The idea of the “friendzone” came up recently and, well, while no expert on relationships (What? No!) I have some thoughts on the matter.
First, and most commonly, “friendzone” is simply a whiny way for someone to complain that someone they are interested in romantically is not interested in return. Well, here’s an unpleasant truth for such people: Your interest in someone else is not an obligation on them. They don’t “owe” you interest in return. You’re not entitled to their romantic interest just because you are interested in them.
If you’re in that situation, pull on your big-boy manpanties and deal. Get over it and move on. If you can do that by dint of personal fortitude, great. If you need to work through it with others: friends (not the “friendzoning” person), your bartender, your therapist, whatever, then do that. But get over it and. move. on. Remain friends if you can. The world can always use more good friendships. Indeed, in my opinion the world needs more friendships than it needs lovers. If you can’t, be honest about it and move on. Pretended friendship with an ulterior motive is not friendship at all.
That should cover the large majority of “friendzone” cases, but there are a few others.
One other is a much more toxic version of “friendzoning”. In this case the “friendzoning” person is deliberately stringing along the friendzoned individual. They’re “plan B” or, worse, someone they’re keeping hoping in order to get concessions or gifts with no intention of ever giving them any consideration.
I don’t know how common it is, but it does exist. I don’t have links to hand but I’ve seen videos of women bragging about doing this. So, yes, it does exist and it’s despicable. And in this case “friendzone” is something of a misnomer. Friends don’t treat friends that way. The “friendzoning” person was never the friend of the person being friendzoned.
The third category is kind of a special case of the first one. In this case, the woman has a list of things that she says she wants in a romantic partner yet, strangely, can’t seem to find them. And the reason she can’t find them is that she keeps focusing her attention on men she finds “exciting” and the traits she finds exciting are things that simply do not make that person a good prospect for a long term relationship.
In such cases, it does no good to point out the disconnect. If you’re the one in the friendzone it does no good to point out that you have the very traits she’s looking for. First off, most people have a remarkable lack of self-awareness (and I include myself in that–which makes for a kind of meta self awareness of a lack of self awareness). Do you really have the very traits she’s looking for or is that your ego talking? Most men think they are great lovers, great drivers, and great warriors and are wrong on all three counts. (Don’t get upset, guys; there’s one for the women too.) And if you think she owes you anything, then you pretty much demonstrate that, no, you are not the “nice guy” she’s looking for.
In this third case, the woman in question needs to sit down and really think through what she really wants and decide what’s really important to her and start focusing her attention there rather than chasing bright, flashy, “exciting” stuff.
But until she does, for the one in the friendzone, you’re back to case one: pull up your manpanties and deal. Indeed, that’s really the answer in all three, because there’s no percentage in pining after someone who’s just not interested or, worse, is playing games with you.