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Author Topic: Being in the friendzone and self-esteem
Meryl Anne
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Hi!

I just need some people to ground me and give me direction.

I'm in someone else's friendzone. We've talked about this repeatedly, and at one point we both did have feelings for each other but we never acted upon them and let them fade into a different form of love. We let that happen at the time because I was dating someone else, but now the reason we aren't moving beyond friendship is because, as he says, out friendship is too valuable to make complicated.

Now, I've thought about why this irks me so much. I don't think I really want a relationship with him. Instead, I think I want his validation and being in his friendzone makes me feel like something is wrong with me. I wonder if the reason I'm here is because in general as a person, I'm not good enough.

It doesn't help that there are a lot of us here (many whom he dated a while back.) Knowing that he has a lot of emotional support elsewhere also makes me feel like I'm not good enough. It's as if part of my mind is going "How special could I possibly be to you if I'm not special enough to be the one you're romantically involved with? How special could I really be if I'm not all that you need?" I know, I know, it's ridiculous and I'm not proud of it. But if I can't admit it now, I'm never getting any help, right?

I read all the time that one shouldn't need someone else to feel special and that the way to do that is to validate yourself and to be content in your own self-validation. How does one do that? How is it different from being self-absorbed or narcissistic? If you validate yourself all the time, how will you be driven to change the things that genuinely need change?

(If there are also people who are reading this and can identify, speak up! Even if you don't have advice. Misery loves company.)

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Heather
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So, I'm going to start by saying I personally have pretty huge philosophical problems with "the friendzone" as a framework in the first place, so I'm going to come at this differently.

I hear you saying that you ideally really only want to be friends with this person, but that you feel if he wanted a romantic or sexual relationship, you would feel sexually or romantically validated by him in a way that you don't, but want to. And in a way that simply knowing he and you both had those feelings didn't give you.

I also hear you saying that you feel that being someone's boyfriend or girlfriend automaticaly means they must be more important to someone, and that being someone's friend means they are less special or important.

Do both of those things sound about right?

If so, how about instead of making this about all people, and how people may or may not feel a need for validation from everyone, or the idea that wanting validation of some kind from someone means a person can't self-validate, we talk through this specific situation, and why you think you want this so much from this person, uniquely?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Meryl Anne
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I'm not sure if it would just be sexual or romantic validation...what other kinds would there be? Also, I agree that your second statement reflects my beliefs correctly.

I think I would be okay with dealing with it as a specific situation. I'm not sure how to answer your question about why I want his validation uniquely though, because in general, I feel that I am an unlovable and unlikable person. It might help to point out that I think he's the living embodiment of the person I want to be.

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Heather
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Well, someone can desire to have anything about them validated, but it sounds to me like you're talking about either (or both) your sexual or romantic appeal. I hear you saying that what you want is for this person to say that they'
d be willing to risk your friendship to pursue tone or both of those kinds of relationships to you, and if they did, you'd feel they made clear you obviously had value in that department, because they'd be willing to risk a friendship they cherish.

Yes? No? Just holler if that sounds right or not.

Now it also sounds like you're saying you hold this person in about the highest esteem that you can, so a person you regard that highly wanting to get involved you you sexually or romantically -- or rather, since they did want that in the past, so you know they want it, choosing to try and do so against their better judgment -- would make you feel validated in those ways.

If that also sounds right, maybe we can talk about why you think that a) wanting you to be an intimate friend means thinking "less" of you than wanting you to be a lover, and b) this person potentially risking you as their friend, someone they already obviously value a lot, would -- you think -- make you feel more valued?

I guess from my perspective -- which obviously isn't emotional, and so is going to be less complex than your feelings -- this person has made pretty clear already they think you're terribly special.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Meryl Anne
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Sounds stupid but, wouldn't being awesome in general (intelligent, attractive, kind, etc.) automatically translate to romantic or sexual appeal? Isn't being pursued romantically the highest expression of what a great person you are? Doesn't it mean that of the great people in the other's life, you are the greatest?

