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How I Learned To Escape The Friend Zone

November 3 2014 | CeCe Olisa

For a while, I assumed that guys put me in the friend zone because they didn’t want to date a plus size princess. But, really, I think it was my own insecurity that was the problem. By holding myself back instead of going after what I wanted, I was the one guilty of putting myself in the friend zone.

In fact, somewhat recently, I realized that many of the guys I’ve had crushes on would totally have dated me, but since I gave the impression that I wasn’t interested, they followed my lead and dropped pursuit. When I was 13, I spent every night talking on the phone with a cute, ginger-haired boy named Kevin. I wanted him to be my boyfriend so bad, but I convinced myself that he’d never go out with a chubby brown girl, so I hooked him up with my little, blonde best friend. (Fast-forward about 15-odd years, and Kevin and I actually did end up dating for a while. You might call it my childhood dream come true, and you can read all — well, maybe not all — the mushy details here).

Then, when I was in college, I fell for an older, thoughtful poet. He was beyond dreamy, and although we’d watch movies in the dark at each other’s houses all the time, nothing romantic developed between us, and now I understand why. As fate would have it, I was forced to face my friend-zoning tendencies when I ran into the poet last year at a party and jokingly said “I had the biggest crush on you, but you weren’t interested.” He looked shocked and reminded me that whenever he’d invite me over to watch a movie at his place, I’d just curl up into a tight ball on the opposite side of the couch. My body language had told him everything he needed to know.

The thing is, I’m a big proponent of starting things off slowly — developing a friendship first. But, I had trouble getting past that whole friendship part. There was no doubt I had to change some habits if I wanted to let love in. One thing that helped me leave the friend zone was accepting the vulnerability that’s attached to being a part of an intimate relationship. Being a guy’s best friend was a position I was comfortable in. I knew how it worked, and I knew the pain that came when he eventually and inevitably started dating someone else. I chose to put myself in the friend zone because it was safe: I knew the score.

I almost never told guys I liked them, because I was terrified of the unknown — terrified of putting myself out there.  I didn’t want to be the first one to admit I wanted something more from the relationship. Instead, I was willing to sit back and wait, while pretending I didn’t care either way. I was lying to them, and I was lying to myself.

Another thing I needed to recognize was that everyone has a fear of rejection — including all of my male friends throughout the years. My own fear of rejection is based on my weight, but I was also using it as an excuse to keep a wall up and not let my guard down. I can’t even imagine how frustrating it was for my poet crush to want to make a move on me when I was literally curled into myself. What’s worse: By building these invisible barriers of protection around myself, I was essentially asking my would-be boyfriends to try and get through them. And, that wasn’t fair at all.

In the midst of these self-discoveries, I was in a friendship where I constantly heard “Awww, you guys are so cute together; why AREN’T you dating?” and “He CLEARLY likes you, what’s going on?” One day, not too long ago, I made a decision to step out of the friend zone and let my buddy know I was interested in being more than just pals. The conversation started awkwardly at first, as I rambled on about our relationship and how great I thought he was. Somehow, I got the courage to tell him that I felt a chemistry between us and was interested in exploring that. We talked it through and in the end, he suggested taking me on an actual date. Robert and I have been dating ever since.

After we began dating, I started to look at other areas in my life where I was allowing myself to stay in a safe-zone situation. At work, I wasn’t pushing for a promotion; I was in the “friend zone.” And, on my blog, I was in the “friend zone” because I was limiting myself in terms of the kinds of stories I shared. The list goes on.

What I’m saying is this: It can be very tempting to hide behind our insecurities, whatever they are. It often feels easier than taking brave, bold steps, except I learned that taking those strides leaves me far more fulfilled than hanging out in that easy place. I almost always challenge myself to make the harder choice, and I can confidently say that I’ve never regretted putting myself out there. If you’ve been spending too much time in your “friend zone” — in work and/or play — then maybe you should step out of it and see where that takes you.

Check out my original post on Refinery29

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37 responses on “How I Learned To Escape The Friend Zone

  1. UnequivocallyAwkward

    Hum…so, you’re my spirit animal apparently. I have a ton of male friends and I’ve assumed that they wanted me in the friend zone which is why I’m the go-to girl if you need a pal. But regardless of whether or not they were interested, this is making me think about how my own insecurities are not allowing me to open myself up to the possibility of being more than friends with a guy. It’s so weird to see parts of your life in a complete stranger’s life. That’s why I love your blog

  2. nedghie.adrien@gmail.com

    Hum…so, you’re my spirit animal apparently. I have a ton of male friends and I’ve assumed that they wanted me in the friend zone which is why I’m the go-to girl if you need a pal. But regardless of whether or not they were interested, this is making me think about how my own insecurities are not allowing me to open myself up to the possibility of being more than friends with a guy. It’s so weird to see parts of your life in a complete stranger’s life. That’s why I love your blog

  3. Natty_gyrl

    This was a great post. I’m going to apply this to work. I’m not what I would call a “networker,” but perhaps that is my way of staying in the friend zone because although I know I should have a promotion, networking exposes me to those individuals that could make the promotion a possiblity. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Natty_gyrl@yahoo.com

    This was a great post. I’m going to apply this to work. I’m not what I would call a “networker,” but perhaps that is my way of staying in the friend zone because although I know I should have a promotion, networking exposes me to those individuals that could make the promotion a possiblity. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Sophia

    Love this post, pretty much sums up my love life so far. You give some great advice. Thanks so much for posting, keep up the good work xo

  6. sophie_canaway@hotmail.com

    Love this post, pretty much sums up my love life so far. You give some great advice. Thanks so much for posting, keep up the good work xo

  7. Luna Rae

    I guess my story is a little different. I always used to let the guy know I liked them however, they never felt the same about me (always rejected). As I got older I find it easier to not have crushes on men because being rejected won’t hurt. Anyway, great read and I love your blog.

