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I was friendzoned by a girl I like; what do I do now?

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Angelscar asks:

I was friendzoned and things are kinda awkward. I have known this girl for 4 years now, and I am in love with her for about 16 months or so. I found the courage to tell her how I feel about her but she said she sees me as a friend. I can't stop thinking of her. I know it's hard to get out of that friend zone thing, but I would appreciate any help you can give me. Thanks.

Molias replies:

Hi Angelscar,

I’m sorry that the girl you’re interested in doesn’t feel the same romantic feelings towards you that you have for her. That’s never easy news to hear, and it's okay and understandable to feel hurt and disappointed when that happens.

We can hopefully help you a little in dealing with your hurt feelings and how you want to move on in your friendship with her. But what we can't do, and wouldn't want to do even if we could, is make her change her mind. I strongly encourage you not to approach this situation with that kind of mindset, but to respect your friend's decision and her feelings, even though neither are what you'd hoped for.

It does sometimes happen that people transition from being friends to being romantic partners, but this isn't something you can force or influence; if her feelings change in the future, she already knows that you're interested and can choose to revisit this issue with you if she wants to. For right now, though, it's important to take her at her word and not hold out for a romantic relationship, since she's been clear with you that this isn't what she wants. If she feels like you're only continuing your friendship with her because you're hoping to convince her to date you, it may make it even harder for things to settle back to normal.

If you feel like being around her, even as a friend, is a little too raw or painful right now, it's okay to step back for a bit until the hurt isn't quite as fresh. After all, you get to have the feelings you have, too, and you, also, get to make decisions about what kind of relationship you want and are willing to have with her.

Depending on what your current friendship with her is like, it may make sense to tell her something like "I respect your decision and your feelings, but as I'm sure you can understand, this wasn't what I'd hoped to hear from you and I need to take a little time to myself."

Let that pain die down a bit, and when it doesn't hurt so much to think about her, or you realize you are at a point where you're not thinking about her all the time the way you are now, that's a good sign that you're at a good point to reach out again and try to pick the friendship back up if you want to. Sure, it might be a little awkward at first, but a solid friendship can withstand a little awkwardness now and then: over time, most friendships will.

While you're taking a step back from her, this could be a great time to throw yourself into a project or hobby you enjoy that can take up some of your mental energy; maybe you can channel some pain or frustration into artwork, journaling, learning a new skill, or even just riding your bike or jogging around the neighborhood when you're feeling upset. It can be easy to get lost in sadness or "what-ifs" when someone's told you they aren't interested in a relationship, but it's really not a healthy thing to wallow in that feeling for long without making an effort to work past it.

As unfortunate as it might feel right now, there’s no way to make someone else want to date you if they aren't interested. That's her decision to make, and there is nothing you can to do change her mind or "get out" of that space.

She's not putting you in a zone, she's just making a decision about who she wants to date, and everyone -- this girl, you, everyone -- is entitled to make those decisions.

To be honest, I think framing this situation as one in which you have to escape the "friendzone" she's put you in is pretty disrespectful to her wishes and autonomy, and won't do you any favors in the long run. Part of caring for someone and having affection for them is respecting their choices and decisions, even if you wish those decisions were different.

Moving forward, I think you'd be best-served ditching the concept of the "friendzone" altogether; I find that it's often paired with a sense of entitlement to someone else's affection based on some amount of emotional investment or time devoted to another person, regardless of their feelings, that completely erases their agency. None of us are ever entitled to someone else's affection or desire just because we want it or because those are things we feel about them. And a big part of loving people, for real, has to do with respecting who they are as people, and what they do and don't want in their lives, even at times any of that may be a bummer for us because it means we don't get to have what we want from or with them.

As -- and if -- you do settle back into your routine with her, whether that's now or after you take a break to get in the right mental place for it, try to think about how great it really is to have a good friend you feel so strongly about. Disappointment is certainly understandable when we want to date someone and they aren't into it, but I think framing friendship as being "just" friends with someone can do a pretty big disservice to how fantastic friendship can be. The personality traits that make someone a desirable dating partner generally make them a pretty great friend, too.

Even though this conversation with your friend didn't go the way you hoped it would, it's still great that you were honest about how you feel about her; in the long run it's a lot better to get those feelings out in the open than to pine after someone in secret. I know it can take a while to sort out feelings, sometimes, or to recognize attraction when it's been building for a while, but in general I think it's often better to tell someone about your feelings sooner rather than later, so you're not building up possibilities and what-ifs in your mind for a long time. Being honest about your feelings is tough, and rejection is tougher, but with practice, it does get a little less scary.

Here are a few links that might be helpful:

written 27 Apr 2013 . updated 31 Jan 2014

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