I guess that's what it means to me. I'll be honest, I didn't think of it as a potential risk of our friendship.

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Meryl Anne
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Also, out of curiosity, what are your qualms about the friendzone as a concept?
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Heather
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Well, let's unpack that a little.

1) No, on the automatic translation. We don't have those kinds of feelings for people just because they're awesome, just like we don't, say want to be everyone's parent who is awesome or everyone's mentor who is awesome or everyone's non-sexual friend who is awesome. Sometimes we think people are awesome and we have those feelings: sometimes we don't, and sometimes we have those feelings for people who aren't awesome, and who we don't even think are awesome.

2) In terms of romantic pursuit being 'the highest expression of how great someone is," I sure don't think so, but I suppose your answer will vary if you consider a given kind of relationship -- versus it's quality, how people invest and act in it, etc. no matter what kind -- as "higher" than others. I don't, but it sounds like you do. Maybe it might help to think about why?

3) Does being in a romantic relationship with someone mean you're the greatest? Again, I'd sure not say so. Mind, I also don't think putting all of our relationships in hierarchies is sound: for example, does that mean a mother has to pick if her kid or the person they co-parent with are the greatest? Or if one kid is the greatest but another isn't? Trying on something personal, does that mean that my very best friend, who I consider my sister all at once, and would take a bullet for, is automatically less great than my lover, just because I have sex and romantic feelings for my lover, but not my best friend?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Heather
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quote:
Also, out of curiosity, what are your qualms about the friendzone as a concept?
Ultimately, that that concept rests on a couple ideas I either don't find sound, find really dehumanizing, or both:

1) The idea that someone is entitled to a certain kind of relationship with someone just because they want one.

2) The idea that sexual or romantic feelings -- kind of like you've been saying here -- are automatically "higher" feelings than other ways of feeling about a person and people having those feelings or wanting those relationships proves anything about a person's worth or lack of it.

3) It really simplifies the many, many complex reasons people do or don't choose to pursue certain kinds of relationships.

4) It also suggests that friendship is a "just," ("just friends" or "only friends" are examples of that way of thinking) not something which is, in fact, the biggest core of all healthy relationships, and which is an intimacy and a pretty special status to give someone -- and a special place to give them in your life -- all by itself.

I could go on, but I think that covers it in a nutshell.

[ 07-16-2012, 06:13 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Meryl Anne
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I guess I've just always thought about things that way. I don't even know why. In my mind, being wanted romantically means never having to be alone because you're such a great person and everyone wants to be with you or needs you in their life. Intellectually, I know it doesn't sound right, but it's how I feel.

Going back to my situation, and in line with my belief about relationships in hierarchy, wouldn't him wanting to change the nature of our relationship also naturally entail that he would do anything to have me and never lose me? Doesn't it entail that he'd never leave because there isn't anybody else out there like me?

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Heather
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Let's maybe try this on: when you two shared these feelings, and you were with someone else, did you choose not to leave them for this person because you thought this person was intrinsically less awesome than the person you were dating?

Being wanted romantically most certainly doesn't mean you never have to be alone. (Mind, this isn't about you not being wanted in the first place: seems your friend has made clear that it's not that he doesn't have these feelings, it's that he values the relationship you have and doesn't want to risk losing it.) Do you have any idea why you think that way about it?

In terms of your last question, I certainly don't think so. I also think it doesn't make a lot of sense in this specific framework, since the thing he'd potentially be sacrificing -- that he feels he might be, and given how you're framing romance and sex per relationships, I'd guess he might be right, honestly -- is his relationship with you.

And by all means, choosing to pursue romantic or sexual relationships for sure doesn't mean someone is choosing to never leave! That's another one where I'd be curious if you could identify where you're getting that idea. Romantic and sexual relationships actually tend to be far more fleeting and changeable -- on the whole -- than other kinds of relationships. But no kind of relationship, none, means someone whould never leave, no matter what they'd do for it.