  8. lunarrockslv@gmail.com

    I guess my story is a little different. I always used to let the guy know I liked them however, they never felt the same about me (always rejected). As I got older I find it easier to not have crushes on men because being rejected won’t hurt. Anyway, great read and I love your blog.

  9. Renee

    I have realized I have gotten older and experienced life this is me except for I am the opposite. I loved and left them before they had a chance to leave me. I friend zoned other guys because I figured all they wanted was one thing but now I am learning! I am beginning to take a leap of faith and letting a guy know how I feel about them. Thanks for sharing!

  10. lovedoll76@yahoo.com

    I have realized I have gotten older and experienced life this is me except for I am the opposite. I loved and left them before they had a chance to leave me. I friend zoned other guys because I figured all they wanted was one thing but now I am learning! I am beginning to take a leap of faith and letting a guy know how I feel about them. Thanks for sharing!

  11. juliette m

    What a great great post! I like that you discussed this issue as it relates to non-romantic situations too – it made me realize I need to rethink and revisit some opportunities that I am unwittingly shutting down. Go ‘head Ms. Cece! You’ve done it again.

  12. juliette14147@gmail.com

    What a great great post! I like that you discussed this issue as it relates to non-romantic situations too – it made me realize I need to rethink and revisit some opportunities that I am unwittingly shutting down. Go ‘head Ms. Cece! You’ve done it again.

  13. Christine

    Excellent! Yes! I often put up barriers…I on at least two occasions had (particularly honest) guys in bars or clubs tell me I looked mean or angry. I didn’t think that, but I think I had my defenses up. I also have a story about telling guys you are interested…I did that once, to my best friend in college who I spent every day and night with. People thought we were a couple, and I fell in love with him. I told him this and…rejection. I was devastated because I was sure he’d feel the same. Our relationship never recovered…fast forward five years. I hear from a friend that he met someone and was in love. His someone was a man. Yep, gay. If I’m honest with myself, it’s possible I WANTED rejection and he was “safe.” He wasn’t out of the closet until after college, but that’s beside the point. For at least 2 years, I ran over what was wrong with ME that he didn’t love me in my head over and over. You can imagine how good I felt when I found out it was my gender. The point is, it wasn’t about me or how worthy I was of love at all…it was all him and his sexuality. He did love me as a friend, but obviously we weren’t on the same page. Rejection sucks, but it’s not really personal. I try to remind myself of this, though it’s hard.even if they don’t find me attractive because of my size, that is not on me…it’s just their preference and I sure don’t want to be with someone who doesn’t find me delectable! 🙂 I have turned down second dates before. Perfectly nice guys, but they didn’t do it for me. I think of that because it is no reflection of their worthiness as people that I don’t happen to like them. So the same goes when I’m the liker.

  14. cmgraziano@gmail.com

    Excellent! Yes! I often put up barriers…I on at least two occasions had (particularly honest) guys in bars or clubs tell me I looked mean or angry. I didn’t think that, but I think I had my defenses up. I also have a story about telling guys you are interested…I did that once, to my best friend in college who I spent every day and night with. People thought we were a couple, and I fell in love with him. I told him this and…rejection. I was devastated because I was sure he’d feel the same. Our relationship never recovered…fast forward five years. I hear from a friend that he met someone and was in love. His someone was a man. Yep, gay. If I’m honest with myself, it’s possible I WANTED rejection and he was “safe.” He wasn’t out of the closet until after college, but that’s beside the point. For at least 2 years, I ran over what was wrong with ME that he didn’t love me in my head over and over. You can imagine how good I felt when I found out it was my gender. The point is, it wasn’t about me or how worthy I was of love at all…it was all him and his sexuality. He did love me as a friend, but obviously we weren’t on the same page. Rejection sucks, but it’s not really personal. I try to remind myself of this, though it’s hard.even if they don’t find me attractive because of my size, that is not on me…it’s just their preference and I sure don’t want to be with someone who doesn’t find me delectable! 🙂 I have turned down second dates before. Perfectly nice guys, but they didn’t do it for me. I think of that because it is no reflection of their worthiness as people that I don’t happen to like them. So the same goes when I’m the liker.

  15. Laura

    you are lucky and I’m jealous 🙁
    the first time I try to step out of the friend-zone and I still get rejected. Makes me feel like it was the right thing to have assumed for so long that that’s where I belonged.

  16. jlblumenfeld@gmail.com

    you are lucky and I’m jealous :(the first time I try to step out of the friend-zone and I still get rejected. Makes me feel like it was the right thing to have assumed for so long that that’s where I belonged.

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