-zone but here I am with another question. It’s the same issue except reverse-gendered (so I guess I’m stuck in the bro-zone as opposed to the friend-zone): I’ve gotten to know this guy pretty well over the past semester and have really fallen for him. We talk a lot and have an emotional connection and I think he at least used to have feelings for me (and may still do, who knows).
The problem is, once I started to realize my feelings for him I also found out about his budding relationship with a mutual friend of ours. I was too stressed about all that emotional drama and decided to overcome it by confessing to him and then kind of friend-zoning him…
I know, it’s a pretty stupid move but I just couldn’t handle all that drama at the moment and I really needed to focus on raising my grades. So I told him I liked him, we both agreed that he wasn’t ready for a relationship (he had some religious issues to sort out), and went back to being friends. Except now I’ve become pretty much his closest confident and I’m pretty much always hearing about him and the mutual friend’s relationship. Just for the record, they’ve admitted to both liking each other, decided to have a probationary period of ‘friendship’ cuz of his religious issue, and now he’s stressed because he feels like she’s putting so much effort into the relationship and he still feels unsure about even going into a dating relationship.
And I’m hearing about this all the time while still liking him. But trying to get over the fact that I like him. And acting like I don’t like him.
tl;dr I like this guy, I bro-zoned myself, he’s on the cusp of going into a relationship but is technically still single; should I try to assert my romantic interests again or simply let go?
– Hole In The Brozone Layer
DEAR HOLE IN THE BROZONE LAYER: First and foremost, I want to give my standard disclaimer: there’s no such thing as “The Friend Zone”. There are just people who don’t want to date or have sex with someone.
Now, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you can’t call “dibs” over other people. Your friend liked him too and, hey, good for him. To be perfectly honest, I have an increasingly low tolerance for unnecessary relationship drama and getting upset over “I LIKED HIM FIRST” is the Lord High Drama Llama of Drama County.
Let’s just say that you had asked him out, knowing full well that your friend liked him too. Worst case scenario: one of you gets a boyfriend, the other doesn’t and everybody manages to get over it. But if it’s still “burgeoning” or “exploring the possibility of maybe we’re attracted” (which, from your description, never got past that stage) then the man’s still fair game.
Deliberately friend-zoning yourself was a bad move, and doing that makes getting out harder. It’s something of a mistake to tell someone “hey, I have absolutely no pants-feelings for you whatsoever” when, in fact, you KNOW you do, because it’s that much harder to turn around and say “just kidding!” when they’ve started dating someone else.
In doing so, you’ve encouraged him to stop seeing you as a potential partner and just as a friend. Setting that filter in place means that it’s going to color everything else about your relationship. “I dunno, I just never thought of you like that” is a hard thing to shake without a major reinvention/reboot of your relationship.
However, as much of a mistake as saying “nah, we’re strictly platonic” was, choosing to hang around someone you still had feelings for and becoming his new BFF was an even worse one… although I’m sure there will be men reading this who’ll be relieved to know women make that mistake too.
But continuing to pretend you don’t like him was possibly the BIGGEST of the mistakes, and to be frankL: it’s kind of a dickish thing to do to him and to yourself. You’re friends under false pretenses AND you’re torturing yourself by trying to act like you’re all cool with his telling you everything about this girl he kinda likes but can’t quite pull the trigger on.
The dishonesty is bad enough but even if we set that aside… think of how it would make him feel to know that he’s inadvertently causing you pain. It may not be his fault — you’re the one who made that call — but that doesn’t mean that he’s not going to feel bad about it. He’s not going to want his friend to be in pain because of him… especially over something that he can’t really do anything about.
Still, you seem to have been ok with this status quo; you made your decision and opted to focus on your grades instead, because you thought that the possibility of changing this situation – of getting out of the BroZone – was always there. Until suddenly it seems as though it might not and you kinda have a minor freakout about the fact that the window of opportunity may be closing.
Except I’m not sure it is. Frankly, from the sounds of things, I’m not entirely sure it was ever open in the first place. While you may still like the guy… he doesn’t sound like he’s ready to date ANYONE right now. Unless there’s stuff you left out, the way you describe him makes it sound as though he’s nowhere near the cusp of a relationship with this other girl, he’s still trying to figure out whether he wants to be in one at all with anyone. If you think dealing with a mutual friend getting all CW on you would be high drama, you’ve never tried dating someone who’s still working through the conflict between what their religion says and what their junk is saying.
Cold hard truth time: the best thing you can do is let him go. He’s still trying to sort out all of his issues surrounding his religion and whether he’s allowed to (or wants to) date or not. Throwing yourself at him – especially when he hasn’t given you any signs that he’s been waiting for you to come around – isn’t going to make it any easier for him or you and could well be the catalyst for a full-blown freak-out.
It’s time for you to do something good for yourself and let this guy go. Torturing yourself over what sounds like a hopeless case is only going to make you miserable for no good reason. Find somebody else – someone who’s actually available – and don’t make the mistake of letting someone else pre-empt your decision to ask him out.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)