I'm also wondering if you've thought about all of this from a healthy relationship standpoint. How healthy a relationship -- of any kind -- do you think people could have if someone was quick to give up the things, people or relationships they cherished most for it? For that matter, how enduring a relationship do you think someone might have who feels that a person's appeal as a lover vastly outweighs their appeal as a friend? What would keep that relationship going?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Meryl Anne
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Those are some very good questions [Smile]

You're right, when I chose to date someone else it wasn't because I thought that other person was more awesome. I suppose it just doesn't occur to me often that other people could think this way.

I cannot figure out why I think being in a romantic relationship means you'll never be alone or left. If I were to hash out my line of thinking, it looks like this:

You're amazing = someone wants to have you exclusively forever = you'll never be alone.

Conversely,

Someone wants to leave you or doesn't want you = you weren't amazing enough.

I have a vague idea of what a healthy relationship would be like, but I cannot imagine what it takes to be in one. I don't feel like I have it in me.

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Heather
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I think that last sentence is REALLY important.

Seriously, if you feel that way right now, then like I said, it sounds like your friend is making a really good call here. And he may even know that you feel that way, or have that sense from you, himself.

And if you're feeling that way, then chances are good that what you're really looking for in a relationship like this right now IS mostly about validation. And we feel what we feel, seriously, it's okay. But if and when we know we feel that way, pursuing serious relationships in this vein is probably the last thing we should be doing to trying to convince someone to do with us, because we can be pretty darn certain all we'd build is either a lot of emptiness or a serious disaster.

You seem pretty in touch with how you're thinking and feeling, and even with some of the flaws with these ways of thinking. Sounds to me like investing more time trying to unpack them might not only be of benefit to you, but probably something you can make some pretty fast progress with.

If you're going to do that, I'd suggest even looking at that 'want to have you" bit in your last post. What does it mean to want to "have" someone anyway? And why would we ever want to limit someone to a life of being with or loved by only us, anyway, especially when we know that one lone close relationship is just not what makes for a healthy, happy life for anyone?

Also, maybe look at what it might mean to think someone was amazing and NOT want to be in a romantic or sexual relationship with them or to pursue one for any number of reasons. The people we don't want to do that with, or don't have those feelings for: are those feelings and desires, do you think, REALLY a sound bellwether for how amazing someone is? If so, again, are none of our family members, our best friends amazing?

Also, it's sounding a little like the idea of being alone is scary for you: is it? If so, why do you think that is?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Meryl Anne
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I'm going to go ahead and take some time to chew over some of the questions you gave. I really want to set things right by myself. I'd like to come back and be able to discuss the answers I think up of though, if that would be okay.

I am not sure how I feel about being alone. It's like I enjoy my own company and even need to be alone sometimes after being with a lot of people. But at the same time, it makes me feel insecure. I could be reading myself wrong, but I think somewhere down the line I started to equate being alone with getting bullied or abandoned. When I'm alone and I'm by myself, I feel okay. But when I'm alone and I'm in a crowd, I feel like it's because something is wrong with me.

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Meryl Anne
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Also, what would it take, in yourself, to be ready for a healthy relationship?
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Heather
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Of course! You know where to find me. [Smile]

Being alone doesn't have to mean those things. And of course, having a romantic or sexual partner also doesn't mean those things won't happen: they still do to plenty of people, and still don't to others, and from all I can tell, having a romantic or sexual partner neither shields someone from those things nor makes them happen.

At the same time, a life where we have people in it who have our back, enjoy our company, and who we WANT top spend time with -- and vice-versa -- is usually one full of a range of relationships, not just one. That's why even if and when we're not in any sexual or romantic relationships that doesn't have to -- and usually doesn't, unless we isolate ourselves from everyone but romantic/sexual partners -- mean being all alone in the world. And to have really great relationships, we probably also want more than bodyguards, you know? And the other person with us in them is likely to want to be more than that, too, and same goes for being more than a person who is responsible for us feeling appealing.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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